Inverting the 'black box' of technology: The Digital Ghost Hunt
Authors: Westling, C., Hall, E. and Krell, M.
Journal: International Journal of Creative Media Research
The Digital Ghost Hunt was a 2017-2019 collaboration between The University of Sussex, King’s Digital Lab and KIT Theatre. The project was funded by AHRC in the Immersive Experience funding stream and was awarded a full grant for the pilot and an extension to build and widen audiences in the second phase. We were primarily interested in how immersive experience can be designed so as to emphasise and deepen sociality and engagement with the physical world, in contrast with the idea of ‘black box’ applications. We also wanted to explore the interactions between design and technology as means to bring people of different ages and attitudes to technology together through shared learning and problem-solving, with a nod to the popularity of escape rooms. Designing technology-led experience to enhance engagement with external worlds rather than enclosing the attention and focus of the ‘user’ or audience within display-dependent experiences raises many challenges. First and perhaps foremost the degree to which control can be exercised over the environment and the interactions of the audience, but also what type of environments and stories will lend themselves to storytelling that appeals to a range of audiences; different technological abilities, different experience of participatory experience, and different ages. We decided to focus on heritage venues, as they offer rich histories and collections but also ‘worlds’ that are, at least to some degree, contained. Our stated aims and objectives included not only the design of a replicable live immersive augmented reality experience for young audiences, but the production and publication of scripts and open-source code libraries for other producers (primarily in the third sector) to use and adapt for other heritage venues and audience cohorts.