Time Trail project theoretical underpinning: a theory about trajectories for the design of user experiences

Exeter Time Trails is grounded in research led by a Computer Scientist from University of Nottingham, Steve Benford, and myself, a researcher in Performance and New Media at University of Exeter.

Steve and I met in 2006 in Brighton at a Blast Theory workshop that I was researching for the AHRC-funded Presence Project, which investigated what constitutes presence in live, mediated and simulated environments. I subsequently spent over a year researching the development of Blast Theory’s Day of the Figurines, a pervasive game lasting 24 days and taking place through SMS. Steve and I were looking at how users engaged with a game that spanned physical and digital environments and we realised that their behaviour, as well as the design of the environment in itself, could be best described by what we subsequently called a theory of trajectories. We wrote a pilot article called ‘From Interaction to Trajectories’ (2009) and then wrote a book, Performing Mixed Reality (2009 MITP), entirely dedicated to introducing the framework in a number of contexts including performance art, games and even theme parks. Steve has since offered workshops on this framework at Microsoft (you can see him at http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/default.aspx?id=155753) and we have both presented at various conferences in Performance, Museum Studies and Human Computer Interaction (HCI). Steve has also set up a Facebook page and a WordPress blog called Tra-jec-to-rize where you can peruse key concepts, graphs, case studies and various other materials. Finally, Blast Theory experimented with the use of trajectories in the museum with the piece Ghostwriter developed for RAMM’s re-opening.

In brief, we think its is important to design user experiences that extend over time, space, multiple interfaces and roles which allow users to shift from participation to interaction, spectatorship to performance. We have looked at examples spanning mobile and pervasive media, tours, installations, games and performances. We have not as yet worked in schools and in the context of sport, which this project aims to do. Perhaps, most importantly, our framework attempts to advance writings about immersion and interaction to postulate what happens in augmented environments which span physical and digital worlds, possibly for prolonged periods of time.  I am also very interested to see how this framework can be used to promote well-being – hence the emphasis on sport. In the context of the partnership with Exeter City F.C. Trust, well being is not just physical, as the trust and club clearly promote a community spirit that operates right across a number of fields.

At the heart of the theory is that experiences spanning physical and digital worlds can be best described as journeys and that these journeys can be designed through interweaving trajectories touching upon physical and digital spaces; covering a plurality (ecology) of interfaces; facilitating the adoption of a number of, more or less active, roles and occurring over prolonged periods of time where time itself is designed in such a way that users can keep in touch with these environments, not so much immersively or pervasively, but as part of their everyday life. This is the the principal body of research underpinning how we aim to turn RAMM’s existing time trails into Exeter Time Trails.

About Gabriella Giannachi

Gabriella Giannachi is Professor in Performance and New Media, and Director of the Centre for Intermedia at the University of Exeter, which promotes advanced interdisciplinary research in performance and the arts through collaborations between artists, academics and scientists from a range of disciplines. Her most recent and forthcoming book publications include: Virtual Theatres: an Introduction (Routledge: 2004); Performing Nature: Explorations in Ecology and the Arts, ed. with Nigel Stewart (Peter Lang: 2005); The Politics of New Media Theatre (Routledge: 2007); Performing Presence: Between the Live and the Simulated, co-authored with Nick Kaye (MUP: 2011), nominated in Theatre Library Association 44th Annual Book Awards (2012); Archaeologies of Presence, co-edited with Nick Kaye and Michael Shanks (Routledge: 2012); Performing Mixed Reality, co-authored with Steve Benford (MITP: 2011) and Archive Everything (MITP, forthcoming). She has published articles in Contemporary Theatre Review, Leonardo, Performance Research, Digital Creativity, TDR and PAJ, and developed conference papers for IVA 2009, 9th International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents, CHI 2008, CHI 2009 (best paper award), CHI 2012 (best paper award) and CHI 2013 (best paper award). She is an investigator in the RCUK funded Horizon Digital Economy Research Hub (2009-2014) and is collaborating with Tate and RAMM on a number of projects. She has a BA from Turin University and a PhD from Cambridge University, UK.
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