The Fourth Wall
Considering the fourth wall in the user experience:
The fourth wall is the imaginary “wall” at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theater, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play.
The idea of the fourth wall was made explicit by philosopher and critic Denis Diderot and spread in 19th-century theater with the advent of theatrical realism, which extended the idea to the imaginary boundary between any fictional work and its audience.
The term “fifth wall” is often used by analogy with the “fourth wall” for a metaphorical barrier in engagement with a medium. It has been used as an extension of the fourth wall concept to refer to the “invisible wall between critics or readers and theater practitioners.” This conception led to a series of workshops at the Globe Theater in 2004 designed to help break the fifth wall. The term has also been used to refer to “that semi-porous membrane that stands between individual audience members during a shared experience.” In media, the television set has been described metaphorically as a fifth wall because of how it allows a person to see beyond the traditional four walls of a room.
Disney vs. Museological & Cultural Exhibitions
In the age of mass consumption where exhibitions are viewed as part of the entertainment offering, more and more designers and museums call for immersive experiences to create greater sense of wonder and to attract wider audiences.
Optimally, an exhibition resembles a total immersion. What could be more exciting than being completely absorbed mentally, shutting out everyday life and experience a whole new world through the exhibition? […] Walt Disney was a masterly creator of immersive environments. The Disneyworld attractions are in fact 3D film projections with completely fixed routings and sequences of scenes, and nothing has been left to chance or to individual imagination. The Disney imagineers control it all: the route and often even the means of transport that guide the visitor through the experience. However, the impact of these experiences is short lived, notwithstanding their obvious quality and professionalism. They fail to shed light on anything new, nor do they invite reflection. For Disney, the event and its immediate experience are paramount. Regarding museological or cultural exhibitions, this addresses the need for finding substantial after effects.
Herman Kossman, Narrative Spaces: On the Art of Exhibiting, p.86.
Related blog: immersion that leaves room for individual imagination.