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Interview with Blast Theory, Wellington Road, Brighton, January 2012

Blast Theory is renowned internationally as one of the most adventurous artists’ groups using interactive media.

In this interview Blast Theory – Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr and Nick Tandavanitj – discuss a selection of projects created over the last twenty years including, Fixing Point (2011), Machine to See With (2010), Ivy4Evr (2010), Ulrike and Eamon Compliant (2009), I Like Frank (2004), Uncle Roy All Around You (2003), Desert Rain (1999) and Stampede (1994). Relationships between narrative, interaction and performance, dialogue as a structuring device, game design and methods of development are considered.

Funded by The Teaching & Learning Directorate, Plymouth University (2011-12) www.expandednarrative.org

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The locative narrative The Lost Index: NATMUS  was featured at 8th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling in Copenhagen.

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The Lost Index: NATMUS, photo James Brocklehurst

Audio guides and games have long been staple modes of interpretation in museums. The medium of locative narrative, defined here as participatory site-specific story experiences that are heard on headphones, offers alternative modes of engagement with archives and collections where the visitor becomes a participant in an unfolding drama. The confluence of the existent world and narrative representations is an often-reported feature of “mixed reality” [1] experiences [2] [3] [4].

The Lost Index: NATMUS (2015-) [5], produced by Trulyimagined, aka Emma Whittaker and James Brocklehurst, is an interactive narrative that transforms the location of a museum into a dystopian story world. Situated at The National Museum of Denmark and the DieselHouse museum it explores how participants can experience the story across spatially distributed locations.

The Lost Index: NATMUS Copenhagen photo James Brocklehurst

The Lost Index: NATMUS Copenhagen photo James Brocklehurst

Your phone rings, “You have been selected… your help is required … time is running out…” Searching for objects from the lost index holds the key to stabilising the changes. In response to their actions participants receive phone calls – fragmentary updates from which possible stories build. But as time runs out the uncertain future draws nearer and so too does the metamorphosis of the museum. Binaural soundscapes layered with ambient sounds stimulate perceptual illusions and combine with attention focusing techniques to alter the perception of the environment.

Binaural compositions simulate the aural qualities of the fictional locations whose sounds are plotted temporally and spatially within the different museums’ rooms. Sounds are movement responsive and triggered by participants’ own smartphones through novel uses of Bluetooth low energy ‘iBeacons’. As the drama proceeds, the recorded auditory dimensions of the rooms’ subtlety change that can affect the interpretation of sounds as live, recorded or imagined.

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Participants, in the role of protagonist, move simultaneously within the story’s locations and museum, physically situating the player within a fictional world of the game. The Lost Index: NATMUS develops William James’s [6] radical empiricist insight as an approach to interactive narrative that plays with the contexts of players’ beliefs, directing and misdirecting their attention and keeping knowing in transit.

and the Dieselhouse museum, Copenhagen photo Emma Whittaker

The Lost Index: NATMUS at the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen photo Emma Whittaker

The Lost Index: NATMUS can be downloaded from the iOS App Store for use at The National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagenand the Dieselhouse museum, Copenhagen. Headphones are required.

https://vimeo.com/108626316

[1] Milgram, P. & Kishino, F. (1994). ‘Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays’. IEICE Transactions on Information and Systems. Vol. E77-D, No.12 December 1994. <http://etclab.mie.utoronto.ca/people/paul_dir/IEICE94/ieice.html>

[2] Montola, M., Stenros, J. & Waern, A. (2010) Pervasive Games, Theory & Design. Burlington: Morgan Kaufmann

[3] Benford, S. Crabtree, A. Reeves, S. et al (2006) The Frame of the Game: Blurring the Boundary between Fiction and Reality in Mobile Experiences. CHI 2006, April 2227, 2006, Montréal, Québec, Canada.

[4] Reid, J. (2008) ‘Design for Coincidence: Incorporating Real World Artefacts in Location Based Games’. DIMEA’08, Athens, September 10–12.

[5] Whittaker, E. & Brocklehurst, J. R. (2015) ‘The Lost Index: NATMUS’ [iOS Application]. Apple Inc. [https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-lost-index-natmus/id1058419473?mt=8]

[5] Whittaker, E. (2016) ‘Inside the Snow globe: Pragmatisms, belief and the ambiguous objectivity of the imaginary’. Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research, Vol. 13, No. 3 

University of Greenwich

DRHA2014 at University of Greenwich

The Digital Research in the Arts and Humanities (DRHA2014) conference took place between 31st August and 4th September at the University of Greenwich, convivially convened by Anastasios Maragiannis, Academic Portfolio leader in Design and Senior Lecturer in Design Theory & Practice.

Professor Susan Broadhurst, of Brunel University and current chair of the DRHA, informed delegates that the conference, albeit with slight changes to its name to emphasise the centrality of the arts, was in its 29th year. Performance, exhibitions and workshops ran alongside multiple streams of academic papers encompassing a breadth of interdisciplinary arts and design practices from sound to architecture. Reflective of current critical debates in the arts, the themes of space, embodiment, narrative, social media, code, data ethics and geo-political issues, proliferated the critically framed critiques of practice and expositions of theory through practice.

Highlights of the week included the paper, After the Death of Cyberflâneur by Efthymia Kasimati of National Technical University of Athens who presented a revised model for contemplating in the city. Independent scholar Sarah Jaffray’s critical exposition Aesthetic Action: Instagram’s Technogeographies of Resistance considered the changing role of Instagram as social media site from travel mementoes to guerrilla journalism, where meta-tagged images are mobilised for political activism.

Expanded narrative practices featured in themes across the conference. In the inspiring and informative workshop Practice in Writing: A recipe for Creativity and Creative Interpretation, lead by Professor Janis Jefferies of Goldsmiths, University of London and Anastasios Maragiannis, an overview of recent interactive narrative on mobile and tablet platforms framed the creation of Twitter fiction. Participants experimented with chatbots, Siri, rhyming dictionaries, alternating first-person narration and rule based systems amongst other operations of creative play.

Academic papers in narrative practices were given by Daisy Abbott of Glasgow School of Art who considered spectacle and interpretation of National Theatre Live, in her paper “Cut me to pieces”: Shakespeare, fandom and the fractured narrative. Christina Papagiannouli in Etheatre Project: Political Participation in Theatre discussed the form and implications of audience participation – “cyber collaboration”, in her theatrical re-staging of Brecht plays online. In the work of Emma Whittaker and James Brocklehurst of Plymouth University, sci-fi adventure in museums with locative narrative smartphone apps The Lost Index were considered in the context of perceptual illusions in the paper Playing With Perception: Locative Narrative and Sonic Virtual Locations. Laura Carletti of Nottingham University discussed the use of NFC tags with photographic and oral histories of Latin American Communities in the UK in Transmedia Experience Design for Audience Engagement: An Experiment with Near Field Communication.

'So Pleased to Meet You' directed by Jillian Wallis.

‘So Pleased to Meet You’ directed by Jillian Wallis.

Narratives, scripted and promoted through online interactions were the subject of the play So Pleased to Meet You, directed by Jillian Wallis of University of Greenwich and performed by the company Pattern Fight. Existential questions of being, boredom, presence and imagination were comedically posed with stagings of Chatroulette.

Ghislaine Boddington of body>data>space presented Collaborative Share Spaces and Future Digi-bodiments, a historical overview of her curatorial involvement with artists in the field of virtual worlds and telepresence over the past 25 years. The work of contemporary artists such as Joseph Hyde and his work ‘me and my shadow’ demonstrated the reoccurrence of the desire to occupy the apocryphal ‘holodeck’ and encounter teleported people (via data projections) from across the globe. Elena Papadaki discussed the relationships between sites and interactivity in Communicating Technology: Interactive design and interdisciplinary collaboration in the digital arts.

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Federico Casalegno, MIT Mobile Experience Lab

While the technologies may be new, the ideas however, are frequently re-workings of artists’ earlier experiments with digital technologies, often prefigured by pre-digital practices in cyclical reoccurrence, as Professor Janis Jefferies rightly seemed to suggest in the panel discussion Research in the Digital Arts – historical perspectives and future innovations. Navigating city spaces was celebrated by Baudelaire, critiqued by Debord, narrativised by Cardiff and played using GPS enabled mobile platforms such as mscapes developed in early 2000’s by Hewlett Packard. Keynote speaker Federico Casalegno, director of MIT’s Mobile Experience Lab discussed Locast, the GPS digital mapping platform, developed in 2004 and since utilised in a number of collaborative projects including Mapping Moby-Dick.

Indy Saha, Google Creative Lab

Keynote speaker, Indy Saha celebrated a series of innovative projects developed by Google Creative Lab including YouTube Space Lab, Google Web Lab, Science Fair and the recent DevArt project aiming to promote artists as coders, currently exhibited as part of the Barbican’s Digital Revolution show. While the DevArt projects, such as Zac Lieberman’s ‘Play the world’, a keyboard that accesses live broadcast radio, are genuinely exciting, an acknowledgement of the historical precedence of artist as coders since the 1960s and previous innovation by research groups such as i-DAT would have been welcomed.

In Ghislaine Boddington’s concluding remarks of the conference she recounted that her fellow curators in East Asia require digital art to be at least as innovative and engaging as the digital environment that their audiences daily inhabit and urged that digital artists everywhere take up this challenge.

The peer reviewed DRHA2014 Book of Abstracts: Communicating futures: Connecting Interdisciplinary practices in arts/culture, academia and the creative industries, edited by Anastasios Maragiannis is available as a PDF and in print from Lulu.com 

The new edition of Multidisciplinary Design Practices by Anastasios Maragiannis is now available. 

DRHA 2015 will be hosted by Dublin City University 6-9th September.

Photo E. Whittaker: Publish! A Day of Innovation on the Future of the Book. 8 December 2011, Watershed, Bristol.

Publish! was convened by Media Futures’s Nico MacDonald and Laura North in partnership with Tracey Guiry of Cyprus Well, in collaboration with Plymouth University and funded by NESTA. The one-day conference brought together authors, artists, publishing houses, academia and digital entrepreneurs, speakers and delegates from across the breadth of publishing and beyond. [Continue Reading…]