Pervasive Media are building new ways of creating experiences of memory and history. Because these methods of content delivery are embedded in the environment or work with it as context Pervasive Media are uniquely positioned to communicate the atmosphere of a place. And the atmosphere of a place is intimately derived from our individual and collective memory of it.
For instance we can experience the different ‘time layers’ of the city but in the present. You can retell the official histories of a place by using sound, text and image that may be on a phone screen or embedded in to the environments using projections. So Escape from the Tower allows the user to experience some of the extraordinary escape stories through a puzzle based narrative. You can also use the same methods to make peoples’ histories and ordinary memories available in the places that they were first created. Memories can be attached to specific places, the whole cultural history of a park bench, church or city suburb could be made available to people in the place where it originated. Moving round these site of memory gives a very special kind of embodied history – we are there, hearing the ‘voices’ of the history of a place.
The growing number of Heritage experiences have the potential to rearticulate the oral history of place, in situ, in new ways. Charlotte Crofts’ heritage cinema app Curzon Memories (Crofts 2011) puts back the experiences of the audiences who have used it for more than a hundred years. QR codes on cinema seats allow us to connect to audio memories that relate to just that spot in the auditorium. The 19th century cinema hall is re-animated by the audiences’ cinema memories: ‘It was right here that I first saw Rock Around the Clock. Rock and Roll came into my life for the first time right here.’ Collective user-generated memories can be created in a ‘spatialised’ archive that responds to users. The ghosts of a city can be asked to speak.
The RSC’s Adelaide Rd went a step further by reworking the ‘cultural archive’ of Shakespeare’s As You Like It and reworking it through community writing workshops into content that was performed as site specific then archived through the mobile phone app that tied the content to the place itself. Here the memories of a place are reworked and made into a data overlay of a location.
Our Broken Voice activates memory in a different way. Designed to be experienced in ‘any shopping mall’ the piece mobilises the audiences’ media memories of bomb scares and terror outrages to create an atmosphere of threat in the performance space at the start of the soundtrack.
Moksha’s Sculpting with Scent relies on the users’ shared cultural memory of the movie that is uses as its narrative thread. The stories and remembrances that connect people to place and artefact are compelling. Stand and Stare’s Theatre Jukebox takes a family archive of documents and using RFID tags turns them into an interface for an interactive movie experience that explores collective memories around personal collections.
Pervasive media can make places and objects come alive and tell us their stories. Pervasive media make the ‘cultural archeology’ of our worlds visible again.