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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! 🙂

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

 

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 🙂

QR jigsaw..!

27 Aug

So, finally, a physical Mystery Box!

I’ve been doing a lot more with the form of the QR Code lately. I’ made one barely recognisable as a QR Codes and it still worked! But few people would recognise it as a QR Code so it kind of misses the point.

So, I started working up my prototype concept of a QR Jigsaw. Initially I was going to have a QR on the bottom of each piece and the solving of the jigsaw simply gave you the correct order of a series of links, audio, video, images, in order to tell a story. I turns out that the QRs are so robust I was able to make the QR the jigsaw image and if you’re careful they actually scan.

So here’s some images and video of the making process. Time in the workshop is always good. Great to get away from the computer. The results of the laser cutter is good too but it’s very slow, at the far end of the building and you’re not allowed to walk away from it in case it catches fire… so it’s pretty dull waiting around…

So, the Masters Show opens today so come along and see the Mystery Boxes for yourself…

I’ll be talking soon about developments with a QR related service established by Rick Curran of [wideopenspace] and myself. Where this jigsaw idea fits in is that toys like this can be made bespoke and directed at any given location, but also that that location could be changed. The laser cutter makes it possible to customise every element of the box design and while they would mostly be consistent at least one side of the box and even the jigsaw could be customised.

Looking forward to experimenting further this coming week as I have one week left with the facilities… then I’m on my own!

 

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…

Who Killed The QR Code?

25 Jul

Marble QR memorial in Pere Lachaise, Paris

Found this on the web via ‘Geek-eLeaks‘ and copied it here before it was removed… apparently a leaked obituary for the QR Code!

Obituary: QR Code

Who Killed The QR Code, aka Quick Response?
The sad irony of course was that the QR Code was anything but ‘quick‘ to catch on. Is this a tale of ‘tech‘ ahead of it’s time?

Created by the ‘Terminator II‘ sounding Denso Wave (a subsidiary of Toyota) in 1995, to keep track of car parts, the QR filtered through into public consciousness in the mid-naughties with the rise of the ‘smart phone‘! But it seems that the phones were smarter than the people and the QR just didn’t catch on. Speaking from Cupertino back in 2002 an iPhone said, “Sure I can make calls and text an stuff, but when you’ve paid $500 for a phone and $30 a month for two years you need a little extra, a little justification, to sweeten the purchase! QR did that for me in spades.. the geeks ‘lurve’ the Codes maan!
Clearly a hit with the early adopters QR Codes, along with more obviously useful applications, promted a whole slew of smart phone purchases and QR Codes could be found across the world on the office doors of computer scientists who would embed them with ZX81 jokes.
However, the ascension of the bell curve from early adopter obscurity to it’s big break with the early majority fan-boy status was an endurance test of K2 proportions. But even then it didn’t quite happen for the Code.
2009 was heralded as Year of the QR Code… as was 2010… and then 2011. To be fair 2011 looked promising, but even before the paint was dry on the ‘welcome‘ banners the backlash had started and signalled the demise of the Code called Quick. So what was it exactly that made the Code more Napoleon Dynamite than Justin Bieber?
Was it the casual association with Supermarket 1D barcodes?
Did it’s challenging appearance make it the Elephant Man in the room?
This may be one autopsy that remains unresolved.
This mystery may never be explained.
However, there is one designer who believes ‘mystery’ is ‘the key’. He also believes that the passing of the QR Code is much simpler than the media would have us believe.

Initially designer Jon Gill wasn’t enamoured by the QR code, he was much more interested in the much ‘cooler’ GPS technology, but the QRs accessibility made it perfect for his projects. In early 2009 he started an outdoor visual arts exhibition project called SuperFly. While QRs were on the cards from the start it would be late 2010 before they found their way onto a SuperFly street poster treasure hunt called NEoN Knights.

Gill says of QR Codes“They are a great tool for ‘mystery’! Once you’ve scanned one you can’t wait to find out what lies behind the next!”
Gill developed a close working relationship with the Code, some would say too close… but undeterred by the naysayers Gill persevered with a single minded creative passion. Of the Codes untimely relegation and controversial Wikipedia entry deletion, he says, “The problem, as I see it, was that too much responsibility was placed on the shoulders of the QR code. The QR is a key, a doorway if you will, to somewhere interesting, engaging, and worthy of the mystery implied by the enigmatic pixelated box that bought you here. The trouble was, while there were lots of really cool and creative uses of the QR they were swamped by a deluge of rubbish from ‘less_than_creative_marketeers.com’ who just didn’t understand what to do with them.”
‘Less than Creative’ advertising and PR is nothing new. Open a magazine. Turn on a TV. Any day of the week. You’ll never be far from a steaming pile of marketing manure. But on this occasion it was the QR Code carrying the can. By early 2012 “doing a QR” had superseded “doing a Murdoch” (which, only months before had superseded “doing a Lucan“) as the street-side nomenclature for ‘disappearing without a trace‘.
The collapse of the QR Code would almost take Gill with it, although it appears he was doing a fine job by himself… he laments, “I was the QR-go-to-guy… the QR-go-to-superguy..! But when the QR Code folded I was seen as a one trick pony… I was a laughing stock and… well… folk assumed I’d go with it.
I’ll have the last laugh though… with ‘HooLED-Hoops’ my line of Hula-hoops embedded with LEDs that spell out pre-programmable messages… they’re going to completely change the way we communicate with each other… we’ll be bigger than Twitter!”
Gill may well be the architect of his own demise but the definitive killer of the QR Code remains a mystery, open for debate. Although it would seem that the return of the QR code is not. While many believed that the technology would live on such was the backlash toward it in the industry that, as a standard, it was completely deleted. When quizzed on any possible reinstatement an industry expert said, “It’ll be a ‘Adobe Flash’ day in Apple‘ before that happens.
Q.R.I.P. indeed.
A cautionary tale…?
…or could this mean that the death of the QR Code is imminent?
Clearly QReativity is called for…
What are your thoughts?
Comments below…

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.