Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fort Vancouver Mobile: Orientation PPT

Here is the PPT I will use on Feb. 24 to orient our founding partners on the Fort Vancouver Mobile project:

Fort Vancouver Mobile intro

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fort Vancouver Mobile: RQ (2nd draft)

Here's another attempt at my dissertation research question (with guidance from, among others, Dr. Rich Rice):

What constitutes the best practices of mixed reality design when blending mobile interactive narrative with location-based historical interpretation? In what ways do these practices impact users?

What do you think? ... Still seems a bit wordy to me, with too many adjectives and clauses. Might also still be too broad. I would like to make it more concise and direct. Will keep working on it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Draft of grant language

To create a strong grant proposal, particularly on the federal level, I need to highly refine the first couple of paragraphs to meet the needs of the funder. Here's a rough draft for the Fort Vancouver Mobile project:

Mobile technology is changing the ways in which we access and expect information. But how is this changing us in the process? And what are we losing along the way?
The Fort Vancouver Mobile research project not only is examining new approaches and documenting best practices in the study of a variety of mobile-oriented humanities, it also is developing innovative uses of this emerging technology field for public programming and education, mixing traditional and new media, creating a mixed reality that promises to engage people in our shared history in immersive and interactive environments. That will include making accessible a variety of digital resources and assets.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fort Vancouver Mobile: Project timeline

As the Fort Vancouver Mobile project now emerges from incubation, it's time to start putting some specific goals and a timeline in place. Here are the plans right now for 2010, but these mostly are rough dates, which likely will be adjusted as we go:

Feb. 24 -- Initial meeting to bring together all of the interested participants in one room. This critical session will provide an overview of the project, start making connections among the partners, lay out the resources available, start the brainstorming of specific content production, set goals and make plans for what's ahead.

March 14 -- Choose the initial historic storyline in The Village, upon which to base the first round of mobile interactive narrative tests. Begin in-depth research on that storyline and organizing the script, storyboard, production and distribution models.

March 15 -- Dissertation research question formalized.

March 23 -- Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant application due.

May 1 -- Dissertation preproposal due.

June 1 -- Complete the script and storyboards for first test project, with production and distribution models in place.

June 19-20 -- Bridgade Encampment, special event at the fort. Complete the third and final segment of the user survey. Use that information to tailor and adjust the story in progress.

July 1 -- Gather feedback on script and storyboards. Refine, refine, refine.

July 17-18 -- Soldier's Bivouac, special event at the fort.

Aug. 1-23 -- Major content creation period, plus editing, implementation and testing. At the end of this period, there will be something significant to use as a proof of concept.

Aug. 18 -- America's Historical and Cultural Organizations / Media Makers grants, through the National Endowment for the Humanities are due.

Aug. 23 -- WSU Vancouver digital storytelling class, focused on the development of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, begins.

Sept. 18 -- Campfires and Candlelight Tour, special event at the fort, the most attended annual event, with a crowd of about 5,000 expected. Beta test project, if ready.

Oct. 9 and Oct. 23 -- Tales of the Engage, the first major fort event based in The Village area; our goal is to at least have something really solid and ready to continue beta testing during this event, preferably test on Oct. 9, then retest on Oct. 23.

Dec. 11 -- Christmas at the Fort, special event.

Dec. 13 -- WSU Vancouver digital storytelling class ends.

Dec. 15 -- Doctoral coursework complete.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fort Vancouver Mobile: The research question

It's time to get serious about not just a research question, but the research question, the one that will shape my work on the Fort Vancouver Mobile project and be the engine of my dissertation. Since I like to work transparently, I thought I might as well post the drafts and progression of that question here, for feedback (and in case it might help someone else develop ideas of their own).

I have to start somewhere, so here are my initial thoughts on the question.

This project, at least at this point, is expected to be an experimental study intended to validate the hypothesis that mobile devices offer unprecedented potential for delivering immersive and interactive narratives. That, of course, is too broad, even for a dissertation, and it doesn't really say anything. "Potential" takes me nowhere, and what I really want to study is the creation and audience response to mobile content, compared to other kinds of media.

Just producing mobile content right now, in a form that is usable and coherent and accessible, could be a complex and exasperating undertaking. There is no industry-standard platform to deliver mobile interactive narratives. There aren't even many good options in that regard.

And then the questions start emerging about a genre of place, where setting takes on a level of importance potentially equivalent to character and plot, or maybe even more important than those pillars of storytelling, because place / space is what distinguishes mobile as new and different than any other medium. It seems like the most important questions about the field will be focused on place / space in a mixed-reality environment, with one foot in the real world and one in the digital universe. These devices now allow awareness of location but also of spatial relationships to other things and context of all sorts, from user profiles to environmental conditions. How is that different than anything else humans have experienced before? The potential paths of discovery appear endless.

To create a descriptive and analytical study of this sort invariably will mean also leaving a lot of work for later. That is a liberating perspective, I think, in that I don't have to answer every question I can imagine. I just need to start by answering one good one.

I originally was inspired by this field not because I love talking on my cellular telephone. In fact, that is my least favorite ability of the mobile communication device. Instead, I find it endlessly fascinating that virtually all of the information of the world can be delivered to me wherever I am, illuminating whatever intrigues me at that second, especially in relation to something I am experiencing first hand in real space. From my extensive study of narrative, and belief that it is the core perspective through which humans view the world (or as each person sees the next event as the next chapter in a life story), I also am curious about what the combination of that information delivery style with such omnipresent data could lead to, in terms of immersion in knowledge and generation of wisdom. Delving into such territory alone, though, like sitting in the back of the library reading book after book from the shelves, doesn't seem nearly as interesting as an interactive environment could be. Each additional person brought into the story could dramatically affect the dynamic of the content, the interplay, the experience itself. How could collective intelligence in such a situation accomplish amazing feats that we could never even approach individually?

More pragmatically, I wonder what this environment will look like, be like. A game? That thought keeps coming back to me. If it's not a game, at least in the broad sense, with familial relations to other games, as Wittgenstein envisioned that term, then what motivates users?

It seems to me that the concept of edutainment starts to enter the picture here. Before I continue this thought, a bit of background. The Fort Vancouver Mobile project does have certain parameters in place to make it attractive to a variety of partners, including the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. In that regard, the content to be created and studied needs to be based on either the historical importance of the site, which was the end of the Oregon Trail in the early days, or the regional and national significance of the area related to the reign of the Hudson's Bay Company and the initial U.S. Army presence in the Northwest. So while some people in this field are looking purely at fiction within mobile games, and creating interesting projects like that, my intent is to work as much as possible in the realm of nonfiction, with some creative flexibility inherent in historical reconstructions. Back to the edutainment concept, I envision people coming to the Fort Vancouver site wanting to learn more about the place. That information can be delivered in many ways, from brochures to ranger lectures to living history presentations. A mobile content experience could be another option, and, in that respect, I want to find out how such material can be delivered most effectively and powerfully while also learning about how it is received, hopefully identifying best practices for increasing motivational interests. In other words, how can interactive mobile content be developed best, enriching the visitor experience in unique ways, while encouraging further involvement in this type of content, compelling deeper and deeper exploration of the material?

Those are some of my initial thoughts. That covers a lot of ground, not all of which I will be able to study. And here is a first draft of the research question, a starting point in such an investigation:

Does the intersection of place and space, as accessed through mobile interactive narrative, increase a user's interest, engagement and motivation toward related knowledge about a subject?