Shared digital heritage experiences

Read about our early experiments with emotional group tours of heritage sites…

Perry_Figure_3.jpg
Pairs of users touring Çatalhöyük’s replica houses as part of a collaborative digital experience centred around reflecting on egalitarian ways of life. Photo by me.

I’m so pleased to announced that our chapter in the phenomenal Routledge International Handbook of New Digital Practices in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Heritage Sites has been published. Many of the folks I admire the most in the digital field have chapters in this volume, so it’s a huge honour to be featured in this volume!

As part of the EMOTIVE project, we’ve been developing a variety of multi-person digital heritage experiences, for onsite, offsite and hybrid use, that seek to provoke critical emotional interactions between users. We do this by:

  • embedding human values and morals into the experiences,
  • organising the experiences such that they must be done in groups (not individually),
  • progressing the experiences by having groups make critically reflective decisions about how to move from one stage of the experience to the next,
  • then evaluating how different demographics navigate the charged engagements that come from such group-based exploration of social values.

This chapter delves into our group mobile experience for the site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, where participants have to literally give away one of their own possessions as a means to explore the nature of Neolithic egalitarian life.

Since we prepared the chapter in early 2018, we’ve subsequently refined the experience and conducted far more extensive evaluations. But here we give our preliminary findings and walk you through the existing literature on group experiences, suggesting the potentials of this line of work.

We are now working on another publication that (drawing on our more recent evaluations) reflects on how we might articulate – and evaluate – a social justice model for heritage interpretation. Stay tuned!

As ever, we welcome constructively critical feedback on our work. You can download a copy of the pre-print version of the chapter on ResearchGate or on Academia.edu.

For those of you who use text readers or prefer access to a text file, you can also download a Word version of the pre-print chapter.

Please cite as: Perry, Sara, Roussou, Maria, Mirashrafi, Sophia S., Katifori, A., and McKinney, Sierra (2019) Shared digital experiences supporting collaborative meaning-making at heritage sites. In Hannah Lewi, Wally Smith, Dirk vom Lehn, Steven Cooke (eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of New Digital Practices in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Heritage Sites. London: Routledge. Pp. 143-156. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429506765

New takes on the traditional guided tour: Can you help evaluate our York Minster prototype?

Seeking a handful of volunteers to test our new EMOTIVE facilitated tour of the York Minster…

York Minster evaluation - 31 May 2019
Can you join? Seeking volunteers to evaluate our facilitated ’emotive’ group tour of the York Minster on Friday 31 May 2019. (Photo by Katrina Gargett)

Our EMOTIVE team here in York (led by Katrina Gargett and supported by the incomparable Vivi Katifori and Vassilis Kourtis in Athens) has spent the past year conceiving of alternative visions for the typical guided tour of cultural sites. Guided tours are arguably one of the most ubiquitous offerings of the tourist industry. Many folks will have direct experience of being steered around sites in groups, sometimes paying attention to their guide’s spiel, and sometimes drifting off and losing touch with the expert narrative that is spoken at them.

While there are a growing number of alternatives to this traditional approach to guided tourism, it is surprising how rare experimentation with group tours seems to be. As Katrina’s research has shown, these tours offer unprecedented opportunities for cultural sites to directly communicate with people, to bring together strangers who might otherwise not have interacted, and to create constructive conversations and relationships between them.

Supported by the astonishing York Minster (one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in northern Europe), we have developed a new take on the guided tour, and we would like to ask for your help.

Specifically, we are conducting an evaluation of our ‘EMOTIVE tour’ at the Minster on Friday, 31 May, from 2.30pm. We’ve tested the tour with multiple groups off-site (in settings staged to simulate the Minster), and we’ve used these tests to improve the experience. Now we seek a small number of volunteers who are willing to do the tour inside the Minster itself and to provide constructive feedback on it.

Volunteers should be:

(1) 18 years or older and interested to participate in a research project focused on experimenting with guided tours, part of the wider European-funded EMOTIVE Project.

(2) willing to meet new people, share something about yourself, and explore ideas together about the Minster. Ideally, you are not employed in the heritage, museums, or tourism sector.

(3) open to discussing heartfelt topics including health, spirituality, love, wellbeing, justice, rights, and other human values and beliefs. You should be keen and ready to speak respectfully with others about these emotive topics.

(4) willing to read aloud, or to read aloud for others who might not feel confident in doing so, and comfortable reading at a basic-to-intermediate level (11-12 year old reading confidence).

(5) able to spare 3.5 hours of time on Friday 31 May, from 2.30-6pm. The first 1.5 hours will consist of the tour at York Minster, and then you will walk or taxi over from the Minster to nearby King’s Manor for a constructive discussion of your experiences. We will provide refreshments!

(6) willing to allow your tour of the experience to be audio-recorded and photographed, as well as your discussion session at King’s Manor after the tour. These records will then be analysed and used to improve the design and development of the next version of the tour. You can choose to anonymise your records so that you are not identifiable.

If you are interested to participate, or know of someone who might be, please can you contact me by email before Wednesday 29 May. 

Thank you for spreading the word and supporting our efforts to broaden the ways that we think about – and connect to – the past.

Bot of conviction: transforming our conversations about the past

Can a chatbot enable us to change our conceptions about the past, to be critically reflective, to take action on the world today?

Provoking questions - would you bury someone you care about under your bed?
An example of a question posed by our Bot of Conviction to provoke conversation about the human past. For more info, download our CHI 2019 paper

After two years of development, I’m really excited to announce that our co-authored paper (co-authored by a majority female team, no less!) for CHI 2019 has been published and was presented by the incredible Maria Roussou in Glasgow yesterday. The full-text of the paper is freely downloadable from the ACM Digital Library. And especially excitingly, our EMOTIVE communications collaborator Karolina Badzmierowska from NOHO, made this little teaser video to briefly introduce you to the concept behind the project, and to pique your interest.

With all this available online, I’ll just say here that we’ve been inspired by the work of Mark SampleShawn Graham, and others, and thus have experimented with means to provoke people (in constructive fashion) to question and act responsibly on their values, beliefs and prejudices. I’ve long been interested in the power of dialogue to bring people together – and to offer the means by which change can be articulated and enacted – and I continue to be surprised at the relative lack of engagement with genuine dialogue between human beings in relation to heritage (here dialogue is understood as distinctly different from discussion, focused on two or more individuals actively and explicitly sharing experiences, challenging presumptions, and exploring others’ perspectives in order to build alliances and democracy).

We have various publications forthcoming on the topic of dialogue where we review some of the fabulous work of the US National Park Service, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and of scholars like Nicole Deufel. Hence I won’t get into the details here, but in projects spearheaded by Angeliki Tzouganatou, Sierra McKinney, Sophia Mirashrafi and Katrina Gargett, we’ve been able to explore dialogical interventions with heritage in various ways (at heritage sites, in classrooms, at home using your own devices), creating a solid foundation for us to provide recommendations and guidance for others wishing to explore facilitated dialogue in their own work.

Our Bot of Conviction, which we fondly call ChatÇat, is one of the first case studies that we launched to explore how a simple rules-based bot might be designed to foster challenging – but productive – forms of communication and reflection. We’ve been lucky to have had incredible support from my colleagues at Çatalhöyük, and to be able to draw on the rich archaeological finds from the site –  which have collectively allowed us to seed our bot with complex questions around common human concerns: death, privacy, equality, power, and more.

We hope you might browse our work, provide us with constructive comments, and stay tuned for further publications on these topics. Happy reading!

PLEASE CITE AS: Roussou, M., Perry, S., Katifori, A., Vassos, S., Tzouganatou, A., McKinney, S. (2019) Transformation through Provocation? Designing a ‘Bot of Conviction’ to Challenge Conceptions and Evoke Critical Reflection. In CHI ’19 Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Glasgow, Scotland, 4-9 May. New York: ACM. Paper No. 627.

Download our CHI 2019 paper from https://saraperry.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/roussou_et_al_2019_chipaper627.pdf
Download our CHI 2019 paper from https://saraperry.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/roussou_et_al_2019_chipaper627.pdf