Gaming in Museums

It’s interesting to see how ideas evolve over time appropriating and improving existing projects. Regarding gaming in museums for educational purposes one of the first concepts was Scavenger Hunt in 2004:

(Scavenger Hunt, 2004) This production thesis is to create an interactive Scavenger Hunt game for children aged 9 to 13 as a history-learning tool in a museum setting at Chicago Historical Society. The main focus of this project is to develop a usable interface and interactivity for Pocket PC PDA using Macromedia Flash MX 2004 Professional.

The production is based on “stealth learning” and other pedagogy theories that say children can learn effectively while they play games and achieve simple goals.

The software will engage the target audience to answer correctly 10 scavenger hunt questions by finding the matching history artifacts in the museum. It will also help the target audience develop an interest in learning about history.

A more advanced approach came a year later from the cooperation of MIT and University of Wisconsin with Mystery at the Museum. The innovation of this project included location-aware information and the collaboration between visitors.

(Mystery at the museum, 2005) Through an iterative design process involving museum educators, learning scientists and technologists, and drawing upon our previous experiences in handheld game design and a growing body of knowledge on learning through gaming, we designed an interactive mystery game called Mystery at the Museum (the High Tech Whodunnit), which was designed for synchronous play of groups of parents and children over a two to three hour period. The primary design goals were to engage visitors more deeply in the museum, engage visitors more broadly across museum exhibits, and encourage collaboration between visitors. The feedback from the participants suggested that the combination of depth and breadth was engaging and effective in encouraging them to think about the museum’s exhibits. The roles that were an integral part of the game turned out to be extremely effective in engaging pairs of participants with one another. Feedback from parents was quite positive in terms of how they felt it engaged them and their children. These results suggest that further explorations of technology-based museum experiences of this type are wholly appropriate.

RFID as well as GPS technology in such concepts was introduced in 2007 at The design of Prisoner Escape from the Tower, an alternate reality game for the Tower of London. [More: Article 1, Article 2]

(The design of prisoner escape from the tower, 2007) In this design case study we describe the process by which we designed, tested, developed and ran a field trial of an interactive location aware historical game called “Prisoner Escape from the Tower”. The game uses mobile devices with GPS and Active RF transmitters and receivers to trigger events and interactions around the tower and with the Beefeaters. The game is based on authentic historical events and players help prisoners to escape by completing tasks which allow them to re-enact their actual escapes. The paper describes how the game was developed between two geographically dispersed teams and the steps involved in creating a location specific interactive game.

Claimed the first Alternate Reality Game ever to be hosted by a museum was Ghosts of a Chance in 2008.

(Ghosts of a chance, 2008) In the fall of 2008, The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) hosted an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) titled “Ghosts of a Chance.” This was the first ARG in the world to be hosted by a museum. The game offered both new and existing museum audiences a novel way of engaging with the collection in its Luce Foundation Center for American Art, a visible storage facility that displays more than 3,300 artworks in floor-to-ceiling glass cases.

Ostensibly, “Ghosts of a Chance” (ghostsofachance.com) invited gamers to create objects and mail them to the museum for an ‘exhibition’ curated by two game characters posing as employees. But the ‘game within the game’ was also a challenge to uncover clues to the narrative that binds those objects, and to investigate the way objects embody histories. The game culminated on October 25 with a series of six scavenger-hunt-like “quests” designed for players of all ages. Over 6,000 players participated online and 244 people came for the onsite event.

If there is a project worth-mentioning missing please contact me. So, what’s next?

BSc Thesis (Video)

My dissertation for the BSc(Hons) in Computer Science from the Informatics dept. of University of Piraeus is a Silverlight application uploaded in Vimeo for the artistic archive of the National Theatre of Northern Greece. Microsoft Silverlight is one of my favourite technologies since it combines this designer/developer combination which clearly defines me.

The application is used as an interface for the theatre’s 13Gb database. All the controls included in the application (accordion timeline, sequential fade-in/out menus, thumbnails view etc.) were all written from scratch. I learnt much things during this project and it definitely made me a better developer. I would attach my documentation if it wasn’t in Greek, but in case you do speak Greek please contact me.

New Media for Museums

For the first term of my course we were asked to develop a research strategy and apply it on a research for the subject of our interest. We had to hand in a 3.000 words essay in which we analyse both our strategy as well as our findings.

The topic I chose is how the new media have been used to support/enhance the museum experience. My essay starts with the research strategy followed by the literature review while the third and largest part of the document is the actual study.

In the report there are two approaches of the subject, purpose-driven and medium-driven approach. At the purpose-driven approach there are several case studies regarding applications of new media in museums for learning purposes, while at the medium-driven approach there are a couple of cases analysed around the use of the mobile device in exhibition spaces.

Image from myLearning.org

Case study: Rhizome.org

For my course I had to write a case study on a topic of my interest. For subject I chose the online net art community www.Rhizome.org. The main reason for that is that the book in which I heard about new media for the very first time and changed my life forever, was written by Mark Tribe, Rhizome’s founder. This case study gave me the chance to explore the net art movement and the way it emerged and evolved over the years, during the period when the internet was rapidly becoming the powerful medium of today.

Reflecting on that piece of work, I am not very satisfied with my performance. Reasonable since that was my first proper research text, in which there should be bibliography and references for every little piece of information mentioned in the essay. It took me a while to get used to that. Another issue was that it took me ages to finish it, because of getting distracted by all these awesome projects I stumbled upon. That’s probably the price when researching interesting topics.

Rave in my head (Video)

In the first term of my post-graduate studies at Ravensbourne I did an installation to experiment with a wide variety of technologies from MAX Jitter to non-electronic stuff like wooden structures! It was an attempt to create a multi-touch surface of water and it partially worked to my surprise. During this project I had the chance to experiment with video montage and video effects and as a result I made the following video available in Vimeo.

I used Adobe Premiere Pro as well as Adobe After Effects and I captured the video with my Canon IXUS photo-camera while cycling! That’s the main reason I chose this video to be an abstract psychedelic one – no proper footage! As a result of my first video production experimentation though, I must admit I’m OK with it!

New media for Nike

From our course we were asked to prepare a literature review on a theme of our interest.

What is a literature review?
A literature review, according to our tutor, is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. Specificly, it lists a number of resources which contain information about the subject of the literature review, with a description and an evaluation for each one of them. The literature review usually precedes the research on the subject defined, and its value is significant since it:
  1. ensures that a research on the chosen subject hasn’t already been done
  2. justifies the research (why it is worthy a research on this subject to be done?)
  3. provides context for the research

New media and Nike
For my literature review I chose the subject “The use of new media by Nike and its reflect on Nike’s profile and profits.” for the following reasons:

  1. Nike is a world-known sportswear brand, which from its begining had an elegant and meticulous profile reflected on its products, stores and advertising campaigns.
  2. Nike is one of the first companies which realized the power of new media and took advantage of them since their very begining (websites, installations etc.). A representative example is the Human Race which will take place at the 24th of October ’09.
  3. As strange as it might sound, NikeTown is a source of inspiration for me.

Slide for NikeID

The results
To present the findings of my literature review I made a 5′ minutes presentation as we were asked to do. The powerpoint file is available below with the narration in the notes section.

♦ “The use of new media by Nike” Literature Review

In the presentation I followed the Pecha Kucha style as we were encouraged to do, by using only images for slides, without any text. The picture above is a slide of the presentation.

Gclass

In the last term of my undergraduate studies in University of Piraeus, I had one class for learning systems and one for Geospatial Information Systems. My tutors agreed they would both accept the same project which is a combination of these two areas. So I built Gclass, a geography tutoring system using Microsoft Silverlight and Live Maps (now Bing Maps) API. Thankfully, my working prototype got 10/10 in both classes as well as a very good recommendation letter for my MA studies written by my GIS tutor.

The screen was divided in two main parts, on the lefthand side a Silverlight application and on the righthand side a Live Maps control. The first feature of Gclass let the user navigate through lessons paragraph by paragraph and each time he/she moved on to the next one, the map on the righthand side would change position and angle (the user was prompted to turn the map to 3D view) showing a relevant to the paragraph place on earth. The indicative lesson displayed on the prototype was about rivers, so at the paragraph which explained the delta of rivers the earth would turn on and zoom to Nile’s delta. Furthermore, at the paragraph about Amazon river a polygon at its shape would be overlayed on the map highlighting Amazon’s position and size on the map. The appropriate caption for each view appeared on the bottom of the Silverlight application.

The second main feature of Gclass turned the Live Map control to a 2D world map and on the Silverlight application promted the user to draw an area on the world map that he/she would like to discover. Afterwards, the countries included or intersected by the polygon the user drew, were listed on the Silverlight application along with a link to their Wikipedia page. When the user selected a country in the Siverlight application, the Live Maps control would zoom and focus on it. On that part of Gclass I would like to add many more features GIS-wise, but the only data I found available online for free, after hours and hours of searching, were the polygons of the countries of the world.

Regarding technology the Silverlight application communicated with the Live Maps control via javascript. The polygons of the rivers and the countries of the world were stored in a Microsoft SQL database, as the whole website was an ASP.NET website. The Silverlight application would call a SOAP service hosted by the ASP.NET website and the website would then retrieve the appropriate data from the SQL database and return them to the Silverlight application. The GIS functionality e.g. the intersection between the user-drawn polygon and the stored coutries’ polygons in the database was implemented in SQL procedures.

I would be glad to share the source code of Gclass to anyone interested; just send me an e-mail.