Out There: Connecting people, places and stories


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A presentation from Museums and the Web 2009.
Dick van Dijk, Kristel Kerstens, and Frank Kresin, Waag Society, The Netherlands

How can museums employ new media to enhance their visitors' experience and their collections' accessibility? With the Internet moving into the public domain through wireless connections, broadband mobile telephony, and location-aware technology, museums are no longer bound by their physical limits (the building), but can use all relevant spaces, be it the city, the country or the public domain.

Technology enables audiences to access, produce, and share media everywhere and at all times, and museums are quite far on in digitizing large parts of their collections. The combination of 24-hour on-line audience availability and rich digitised cultural musem content brings ample opportunities to create new cultural experiences.

In this context, Waag Society recently developed a number of projects in which users are guided by mobile technology. The paper gives an overview of these projects and argues that the physical non-institutional environment is a great setting for appreciating cultural content and inducing active user participation.

Session: Location-Aware Services [Technology]

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  • Welcome everyone to my presentation: out there, connecting people, places and stories. This presentation is about how mobile technology can enhance the connection between people, places and stories outside to the museum itself. My name is KK, and I work as a concept developer at waag society.
  • Waag Society is a medialab based in amsterdam, it is a non profit organization. We develop technology for social innovation within four domains: culture, education, public domain and healthcare. On our website you can find more information about the organization.
  • The focus of my presentation is “how we can use out there to enhance the museum’s collection to its visitors.”
    We all see that the internet is moving into the public domain. People spend more and more time online. With advanced mobile phones they can go online outside. At the same time museums are quite far in digitizing their collection. Both movements create new opportunities for mobile applications in cultural context.
    This means that we have new opportunities for our content to shine outside and reach new audiences.
  • In this presentation I’ll give you three different examples of location based projects:
    F1550, is a mobile city game for secondary school students about the mediaeval ages. In this project we tried to create a historical sensation in the outside world.
    Rituals, a GPS route along religious heritage abouts rituals. We focussed on fostering a personal reflection.
    And last, City Ragas. City Ragas is a visual cultural exchange game between people in Delhi (india) and people in Amsterdam. We wanted to stimulate a cultural exchange.
    Now I’ll explain those projects in more detail.
  • First of all Frequency 1550.
    We also wanted students not to learn about history by studying a text of picture, but by visiting the actual place.
    Most audio tours outside are full of information about the history of a certain building for example. But we thought that students would learn more from discovering relevant information themselves.
    In other words we developed F1550 in the hope to create a historical sensation at location.
  • F1550 was played in 2005 for the first time. In summer 2007 the game was played again. This time research was done the motivation and learning effects of F1550. The game was played in the city centre of Amsterdam by students aged 12 to 14.
  • Some more information about this mobile city game.
    Playing Frequency 1550 takes one day. A class of students is divided into six teams. Each team has a headquarters and street players. The street players use the gamephone, on the left. The headquarters use an online application with this interface, see middle. They communicate via video phones. The streetplayers navigate on the mediaeval map, dated from 1550. The headquarters see their teammembers and the other teams moving on the mediaeval map.
    At the end of the day the winner is the team with the most points. Teams gain points by fulfilling assignments. The assignments can be found in the six different zones. Each zone has a specific theme like labour, religion, etc.
  • How to fulfilll an assignment?
    As soon as the streetplayers reach the location of an assignment, the assignment opens. The streetplayers gather information on location. The headquarters can use the internet for more information. Together they answer some questions and fill their own report about Amsterdam as a mediaeval city.
  • Creating a historical sensation.
    The game elements and the mediaeval map were the key elements for creating this. On this slide you see a the streetplayers as a yellow dot on the mediaeval. According to this map they should be walking on water. But in reality they are just standing on the pavement. This made students realize that the city had changed a lot. They realize that they are still a few remains of the mediaeval ages. Some parts of the city still have the function they had in the past, but some other parts are completely different.
  • The other key element were the game elements. Teams could also win a rat, a roadent. The headquarters could place the rat on the map. Whenever another team walked over this rat, their interface would turn to black. And for five minutes they couldn’t play and communicate with each other.
  • Research showed an significant increase in factional knowledge after playing f1550. Learning in a meaningful location has a positive effect on our memory.
  • Now, Rituals. Last year was the year of religious heritage in the Netherlands.
    In the Netherlands the formal religions are in decline.
    At the same time spirituality is taking a more important place in our more and more individualistic society.
    Therefore we decided to target the personal and emotional level: the private (spiritual) experience of the participants.
  • Rituals is a GPS based walking route connecting religouis monuments in a theatrical approach.
    The targetgroup wasa general, older audience.
    We did this pilotproject in cooperation with Erfgoed Nederland, dutch institution on cultural heritage.
  • Our goals was to evoke personal reflection and active audience participation.
    In order to achieve this we used dramaturgical elements.
    In this first movie you see one of the participants writing down a confession or secret in front of a huge mirror.
    Throughout the route several mirrors were used as a metaphor for personal reflection.
  • After their confession the participants go outside.
    On the phone they see the next location.
    Along the route the participants do several things. In a temple they burn a stick of incense, in a church they create their own place of …
    By carrying out these acts and by walking the route a new ritual is introduced: distancing themselves from their secret / confession.
    In this movie you see a participant listening to the audio and walking around at the same time.
  • At the tower of a church the participants symbolically toss their confession to the wind.
    This is the end of the route.
  • City Ragas was part of the Amsterdam India festival in October 2008. All around the city were concerts, performances, exhibitions of Indian artists. So that people got to know more about the Indian culture.
    We wanted people in Amsterdam to experience Delhi by showing their own city to Delhi in order to stimulate (direct and non linguistic) cultural exchange.
    And we used, again, mobile technology to make a real connection people in Amsterdam and Delhi.
  • So City Ragas is a visual cultural exchange game. Visual because communicating based on pictures creates different group dynamics and avoids possible language miscommunications.
    It was played every weekend in October last year. Two times a day, early morning because of the time difference.
  • How does it work?
    Each team makes a storyline within a specific theme (speed and motion, surprise and everyday, in and out). The game starts with taking a picture of the team members, which they send to each other. Then they go outside and continue taking and sending pictures and responding to each other’s pictures. Here you see a picture of a food stall in India, that made people in Amsterdam take a picture of a butcher. Next picture is taking aside a busy road. The Dutch team made a picture of a busstop as a reaction. And this last one I like the most. This picture is from Amsterdam, you see some typical Amsterdammertjes, I think that is bolchard in English. The team in Delhi drew three crosses on somebody’s finger. Put this in front of the camera and made an imitation of Indian Amsterdammertje.
    The players found it very special to receive a picture from the other side of the world, from someone unknown. Especially one Saturday, when there was snow in Amsterdam, it was funny to see the differences between the cities in visuals.
  • In the end we gave all user generated content to different artists. One of them wrote an essay, another one made collages and this one did color experiments. On this slide you see two original pictures (at the bottom). This artist, Nico Princen, changed the brightness of those pictures, for example the edited picture of amsterdam has the brightness level of the original picture of delhi. All their interpretations were shown at Amsterdam India meeting to the public.
  • I’ll sum up the points my presentation.
    The question was “how to use –out there- to enhance the museum’s connection to its visitors. We can conclude that the physical environment is a great setting to establish and enhance this connection. Museums are no longer bound to their physical limits, but mobile technology gives them the opportunity to show the collection at the location itself. This might also lead to new users, especially young people.
    In all projects we see that gaming and theatre or performance art trigger user to participate. Those elements (like competition, cooperation, performing theatrical acts) help to activate and engage your visitors and to motivate them to express themselves or to do make an contribution to our collection.
    F1550 was a very controlled and closed system. All content was created by the designers. City Ragas is quite the opposite, there is no content. All content is created by the players/users. And this content was the input for artists who made a interpretation that was shown to the public. Rituals was a mixture of both.
    As a museum you have the freedom to choose. Do you want your collection to be part of a game? Do you want the visitors to create new content? Do you want a combination of both? And how much effort are you willing to put into this?
    We think further research is needed on the integration of the museum’s collection. How can the museum’s collection inspire visitors at location? In which ways can the outside world be shown in the museum’s collection itself? How to create meaningful interactions between inside exhibitions and the outside world?
    Waag Society is setting up a research program about location based heritage. So next mw we hope to tell you more about this.
    Thanks for your attention!
  • Out There: Connecting people, places and stories

    1. 1. Out there: Connecting people, places and stories Kristel Kerstens
    2. 2. Waag Society An Amsterdam based medialab Develops technology for social innovation within four domains Culture Education Public Domain Healthcare www.waag.org
    3. 3. Focus How to use “out there” to enhance the museum’s connection to its visitors?
    4. 4. Location-based projects Creating a historicalCreating a historical sensationsensation Fostering a personalFostering a personal reflectionreflection Stimulating a culturalStimulating a cultural exchangeexchange
    5. 5. FREQUENCY 1550 Creating a historical sensation
    6. 6. FREQUENCY 1550 Creating a historical sensation What Mobile city game When Pilot 2005 Summer 2007 Where Amsterdam Who Students aged 12 to 14 Website www.frequentie1550.nl
    7. 7. RITUALS Fostering personal reflection
    8. 8. RITUALS Fostering personal reflection What GPS route When Summer 2008 Where Amsterdam Who General, older audience Partner Erfgoed Nederland Website www.waag.org/rituals
    9. 9. CITY RAGAS Stimulating cultural exchange
    10. 10. CITY RAGAS Stimulating cultural exchange What Visual cultural exchange game When October 2008 Where Amsterdam and Delhi Who Visitors Amsterdam- India Festival Partner Sarai - Delhi Website www.cityragas.nl
    11. 11. Evaluation The physical environment is a great setting to enhance the museum’s connection with its visitors Gaming and theatre/performance art trigger user participation Open system for content exchange Need for further research on integration of museum’s collection with “out there”
    12. 12. THANKYOU! kristel@waag.org