Anywhere Somewhere Anywhere
Discover the Nottingham you didn’t know on a guided tour where you are the guide. Unlock unknown spaces and overhear stories these spaces tell. Anywhere Somewhere Everywhere was an interactive conversation with new technology from fingerprint to footprint – between the visitor and the visited, past and present, private and public. It allowed participants to explore an urban area, tying together information not normally available, new points of views and interaction embedded into physical places. Guided by ‘unseen’, on-the-street performers in an ongoing conversation maintained over mobile phones, they gained access to locative media and staged performances.
Anywhere aimed to encourage participants to explore hidden places and untold stories, and reflect on the nature of city exploration itself while receiving the benefits of close personal contact with a guiding companion. It involved location-based activities spread across multiple locations in the city exploiting media designed to be displayed on mobile phones, puzzles and challenges, access to a cave and elements of live performance. At its core, the experience relied on human ‘doubles’: performers whose job it was to follow, observe and communicate with participants in order to choose and schedule appropriate location-based activities, guide the participants to the appropriate locations, and help them trigger those activities, while remaining unseen.
Anywhere was hosted by Nottingham’s Broadway cinema and media centre, which provided facilities for the event’s start-point, front-of-house staff and organisers. The event lasted four days, with around 10 participants per day experiencing a tour. Each participant was assigned a dedicated performer (their ‘double’) for their tour (lasting approximately an hour). The close contact with the double allowed the visitor to be supported during navigation and to be helped when unexpected events occurred.
Up to three participant-double pairs would tour concurrently, starting their tours in a staggered manner in order to avoid clashes at fixed points such as the start and end. Each experience followed a general, flexible structure:
A short briefing introduced the experience
Participants were guided (by the double who remained hidden from them) across the city in order to encounter a selection of locative experiences designed to exploit particular aspects of the urban environment
At the end of the experience the participant would return to the starting point either on foot or by tandem
The various stages of Anywhere are explained in detail from the participant’s perspective in the following sections.
Every participant’s experience began with a short briefing session during which several forms of the participant’s private information were processed. Aside from requesting a security deposit for the equipment used during the experience, photographs of participants were taken. Having been processed, participants were instructed by front-of-house staff on the basic usage of the mobile phone on which the tour software was deployed. In a nutshell, participant-double pairs were equipped with paired Nokia 6680 mobile phones. Participants wore a headset to access audio content and phone calls from the double. The phones used a commercial 3G network for voice communication and data exchange via an event web server. Throughout the briefing, the double remained hidden from the participant, although they accompanied them throughout.
The tour begins with a video on the participant’s mobile device. A voice-over prompts participants to follow the video and so begin their own walk through the city, reflecting on the nature of cities in general and where they might head if they were a tourist.
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Figure 1. Double recording video of participant
While the participant is wandering the streets, their double follows and takes advantage of an opportunity to get close and create a short video of the participant without them knowing, as shown in Figure 1. This video taken by the double is uploaded automatically to the server. The double retreats to a safe distance, but continues to follow the participant throughout the entire event. The participant’s mobile retrieves the video created by the double and this is appended to the one currently being watched, so that the participant becomes the subject of the clip in its final moments, as shown in Figure 2. When the double deems that the time is suitable, they initiate a phone-call to their participant and greet them. While the previous video may have led the participant to suspect that they are being observed, this intervention is the moment that the participant becomes aware that it is another person that is accompanying them on their tour, and it is the first occasion on which the double offers the participant a choice of one of the locative experiences.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”1244″ alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]
Figure 2. Video received by participant
Locative Media and Experiences
Core to Anywhere are 14 locative experiences. These all make reference to the physical environment and frequently challenged participants to look at the city from new and unusual perspectives. The types of experience are summarised below (the number of each is in brackets).
Text trails (2) involved textual puzzles making use of clues in the environment to move participants along a predefined path. These frequently challenged people to step outside the frame of behaviour typically seen in public space.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”1245″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”1241″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]
Figure 3. Text trail example and resulting physical action
For example, once participants had been guided to a particular disused shop entrance they were prompted by the message shown in Figure 3 (left). This behaviour was clearly visible to bystanders. It also tied in digital media displayed on the phone and a particular location.
Face trails (2) displayed images of faces found in the environment (advertisements, shop windows, etc.) on the mobile device. Searching and finding these faces moved participants along a particular path. At a certain point in each trail, the participant’s phone secretly takes a photograph of its user; this photo is then later inserted into the sequence of faces in the environment as shown (on the right) in Figure 4.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”1237″ img_size=”300×200″ alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”1236″ img_size=”300×200″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Figure 4. Face in shop front and secret photo
Videos (5) provided location based views into otherwise inaccessible spaces and experiences. This included material on a disused tunnel under the city and a city quarter that has since been demolished.
Reflections (2) simply provided space and time for participants to reflect, lying on a mattress in a public but relatively secluded space. This was supported by associated audio material played through the mobile.
The cave (1) gave access to a cave under one of the city’s fashion stores, with time to explore the space.
Performances (2) involved actors engaging with participants in staged experiences. The first mixed this with video presented on the mobile that the participant follows around the grounds of a church. At various points in the video they see a performer wearing the faces of different actors playing Robin Hood, who Nottingham is famous for. The same performer appears in reality at unexpected moments and imitates some of the same poses made in the video (see Figure 5, left). The second involved participants in a one-to-one dance performance in an apartment rented out for the event (Figure 5, right). It was designed to afford the participant a variety of unusual perspectives on the interior architecture.
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Figure 5. Cinematic characters and dance performance
Each Anywhere experience would involve a selection from these 14 experiences. Our system logs indicate that a tour would most commonly include 3 experiences taken from the choice of 14 overall. This number varied, ranging from 2 to 6 depending upon the time spent at locations, the distances between chosen locations (the ‘link’), and the speed of link traversal. Some would be delivered at particular fixed points (where exploration was sometimes encouraged, e.g. the cave), some along paths (which made those experiences part of the navigation of the city itself). See graphic below for more details about the distribution of stations in the city:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”1242″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Figure 6. Station Map – Darker blue indicates experiences (points or paths) and lighter blue indicates regions in which particular experiences could take place. The grey path is one example path of the many possible paths through the set of experiences.
Following the final experience, participants were offered the choice to either walk or take a tandem bike ride back to the start-point of the tour.
The Role of the Double
The double was central to making Anywhere work as an experience. Their task was to guide the participant through the city-centre to reach the locations to which each experience was anchored. They would achieve this by making a number of phone calls to the participant to provide verbal directions, while remaining hidden from view throughout. Depending upon the familiarity of the participant with the city, these directions varied from briefly stating the destination to step-by-step instructions all the way to the chosen location. In many cases, as we will show later, guiding participants frequently turned into accompanying them, and the building-up of an ongoing conversation, used for re-assurance, ‘quality control’ and trouble shooting.
Doubles essentially acted as remote guides for participants. Direct communication between double and participant was almost entirely one-way: doubles could call their participant and send media to them; participants on the other hand had no means of initiating a phone-call and could only generate media to document their tour (this media was stored on the event web-server, not sent to the doubles). The only channel through which a participant could contact their double was via a set of predefined text messages selected from an on-screen menu.
Once a location had been reached, the double initiated a further phone call to prepare the participant to begin the experience. 12 experiences utilised the participant’s mobile and the mobile content needed to be triggered by entering numerical codes into the mobile client. The doubles revealed relevant codes to the participants during this phone-call and would give any additional instructions necessary for the experience before hanging-up and leaving the participant to trigger the experience.
Once the double had observed that their participant had completed an experience they would phone the participant, discuss the experience and then offer a new choice. The process of choosing a location, navigating the link to that location, and then engaging in that location’s experience was repeated for the participant until the duration of the tour neared the advertised length of an hour.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
23-26 April 2008 at Broadway Cinema, Nottingham.
Created in collaboration with Willi Dorner and Jonathan Hale at the Architectural History and Theory Group. Working with Ben Bedwell.
This work was supported by Arts Council England and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council [EP/C518691/1], in addition to Broadway, Dance4, the Austrian Cultural Forum and the Leverhulme Trust. We are also grateful to Willi Dorner Cie., Satu, Suzie and Mike, Jonathan Hale and students, Joe Mardell and our volunteers.
Bedwell, B., Schnädelbach, H., Benford, S., Rodden, T., Koleva, B., In Support of City Exploration, in proceedings of CHI 2009, Boston, USA