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Simon Popple from the University of Leeds and Imran Ali, Tom Morgan and Dean Vipond are working on a collaboration around storytelling tools for large media archives; the team has chosen to use archive media from the London Riots as content for storytellers.

We are now halfway through this project and it has been an extremely rewarding process for me. We have moved from a set of abstract ideas and aspirations to developing a set of principles and defined functions that will allow for the creation of tools that can facilitate interactive digital storytelling. We began the process by looking at basic principles and examining what tools were already out there and by defining what we wanted to create in relation to their limitations and shortcomings. This threw up a range of approaches and some interesting formats such as the Cowbird project (http://cowbird.com/) and new forms of digital storytelling software like Klynt (http://www.klynt.net/)

Once we were relatively certain of the nature of our concept we began to define core functions and to think about what users would want to do and how they could collect, interpret, repurpose and republish material and how the narratives of their own stories could be captured and shared.  We did this through Persona modelling which was a new concept to me – and which really opened my eyes to the ways in which these concepts could be built from the bottom up. I am now a convert! We decided to use the London riots as a case study and to pick examples of different participants/victims to work through how a particular story could be told and what range of materials and opinions could be used to represent it.  We are now at the stage of turning this into a series of profiles from which we are constructing the software interface and necessary functions from a user perspective. More later.

Simon Popple

Simon Popple from the University of Leeds and Imran Ali, Tom Morgan and Dean Vipond are working on a collaboration around storytelling tools for large media archives; the team has chosen to use archive media from the London Riots as content for storytellers.

I am very excited by the prospect of working with these guys to develop ideas that have come from two pieces of research dealing with access and use of archival resources. My initial idea is to develop an app/software that will allow people to use archival sources- films, photographs, sound files etc to develop their own personal ‘archive’ which will enable them to tell their own story and also allow them to exchange and interact with others in some form of collective creative practice.

As I said in my application for this scheme

“The idea comes from two AHRC/BBC funded KEPs centred on the role of User Generated Content (UGC) and the development of genuine democratic engagements between the public and a range of cultural institutions. My work looked at opening up the BBC’s moving image archives and in exploring what types of interaction and joint endeavour could be possible and in looking at expectations and  aspirations from a public and institutional perspective. As a consequence I am now ready to develop the next phase of this ongoing research and develop an application that can facilitate these exchanges and allow public audiences to become creative curators and to engage beyond the normative expectations of the ‘invited space’ offered by institutions. As we increasingly talk about the opportunities for self-expression and self-writing within expanding digital frames, this application could have the potential for genuine creative engagement. Organisations like the BBC, the British Library and the British Film Institute have just launched the Digital Public Space (DPS) which is a collaborative archive- of-archives built on the notion of free ‘democratic’ exchanges and in which acts of self-writing and the ‘national conversation’ can take place. This clearly signals a huge shift in the idea of ownership and the insularity of major institutions and offers the potential for exciting application development that would allow the public to take full advantage of increasingly available cultural resources and would be something that is not collection/institution specific.”

I hope that the project will allow me the opportunity to begin to explore the potential of this type of activity through a collaborative form of digital storytelling and to bottom-out some of its complexities and implications and to examine just what is possible in terms of design and interactivity. I expect to find it is a complex process!

Simon Popple

Ben Eaton, a digital artist, and Kevin Macnish, from the University of Leeds, are exploring the ethics of contemporary warfare using game platforms.

Picture: Charles McCain, Creative Commons

Unmanned vehicles (drones) are rapidly becoming a regular feature of battle spaces, especially in the air.  In the last four years the US has massively increased its use of drones in warfare in and around Afghanistan and Yemen.  The UK recently announced its decision to double the size of its force from 5 to 10 drones.

The use of drones is attractive to those operating them.  When a drone is hit and downed no pilot or navigator is killed.  A lost drone is far cheaper than a lost aeroplane, not to mention the loss of expensively-trained pilots and navigators.  However, the ethical issues surrounding drones only begin there.  Drones are typically operated from a great distance by servicemen and women who get to go home at the end of each day.  Given their distance from the combat, are these servicemen and women at risk of treating their work like a computer game?  Certainly the screens interfacing with the drones closely resemble computer games, but is this because the interface tries to depersonalise the experience, or because games try to emulate the drone interfaces?  Drones also offer greater visibility of battle zones in high definition, bringing home to the operator the effects of a successful strike in far greater detail than has previously been available to those operating missiles or flying aircraft.  This could lead to more engagement with their targets rather than less.

At the same time, those targeted by drones suffer disproportionately.  With no means to defend themselves or fight back they can feel rendered impotent by the use of drones against them.  How will this affect their willingness to accept peace when the drones leave?  Furthermore, what does it say of a country that will enter a war but not risk the lives of its soldiers in fighting that war?

These are only a few of the ethical issues that arise around drone warfare, and do not begin to touch on questions of automation nor on the domestic use of drones for law enforcement.  Through developing a mod for an online role-playing game, we (Ben Eaton and Kevin Macnish) hope to create a scenario for players to engage with some of these ethical challenges.  Whether that be in the design of a drone or its operation we have yet to decide, but there is plenty of potential to develop scenarios using high quality gaming environments that will be engaging and, we hope, challenging.