Six months exploring technology for collecting and sharing community histories

Posted by Claire Markham

Since February I have been working on a multi-disciplinary (computer science and media) project looking at crowd-curated local history: http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/news/2014/04/876.asp. This project has centred on the use of AR technology as a means to facilitate the engagement, interaction and learning of local histories by local communities. My role, amongst other things, has been to design a suitable research methodology to capture data on people’s experiences and memories of not only Lincoln Cathedral per se but what the building and its content evoke. By using a case study methodology I have been able explore the capturing, curating and experiencing of local history from the perspectives of local communities.

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Data was collected in the form of semi structured interviews. These enabled for the finding out of not only the views, attitudes, memories and recollections of participants but also why they hold the beliefs that they do and how they came to have the memories and recollections that they have. Throughout my time on the project this was an important aspect to cover for it allowed for a contextualisation of the collected data and the developed application to take account of this contextualisation. Data with various people (cathedral guides, cathedral visitors, and local people). Being in the field and gaining access to participants was at times challenging but rewarding. The stories, memories and experiences told by the participants were highly interesting, informative and engaging.

A common theme to emerge over the duration of my time on the project has been one of positivity. Overall, for example, a positive vibe was portrayed by different types of participant towards the use of AR technology in facilitating the creation and engagement of locally sourced and curated history. One of the most memorable aspects of the research for me has been working as part of a team to carry out Wizard of Oz testing inside Lincoln Cathedral. This generated some insightful photographs of the cathedral and memories, ranging from personal weddings through to pass down stories about relatives and their experiences of the Great War, to help facilitate the development of the AR app.

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Overall my time on the project has been one of enjoyment, elation and personal development. I have been able to apply my research skills to an innovative topic area and have been able to interview a variety of people each with own stories and interpretations of those stories. I have also been able to gain new knowledge and skills as a result of working with colleagues from Lisc. Presently, I am in the process of writing my research outputs from my time on the project. My latest article entitled ‘Bitter-sweet representations: Representations of cultural icons and their impact on collective memory’, which looks at the ways in which individuals and communities perceive and experience various cultural icons including Lincoln Cathedral, is currently under peer-review. Although my time and role on the project is nearing its conclusion my enthusiasm continues and I cannot wait to see how the project continues in its development over the next six months.

– Claire Markham

 

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