‘Embodiment’ need not focus on isolated individuals or group interactions. This article articulates the potential for designs that prompt participants to bring relationships with other people to mind. These can be fleeting relationships between participants and unknown others, or remembered relationships with romantic partners, family members, or close friends who are not physically co-present or digitally represented. In either case, it is possible to generate affective responses that profoundly shape participants’ emotional and physical reactions to, and co-creation of, the designed interaction. This article presents existing practices of immersive theatre to frame our exploration of this phenomenon. It introduces three theories—mise-en-sensibilité,
narcissistic spectatorship and affect—through which we illuminate both the internally felt and the externally designed experience, whether or not it is explicitly framed as theatrical performance. Through analysis of two immersive performances (one-on-one interactions that could easily be understood in terms of experience design) and two designs of our own, we argue that the affect generated by personal relationships in immersive experiences can both shape and drive participation, and we offer a three-point guideline by which one can design for the affective consequences of bringing relationships to mind.
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