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Magical Reality

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tom Schofield


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The portfolio presents the project Magical Realism, and its collected outcomes from projects funded under the AHRC/EPSRC Next Generation of Immersive Experiences. They comprise a smartphone app, ‘Magical Reality’, a toolkit methodology ‘Not Just Digital Knowledge’ and three published papers. The project responded to a need in interaction design research to think about more creative, humanistic ways to approach space and place in designing AR and other geo-locative experiences. Other research has turned to literature to think about space, place and technology (for a summary, see Løvlie, 2009) in particular taking the genre ‘Magical Realism’ as a starting point. To create the app, a 7-month-long participatory process was undertaken involving developers, literature experts, archivists, storytellers and children. We worked with the archive of children’s author David Almond, whose magical realist novels are set in the North East and blend features of everyday reality with the fantastical. Materials were digitised and developed to become three-dimensional and interactive. We used new smartphone augmented reality (AR) technology to place the items in a walking tour around the project’s partner institution, Seven Stories: the National Centre for Children’s Books allowing audiences to find and interact with them outside. The development of Magical Reality drew on humanities knowledge about magical realist literature and engaged with children’s speculative and imaginative resources and their experience of place through a series of co-design workshops. To interaction design we contributed knowledge on how using speculative design workshop techniques with children could inform the development of mobile applications. We believe our research is the first that does this in the context of AR or archives. Our findings concentrated on children’s experiences of local places and their use of imagination within them when prompted by archival materials. These provided insights for designers on how children perceive the presence of the ‘unreal’ (in the form of digital objects) as an object of horror and fascination (publication 1). To cultural organisations we showed how drawing ideas from magical realist fiction could provide new uses for archive material and provide a context for better collaboration and knowledge exchange (P2). To children’s literature research we offered insights into how magical realism might relate to contemporary technologies and asked what that might mean for the creation of new hybrid texts (P3). We later adapted our workshops taking them to disadvantaged children in Newcastle allowing them to design their own AR tours.

Publication metadata

Artist(s): Schofield T

Publication type: Artefact

Publication status: Published

Year: 2019

Location: Newcastle upon Tyne