Showcasing EMOTIVE storytelling about Romans at the Antonine Wall at European Researchers’ Night – Explorathon 2017

European Researchers’ Night, or Explorathon as it is known across Scotland, has become an established event in researchers’ public engagement calendar going from strength to strength across Europe since 2005 when it started, and since 2014 in Scotland. It is funded by the European Commission under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions programme and it is an opportunity for researchers to showcase their work the last Friday in September in a public engagement extravaganza.

The EMOTIVE team spans France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and the UK which gave us the opportunity this year to take part in European Researchers’ Night more than once in the same day across Europe. The Glasgow University team jumped at the chance to set up a stall in the Hunterian Museum, one of the Explorathon venues, in order to let museum visitors be the first to try out the prototype of our EMOTIVE digital story about Ebutius, a Roman centurion who left his mark on the Antonine Wall. Visitors were able to hear Ebutius tell tales of his time in the Roman army stationed in Caledonia while looking for evidence from objects on display that have inspired our research.

Meanwhile, in Athens, our ATHENA research team took the opportunity to show Ebutius’ story to Greek visitors to their stall, in a remote demonstration of the same story at the local European Researchers’ Night.


In Glasgow, apart from a range of adult visitors visiting our stall and the exhibition and giving us valuable feedback, the Explorathon team and Ruth Fletcher, the Hunterian Student Engagement officer helped us also arrange a visit from a primary school class from Castlemilk in East Glasgow. A group of 27 keen and enthusiastic 11-year-olds accompanied by their two teachers helped test Ebutius’s story using the app in the exhibition. Not only that, but they also participated in the story-design process assisting us in the development of a new story about Verecunda, a local slave girl who also lived during that period and whose gravestone is on display.

The Glasgow EMOTIVE team was assisted on the day by Sara Perry from the York team, who travelled north to give us valuable insight about the whole process, and 12 student volunteers from Glasgow University’s Museum Studies MSc, who were at least as enthusiastic and keen as the schoolchildren and did an excellent job facilitating the story-design process and evaluating the use of the app.

The Hogwarts-like entrance to the Hunterian Museum and some of the amazing objects on display from the collection of William Hunter, the museum’s founder, were not missed by the pupils who appeared initially awe-struck by the whole experience.

Once settled in the main hall of the museum, we split the class in two groups and asked the first to try out Ebutius’s story on the android handsets we had set up, and invited the other half to engage in some creative writing and drawing to test some of our research on writing stories about historical characters, in this case, Verecunda. The groups then swapped over so that everyone could try both experiences.

Judging by the relative silence and engaged concentration from the Ebutius group in the Antonine Wall display and the audible debate and creative buzz from the Verecunda end of the museum, the engagement with both activities from the school group was a great hit! One pupil commented that “I felt like I was there. It was quite strange because it felt like he [Ebutius] was talking to you in real life”, reassuring us that we are on the right track with our EMOTIVE research, testing the potential of digital storytelling for bringing history to life and encouraging an empathetic engagement with heritage and the past.

We followed our morning session with an afternoon introducing general museum visitors to “Ebutius’s Dilemma”. We gave this title to the story we designed together with Breffni O’Malley, from our NOHO partners in Dublin, as we set the scene a few days before the Romans abandon the Antonine Wall to retreat further south, so Ebutius needs to decide if he will follow the army and leave the family he has created with a local Caledonian girl, or if he should become a deserter and stay with his family. This resonated with most of our visitors and encouraged strong emotional responses. A lot of them were keen not only to take part and try the story but also to talk to us about why we had developed it and what they enjoyed about it. They were also eager to share with us what choice they had made for Ebutius’s dilemma. A lot of them filled in the feedback postcard we had designed expressing how the story made them feel. Some mentioned that the story made them consider the objects on display differently and pay closer attention to objects that they would have otherwise overlooked. One visitor wrote “I thought this was really good! It broke the glass wall that separates the viewer from the object in a museum. Really interesting!”

The experience helped us identify some glitches with the audio and the navigation of the app, but much fewer than we expected from an early prototype.

Nearly 40 visitors tried out our EMOTIVE digital story in the Antonine Wall display at the Hunterian Museum on that day, providing us with valuable insights from actual visitors about what they enjoyed, didn’t like and early formative evaluation that we can feed back into our next steps in the design and evaluation process.

All in all, a very successful event that helped us engage with a variety of our end users and target audience and gave use a lot of ideas for our future work.


Blog post written by Maria Economou and Hilary Young from the University of Glasgow EMOTIVE team.

SPOTLIGHT ON… Research Group GRAPHDECO & the INRIA’s paper at the SIGGRAPH 2017

GRAPHDECO (team.inria.fr/graphdeco) is a research group at Inria Sophia-Antipolis (www.inria.fr), focusing on research in the domain of computer graphics.

We develop novel solutions for image-based rendering techniques, in particular developing solutions that will allow highly realistic virtual experiences of existing sites, such as Çatalhöyük.

Another research focus of the group is on head-mounted display (HMD) technologies, and in particular perceptual studies to determine which display solutions reduce fatigue for virtual reality.

In particular, we focus on one known source of discomfort: the vergence-accommodation (VA) conflict. The VA conflict is the difference between accommodation (focus at the screen) and vergence (eyes turning towards a target at a given depth).

We have recently published a research paper on this topic and a video which was presented at the prestigious ACM SIGGRAPH conference this summer, and will appear in the top journal of our field ACM Transactions on Graphics.

We developed a new device that allows us to measure accommodation (the actual focus of the human eye) when viewing an HMD screen, and performed experiments on different viewing conditions, including a design with focus-adjustable lenses.

Our results show that only the focus-adjustable-lens design drives accommodation effectively, while other solutions used by previous systems (e.g., depth-of-field blur) do not drive accommodation to the simulated distance and thus do not resolve the VA conflict.  Our results also show that focus-adjustable lenses reduce discomfort significantly more than other solutions.

This research result is important in guiding choices of display technologies in virtual and augmented reality settings, such as those in EMOTIVE.

Accommodation and Comfort in Head-Mounted Displays (SIGGRAPH 2017)

Our work: University of Glasgow

Working with the EMOTIVE Hunterian Museum’s Personas

IMAGE 1: Group at 1st EMOTIVE User Workshop (Glasgow University, Hunterian Museum, February 2017) discussing the Hunterian personas

 

We thought it would be timely to introduce the personas we have also developed for the Hunterian museum and the Antonine Wall display and how we used them at the 1st EMOTIVE User Experience Design Workshop in Glasgow in February. Each persona we designed for the Hunterian museum is an individual person, that is they have sole identities detailing their own character and behaviours (backgrounds, hobbies and interest); their relationship with technology (type of devices they own or are comfortable using and software they have access to); and specific challenges they bring to a museum visit or frustrations they have (views on museums and heritage, interpretation and technology used in museums, accessibility issues) (image 2).

 

IMAGE 2: Selection of 3 of the 5 Hunterian Antonine Wall display personas

Combining individual personas to design group experiences

Our own research on the Hunterian visitors, as well as that carried out for the CHESS project that some of our EMOTIVE partners had worked on before (Katifori et al. 2016) confirmed what is reported in the literature; that most people visit museums in groups as museum visiting is a social activity (e.g. Falk & Dierking 2012; Falk 2016; Hein 1998).

Therefore, the five individual Hunterian personas were created with this in mind and any two (or more) individual personas are able to be combined to create a group persona: for example Carlos (a 25-year-old Engineering Erasmus student who doesn’t like reading lots of text panels in museums) and Susie (a 21-year-old Hunterian MUSE volunteer guide who is also a Museum Studies Masters student) may bump into each other in the museum, they get chatting about the display at which point Susie shows the EMOTIVE tool to Carlos and they decide to use it together.

Or the persona of Susie could be combined with that of Mary (a 71-year-old Friend of the Hunterian and grandmother who wants to pass on her love for objects and heritage to her grandchildren) and Annie (Mary’s 15-year-old granddaughter who is bored by museums but wants to do something nice with her granny) to create a different group scenario.

 

IMAGE 3: Participant at 1st EMOTIVE User Workshop (Glasgow University, Hunterian Museum, February 2017) studying the Hunterian personas

How we have used the personas in our work so far

We were able to test the personas at our first user experience design workshop in February (images 1 and 3) and again during a seminar with students from the Glasgow School of Art Heritage Visualisation MSc in May 2017 (image 4). During both sessions we split our workshop participants into groups and asked each group to design an EMOTIVE experience for their designated persona or personas.

 

IMAGE 4: Introducing the Hunterian personas to students and staff from Glasgow School of Art Heritage Visualisation MSc (Glasgow University, Hunterian Museum, May 2017)

 

Although all workshop participants were presented with individual personas, they understood that they needed to take into account how any individual persona’s needs and characteristics would affect a group dynamic and that this was key to the success of any experience they designed. The participants reported that designing group experiences for more than one persona was challenging but important. For example, the group designing an experience for Mary and Annie (the grandmother who wants to pass on her love for objects and heritage to her grandchildren and the granddaughter who is bored by museums but wants to do something nice with her granny) felt that this was an “interesting and challenging combination” because of the differences in what they individually wanted to achieve with the visit tempered by the fact they were visiting together.

Similarly, the group designing for Carlos who gets talking to Susie in the museum “understood that from the conception of the experience, this had to be something that would engage two different people with very different reasons for visiting.” This group noted that “interacting not only with the materials but also with each other was a crucial factor” to the success of any experience.

So, throughout this process we had to ask ourselves: How do you cope when in a group one person dominates or “leads” the experience? Is it always the person you expect who has the biggest impact on an experience? What  different ways are there of coping with people who dominate the situation?

By creating multiple individual personas and asking our workshop participants to design experiences for different combinations of them, we were drawn to thinking about how individual behavioural characteristics might impact on the same design task at hand, which in turn allows us to think about how to balance differing user needs.

 

IMAGE 5: Workshop participants enjoying the dramatisation of the EMOTIVE application they designed for The Hunterian Antonine Wall display in February 2017 designed

 

At the end of the design process we asked our participants to dramatise the experiences they had designed. Yes, dramatise! And the groups obliged by getting with gusto into the character of their personas as well as, in some cases, the EMOTIVE application itself, creating some laughs in the process… (image 5). This dramatization of ideas using the “entire body”  is also called “bodystorming”, a technique often used in interaction design and creative development (Simsarian 2003). The idea was for the participants to imagine what it would be like if the product (or EMOTIVE experience, in this case) they designed existed, and act as though they were using it. Dramatising the experience and personas within the Antonine Wall display allowed the groups to really think about how the personas would physically interact together, within the actual display space and allowed the research team to think further about group experience dynamics. The dramatisation was fun and we enjoyed seeing our personas “come to life”. The overall experience of using the personas helped all groups focus on real users and for the research team integrate a participatory, user-centred approach when co-designing EMOTIVE experiences.


REFERENCES

Falk, J. (2016). Museum audiences: A visitor-centered perspective. Loisir et Société / Society and Leisure 39 (3), 357-370.

Falk, J.H. and Dierking, L.D. (2012). The Museum Experience Revisited. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Hein. G. (1998). Learning in the Museum. London: Routledge.

Katifori, A., Perry, S., Vayanou, M., Pujol, L.,Chrysanthi, A., Kourtis, V., and Ioannidis, Y. “Cultivating mobile-mediated social interaction in the museum: Towards group-based digital storytelling experiences.MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016. Published January 15, 2016. Consulted August 25, 2017.

López Sintas, J. García Álvarez, E., and Pérez Rubiales, E. (2014). Art museum visitors: Interaction strategies for sharing experiences. Museum Management

Simsarian, K.T. (2003). Take it to the Next Stage: The Roles of Role Playing in the Design Process. In Ext. Abstracts CHI 2003, ACM Press (2003), 1012-1013.


Blog post written by Maria Economou and Hilary Young from the University of Glasgow EMOTIVE team.

SPOTLIGHT ON… Using Group Personas to Develop Cultural Storytelling Experiences

Blog post by Sophia Mirashrafi, Katrina Gargett and Sara Perry (University of York)


The concept of the ‘persona’ is something which has been utilised in management, advertising and the technology industry since the term was first coined by Alan Cooper nearly twenty years ago (see Cooper, 1998). Used to aid in product design and the development of experiences for customers, clients, guests and other product users, a ‘persona’ is a fictional character created with the specific needs and desires of a potential end-user in mind. But what, we hear you ask, does this have to do with the EMOTIVE project and collaborative storytelling?

Well, to tell a story you must have an audience. And to tell a good story you must know your audience. The same goes for experiences at cultural heritage sites, where it is imperative to know the types of people visiting a site in order to cater for them. In recent years, we’ve seen museums and other cultural institutions turning to personas to develop their offerings based specifically on the demographics and complex habits of their visitors (see CHESS interactive digital storytelling project for an example of this, and specifically ‘A Life Of Their Own‘, its paper on the subject). Personas are arguably the perfect solution for developing a tailored cultural visitor experience.

The problem is that most existing work with personas has entailed the use of singular personas. In other words, the user is presumed to be an individual who can be fully captured in a solitary fictional identity. But research shows that people visiting museums and heritage sites usually do so in groups, whether as part of an educational or other tour, with family or friends (Falk, 2016; Falk and Dierking, 2012). A singular persona in these contexts ignores the social complexities of visiting, and limits our understanding of how we might encourage interactions and productive relations between and within typical visitor groups. (For more on the complexities of the visitor experience see López Sintas et al., 2014).

One of our cultural partner sites, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Çatalhöyük, provides the perfect opportunity for developing interesting visitor relations through the use of group personas. Study of over 15 years’ worth of demographic and observational data from visitors to Çatalhöyük proves that the overwhelming majority tour the site as one of five groups: local parents with children, international families, local families, mixed groups of local and international families, and larger bodies of people such as tourist and school groups.

Members of the EMOTIVE project, Sophia Mirashrafi, Laia Pujol, Vassillis Kourtis, Katrina Gargett and Sara Perry, are currently testing and evaluating a collaborative digital storytelling experience for groups on site in Turkey right now. By creating a series of group personas for Çatalhöyük, and testing the efficacy of them in our workshop at Glasgow in February, the team has tailored the experience based on the actual types of visitors we see at Çatalhöyük. Using this novel method of experience design is an important step towards the success of EMOTIVE, and one we see as relevant to all curators, heritage managers and cultural experience designers who aim to cater realistically to the goals and needs of their visitors.  


IMAGE: Two users (in the foreground) test a prototype digital group experience inside the ‘Vulture Shrine’ replica at Çatalhöyük while two EMOTIVE team members look on. [Photo by Sara Perry]


BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Cooper, A. (1998). The Inmates are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity. Indianapolis: Macmillian.

Falk, J. (2016). Museum audiences: A visitor-centered perspective. Loisir et Société / Society and Leisure 39 (3), 357-370.

Falk, J. and Dierking, L. (2012). The Museum Experience Revisited. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.

López Sintas, J. García Álvarez, E., and Pérez Rubiales, E. (2014). Art museum visitors: Interaction strategies for sharing experiences. Museum Management

News from the Çatalhöyük…

The Çatalhöyük Research Project is developing a chatbot for the site and is looking for participants to contribute to its evaluation. Have you ever chatted with a bot before? Here is your chance! If you are interested in taking part in the Facebook Messenger chatbot’s evaluation please send the Çatalhöyük Research Project a private message on Facebook and they will tell you more! 

Moreover, for the next 2 weeks, the Çatalhöyük Research Project’s social media will be taken over by the Çatalhöyük’s Visualisation Team! The team is made up of staff and students from the University of York & the EMOTIVE Project. They will bring you the life & stories of the humans of Çatalhöyük, both modern & Neolithic, to connect the past with the present. Make sure to follow their adventure on Çatalhöyük’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. We can’t wait to see some behind-the-scenes material from all the exciting work they are up to in the next two weeks!

The Çatalhöyük is one of our two cultural partners and you can read more about it here


Image: Çatalhöyük Research Project / L-R: Ashley FisherSara PerryVassilis KourtisHermione-rose EldertonEmmeline BatKatrina GargettJessica Chatburn and Meghan Dennis

Our work: EXUS

OUR WORK: EXUS’s experience of the Emotive project to date

Nine months have passed since Emotive started and it’s been a really busy but also exciting time at EXUS, where we coordinate all the activities of the project. It’s our role to support the team and keep everything moving, in good time, and in harmony. It is a little like being in a small orchestra!

Directed by our conductor (Dimitris), our first violin section (Hara (concertmaster), Stella (violoncello), Elena (viola)), coordinates the project activities and makes sure that they run smoothly, efficiently and effectively. We overview all partners’ work and collaborate with them closely to ensure that all deliverables are submitted within the time schedule.

Our percussion section (Anastasia) is responsible for all logistics, the arrangements of the trips and meetings, taking care of the Emotive team’s special needs as well as the external participants, as was the case in the workshop held in Glasgow.

And our brass section, aka technical gurus (Kostas (lead trumpet), Odysseas (trombone), Angelos (cornet), Savvas (clarinet), Spyros (horn), Zisis (tuba), Theodora (trumpet)), have most recently been working closely with Emotive’s technical team to define the architecture and the system functional specifications that will support the production of the Emotive’s experiences.

Our EXUS orchestra communicates with all partners regularly through teleconferences, to share our progress and schedule the project’s next steps. And because we need face-to-face contact too, we also organise regular meetings.

The kick-off meeting where we all gathered together for the very first time and exchanged our ideas and ambitions for the project was very promising for the future of the project. Our latest project meeting, held for three days in our premises in Athens at the end of May, focused in aligning the works of the user partners and technical partners.

Over the summer, all partners are working on the development of independent modules that will be integrated in the alpha release. The work continues and our little orchestra plays on – music to my ears!

Hara Stefanou, Project Coordinator (concertmaster)


Image source: Great Heidelberg manuscript /Codex Manesse (detail), Hidelberg University Library

Newsletter June 2017

With the help of this bi-annual newsletter, we’ll keep you updated on the happenings of the EMOTIVE project and ‘emotive storytelling’ in general. You can expect insights into our work, updates on our progress and links to many exciting topics related to the project, storytelling and cultural heritage.

So here’s to the start of a new project discovering, exploring and telling the stories hidden in our cultural heritage!

from
the EMOTIVE Team


Click here to read the Emotive Newsletter June 2017. 

Our Work: DIGINEXT

OUR WORK: Diginext’s experience of the Emotive project to date

The edutainment team of Diginext is very enthusiastic to be part of this fantastic consortium and work on the EMOTIVE project. Some members of the team already had the occasion to work in the cultural heritage domain by participating to the CHESS project and their enthusiasm stimulated everyone. We are all eager to offer our authoring tool and see it used to create great storytelling experiences!

Since the EMOTIVE kick-off, we have closely followed the work of the end users, especially at the 1st workshop, and the innovative use cases they imagined to realise with our tool. Then, Rémi and Alexandre have dedicated their efforts to analyse how to adapt the outcomes of the MAGELLAN project to support these new scenarios. Indeed, this project features powerful building blocks oriented towards general game creation, which we can reuse in the cultural heritage world, on the condition that we customize them to the needs and liking of our users.

Moreover, under the technical coordination of ATHENA, we synchronised with the other technical partners to create a complete architecture combining all our tools in a coherent solution. This has of course been the occasion to rekindle relationships with previous partners and to get to know new ones as well as discovering our respective works.

Our team is really looking forward to work directly with end users to create original experiences for the EMOTIVE project and put them directly in the hands of visitors for them to deeply engage with our end user’s stories.

We all have a story to tell

Storytelling applies to nearly everything we do. Everybody uses stories, from educators to marketers and from politicians to journalists, to inform, persuade, entertain, motivate or inspire. Storytelling becomes an even more powerful tool when it taps into our emotions.

We are all storytellers to some extent. Do you remember the last time you have told a story to your friend, family member, colleague or a stranger? What it was about?

On the Emotive Twitter and Facebook accounts we often share interesting resources, articles and topics related to storytelling. Here we would like to share with you a number of interesting factsheets, offered as ‘a free resource for storytellers and those wishing to promote storytelling events’ by the Society for Storytelling.

Our top picks, closely related to our work at EMOTIVE, are ‘Using Storytellers in Museums’ and ‘Advice to Storytellers working in Museums’. The first factsheet has been compiled by Tina Bilbé (Society for Storytelling) and includes contributions by Emily Johnsson (Museum of London) from her handbook Telling Tales: A guide to developing effective storytelling programmes for museums. It covers a variety of topics and provides answers to most common questions raised by the museum community, such as: What is a storyteller? Why tell stories in museums? What can a storyteller do for a museum? The second factsheet includes a great number of tips and advice from museum professionals and storytellers themselves.

Have a look at the full list and see what you can find to help you improve your storytelling skills, organize an event or simply learn how to tell a story!

Our work: ATHENA’s experience of the Emotive project to date

It’s been a wonderfully busy 4 months, since the beginning of the EMOTIVE project, for “team EMOTIVE” at the Athena Research Center in Information, Communication and Knowledge Technologies (ATHENA).

Our multidisciplinary team has been actively working on many aspects of the project in tandem. As a first taste, early on in December 2016, our archeologist-storytellers Francesco and Katerina used our authoring tool to quickly whip up some prototype stories for the Ancient Agora of Athens, which explored the power of love and war.

The 1st EMOTIVE user workshop that followed engulfed us all in a creative frenzy. In this context of user requirements elicitation and user experience design, Akrivi and Maria, our modern-day renaissance women, worked closely with the heritage partners at the University of York (YORK) and the University of Glasgow (UGLA), to start forming and consolidating the first version of the project’s conceptual framework for emotive storytelling experiences for cultural heritage, available also in card format.

Meanwhile, Manos, Emotive’s technical manager par excellence, and software engineer wizards Vassilis and Ektor, are working with the project’s techies to define the architecture that can support the experiences-to-be with advanced graphics and interactivity, virtual, mixed and augmented reality, 3D printed artefacts, even artificial conversational entities. Stavros, our AI expert, along with the University of York are currently designing a chatbot that will allow visitors to converse with cultural heritage site experts. And Yannis, who is also President and General Director of the Athena Research Center at large, has been waving his wand over our team’s research efforts.

The ATHENA research team has been working on interactive, personalised, mobile storytelling since the CHESS project. EMOTIVE has brought to the team the exciting chance to continue previous fruitful collaborations but also form new ones with talented researchers and companies in the project’s consortium. For us, this project is opening up a range of possibilities in learning how to craft engaging experiences for on-site and virtual visitors of cultural heritage sites.

Image source: Athena RIC