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.

Join us next week at TAG, Southampton!

As a follow up to my previous post, James and I are very excited to announce the line-up for our digiTAG2 conference session on Archaeological Storytelling and the Digital Turn, scheduled from 9:00-17:00 GMT next Tuesday, 20 December, in Southampton, Avenue Campus, Lecture Theatre B.

We were awed by the range and originality of the proposals that we received. It was inspiring for us to review the many and varied abstracts, and I do hope that you’ll join us for what we think will be a truly unique session, including performance pieces, game play, an archaeological mystery – and more!

We are also pleased to say that we will be hosting a notably broad group of presenters in terms of gender, career stage, geographic specialism, professional specialism, and theme/audience/medium of presentation.

Basic details on the presenters and presenting times are listed below. Full abstracts can be reviewed here on the TAG webpages.

Please share in our (digitally-relevant) stories, attend in person, or follow along on Twitter at #digiTAG2 on Tuesday the 20th of December. Can’t wait!


SESSION 4. digiTAG 2: Archaeological Storytelling and the ‘Digital Turn’ (Tuesday, 20th Dec., Lecture Theatre B)

James Taylor and Sara Perry, University of York

09:00 – 09:10 .. Introduction

09:10 – 09:35 .. Generative junk mail: Geo-narrating Sir Charles Wheatstone, Cassie Newland, King’s College London

09:35 – 10:00 .. “Once, or twice, upon a time”. Ripping Yarns from the tablet’s edge, Keith May, Historic England

10.00 – 10.25.. Building Museum Narratives through Active Performance with Digital Replicas of Objects, Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco, University of Cambridge

10.25 – 10.50.. Archaeological Storytelling with LEGO StoryStarter: Grand Designs in Ancient Greece, Matthew Fitzjohn; and Peta Bulmer, University of Liverpool

10.50 – 11:10.. Coffee Break

11.10 – 11.35.. Enriching The List, Martin Newman, Historic England

11.35 – 12:00.. Integrating Narratives: Creating Stories of Archaeology in a Local Language, Tomomi Fushiya, Leiden University, Netherlands

12.00 – 12.25.. The Playful Past: Storytelling Through Videogame Design and Development, Tara Copplestone, University of York and Aarhus University, Denmark

12.25 – 12.55.. Discussion

12.55 – 13.40     Lunch Break

13.40 – 14.05.. Digital Data Funerals, Audrey Samson, University of the West of England

14.05 – 14.30.. Industrial Memory and Memorialisation through Digitisation, Caradoc Peters, University of Plymouth and Adam Spring, Duke University, USA

14.30 – 14.55.. Ghosts in the Machines, Spirits in the Material World: An Archaeological Mystery, Jeremy Huggett, University of Glasgow

14.55 – 15.20.. Digital Escapism. How objects become deprived of matter, Monika Stobiecka, University of Warsaw, Poland

15.20 – 15.45.. Show, don’t tell:  Using digital techniques to visually record and present sites as a means to tackle complexity, Katie Campbell, University of Oxford

15.45 – 16.05.. Tea Break

16.05 – 16.30.. Drawing out the data: information graphics and the analysis of multivalent data, Megan von Ackermann, University of York

16.30 – 16.55.. Something Old…. Something New, Helen Marton, Falmouth University

16.55 – 17.20.. Stonehenge and other stories, Paul Backhouse, Historic England

17.20 – 17.50     Discussion