McVeigh-Schultz’ research explores the intersections between platform affordances and communication rituals with particular emphasis on audience-performer interactions, such as during civic performances like town halls, political debates, and parliamentary rules. His work imagines alternative configurations to these otherwise familiar rituals. For example, McVeigh-Schultz seeks to find what a political debate would look like if the audience were able to convey live feedback to a candidate through the objects and architectural features that we tend to take for granted, such as the speaker’s lectern, the microphone, and the stage lighting. For his dissertation, McVeigh-Schultz is prototyping objects that convey aggregated real-time audience feedback, such as an animatronic microphone that moves based on the input from a live audience. McVeigh-Schultz puts an interesting twist on the conventional use of animatronics by exploring how objects can come to stand in for live audiences.
To explore questions of how heightened levels and new styles of audience engagement will spur the invention of new rituals and challenge the dominant logic of public address, McVeigh-Schultz will also incorporate a filmmaking component to tell a story about the alternate world in which these animistic objects and alternative rituals exist. The Intel PhD fellowship will support both the platform development and filmmaking components of his dissertation. Next year, McVeigh-Schultz will assemble a team of developers to help build an audience-feedback app toolkit for a variety of animistic objects, and will also put together a film crew to help tell the story about the world in which the animistic microphones might live. Last year, McVeigh-Schultz had the opportunity to intern with Intel’s Interaction Experience Research group under Jay Melican, who is now his fellowship mentor. During this internship, McVeigh-Schultz also worked with Senior User Experience Lead Adam Jordan to explore platforms that enable playful engagement with data.