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Matthew Tyler-Jones, Page 3


I had my first Escape Room experience last weekend. You may recall my post about History Mystery a while back. Well, the stars aligned in a way that saw me taking my son, a friend’s boy and an old schoolmate of mine to Norwich for the last day of the Norwich Game Festival, and a visit to the Guildhall for an hour trapped in an an Escape Room. Though, it wasn’t us that was trapped, it was city’s absent-minded historian who had managed to get himself locked in his own Archive.

Walking around looking at stuff

Image from Aalto University, Media Lab Helsinki A few weeks ago, I was presenting my work to a group of my supervisor’s Masters students. I joined in on the preceding seminar session, during which they talked about a number of experiments in digital interpretation in museums. One thing that struck me about many of the experiments was that they each required the museum visitor to use a new interface. Some were simpler interfaces that others.

On gamification

The Walk, which uses game mechanics such as the acquisition of badges and and interactive story, in a (failed) attempt to get me to take more walking exercise. It’s about time I addressed the issue of Gamification. It’s a word that gets bandied about a great deal, and one which has inspiring proponents like Jane McGonigal.


Yesterday I attended the kick-off briefing/networking meeting for the University’s Opposites Attract Collaboration Challenge. It is an effort by the university to encourage broader cross-disciplinary collaboration, modeled on something that Bristol University have done. The challenge itself is a bit of an experiment, and we’re all feel our way a little bit. Initially I sat at a table with Daniel and Adam.

The Boleyns and the Bechdel Test

A great piece about how live interpretation can get under the skin of history. It maybe shows how much as changed since twenty years ago when, working for the same company, I was asked by a client to provide”more buxom” female interpreters in “less authentic, shapeless” medieval gowns. I refused, we lost the contract, and (I’m pleased to report) that client later went bust.

Sound Heritage at Chawton House Library

Today, I’m at the second of the University or Southampton and University of York’s Sound Heritage study days. We’re only halfway through the day, but I had to take myself away to write up the story that Dr Matthew Stephens, of Sydney Living Museums, told us this morning. He told us about one object, the Dowling Songbook, which is the earliest book of music that he knows of that was bound in Australia, rather than imported already bound from Europe.

The Big Why #IdeatoAudience

Yesterday, I went to Digital: From Idea to Audience, a small conference (more of a large workshop actually) put together by Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton and Hove, with funding from Arts Council England. I might have enjoyed a trip to Brighton, but this actually took place in central London, just across the road from the BBC. The programme was put together by Kevin (not that Kevin) Bacon, Brighton’s Digital Development head honcho.

Social, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual

I took a group of visitor experience managers from the South East’s larger National Trust places to visit the Tower of London yesterday. We had a great discussion with Sally Dixon-Smith and Polly Richards about their year long project to create a core story framework for the Tower which, in the end, has pretty much delivered a twenty year plan for the improvement of the visitor experience there.

What PhD supervisors are for

I had a great chat with my supervisor on Thursday, after helping out with a Masters seminar. As regular readers may have worked out, I’ve been having a great deal of trouble trying to get a coherent testable design to test out of my half-formed ideas and lofty ideals. The problem was trying to think of a cheap way to test some of the theory I’ve come up with. I’d got hung up on trying to think of a way to track visitors round a site and test their reactions to that.

Heritage: The Terror Management Industry?

Shiva as Nataraja – image from the Glasgow Life website, click to visit the page of St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art A couple of weeks ago, Mark O’Neill, late of Glasgow Museums (and now of Glasgow Life, the charity which runs the city’s cultural and sporting facilities) can to give a keynote speech to me, and a few hundred other National Trust colleagues. He made a throw-away joke about the heritage sector being “in the Terror Management industry.

The problems with game-based history

I’m still enjoying Eric Champion’s Critical Gaming: Interactive history and virtual heritage. I wanted to write today about his chapter four, which lots at the problems of learning history through games. There’s all sorts of things I like in here, and only one thing I take a different view on. The first thing I like is that he quotes this blog, from Thomas Grip. Especially this line: It is very common that you change a story like this depending on your audience.

There’s a History Mystery in Norwich

Image from click the image to visit the site I had a great chat earlier today with old colleague and friend Richard, part of Corvidae, who is also involved in a new venture in Norwich. History Mystery is a real-life room escape game, in which between two and six players have just an hour to explore the room, discover clues, solve puzzles and find the solution to escape.


Having come across the word Multimodality in Eric Champion’s book, I am now distracted from that work, while I follow this particular White Rabbit through the galleries of Museum Studies. Right now, I am reading Tiina Roppola’s book, Designing for the Museum Experience, which seems to be the most worked through discussion of multimodality in museums and cultural heritage sites. But first, let us enquire at the nexus of all knowledge.

Information Commissioner’s Office on mobile location analytics

Heritage sites experimenting with MLA take note. The ICO yesterday released a blog post addressing the potential danger to privacy of Mobile Location Analytics and, incidentally, Intelligent Video Analytics. Simon Rice, Group Manager for Technology, who also sits on the International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications, says “Here at the ICO, we’re interested in Wi-Fi location tracking because it could involve the use of personal data.

Cultural Agents

I’ve been reading Eric Champion’s Critical Gaming: Interactive history and virtual heritage. Eric asked his publishers to send me a review copy, but none was forthcoming, and I can’t wait for the library to get hold of a copy – I think I was to quote it in a paper I’m proposing –  so I splashed out on the Kindle edition. I think of it as a late birthday present to myself, and I’m not disappointed.

Creating a design document: part 2

More time than I’d like has passed since I started creating my design document. In my last post on the subject, I described how a recital I’d seen could be broken down into “Natoms” or Narrative Atoms. The recital itself was constructed to create a story by putting these natoms into an emotionally engaging order. Now imagine that we want to use the same research to create an exhibition in a museum, or tell a similar story to people visiting a country house.

V&A collecting wearable tech

A colleague sent me a link to this post, from Corinna Gardner,  curator of product design at the V&A. They have just acquired an ugly, but important piece of wearable technology. As she says: Whether or not we own a Nike Fuelband or Jawbone UP, or even if they are only a fad, wearable technologies are a reality for thousands of people every day.

Roxanne, you don’t have to pull out your Bluetooth phone

[Yes, this post may seem familiar to long time readers. I’ve edited it and reposted it because, a) its a good post, and deserves to be read; and, b) I’m submitting this version for publication. Forgive my hubris.] An augmented reality app available for download before visiting the Royal Museums, Greenwich (photo, Matthew Tyler-Jones) Lets cut to the chase. There are a LOT of companies out there selling (or trying to sell) smartphone based apps for visitors on site.