The University of Southampton

Southampton’s smartphone storytelling technology reaches milestone

Published: 22 March 2017

University of Southampton researchers are looking for enthusiastic writers to help with the next stage of their innovative work developing location-based story-telling technology.

The StoryPlaces project is led by academics from the Web and Internet Science(WAIS) research group within Electronics and Computer Science, in conjunction with colleagues in English, and is creating software to allow people to read stories on their smartphones that unfold depending on their location.

New pages are unlocked as the reader moves around and explores a landscape, immersing them in the real life locations of fictional stories.

StoryPlaces Principle Investigator Dr David Millard, a WAIS researcher, said: “This digital technology allows writers to overlay the real world with virtual layers, allowing people to experience landscapes in completely different ways, and revealing hidden aspects of a place.

The two-year, Leverhulme-funded project has already produced stories set around Southampton’s Old Town and docks, and Bournemouth’s Sea Front. Now the software creators are seeking a group of authors to help them tell stories about Crystal Palace Park, in South London.

A free digital creative writing workshop is being held in Upper Norwood, South London, in April where writers will be able to test out the next stage of the developing technology. Crystal Palace Park offers a particularly rich and inspiring source of stories for writers – it was a world famous Victorian leisure destination 1854-1936, and home to the magnificent Crystal Palace – a monster glass structure that dominated the South London skyline.

David said: “We have created an authoring tool for StoryPlaces based on our experiences in Southampton and Bournemouth. We have taken some of the approaches that people have used in their narratives and enshrined them in the authoring tool. We have also developed the technology to be used on mobile or desktop equipment enabling the authors to write or plan their stories in their normal working spaces or at the locations themselves. It will be very interesting to see how different authors approach creating their stories during the workshop.” The workshop takes place at the Upper Norwood Library, near Crystal Palace Park, at the end of April, and a selection of the best stories will be showcased at the Crystal Palace Overground Festival in June, where visitors will be able to read the stories and feedback their experience.

The StoryPlaces project goes back to the basics of immersive storytelling, building on pioneering research Southampton carried out more than a decade ago.

David said: “In the early 2000s, Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton was one of the first places to look at producing location-based story systems. Since then lots of other organisations have developed their own software introducing more techniques such as augmented reality, but we felt that the fundamentals of the technology still weren’t particularly well understood.

“The StoryPlaces projects takes us back to the basic idea of telling a story across and through a landscape and trying to understand how the technology works with the poetics of location-based storytelling. We are exploring how the landscape affects the way that people write their stories and how technology affects that process.

“Our aim is to produce web-based technology that is effective, easily accessible and encourages more people to experiment and write these locative stories.

“As Web Science researchers we are very interested in the cultural aspects of the Web. Through StoryPlaces we can discover more about how people use technology to communicate and how this technology, that virtualises our real world, can change the relationship people have with the landscape around them.”

Related Links StoryPlaces

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