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What’s in the Box?

12 Nov

Anything…

EVERYTHING!

I thought it was time now to put down a few more words and pictures about a little prototype I put together for my final Masters show. The idea had been in my head for a while but I was preoccupied with putting my final presentation together, completing essays and what not…

But while I was putting the final touches to the display for the show I became obsessed with getting this final piece, and after an entire week of sitting next to a noisy, smelly laser cutter I managed to get a 3 editions of a product that worked! See more about the production process here.

So what is it?

Well, the inspiration is the classic wooden toy, something that can be played with but is probably best just looked at. During my Masters year I hadn’t spend anywhere near as much time as I would have liked in the Uni workshop so I decided that with the academic pieces out of the way I’d spend my final week making stuff!

So, what’s in the Box? It’s a jigsaw. But the shape to be made is a bespoke designed QR Code that links in to the QReate (QReate.co.uk) QR CMS and at point of purchase you can have that code point to a URL of your choice. Not only that, but you get access to a mobile site where you can redirect the QR for yourself – as many times as you like. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

So who would want one? Well, here’s an idea. Fathers day – Dad gets a cool desk toy as well as a link to the latest family online album. Birthday – Mom gets a custom painted box from the kids and a link to the latest family video that dad put online. Conferences – they’d make great conference gifts which link to the sponsors chosen content or video of the best bits of the event… in any event they’re a classic looking memento with a tech spin…

Apart from anything else, if I do say so myself, I love the logo!

What do you think?

Please leave comments below…

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..!?

 

Game Over…

5 Sep

The ‘activity’ from this ‘hive’ is soon to be redistributed across the country as everyone heads towards new jobs, new challenges or another stint with ‘the folks’. My family get their Dad back and are probably hoping he’ll not be on the computer as much!

My year of living dangerously has come to an end and I’ll have to start getting up early again. I never actually stopped getting up early – I have two little alarm clocks that make sure of that – but getting out of the house early again is definitely going to be a challenge.

So, tomorrow morning (today now actually) I’ll be back in college. But not DJCAD and not as a student.

I’ll be teaching at the local FE college in the area of digital imaging a few days a week, plus working on some freelance projects that are lined up while waiting for the funding that is being sought for location based services to come through so that I can work on those too.

Rick Curran (wideopenspace) and I have set up QReate.co.uk as a coverall business that will offer those LB services along with content managed ‘dynamic’ QR Codes and bespoke QR Treasure Hunts for advertising, education, tourism, entertainment and whatever else you can think of.

It’s been the fastest year. Also the most fun.
I’ll miss the freedom and availability of time to get things done but also there’s a lot to be said for the edge and urgency that comes with the pressures of the ‘part-time’ project so i’m not going to disappear.

The first thing I need to do is find the balance of where I position myself between here and SuperFly.org.uk – jump between them, integrate them both..? If you’ve experience in this area then suggestions gratefully received.

I’ll be back soon with final show images (my space and Mystery Box close up included here) and videos (more talks from the closing night)…congratulations to all DJCAD MDes 2011, hope to see you all flourish soon… 🙂

…but for now, it’s not so much Game Over as to be continued..!

Beginning/Middle/End

28 Jul

Beginning/Middle/End: A challenge to capture your life in three images through Instagram!

UPDATE: (9-8-11) ***BMEday is confirmed as being this Saturday 13 August!***

I blogged about Instagram recently. Instagram is a great iPhone app (runs on iPad2 but no Android plans as yet…) for sharing photos in a way that is not dissimilar to how people use Twitter. Just under a year old the service has six million users who have shared over 100 million photos. It has it’s own micro-community but it’s possible to share your images instantly with other networks you may be connected to such as Flickr, Twitter and Facebook. Images can be captured within the app but there’s also the option to pull images in from your device’s photo library which means you can still use other photograph apps and filters before you share.

Why do I like it so much? Well digital has give photographers the ability to throw caution to the wind. No spools of film to worry about or the restrictions of a 36 image spool… at the end of a day out there can be 500 images on the camera card to sort through. Instagram, because it’s ‘instant’, is closer to the old experience of a Polaroid or 35mm where every image counts. Choosing exactly the right image to tell a story in the ‘moment’ is a really interesting idea to me. I may not be telling you the whole story, but it very definitely is a story… and a single image has a mystery element, it fires the imagination and these are elements very close to the heart of my project.

By now, you’ll know that I’m obsessed with stories. Stories themselves but also the construction and architecture of stories. There are many definitions of what makes a story but rather than try to ‘define’ what I think a story is i’ve decided to distill everything I’ve written above and distill it down into a creative experiment…

Beginning/Middle/End is an experiment inspired by a quote, a film and my work. Through my Masters project I’ve been creating treasure hunt style games in varying places and spaces… varying in size from a city over the course of a week, a conference venue over a day and even a gallery space for ten minutes. The most interesting things to come out of each of these games is not the game itself but what happens around the players and the stories that consequently unfold…

Recently the movie Life In A Day showed what would happen if thousands of people captured their life on video, and shared it on YouTube. Producer Ridley Scott and Director Kevin MacDonald curated a selection of those moments, captured over the course of 24 July 2010, and created a 90 minute snapshot of life on that day. It felt appropriate to me to do something similar in the real world ‘real life’ to contrast the artificial worlds and situations i’ve been creating through the games.

Finally, my research into storytelling led me to the use of the number three. In fact the ‘rule of three’ ‘rules’ storytelling. The Three Bears, three wishes, the third day, etc…  ‘threes’ can even be found in the structure of story telling. Famously, French film director Jean Luc Goddard said, “a story should have a beginning, middle and end… but not necessarily in that order”.

So, I took these ‘three’ elements, filtered them through Instagram, and dreamed up this challenge. On a specific date ‘to be confirmed’, I would like YOU to take three images. A beginning, middle and end for YOUR story. It’s entirely up to you whether you need to add a words or a caption. The day in question may be your lazy day, your birthday, your wedding day! You might be off to Costa, the Co-Op or another continent..! It’s your life I’m interested in, or at least how you want to present your life through Instagram. In three all important images.

If you don’t yet have an Instagram account then set one up, see what it’s all about and get ready for BMEday!

Rules
What you must do (boring but essential stuff coming…) is label each of the images ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ or ‘end’ and also hashtag each of them #BMEday. You’ll find Instagram remembers tags after you’ve used them once.

Why are these two labels important?
The ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’ labels are important because I will be gathering the images together as a series of stories into some kind of online exhibition on my website so I need to know what order you want them in. The hashtag is essential for me to finding your entries on Instagram.

What’s NOT important
I don’t have an iPhone. I run Instagram on a wi-fi only iPad2 so I rarely get to upload images when I’m out and about. It’s not essential to me that the images are posted in real-time or from their location so, if like me you want to use an iPad, feel free to take your pics and upload them by the end of #BMEday.

Also, your images can be taken over the course of a day (eg morning, noon and night), they don’t need to be all together in your image stream (another reason for the labels and hashtags) so don’t worry about other Instagrams that you might send during the day.

It’s not even essential to follow me on Instagram, but it would be useful to know if you intend on taking part, so a tweet, email or comment here would be great.

Also, any queries/questions you may have can be posted below. I’ll post the date for BMEday asap – it’ll most likely be a saturday but if you have any comments regarding that, then let me know. It’d also be great to hear what you love about Instagram – what it has to offer you and others who might like it…

I can’t wait to see your stories…

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.

SuperFly Space Hop

8 Jul

A Space Hop, by SuperFly definition, is a treasure hunt using a specially tagged Google map, QR codes and mobile devices around a town or city. This one was designed as a ice breaker for PHD students gathered for a Summer School focusing on eTourism.

The game is part of my Masters research focusing on evolving role of storytelling through social media and video games. I want to find effective and engaging ways of using these emerging tools for education, entertainment and advertising.

The game in ST Andrews had five teams of four or five members each. Each team had a HTC Flyer Android Tablet to view the map, scan the codes and complete the prescribed tasks by capturing photos and video. In addition each team had a videographer with another tablet capturing their progress.

Just over a week ago I began the task of watching a few hours worth of video to make some sense of it all. There were certain things that I was looking for… were the tasks too hard, too easy, understandable? I was also looking for clues as to how a tourist may behave using an application such as this. Does it enhance or hinder the experience of visiting the city?

Below is a rough cut of some of the video captured during the game.


I’ve since been able to capture feedback from three of the five teams that took part and so I pretty much have a 360 view on what happened and how the players and observers felt about it.

Probably the most negative person in relation to how the day panned out was me because, as ever, there were technical issues. Nothing that could have been foreseen without a complete dry run, and nothing that couldn’t be remedied in other ways. Mainly the issues were with uploading images and particularly video during the game. Looking back, trying to gather a live feed of images and video, given the constraints of 3G, was perhaps a little optimistic. However, those issues coupled with some of the feedback would suggest that the most convenient way to go would be an ‘app’ that contained the Google map, QR reader and links to Flickr and Twitter so that each element could be accessed more easily.

I’m now in the process of visualising the feedback and experiences of NEoN Knights, the two SuperFly Safari’s and now the Space Hop.

It’s amazing how much information you can take from playing a game like this. Besides the benefits that come from the experience itself there is also a huge amount of behavioural data that could be manipulated out of these scenarios. An artificial cultural probe? Not even sure what I mean, are any cultural probes non-artificial..? However, theres something in there… I’m sure that scenarios could be orchestrated, like role play, but observations made during the process… like a Swiss Army Knife of a design tool..?

Anyway, this post has been long enough so I’ll leave you with your thoughts and post more later…

SuperFly St Andrews Space Hop…

24 Jun

St Andrews is an amazing city.

As someone who grew up a stones throw from Birmingham, ‘Dundee‘ hardly feels like a city, let alone St Andrews… but in this instance size matters not and St Andrews has a great deal going for it, including the three C’s: Cultural, Cobbled and Quaint..!

On Monday 27th June (my boy’s 5th birthday! (Bad Dad!)), between 3 – 4.30pm I’ll be putting 25 PDH students through the paces of a SuperFly Space Hop! I’ll go into the ‘whys and wherefores’ of the name in another post… at which time i’ll also explain the object of the game… but for now, lets just say it’s a treasure hunt that thinks it’s an eTourism project.

I live in Fife, less than 10 minutes from St Andrews and despite the fun that I’ve had putting on SuperFly events in Dundee I’m really looking forward to this one. Firstly, thanks to the support from it’s host, St Andrews School of Computer Human Interaction (SACHI), and the local businesses accommodating the QRs (for now they’ll remain nameless to preserve the mystery…), the set up has been really easy. Principally however, the secondary benefit has been that I’ve been able to spend a lot more time in St Andrews… something I don’t do often enough.

The biggest challenge facing me these last few weeks has been ‘what not’ to put in the game. It has been a perfect opportunity to combine the treasure hunt aspects of NEoN Knights with the tagging of content that i’ve been experimenting with lately. I’ve also been able to build on the experience of the games since NEoN Knights (Game To Learn time two, plus the MDes open day) and have a much keener sense of what works for these events.

So, this is the one. This game is the focus of what my final Masters project will be. Even if only in a small way, each element of my research, my interviews and prototypes, plus the experience of previous games have come together and informed the conception and execution of the game. That’s not to say it’ll be the last – at least I hope not – just that it’ll be the last one before September.

This one has to count in terms of how I evaluate it afterwards. For that reason I’ll have at least 3 cameras capturing video and stills of the teams playing the game, engaging in the tasks and fulfilling the SACHI ethnographic brief. To the best of my ability I’ll be following a team around myself, but that may have issues for the teams and how I manage other elements of the game. Another two people are shadowing for their own interest (for future events…), but they’ll also be ideally placed to provide me with feedback afterwards.

The interest from participating businesses has been such that I’m hopeful that this game, or at least refined version of it, could be a semi-permanent digital fixture. Any number of players could engage with the game over a period of hours, days or even weeks… convert the points to ‘St Andrews currency’ perhaps..?

Well, let’s not jump the gun just yet…

Between now and Monday morning I’ll post a little more detail about the game but on Monday please keep an eye on Twitter (@onthesuperfly) for the hashtag #SuperFlySpaceHop and maybe one or two updates on the blog. I’ll be posting on how the teams get on… and there are sure to be a few surprises.