Testing Testing

We now have a date, in the week starting 9 September, for our first public engagement event which will be part of Jamie Vittles’s Football in the Community programme. We now have to test the precise affordances generated by each of our images and write texts that provide interpretation and facilitate the affordances so that Time Trail users would be encouraged to generate their own content.

For example, do you know what the significance of the image below is? How do you interpret it, or relate to it? Have you ever bought or worn similar Exeter City team shirts, though perhaps more contemporary ones? Have you ever bought any memorabilia? How do you think we could tell how times have changed by looking at these memorabilia?

This image is quite significant to understand the history of Exeter City FC – do you know who this family is and why they are significant?

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Walking the trail

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This afternoon Will and I tested the Exeter City FC Supporters Trust trail by walking from one destination to the other, more or less following the numerical order as shown in the screenshot right above. The trail isn’t quite a trail yet, it’s more of a list of locations, but testing what it means encountering these locations as part of a trail and beginning to imagine their affordances will hopefully help us to turn the list into a rewarding and engaging journey about the history of the Exeter City Football Trust and Club through the streets of Exeter.

The good news was that, generally speaking, the geocoding worked for most of the locations, though the Find Me tool didn’t seem to function today, so whilst we knew when we got something wrong, we couldn’t fix the problem there and then, and I will need to try to get a more accurate reading next week. The other good news was that the use of more precise geocoding at St James Park meant that the trail appeared as a line even when the locations were very close to each other. This is a definite improvement from where we were just a few weeks ago when the line representing the user’s journey looked more like a Kandinsky painting gone wrong.

As you can see we are currently using a football to represent St James and as the walk starts at the ticket booth the football is currently placed there to mark the beginning of the trail. However, I associate football with something dynamic, in motion, and this use turned it into a static object. There might be the possibility of using a stadium icon for St James and turning the blue dot that marks the user’s position into a football, which may give users the sense that they are playing, but we need to see whether this idea is viable or even good. We also need to think of a more efficient way to encourage users to move from one location to the other than just using numbers.

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As in the case of the Tudor map, the app tells you that you are approaching the next location, and it also tells you when you have arrived there. An image and 100 word texts will illustrate the significance of each location performatively, to encourage users to take an action (by looking at something, imagining something, remembering something, exploring their feelings and sharing their memories and emotions with others, for example).

Some sites have some brilliant affordances, some entail fairly dramatic clashes between what will be narrated through them and what users find themselves immersed in. How to facilitate presencing will be crucial and this is something I will now start to think about more specifically since the Brazilian journal Revista Brasileira de Estudos da Presença has expressed an interest in a piece on the project in relation to presence research.

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More geocoding

Following a lengthy and still ongoing consultation with Paul Farley, Lewis Jones and Martin Weiler, as well as other members of Exeter City FC Supporters Trust Board, Will and I have now compiled and I have geocoded a list of 28 locations, eight more that we had originally agreed with Andy Chapman, our developer, who is now (probably rightly) concerned about loading time. Andy has already told us that some of the geocoding put the locations in Belgium, and so we know we still need to refine the geocoding more precisely, but we are confident to be able, this Saturday, to start our walk from St James Park towards St Davids, using our phone to guide us from one location to the other to check the accuracy of the readings (and, if needed, geocode again); test accessibility; see what it’s actually like to encounter these locations in this way; and verify their affordances.

Will has now also identified images for most of the sites, and is digitising them in formats that are suitable for preservation purposes, and has started to draft headlines and 100 word descriptions, whilst also clearing all copyright and permissions queries with interested parties.

Here’s the list of our chosen locations – if you have an opinion about them please feel free to contact us on this blog or email g.giannachi@exeter.ac.uk

Stadium Way entrance
Exeter City FC Ticket booth
Exeter City FC Stansfield memorial
The Grecian Centre
Exeter City FC Store
Fountain Centre
Heart on the Big Bank
Old Grandstand
St James train station
The Brook Green Tavern
Old Club shop
Jimmy Rigby shop
Forester’s Arms
Red Lion Inn
Duke of York Pub
Express and Echo (old office)
Ivor Doble jewellery shop
McGahey the tobacconist
Trust shop
Gourmandine Creperie and Bistro
Royal Clarence (ABode Exeter)
Exeter Guildhall
Dunn and Baker solicitors
RAMM
Northcott Theatre
The Clifton Inn
The Mount Radford Pub
St Davids Station
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Exeter Time Trails generates strong interest at major international conference

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Exeter Time Trails, along with Moor Stories (also developed with RAMM and 1010 Media), Art Maps (developed with Tate and the Department of Computer Science at University of Nottingham), and CloudPad (developed with the Department of Computer Science at University of Nottingham), was one of four projects discussed in my opening keynote at Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art at Lisbon on 20 June 2013.

The conference, organised by the research project Documentation of Contemporary Art and the Network for Conservation of Contemporary Art Research (NeCCAR), brought together curators, academics and researchers from various fields in the arts to discuss the challenges of documenting contemporary art practices.

Exeter Time Trails, and its collaboration with Exeter City Supporters Trust, raised wide interest and praise among curators in Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK, and a request was made that we generate a framework identifying best practice for sharing data from different collections and for the inclusion of oral histories in user-generated content about heritage collections.

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Generating and geocoding the Exeter City FC Supporters Trust trail

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We have now started to build an Exeter City FC Supporters Trust trail. We arrived at St James Park early, and felt that to prompt individual memories and thoughts it was crucial to utilise sites that capture the history of the Club and Trust. After all, the trail we want to build is not just about a club, it about its fans, not only the players or their managers, but the people who have supported them throughout the its history.

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Paul Farley showed us around and, as we walked, we learnt about past and present activities; individuals and communities; events and meetings; visions of things to come…

While Paul talked, I tested the geocoding, i.e. the geographic coordinates, latitude and longitude, for each of the sites Paul identified as significant in and around the Park.

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Geocoding is notoriously imprecise because it depends, among other things, on the alignment of satellites, one’s movement and even the activity of the sun. Thus, characteristically, the geocoding of our walk around the Park resulted in a visualisation that had no resemblance to the route we took. This showed us that if we wanted to make a trail of the Park itself, we would need to use a different kind of map.

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A team from University of Exeter started digitising the archival materials that are needed for the trail. We aim to digitise them in two formats, one that will allow the Trust to meet current preservation standards as required by our funder (the Arts and Humanities Research Council), so a digital archive can be started that the Trust could then use in various ways, and one that can be used in the app and on their website.

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The materials in the Trust’s archive include programmes, postcards, letters, books, receipts, photos, videos, documentations, minutes of meetings, and various memorabilia, including a boat and a football.

In choosing what to digitise we rely heavily on the Trust’s advice, but the aim is to use twenty sites and so to digitise, at this stage, about twenty images per site (four hundred in total, more or less). I could spend hours looking at the archive, and hopefully one day I will, but decide instead that on this occasion I need to start generating and testing the trail itself.

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Paul and Lewis Jones had come up with some suggestions which Paul and I merged into a list. Some sites are historical, some still exist. My task is to locate the sites on the list, test the ‘experience’ of visiting them as part of a trail and geocode them so they can be put on a map. I also wanted to test the affordances that interactions with these sites are likely to produce. By this I mean that I wanted to look into what kinds of actions and thoughts they might prompt.

To work out affordances in my field is crucial. If a knob affords turning, and a cord pulling, what are the affordances of the environments on our list in relation to the interface we have (at this point of the project, this will be a map with an image and some text that historicises the chosen site and at a subsequent point in the project, if we get further funding, this would include the option for users to annotate and add to this location)?

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I start at the Park, and walk from the ticket booth to the Stansfied memorial that both Lewis and Paul had suggested, to the shop and then the Fountain Centre. I try to take in the locations, think back to their histories, as I read about them in the books that Lewis lent to me some time ago. I feel quite ignorant and there is so much more I need to learn to work out what these sites mean to the Trust and Exeter City FC supporters.

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Then I hit the first obstacle. What do I geocode? The building or the sign? My ignorance of the Club and Trust’s history means that for every decision I rely heavily on others. What captures best a sense of place here?

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I spend one hour struggling with the geocoding and have to trace my steps again and again as the tool I have is struggling to pick up the small distances between the different sites.

I finally decide that I need to locate the sites more precisely before geocoding them. I spend two more days on this, with Andy Chapman from 1010 Media developing a mobile Find Me tool as I test. Frustratingly through, my second, third and fourth attempt also prove to be inaccurate and I need a new strategy as the geocoding I generate is still too imprecise for users.

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Four days later, after a few more attempts, I have a list of over 20 geocoded sites, some near the Park, some further afield, that include train stations, the town hall, a tobacconist, a restaurant, a hotel and RAMM itself, where our trail is likely to end, possibly in front of a physical object!

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The next steps are for Andy to test (again) the geocoding (and probably for me to take more readings); for  members of the Trust to look at the list of locations to make sure we have captured the most significant sites;  for me to test the trail again as an actual walk and work on the sites’ affordances in relation to the digitised images and texts that are associated with them.

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Testing the Tudor Trail

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Last week, instead of just managing the project from the table, Andy suggested that we went for a test ‘in the wild’, as scientists say, to assess the user experience. We had tested it before, but never as a group, which was interesting for me because I learned that following the trail can be done as a group even when every member of the group has their own phone. Interestingly, the activity brought us together, and talking helped us to find the objects and reflect about them in situ.

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We started at RAMM (each trail starts in the location associated with it and ends at RAMM, so this trail starts and ends at RAMM). Each trail also has an icon that is easily recognisable marking where the trail starts in Exeter. Here you can see Will just outside RAMM’s offices starting the Tudor Trail.

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Very near RAMM we found this beautiful object. Doesn’t it make you wonder what a Ming porcelain dish is doing just outside RAMM in Exeter? I found it quite evocative and, typically, seeing the digital image made me want to go and see the ‘original’ at RAMM.

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We then set off and noticed the trail is visualised through a red line. The line is dependent on GPS, no it is not entirely reliable. Typically, one looks at the screen and one’s surroundings, and there is some level of variation which also depends on the quality of the maps apple currently use.

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Testing like this, gave Andy, the developer from 1010 Media, the opportunity to resolve problems as they came along, so this was a very iterative experience. In the Cathedral Yard I was temporarily able to view the trail through street view, which was quite an uncanny experience.

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We spent most time between Sainsbury’s and St Pancras where there were two or three objects.  A message told us we were getting closer to them. I liked that, as it gave us a sense of arriving at something, even though, of course, there was nothing physically there.

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Finally, having found the object I was looking for, I realised that one of the most interesting aspects of the app is the interplay between our presence in space and the absence of the object. This, I presume, is what may prompt reflection about how an object is ‘interpreted’ when it is not there in front of you, and yet, through a temporary interplay facilitated by technology, it is kind of there.

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Creating Trails with ECFC: ‘Més que un Club’.

Working with people at the heart of Exeter City Football Club as part of the research and development of the Time Trails project, it is not only the rich level of sporting and social history that has been revealed, but also the scope of the clubs involvement with the wider community outside of St James’ Park.  In a previous post I talked about the heritage mobile application ‘more than a mapp’ and today we will be looking at Exeter City and the concept of ‘more than a club’, or as F.C. Barcelona phrase it ‘Més que un club’.  Given their respective positions in the world of football, any comparison between the two clubs may seem tenuous; however, like F.C. Barcelona, ECFC is a fan owned club and the opportunities and experiences provided by both these football institutions do not focus solely on the match day experience.

Exeter City Fc Football in the Community Trust, works across the Counties of Devon & Somerset with the belief that it is possible to improve the lives of thousands of people through the power of football for good. The brochures produced by the club for the community show that the guiding ethos of Exeter City FC is to use the compelling attraction of football to promote education, healthy living and sporting achievement among people of all ages and abilities. The aim of the club and the trust is to engage with individuals, through the power of football, and provide them with the opportunity to participate in enjoyable educational, health and sports based activities regardless of background.

Speaking with Jamie Vittles, the Head of Community at Exeter City, I learned directly about the club’s focus upon not only sports participation, but also the educational, social inclusion and health aspect’s; facets which are not only of significant importance to today’s society, but also of great interest to those engaging with cultural and historical studies. The Fountain Centre, which sits adjacent to the stadium, is being developed to include virtual learning environments to support the educational programs, a kitchen which will promote healthy lifestyles and the development of life skills, the facilities for a youth club, and a renovated hall which will act as a community hub and facilitate a range of activities for many different people and groups connected to the club.

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Beyond the park, the Community Trust offers a wide range of participatory activities at Exeter University, Exeter College and local schools and sports facilities. These events and activities include disability holiday camps, the ‘every player counts’ program for those with impaired vision, ‘street soccer’ which identifies peak times of anti-social behaviour and provides an alternative activity for young people in deprived areas and ‘adults active’, the newly formed running club. Only recently 165 teams, ranging from under 7’s through to under 15’s, assembled for the annual 6-a-side junior football tournament at Feniton. The event was supported by an army of volunteers, the Supporters’ Trust, the Red Army junior supporters’ club, fans groups including the East Devon Grecians, Exeter City staff, and parents and coaches of the teams, and represents an event and location which each year creates new memories and experiences and gathers together thousands of potential Grecian voices.
(http://www.exetercityfc.co.uk/news/article/feniton-tournament-a-huge-success-840083.aspx).

These programs, events and facilities not only highlight that ECFC is more than a club, but also show the depth and range of cultural and heritage material that can be generated and represented by our own time trails project. The history of football clubs more often than not centres upon famous players, big matches and trophies, and while all these things are applicable to ECFC, and will be included in the app, our recent research hopefully can pay some tribute to the fantastic energy and enthusiasm shown by all those associated with the club, and the influence they can have in presenting a multi-vocal and heterogeneous representation of its history, heritage and culture. We could, for example, utilise the trail format to create a physical and contextual understanding of the club’s past, whilst also beginning to shape a repository of social memory which extends beyond the match day experience and draws upon the experiences of people at a range of events and locations associated with the club. Crucially, we would love to offer a tool that could be used by fans, any fans, to capture what it is that makes Exeter City more than a club.

These trails could be as diverse as learning about the history of the club, through visiting the ground and following a trail across the city which highlights some of the places related to key moments and occasions in the clubs history; through to following additional locations such as the Fountain Centre, where events and activities related to the social aspect of the club and its community are incorporated into the trail (or followed separately) to document a more personalised experience of life related to the football club, and to raise awareness of its function, heritage and cultural value both past, present and future.

ttb3In presenting what is a diverse and positive representation of Exeter’s heritage and culture, I hope that we can take the example set by the Football in the Community Trust and offer a tool that helps to inspire people to learn about the history of the club and to experience visits to the park in a different way by putting its history into a visual context; to include people in the exchange of knowledge and presentation of the club’s activities, experiences and heritage; and to improve people’s understanding of what the club means to its fans and what it can provide for the people of the city.

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