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Design narrative: Spatial drama and its application to virtual environments

, University of Colorado at Denver, United States

University of Colorado at Denver . Awarded


The identification and study of design narrative describes a technology driven phenomenon applicable to the past twenty years of technological innovation. As a fusion of principles inherent in dramatic cinema and digital design, the theory has a growing place in the communication of digital and physical design and planning information systems. The basis of design narrative is formulated upon a concept of spatial drama, established within the context of convergence of developing digital communications media.

Narrative, with its progressively broadening range of definitions and even surprising associations, in the past had its strongest association to drama. Cinema, despite its development as a technological medium, has nevertheless certainly incorporated the principles of narrative, of which, drama has historically been a component. Narrative systems are therefore central to and interchangeable with methods for conveyance of dramatic information. This assumption forms the premise of this investigation intending to show that spatial drama, the foundations of which are based upon contrasting values, can be synthesized into digitally designed narrative, particularly within virtual environments and other medial communications platforms. There is the perceived problem with applications of narrative in design, especially concerning digitally designed spatial environments that lack purpose, structure and interest. The resulting narratological model introduces the new concept of spatial drama. Design narrative links spatial narrative to spatial drama for the intentional creation of dramatic contrast within sequential space. This theory contributes to a deeper understanding of spatial issues concerning the use medial technologies.

The virtual learning paradigm produced for Europe's Open University (OU) and the Cambridge Program on Industry (CPI), subsequently demonstrates aspects of the model developed in this investigation. This is accomplished through the depiction of Dr. Charles Hampden-Turner's dilemma theory as both a core concept for the narratological model and OU's distance learning program, Learning and the Connected Economy. Dilemma theory focuses upon opposition and reconciliation of opposing forces. The theory is largely applied to the areas of cross-cultural and organizational behavior. Therefore, the development of a computer-animated graphical portrayal of dilemmas is used to examine spatial drama, within the parameters of the OU's Web-based course, and within the framework of a digitally designed narrative.


Abelin, R.F. Design narrative: Spatial drama and its application to virtual environments. Ph.D. thesis, University of Colorado at Denver. Retrieved March 2, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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