Can you help evaluate our multi-person VR experience?

Volunteers needed to assist with Virtual Reality case study for EMOTIVE Project…

EMOTIVE VR Experience
Partners on the EMOTIVE Project testing an early single-user version of the Çatalhöyük virtual reality experience. Photo by NOHO / Karolina Badzmierowska.

The EMOTIVE team, led by University of York MSc researcher Kristen O’Connor in collaboration with teams at INRIA in France, ATHENA in Greece, and CNR in Italy, has been developing a virtual reality (VR) experience of the archaeological site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey. We need your help!

While VR for heritage is a relatively young field, there are a number of common VR practices which we think detract from the overall user experience. For instance, heritage VR tends to place people alone in a visually-stunning but largely stale environment. These experiences do little to make archaeology and heritage more accessible to wider audiences, who perhaps want to do more than simply look. This is why we have designed a new take on heritage VR, focusing on a shared user experience in an environment of doing.

Our Çatalhöyük VR project is multi-player, allowing people who haven’t met before to explore and interact together at the virtual site. We have also used multiple stages of user feedback to inform the experience design. Currently in the last stage of development, we would like your help to provide input for the project’s final iteration. 

We are holding a Workshop at King’s Manor (Room K/G 60) on August 9, from 1pm, and we need a handful of volunteers. This workshop will involve a test between you and another volunteer, who will be joining the experience remotely from one of our partner sites abroad.

Volunteers should:

  • Be aged 14 and up.
  • Have used VR of any type before, at least once, and be comfortable using an HTC Vive (VR system).
  • Be comfortable testing a prototype VR experience which is still under development.
  • Be willing to meet new people, share something about yourself, and explore new concepts about archaeology together. Ideally, you are not employed in the heritage, archaeology, or museums sector.
  • Be willing to allow parts of your participation to be recorded, photographed, and observed. This information will be analysed to inform research on heritage VR, as well as to contribute to changes to the final release of the Çatalhöyük VR experience.

If you are interested to participate, or know of someone who might be, please can you contact the lead researcher on this project, Kristen O’Connor, by email (kristen.oconnor@york.ac.uk) before Tuesday, August 6.

Thank you!

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.

User experience design in archaeology and cultural heritage

Join us to refine user experience design models and toolkits for the archaeology and heritage sector…

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  • Are you designing digital resources for different archaeological users – specialists and wider audiences alike?
  • Do you deploy – or do you want to deploy – methods from the UX (user experience) and participatory design fields?
  • What workflows do you follow in iteratively developing your digital outputs? How are end users and stakeholders involved throughout these workflows?
  • What evaluation methodologies are you using to assess the successes and failures of your digital work with diverse audiences?

Please join us to explore these questions (and more!) in our Roundtable Session #S36 on User Experience Design in Archaeology & Cultural Heritage at the CAA International Conference in Kraków, Poland, 23-27 April, 2019.

We welcome all contributors who are working to integrate archaeological/heritage data and digital platforms into experiences that are truly tailored to the needs and expectations of their users.

We seek to discuss your iterative methodologies, your users’ experiences, and your lessons-learned in order to develop a more concerted user experience design model & toolkit for the archaeology and heritage sector.

The full abstract for our roundtable is pasted below. This is a discussion-focused session and papers should be ‘flash’ in nature – i.e., no more than 10 minutes – and will be pre-circulated to allow us to delve into specifics during moderated discussion periods.

Deadline for submission of abstracts is Wednesday 10 October 2018.

To apply: Submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, excluding session title, author names, affiliations, and email addresses as well as 3 – 5 keywords. Please go to the CAA conference website to log-in and submit your paper abstract by clicking here. You will need to log-in by going to User Home, clicking on CAA 2019 and then looking for the Submission link at the bottom of the page under the Conference Information header. You can select our session #S36 from the Track drop-down menu.

This roundtable is sponsored by the EU COST ACTION network ARKWORK: https://www.arkwork.eu/

For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact Francesca Dolcetti, me, or Rachel Opitz.

We hope you can join us!


User Experience Design in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (Session 36)

Francesca Dolcetti (University of York), Rachel Opitz (University of Glasgow), Sara Perry (University of York)

Despite the widespread dissemination of digital tools and applications in both archaeology and heritage, relatively little is known about their real effectiveness and impact on diverse audiences (specialists and lay publics alike). A new iterative design workflow, involving end users and stakeholders from the outset, as well as an accompanying design evaluation methodology, may open new avenues for engagement while, at once, constructively influencing our research objectives and epistemologies.

In this Roundtable session, we seek to bring together a multidisciplinary group looking at different aspects of archaeological knowledge production to discuss theoretical and methodological issues in the field of participatory design and user experience, and to foster a critical understanding of how this knowledge is used and its social impact. Our aim is to convene researchers and practitioners in a dialogue that is focused on examples of interdisciplinary co-creation and user testing of Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Realities (AR, VR, and MR) and related digitally-mediated experiences for museums, archaeological and cultural heritage sites, and varied teaching and research contexts. We are particularly interested in practical experiences around how to integrate archaeological data, storytelling and digital platforms to create experiences truly tailored to the needs and expectations of users.

The format of this Roundtable is a series of flash position papers (10 minutes maximum) followed by periods of moderated discussion. The session concludes with an open floor discussion and a wrap-up report summarising the discussion and suggesting follow-up activities. Position papers will be submitted in advance to the session chairs and shared with all panelists. The session welcomes participants from different sectors including but not limited to digital humanities, archaeology, museology, design research and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).