Friday 25 September 2020

Launching Today: The Gates to Dreamland

For the past three months – alongside my PhD fieldwork, various conference and event contributions, and running my location-based storytelling game Canterbury in 3 Words – I’ve been working hard on a brand-new creative project.

Today sees the launch of my locative audiowalk game, The Gates to Dreamland.

Set around the boundaries of the Dreamland amusement park in Margate, The Gates to Dreamland explores how interpreting our surroundings figuratively, through imagination and motion, can connect us to different places, times, stories and circumstances, finding resonance within our own lives.

The walk tells the story of Italian scientist Galileo Galilei’s journey towards publishing his final book: the obstacles he faced, his eyesight and bodily health failing, and the changes in perspective that entailed.

Here’s a short blurb:

It’s 1634, and Italian scientist Galileo Galilei is under house arrest for heresy, after illustrating that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Bodily health and eyesight failing, he must transcend his situation to continue his scientific work. Follow Galileo’s journey as he attempts to write one final book that will change the study of science forever. A journey that will transform his perspective on the world, connecting distant places and times through imagination and motion.

Find echoes of Galileo’s words at the gates to Dreamland. Six lost diary entries that reveal a path forward – a process of overcoming adversity and encountering your surroundings with a different lens. The recordings will appear on the map as you approach the locations of each gate. Your journey begins at Dreamland’s Gate A.

The Gates to Dreamland was made as part of A Different LENS, a collaborative story mapping project set in Margate, Kent. It explores how we overcome challenging events in our lives, through responses by several Kent-based artists to the writing of visually-impaired authors. Material produced by the artists for the map engages with methods of making the inaccessible accessible through creative means. The map can be accessed via mobile – with users navigating its content by walking at the relevant sites in Margate – or via PC for those unable to walk there physically.

A Different LENS has been funded by Arts Council England, Margate NOW 2020 and Kent County Council, and was created in association with Margate Bookie.

Soon, I’ll be posting here about how The Gates to Dreamland was made, delving into how my contribution to A Different LENS came about, the ideas and inspirations behind the design, the process of creating the audiowalk material itself, and how it connects to my other work.

The project is also likely to develop further. Due to time limitations and my other work commitments, I wasn’t able to incorporate music and soundscaping into the audio as I had planned. Eventually, I’m aiming to compose short pieces to complement the spoken words you hear on the walk.

But for now, you can enjoy this first version of The Gates to Dreamland yourself by visiting the A Different LENS map here, on mobile or PC.        

This audiowalk game is primarily designed to be experienced by walking at the relevant sites in Margate. When you load the map on mobile, only the first of my six entries is visible on the map, and you must discover the remainder for yourself by finding the rest of Dreamland’s gates in person.

This way, you can gauge the full extent of connections between the words you hear and what you can sense in person at the locations. The trip would also give you the opportunity to explore Margate further and enjoy the other artists’ contributions to the map for A Different LENS.

When accessing the map via PC, none of the entries are hidden from view. If you navigate to the relevant locations for my walk in Google Streetview, you could explore the relationships between what you hear and what you observe; perhaps even the place where you’re listening from.

But if you’re local, or if there’s a chance you could be in Margate anytime over the coming months, then I would strongly encourage you to experience The Gates to Dreamland in situ and explore the town using the A Different LENS map.

One final thing to mention.

As part of A Different LENS, walking artist and writer Sonia Overall is coordinating a series of Distance Drifts: synchronised walks that take place on Twitter each Sunday at 10am. Using the hashtag #DistanceDrift, Sonia will be posting prompts for playful walking that connect to the different entries on the map for A Different LENS.

You can participate in #DistanceDrift wherever you are, and walk in whatever way is possible for you – indoors, outdoors, on wheels, assisted, etc. If you can, share stories and images of your responses to the prompts using the hashtag.

This Sunday (27th September), #DistanceDrift will include a response to The Gates to Dreamland! It would be wonderful to see some of you there on Twitter.

I must end with a huge thanks to Elspeth (Billie) Penfold for her sterling work in curating A Different LENS and inviting me to participate. It is not an easy job to coordinate between several individual artists, organisations and event organisers, arrange regular group meetings, write (and succeed!) with funding applications, advertise the project, upload and edit creative content, and contribute to the map creatively herself. I’m particularly grateful for her patience as I juggled my contribution with my academic work and other commitments, and her persistent reminders to have fun with the project.

Thanks and congratulations also to the other participating artists for their inspiring contributions and helpful discussion in earlier stages of the project. And of course, we’re all indebted to Arts Council England, Margate NOW 2020, Margate Bookie and Kent County Council for supporting and funding this project.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Location-Based Games and Place: A YouTube Playlist

On 26th August, I took part in the 2020 RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Twitter Conference.

This conference was organised after many academic events were postponed or cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning that postgraduate geographers have had limited opportunities to share and receive feedback on their work, as well as connecting with other scholars.

For this conference, participants were asked to present their research in 5 tweets. This meant not only adhering to the 280-character limit for each tweet, but also finding creative ways to demonstrate research findings using images, videos, GIFs, emojis, and more.       

As I’m approaching the final year of my PhD, when I’ll be writing up what I’ve found from the past couple of years of research, I thought that the most useful approach to this task would be to think through how I’ll be structuring my research findings in my thesis.

For my conference tweets, I decided to make three short videos (3-4 minutes each), outlining what I’ve learnt about the significance of location-based games for thinking about how people experience place in today’s digitally-mediated world. These draw on examples from my practice-based PhD fieldwork, for which I have been making and testing location-based games myself.

Each video focuses thematically on a particular set of research questions, design challenges and observations I have encountered during my research on location-based games, and connects to a substantive chapter of my thesis:

Interfacing Multiplicity: How can location-based games account for, and engage with, this diversity of embodied, discursive and material elements that make places meaningful? And how is this multiplicity, and the platforms used to interface it, experienced by players?

Bounding Contingency: How can developers of location-based games negotiate the limitations, specificities and contingencies that come with designing games set in physical locations? And how do players themselves negotiate these affordances; how does the playing of games set in physical locations enable people to engage with place in particular ways?

Structuring Feeling: How can we design location-based games that make the process of interacting with a place engaging, meaningful and evocative? What kinds of unique experiences and subjectivities might emerge from the gameplay?

I have now shared these videos as a playlist on YouTube called ‘Location-Based Games and Place’, which you can watch below.

Many thanks to the RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum team for designing such an innovative conference format and making it run so smoothly. It was inspiring to see a great variety of geographical research presented so creatively on Twitter. Thanks also to those who connected with me during the event by discussing our research and asking/answering questions.