Blog Post

Augmented Reality, Documentary, Locative Media

I'm really excited to be sharing ideas in this community.  Certainly a mind-blowing collection of talents and interests.

My name is Andrew Roth, I'm enrolled in the Interdiciplinary Studies, MA program at York University, Toronto, Canada and a researcher at the Future Cinema Lab and Augmented Reality Lab at York.  I've also installed AR and VR technologies at institutions across Canada.

For the past 6 years or so I've had a keen interest in documentary film and have always felt that there was a deep and meaningful connection between the practice of creating a documentary and authoring an augmented reality experience but I've found it difficult to articulate.  As such I'm particularly excited to be enrolling in school again.  One can almost follow a line between the earliest documentary forms and reality that is being mediated by several technological processes when viewed through a smart phone or head mounted display.  I wish to explore this in further detail, but additionally I wish to examine how each of those processes affect the way we tell stories by examining particular instances of this technology.

I'm currently investigating a creative application of the use of intelligent agents in spatial narrative structures.  My hope is that by investigating the way technology influences the way we tell stories, we can better understand how decisions we make as artists are driven by a complex series of factors and could, in turn, allow us to think more critically about the tools we use.

Preliminary investigations show that current augmented reality based applications seem to possess attributes that are specific to the cultural context in which they've been constructed.  Those idiosyncratic features are particularly interesting because they are the literal expression of a particular affordance of augmented reality technology.  My worry is that as application development is driven by economic factors, these unique features will start to fall away.  As such we may lose a very important space in which to stage interventions, simultaneous narratives, and aesthetic experiences.

Definitley looking forward to more ideas and to discussing this further.  I'm at such an early stage in my research but have been actively building AR software and experiences for a number of years now.

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7 comments

 

Hi Andrew,

I'm very interested in serval of the topics you raised, and I've also thought/written about connections between documentary film and augmented reality. In fact, one of the things I always tell my students when they're designing AR projects is to be attentive to the cinematography potential to the location they're working with. Another important issue, I think, concerns the differences in cameras and screens in documentary film vs. AR. Whereas there's a pretty clear distinction between camera (production) and screen (reception) in filmmaking, the screen is a camera and the camera is a screen in AR. In the latter medium, the "viewer" is always at once a cinematographer. 

 

The research I do on AR and related technologies is mainly from a theoretical/cultural studies perspective, though I've worked on some small AR projects. I'd be especially keen on learning more about experiences and insights you've gathered through building AR software and locative narratives. Would you (and anyone else reading this) be interested in starting a HASTAC group on augmented reality, locative media, ubicomp, and all things digital-physical?

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Hi John,

Thanks for the comment.  I'd love to continue this discussion.  Sorry if this is seems ignorant, but have you published anything on this yet?  I'm in the process of writing on this and your work sounds like it would be extremely relevant (I've been gathering articles like mad and may even already have yours already, I just haven't read everything I've collected yet).

I'm extremely interested in starting a group about this but I'm not sure what the best classification would be that wouldn't be too narrow.  I could see insight from people making virtual worlds, games, film, and installation art all be valuable as well (while I tend to specialize in AR I do appreciate an inclusionary perspective).

Yes, those are extremely useful points: it's all about context and virtual objects relation (or tension) with the virtual space.  I'm hoping that a bit more investigation into non-linear story telling techniques, including hypertext and hypermedia will help me define the potential issues at play but there's also a lot to be learned from games and the way the "director" or author choses to use the space as an integral part of the experience.  A colleague of mine has some particularly interesting insights into the use of mazes in video games and I feel that there's something to be learned from that.  There is certianly greater agency on the user, so as a director it's imperative to find a way to communicate the problem of space to the user in a way that doesn't work against their concept (as someone pointed out to me, it could easily be a problem of pattern recognition).  Anyways, I'm still in my early stages on writing about this, but I've had a number of ideas simmering over the last few years while actually physically building experiences.

So I'd love to follow up with this.  I'm all for ideas on how to define a group that includes (but is not exclusive to) spatial narratives in AR, MR, VR, Locative Media, Expanded Cinema, Games (inlcluding ARGs), digital media art, happenings, and Site Specific installation art.

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Andrew, 

Yes, I have an article online in Enculturation that deals with AR browsers in the context of McLuhan's conceptual distinciton between global village and global theater. You can find it here: <http://enculturation.gmu.edu/all-the-worlds-a-link>. I'm finishing another essay on AR, GPS, and the notion of a techno-geographic milieu for a forthcoming edited collection -- I'll go ahead and post a draft of it on my academia.edu page if you're curious.

I'm all for defining the group/forum in a broad and inclusive way. The phenomenon of digital-physical convergence, as it's often called, is bigger than any single medium or any one technology. I imagine that anyone interested in the genres you mentioned would also share a general interest digital-physical convergence, augmented space, hybrid space, digital ground, etc. So I think the title "Digital-Physical" would work. Before setting out on that, let's give it a week to see who else is interested in this topic...I know there's a few out there. 

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Andrew, 

Yes, I have an article online in Enculturation that deals with AR browsers in the context of McLuhan's conceptual distinciton between global village and global theater. You can find it here: <http://enculturation.gmu.edu/all-the-worlds-a-link>. I'm finishing another essay on AR, GPS, and the notion of a techno-geographic milieu for a forthcoming edited collection -- I'll go ahead and post a draft of it on my academia.edu page if you're curious.

I'm all for defining the group/forum in a broad and inclusive way. The phenomenon of digital-physical convergence, as it's often called, is bigger than any single medium or any one technology. I imagine that anyone interested in the genres you mentioned would also share a general interest digital-physical convergence, augmented space, hybrid space, digital ground, etc. So I think the title "Digital-Physical" would work. Before setting out on that, let's give it a week to see who else is interested in this topic...I know there's a few out there. 

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Hi John, that's extremely generous of you!  Thank you and I'd love to look at it if it's not inconvenient.  I'd love to share what I'm working on when it starts to solidify.  "All the World's a Link" looks like a wealth of information.  I'm so happy to see so many people writing about Manifest.AR.  

A week sounds reasonable.  I have to get myself in gear and start writing anyways so I'll have something tangible to contribute.  For now I've been busy putting the finishing touches on a few projects at the lab.  Do you know off hand if it's possible to rename a group once it's already been formed?

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Hi John, I'm still interested in forming this group, would hate to see die on the table.  Any more thoughts or have you heard anyone else voicing an interest?

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Yes, let's do it. I haven't heard from anyone else, but maybe someone will join in as we go. Feel free to start the group and post a description, even if it's tentitive. I'll have time this weekend to add to it.

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