• Cultural and Creative Industries
  • Situated Art and Design
  • Biobased Art and Design
  • All


Sarah Lugthart accepted for PhD in Porto

Caradt researcher Sarah Lugthart has been accepted as a PhD candidate of the Doctoral Program of Digital Media (PDMD) in Porto.


Her research will focus on the challenges that come with designing immersive XR experiences, focusing on the research question ‘how to situate XR experiences?’.

The goal is to provide XR designers with a situated framework to understand the complex factors that come into play when developing immersive XR experiences.

More information on the program: Doctoral Program in Digital Media – International University of Porto (


Read more arrow

PhD Digital Media
Proposal Research Project

Developing immersive XR experiences means foregrounding the experience of the participant, and engaging yourself as a designer with the complex conditions that come into play. As Simonsen et al. (2014) make clear, to acknowledge the complexity of the design practice and its relational nature, it is vital that designers develop methods that engage with the environment, context and participants that are implicated. For example, when developing an augmented reality game, mapping out the relevant locations, and testing with an audience within these locations make the designer aware of the complex factors that are involved.

In recent years, immersive XR experiences have gained attention because of their ability to make participants empathize with, feel present in and engaged with scenarios – whether documentary, fictional or speculative – that challenge their perspective on a subject. ‘Synthetic situations’, as these mediated immersive experiences have been coined, offer their own specific complexity because of their unique ‘glocal’ conditions: global and local data folding into each other through the flow of data, images and interactions (Knorr Cetina, 2009). As Verhoeff & Van der Tuin (2022) explain, research into such synthetic situations require situational analysis: the tracing of “how a work interacts with the world around it and a cartographic mapping of the entanglements that give rise (and shape) to the object/work itself, which in turn situates and (thus) implicates the engaging spectator/subject.” This goes for researchers as well as designers of media artifacts. My research therefore encompasses a plea for developing situated design methods with and for – in this particular case – the context of immersive XR experiences.

This plea is based on the conjecture that designing XR experiences entails more than designing an affective experience for an embodied participant. Designers ought to also negotiate the specific social, political and technological circumstances under which these experiences take place. Acknowledging this complexity is to engage in a design process that matches this complexity. While standard XR design methods, like UX studies including prototyping, can mean there are gaps in stakeholders’ involvement between design phases (Alabood et al., 2023) , literature suggests that a situated design approach may better accommodate for the specific social, political and technological factors at play (Simonsen et al., 2014).

However, until now the value of a situated approach to XR design practice has not been sufficiently explored. Research on the subject could make clear where the blind spots (e.g., relating to inclusivity) are when designing them and bring to light other limitations of existing approaches to XR design that are used in the professional field. These insights may also turn out relevant to other media design practices and related research domains. Besides its envisioned impact on professional practice, the research ultimately also informs design curriculum development at Avans UAS, the University of Porto and beyond, as I firmly believe that current digital media design demands that aspiring designers learn how to take implicit contextual information into account in the design of digital media experiences (Van Dartel, 2016).

In summary, my aim as a candidate to the PDMD is to provide XR designers with a situated framework to understand the complex factors that come into play when developing immersive XR experiences. Ultimately, by doing so, I wish to advance the emerging domain of XR and the impact XR-experiences have. Because after all, it’s about what interactive works do, not what they represent (Massumi, 2009).

‘I’m interested in how we can implement situated learning within design education.’

Sarah Lugthart is a researcher within the research groups Situated Art and Design, and Biobased Art and Design. She is also Pathway Leader of the master’s programme Animation at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures.

Sarah Lugthart arrow

Research Group: Situated Art and Design

Living in cities developed around data and acting within the inscrutable structure of our techno-society demands art and design that can help understand how we relate to these rapidly changing surroundings and to reflect on that relationship. The research group Situated Art and Design responds to this exigency by fostering a situated turn in art and design through a diverse portfolio of interdisciplinary research projects in partnership with academic and cultural partners, as well as with government and industry.

Read more arrow

Thank you for your subscription! Please check your email inbox to confirm.