Supporting the Mobile In-situ Authoring of Locative Media in Rural Places: Design and Expert Evaluation of the SMAT app

Supporting the Mobile In-situ Authoring of Locative Media in Rural Places: Design and Expert Evaluation of the SMAT app

Keith Cheverst (Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK), Trien V. Do (Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK) and Dan Fitton (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/IJHCR.2015010101
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Abstract

Providing users with carefully authored Locative media experiences (which can be consumed via their GPS equipped smartphones or tablets) has significant potential for fostering a strong engagement with their current surroundings. However, the availability of mobile tools to support the authoring of locative media experiences in-situ, and by non-technical users, remains scarce. In this article we present the design and field-trial expert evaluation of a mobile app developed under the SHARC project (Investigating Technology Support for the Shared Curation of Local History in a Rural Community). The app is named SMAT (SHARC Mobile Authoring Tool) and supports the authoring of Locative Media experiences with a focus on the creation of POIs (Points of Interest) and associated geo-fences which trigger the pushed delivery of media items such as photos, audio clips, etc. One important requirement of SMAT is the ability to support authoring in places where connectivity is intermittent or unavailable, e.g. many rural areas.
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Introduction

Locative media experiences have significant potential for enabling users to learn about the cultural heritage and local history of places that they visit or inhabit. One of the earliest examples of research relating to locative media experiences was the “34 North 118 West” project (http://34n118w.net/34N/) which ran in 2002 and provided users with an historic walking tour relating the early industrial era of Los Angeles. This project predated the advent of the common GPS-equipped smartphone and the device used to deliver the locative media experience comprised a touch-screen tablet PC device equipped with a GPS card and headphones. The tablet PC device displayed a historic map of Los Angeles and tracked the location of the user such that changes to their location would cause a “locative narrative” to unfold. More specifically, when the application sensed (via GPS) that a user entered a specified geo-fence representing a ‘trigger zone’ this would cause the audio voice-over of a dramatised history to be played through the headphones.

Despite the ever-increasing capability of handheld devices (in terms of storage, processing and position sensing) to support the playing of locative media experiences, the availability and associated study of tools to support the authoring of locative media experiences is very limited. In this paper we address this research gap by presenting the design and expert evaluation of a mobile tool that has been developed to support the in-situ authoring of locative media experiences.

The need to support the in-situ authoring of locative media experiences was documented in research carried out under the Equator project (Weal, et al, 2006), this work explored requirements for in-situ authoring of location based experiences. This research utilised a co-design process and focussed on supporting the visitor experience to an historic country house, Chawton House, located in the South of England. This project had young children (in this case aged 10-11) as its target user group and also involved teachers and curators of Chawton House library in the co-design process. While the project did not result in the development of any tools as such it produced a number of key findings as a result of the co-design workshops carried out. One such finding, highly relevant to this article, was that: “curators felt unable to tell stories naturally while not in-situ” (Weal, et al, 2006). This signifies the importance of providing mobile tools as the location often provides a trigger for storytelling. Another notable requirement reported in (Weal, et al, 2006) and which informed the work presented in this article is that of supporting a ‘two-phase authoring process’ where media captured or authored in-situ in the field, e.g. textual notes or audio clips, can later be refined or expanded upon using a desktop based authoring tool.

One of the target user groups motivating the work presented in this article is the rural village community of Wray, situated in the North of England. Our past work with Wray has involved the longitudinal deployment and evaluation of a situated photo display system known as Wray PhotoDisplay (Taylor and Cheverst, 2009) that enabled residents to submit photos relating to their village. A recent analysis of the content (Do. et al 2015) revealed that a significant portion of the content was related to the Cultural Heritage and Local history of Wray. Building on this finding our current SHARC research project (Investigating Technology Support for the Shared Curation of Local History in a Rural Community) is exploring how the Cultural Heritage and Local history of Wray can be expressed as Locative Media, authored by residents of the village themselves. One of the key requirements that has emerged from our work is that developed mobile tools for supporting the mobile in-situ authoring of locative media experiences need to be able to operate in areas of poor or no internet connectivity.

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