By Jamie Beckett, Oct. 2005
Artists, writers, educators and others convening for this
year's Digital Storytelling Festival in San Francisco will
have the opportunity to participate in a unique storytelling
experiment that uses emerging technology to merge the digital
and physical worlds.
The experiment, called Scape the Hood, will transform a
few seemingly drab city blocks into a landscape rich with
sound, sights and stories. Using GPS-enabled HP iPAQ Pocket
PCs and a location-based software platform developed by HP
Labs, participants will be able to walk around the neighborhood
and learn about its history and culture -- and about impending
changes to its character.
Over the course of four days beginning October 7, festival-goers
may learn about how a painter's memories of his mother's
death inspired a mural, or how artists transformed a canning
plant into one of the nation's first live/work spaces or
how a vibrant flea market brings together a diverse community.
Participants may hear the gurgle of a creek that ran where
a street now lies or the jingle of the ice cream truck or
the sound of trains that once carried corn oil to a mayonnaise
factory that has since become a Starbucks.
"These stories aren't obvious from the streets," says
Abbe Don, a researcher at HP Labs and executive producer
of the project. "We call this 'narrative archeology,'
because we're peeling back the layers of the neighborhood."
Scape the Hood follows on earlier HP Labs work on pervasive
multimedia experiences. Working as part of the Mobile Bristol
project, a test bed for technology and user research in mobility
and future mobile services, scientists in HP Labs Bristol
(UK) have recreated a series of these experiences including
what is believed to be the world's first global positioning
system "radio play."'
Researchers in Bristol, working with partners from Bristol
University, developed the software used in Scape the Hood
to place media files, such as sounds and images, in a location
to blend in and augment a physical area. Associated software,
loaded on to HP iPAQ handheld computers equipped with GPS
satellite positioning, allows the user to access automatically
the different media files as they move from place to place.
An Open Source version of the software is available from
Mobile Bristol .
Scape the Hood will take place on the streets surrounding
KQED Public Broadcasting, which collaborated on the project
through its Digital Storytelling Initiative with HP and a
group of San Francisco Bay Area artists, storytellers and
technologists including representatives from Antenna Theater,
the Project Artaud artists' cooperative, San Francisco State
University. The project was supported with a grant from HP.
The Digital Storytelling Festival, this year celebrating
its 10th anniversary, aims to promote and evolve the art
and practice of digital storytelling, offering workshops,
panel discussions and speakers. KQED is the premier sponsor
and host of this year's festival.
For more information, see the Digital
Storytelling Web site.
Jamie Beckett is managing editor of the HP Labs Web site
and a veteran newspaper reporter and editor.