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“The actual story happens in the space between us - when you and I are imagining the same thing together”

On Stage: Plot-Speaker Johanna Koljonen im Interview

Sie zählt zu den Frauen, die die Zukunft des Storytellings einläuten: Johanna Koljonen. Sie ist die starke Frau, die Theater kreativ mit Rollenspiel (LARP) verknüpft, wie in InsideHamlet.

Each year Johanna Koljonen shares her expertise on the tectonic shifts of the media landscape in must-read media analysis NOSTRADAMUS REPORT and – among her prowess as a writer, playwright and broadcaster – in the exciting work she does as an experience designer. Museums, the public sector and media companies gain from her authority on participation design which is the focus of her agency Participation Design she founded together with Bjarke Pedersen.

You come from a background of Nordic LARP (live-action role playing). Could you explain what that is?

Johanna Koljonen: Nordic LARPs are different in that they are not competitive. Most other LARPs still have the scaffolding of a game with competition – something you can win or lose. When you play them it is more similar to a computer game: Your character is fighting the environment or non-player characters.

Nordic LARPs are more collaborative, the goal is to create a cool story together. It is not important who wins or who loses  sometimes you get a better story if you lose, to try for something and not get it.

How and why did you get involved in LARP?

I am fascinated by how human behaviour and culture work. LARP experiences are like small laboratories where you figure out how human agency works and how to make participants feel brave enough to do the things you want them to do by designing for collaborative storytelling. One of the reasons why my generation couldn’t drop it was that this toolkit is immensely useful in our careers. No matter if you’re in digital games, if you’re a futurist or an academic researcher or a teacher or in advertising – we used a lot of what we were learning in LARP.

What does your agency do?

We (Bjarke Pedersen and me) have our company Participation Design Agency which does two very different things: We create LARPs and we create participation for brands, cultural institutions and public sector organizations by solving problems of human participation – particularly in the analogue space.

If you have humans somewhere and want humans to do something – whether to understand an exhibition or to have new audience groups come to your museum or to have people spend more money in your cinema, we can use participation design principles to solve those problems.

You have INSIDE HAMLET coming up – part living theatre piece, part immersive game – which is based on Shakespeares play and takes place for two days inside Elsinore Castle in Copenhagen. How does this differ from classical immersive theatre like PUNCH-DRUNK?

When you go to the theatre, read a novel or watch a movie, you are immersed in a story where you have access to the perspectives of all the characters. LARP can give you something unique through its embodiment. The storytelling happens in „inter-immersion“: you immerse in a character, story and environment. But the actual story happens in the space between us – when you and I are imagining the same thing together. Which means that you can’t watch it from the outside, you have to experience it. Every participant has a completely different narrative because everybody is the main character of their own story.

Interview von Gerhard Maier