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Moving on..!

6 Feb

Just about a year ago I started this blog. Primarily it’s the documentation of research and the processes of my Masters Degree (@DJCAD) from which I graduated in November 2011. MysteryBoxes will remain live but will not be update anymore.

I ‘ve taken the key information and projects from here and presented it in a (hopefully) more legible structure.

So, if you are following here then please join me over here..!

Have a look around the new site and keep your eye on the blog for projects rolling out over the next couple of weeks including a return of BMEDay (on Instagram), a QR Code history trail project that I’m designing with a group of Primary School children and the latest information on the Dighty Burn!

Can’t wait to get you up-to-date! 🙂

Peer Readings

25 Nov

Peer Readings
First of all, it’s a poor name… i’ll try to think of something snappy and get back to you..!

As you may have realised, through the course of reading this blog, one of my interests is using mobile applications in ways that can aid education. This interst is usually filtered through my experience as a parent and the interests of my kids, which means I have a bias towards pre-school up to early primary years, but in most cases I think the ideas could easily be adapted.
Previous ideas include QReative Reviews and BME(Beginning, Middle and End)Day.
This new idea has come from my daughters interest in books. In the last year her reading has rapidly improved and she’s reading entire books on her own.
For homework she has books to read to us, which she enjoys doing, and her brother enjoys listening too. This reminded me of their audio books (which they love) and whether they, and other kids, would equally enjoy listening to stories read by their peers, or other kids in general.
Without any persuasion whatsoever she happily allowed me to record her reading her latest school book. Two takes did it. There’s also a little interview which I did immediately afterwards to get her opinions on listening to other kids reading. I would be interested to hear from teachers and parents as to whether this is something which is done in classrooms and if there is value in sharing stories being read in this way.

As ever, please leave you comments below 🙂

#VloMo11 (Video Bloggers Month 2011)

18 Nov

I’m not sure whether I qualify as a video blogger – how many videos should you be uploading a week or month for that to be the case? Anyway, I love the concept and decided, when I heard about VloMo11 last week, that I would join in.

Nothing too fancy of my own as yet but loving catching up with other VloMo-ers videos via Twitter and on YouTube. I’m using this post as a collection of my own and also a selection of others which have caught my eye – in particular a new online facility which I had never heard of until this week called ‘PummelVision’ which pulls images from RSS, Flickr, etc and puts them to music and posts them on YouTube or Vimeo. I first saw this put to use in a VloMo11 from @Documentally yesterday and was instantly impressed… only to find that it would have taken him 5 mins 🙂
It is, however a very creative use of the application, using it to present a years worth of Instagram images…

Cool though, and I couldn’t wait to make one of my own! (in 2 mins ;)) Just using a set from my Flickr feed…

Other highlights this week, which feature heavily in my videos was my Graduation Ceremony. On Tuesday I was in Dundee getting last minute bits ‘n’ bobs for the event on Wednesday so I did a 360 degree shot of the City Square, outside of the Caird Hall (where the ceremony takes place)…

and then the next day did a comparrison shot, post ceremony. (Here you have the opportunity to run them simultaneously!!!)

The thing with posting a video every day is coming up with fresh material but it’s a great exercise so, even though I arrived at the party very, very late, here’s to the rest of the month. Thanks also to the other VloMo-ers who have provided so much inspiration in what they’ve done…

Here’s a small selection…

Dighty Burn aka “Di’K-ty B’R-n”

4 Nov

The first thing you should understand about the Dighty Burn is how to pronounce it. It’s ‘Di’k-ty’, but the ‘k’ is ‘ch’ as in ‘Loch’. It’s a sound a Scot can make with ease, whereas I (being a mere Englishman), almost dislocate my neck in the process and still manage to sound like I’m about to vomit.

However, I am so very grateful for the Dighty as Rick Curran and I are currently working on the next incarnation of our QR trails; and if all goes to plan this one will be permanent!

Several months ago Rick and I (QReate.co.uk) pitched an idea to Broughty Ferry Environmental Project (BFEP) to take their enormous catalogue of audio and video footage of Dighty stories and give it a digital home which could be accessed on mobile devices while in the Dighty environment itself. It didn’t take much more than that to get the commission and we’re very grateful to the BFEP for giving us this opportunity.
More than any other of my QR projects to date ‘Dighty’ has all of the key QR ingredients in one place: part treasure hunt, part historical document; educational and entertaining; we’re going to have fun making the Dighty QR Trail as rich and as social an experience as we can.

So, today I was off taking pictures and getting a feel for how the project is going to pan out. I’ll add a link to Flickr in due course and also some mock-ups of QR code designs and locations as soon as they are approved.

I’ve been experimenting with AudioBoo (AudioBoo.fm) for a few months now and today was my first ‘proper’ Boo… no pre-record or editing (or kids) just me, in the car commenting on my first proper visit to the Burn. Here it is:

More on the Dighty project soon…

QReativity continues

4 Nov

It’s been a while since my last post… new teaching role and an abundance of freelance work has kept me away… but I had to let you know about this…

Dundee is currently in the middle of a Science Festival…

Earlier this year I was preparing for a lecture in Edinburgh, QReativity – The Mystery of the QR Code (a screencast version is posted below) talking about the various QR projects I’d been working on. For practice I gave my talk in the University and amongst a handful of folk who turned up were three members of the Science Fest committee, keen to find out more.

Time didn’t allow for me to be any more involved than the Q&A after my talk and the odd email here and there. However, as part of the festival a series of posters have been produced to promote a variety of ways in which QR codes can be used for Art, Education and Entertainment.

QReativity is the tag given to each of the various QR projects of the last year – it’s also the title of the SciFest poster that points you in my direction and for that I am most grateful. Thank you Dundee Science Festival 🙂

I managed to get a few photos of un-posted artwork while paying a vist to Street Advertising (who manage the poster sites) and today, after a tip-off, I went in search of a ‘posted’ version. Ironically, my poster is not only on the same site, it’s even in the same position as the very first SuperFly poster of just over two years ago (image below). Not only that but above todays poster is an ad for the NEoN festival 2011 – in 2010 (along with Rick Curran and Tim Pryde) I launched the first of a series of QR Treasure Hunts – NEoN Knights.

It feels like those projects are being neatly tied up at exactly the point where I’m working on the next incarnation of my evolving QR/engagement projects… a permanent QR Trail along Dundee’s Dighty Burn.

But you don’t want to hear about that just now – that’s for another post… to be continued..!

You can learn more about the SciFest – here

 

Viking: pillage, plunder and gaming

11 Sep

No, this is not me lifting the patio…

I took this picture yesterday at the National Museum of Scotland where you’ll find evidence from many cultures who believed in some kind of afterlife and therefore ‘went prepared’!

This image is of a Viking found buried on Orkney, one of the Northern Isles of Scotland. Just over a thousand years ago this fella, at around 30 years old, was buried with everything that was dear to him… perhaps everything he owned?

Either way one of those items was a game – highlighted below – described by the Museum as a ‘set of bone gaming pieces’. It looks like something similar to Solitaire maybe..?

This caught my eye as an example of how long we’ve been enjoying games. Clearly there were games long before one thousand years ago but I doubt everyone was buried with a game… so it’s telling that, for what ever reason, it was deemed appropriate to bury this chap with ‘his’ game.

I wonder if he was known for taking it down the pub for the boys..? Perhaps it was a single player and he was a bit of a loaner..? Along with the game were farming tools, his warrior’s gear and a few everyday items… giving even more weight to the importance of the inclusion of the game I think.

How about you..? What do you think?

Transformational Games

8 Sep

A great couple of clips from Jesse Schell… he not only understands this games but he’s also got a smart handle on education – ex Disney Imagineer, Game Design expert and now Professor at Carnegie Mellon, Schell carries some clout when talking about Games Based Learning (GBL)

What I enjoyed most about these two talks is that he backs up what I was trying to achieve through the QR Treasure Hunts that I designed for my Masters project. He talks about putting the teacher in the position of overseer, or ‘Dungeon Master’ as he puts it. In Role Playing Games there was always an extra player who wasn’t part of the main game who had to oversee the game play. In the games I created ‘I’ was the Dungeon Master (Role Playing Games were even part inspiration which was reflected in the first game’s name – NEoN Knights!), but when pitching ideas to teachers the role of overseer was their’s; they would take my tools and game ideas and populate them with their own content, map out their own courses, decide the parameters of the game, etc.

Talking of parameters, Schell also talks about how difficult it is to fit games into school schedules and timetables. This was also something that I had considered… therefore I tested game running times from 5 mins to 5 days and several variations in between. All of them worked in their own way, they just had different dynamics, but dynamics vary for many reasons including what the purpose of the game is. The brief needs to be clear, what do you want the players (students) to achieve… and this is where Schell starts…

Rather than talk about Edu-tainment or Serious Games, Schell coins the term Transformational Games – games that will change the player in some meaningful way. This of course doesn’t happen on it’s own – the outcomes need to be considered so that a route to those outcomes can be designed. This is where the co-design between game designer and educator is essential. I was fortunate enough to have great discussions with the likes of Gary Penn at Denki, Derek Robertson at Learning and Teaching Scotland and Kenji Lamb at JISC RSC NE Scotland. Each (Google them) have an animated passion for games and education and how these two can come together and were a great source of inspiration to what I would go on to do.

So it’s a boost to hear someone like Schell backing up my processes…

Whoa! Maybe he’ll put my name forward to the Imagineers at Disney..!?

 

Mixed Media

7 Sep

Another inspirational AudioBoo from Christian Payne, aka @Documentally

Much of what I was trying to achieve through my QR hunts was to demonstrate what a number of people are already doing…

In our analogue world we share common behaviours:
we: • experience • explore • interact,
with:  •people • objects • environments…
we: • document • archive • share…

I have been constructing spaces in the real-world where real journeys take place. Navigation however is achieved by means of technology (Mobile devices, Google Maps, QR Codes); capturing, documenting and sharing as we go (Twitter, Instagram, AudioBoo, FaceBook, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo), with the Dungeon Master curating this content for online audiences across the World (WordPress, Storify).

My games (the image above is from my St Andrews PHD Summer School game) reflect the digital equivalent of those common analogue behaviours which will become even more prevalent in the future. Some are already doing it – see Documentally amongst others. However, I believe my games can help us understand what we want from these tools, what uses we can find for them and what forms they should take in the future.

Documentally’s Boo is specifically about the various ways in which we ‘consume’ media. He observed within a few, cramped, square feet multiple methods of creating and consuming media, each of them a succession in terms of technology but each equally valid and acceptable in itself.

There may be value in artificially constructing such a scene – however contrived it may seem – as an illustration of where we stand with regards to media in 2011. But to have witnessed it in the wild..!? There are definitely overtones of a frustrated Attenborough as Documentally, our guide in the urban jungle, laments missing the money-shot!

So have a listen to Documentally’s AudioBoo, but before you do please sign up on the right for updates – In the coming weeks I plan to deliver complete outlines and outcomes from the three real-world games plus the smaller prototype games, projects and methods in development as a result of my Masters project.

I passed BTW 🙂

Panic?

9 Aug

A mobile-phone and a no-longer-mobile car...

The riots in the UK just now seem to be spreading as quickly as Morrisey could reel the names of cities off in The Smiths ‘Panic‘.

“Panic on the streets of London
Panic on the streets of Birmingham

I woke this morning to find that, for the third consecutive night, looting and arson are seemingly rampant across England with no clear indication that anyone can stop it.

I watched in interest on Saturday evening as the information and content on Twitter (and it’s photographic counterparts such as TwitPic, etc) and YouTube, was differing from that of the nation news agencies. The BBC seemed to be several steps behind and it was Sunday morning before the real story was told through verified means. While Twitter can be very unreliable there were those on line who were conveying a sense of fear that wasn’t present through the national media (thank you @davidcushman)

Astounding difference been official media tweets, journos tweeting on ground and real people sharing what they see. Fear in the latter – Aug 6, 11:24pm davidcushman

Cushman then went on to ‘ReTweet’ on-the-ground reports from both pedestrian observers and official news outlets.

RT @PaulLewis: If police indeed are saying #tottenhamriot “contained”, that is absolutely not true. It is mayhem.

RT @D_Dougieee: I actually cannot believe what I’m seein! A bus on fire! Police cars on fire! They’ve broken into banks, hairs shops n jewellery shops!

RT @itv_news: Police cars set on fire in Tottenham, north London, after riots connected to the shooting of a young man by police on Thursday #Tottenham

Last 3 RTs to illustrate that difference.

Real-time unedited view delivers a tapestry of perspectives versus an edited version of ‘the truth’ #tottenhamriot

Apart from the relative horror of witnessing this kind of information from the comfort of my own bed (800 miles away), I was intrigued by the use of the technology. We’ve seen it happen across the world… Japan, Middle East, China… when in times of distress social media has created a life-line for many… before, in some cases, it got shut down…

However, two days on and I’m beginning to see the effect of how this media is also being used to fan the flames. No, it’s not to blame..!; there are plenty of reasons why these things happen and not one of them is ‘mobile phone’. But as someone who has been using these types of media and techniques for the purpose of entertainment and education it’s a timely reminder that, like any valuable tool, there will always be a way in which it can be abused.

No doubt rioters are being rallied directly through various networks but also rallied through miss-information, and being made to believe there are similar incidents in their area when there are none.

Without question this is a desperately sad situation.

I have chosen not to link to any of the riot videos as I’m sure if you are reading this you are capable of finding them yourselves, and while there is much to learn from viewing these films, for many they remain a source of entertainment and I’d rather not propigate them.

There are some users though whose intention is the ‘other’ ‘E’. Education. Via Twitter I came across this Google map by James Cridland who has mapped verified information on the riots. If you read his blog you’ll see exactly how vigorous that verification process has been. It’s an illustration of how useful, but also unreliable, Twitter can be.

Sadly, while exactly the same process, it’s a stark contrast to the maps that I’ve been creating for the purposes of games and tagging and mapping media.
The outcome, while extremely useful in many ways, is also a lasting virtual memorial of what has happened over the last few days.

Let’s hope that he doesn’t need to populate it any more.
Alternatively you can check out the emerging hashtag of #riotcleanup where you’ll find more positive images like these. The same tech, the same areas, just different people…

Fiction ‘improves social understanding’

8 Jul

UPDATE 24.09.2011:

As of this update I’m working on the design and layout of a book for a local photographer. A local writter is providing appropriate captions and the one included below is pertinent to this post. While the quote is specific to reading, I also believe it to be true of any form of narrative with which we can engage, ie analogue and digital games:

“In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to lead; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.”
S.I. Hayakawa (1906-1992), academic and United States Senator.

This is kind of interesting… I suppose anyone interested in fiction would believed this to be true anyway… but this clip from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme would suggest that the findings of Prof Keith Oatley are a little more conclusive.

In a way it almost common sense to say that reading fiction improves social understanding because of course, paradoxically, fiction is never entirely made up. Fiction is a writer’s response to something he has observed in the real world.

As with anything, there are times when this is done well and times when it is not… but that’s another story…

The other interesting aspect to this games. I am convinced that games are exceptionally good at delivering the same story based experience as books. In a game however the player is part of the experience (creating their own story), within the context of the prescribed plot.

80’s Computer Games legend, Dino Dini, in his Keynote to the NEoN Digital Arts festival Festival in Dundee talked about this very idea and inspired a great deal of what I would go on to research through my Masters project. He talked about ‘excessive narrative diminishing player experience’… how too much ‘prescribed plot’ in a video game could hinder a player from creating his own story… by creating our own stories he suggested that we learn to understand ourselves and develop as human beings.

Oatley would appear to agree with this idea as he uses the analogy of a ‘flight simulator’ to give emphasis to his theory… and so, the circle is complete… and I rest my case…!

What do you think..?

Oatley’s research has been collected into a book Such Stuff As Dreams – The Psychology of Fiction and  is available now.