Investigating presence and representation in immersive theatre
Alexandra Tzanidou, born and raised in Greece, is a PhD candidate in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in the Open Lab at Newcastle University. She holds an MSc in Computer Science from the University of Macedonia, Greece, and a Master of Research in Digital Civics from Newcastle University, UK. She has been an EPSRC fellow since 2019. Her PhD focuses on the development of Accessible Design Patterns and inclusive research methods for modern socio-technical systems, based on the social model of disability. The research she conducts in collaboration with the first professional inclusive theatre ensemble in Greece is highly community-oriented and combines the disciplines of art (mainly theatre), disability studies and HCI.
This research project aims to explore how inclusive immersive theatre productions can promote the representation and inclusion of underrepresented communities, such as people experiencing disability, people from marginalised backgrounds and diverse cultural and linguistic identities. The two main focuses are: 1. the development of a toolkit that will assist artists with limited financial resources to create inclusive immersive art 2. exploring the use of avatars to promote representation and inclusion in immersive theatre, while also proposing guidelines for respecting audience identity. This project idea was developed upon the need for reassuring the freedom to expression and representation of identity in the virtual space, the creation of mechanisms to ensure respect among participants, and the establishment of appropriate policies or reflexes to protect their rights and values, due to the rapid development of VR technology and the creation of interconnected virtual worlds.