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In 2009, Steve Benford, Tom Rodden, Boriana Koleva and I published a paper at CHI, the most influential conference on human computer interaction, which attracts over 2000 attendees per year from the commercial (Microsoft, Google, Intel etc) and academic sectors from over 84 countries. The paper aimed to offer a conceptual framework in which trajectories explain user experiences that extend over space and time and involve multiple roles and interfaces. The paper won two awards: at CHI, where it received a best paper award, and back in the UK, where it received the best 2009 UK research in human computer interaction award.

In short, the paper, which combines performance studies and human computer interaction methodologies, uses trajectories to explain user experiences as journeys through hybrid structures, which can be analysed in terms of: space; time; roles and interfaces. Our research, which was furthered in our book Performing Mixed Reality (2011), presents strategies for the design of these hybrid structures. In terms of space, it looks at how physical and digital environments can be juxtaposed and how users’ journeys can be orchestrated through them. As for hybrid time, it proposes ways of combining story time, plot time, schedule time, interaction time and perceived time. As far as hybrid roles are concerned, it shows how individuals involved in such experiences may be acting as spectators, participants, bystanders or a combination of multiple roles. Finally, interfaces are looked at as interconnected ecologies. The image above shows a user in Blast Theory’s Uncle Royal All Around You (2003) walking through London whilst playing the game, which asks of them that they find the mysterious figure of Uncle Roy by following a series of clues received via a handheld device. Online participants were able to track their progress in a parallel online virtual model of the city. The work was a hybrid experience merging aspects of computer games with live performance. Below, again by Blast Theory, is an image from Ghostwriter (2011) at RAMM. This is an audio tour for mobile phones, which guides users through the museum though a number of possible trails, mixing facts and fiction, and overlaying the physical spaces at RAMM with imaginary and historical spaces.

In Moor Stories, we have chosen to utilise a game, an archive and a map to encourage users to explore the Dartmoor materials in the RAMM collections from different perspectives. Space-wise, they can encounter these materials in the museum, where they can view the physical objects guided by museum interpretation; online, where they can experience a broader selection of them digitally, guided by museum interpretation; and in situ, on Dartmoor, through a game and a map, where hybrid physical and digital environments are intersected. Temporally, users can experience these materials chronologically, by exploring Victorian Dartmoor, for example, or geographically, which means objects from different periods in time can be seen concurrently. Users will be able to embrace different roles, the detective (in the game) and the explorer (in the map) and encounter different characters in the game (Hems, a curator and a mouse). This will hopefully encourage users to adopt different roles, which may be more or less explorative (archive, game and map); reflexive (archive and map); playful (game); interactive (game), etc. At our development meeting next week we hope to see how some of these ideas are being utilised concretely in the game and map components of the project.


Benford, S., Giannachi, G., Koleva, B. and Rodden, T. (2009) ‘From Interaction to Trajectories: Designing Coherent Journeys Through User Experiences’, Proceedings ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2009), Boston, MA, April 5-9, 2009, ACM Press.

Benford, S. and Giannachi, G. (2011) Performing Mixed Reality, Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.