Pervasive Media: Practice, Value, Culture

Tuesday, 20 September, 2011 - 13:00 - 14:30
Chair Person: 
Dan Dixon
Chair Person: 
Jonathan Dovey
Constance Fleuriot
Tim Kindberg

Chair: Dan Dixon
2nd Chair: Prof. Jonathan Dovey

Pervasive media is a new and developing field; commissioners, brands, clients, funding bodies often have difficulty grasping its potential. Very few media professionals, let alone members of the public, understand what Pervasive Media is, or could become. We are at a new frontier.

New, pervasive, ubiquitous and mobile technologies promise us an ever more connected world and the possibility to access ever more detailed information about context. Although these promises contain drastic changes to media and technology, they don’t engage with the necessary changes to the practices of media production, distribution, technology creation and the commercial and practical realities that could make these promises a reality. These will be drastically game changing; creating new business possibilities, whilst making others obsolete. These promises, and changes, will be critically addressed during this panel.

Pervasive experiences also require a new, and significantly more diverse, set of skills to implement. This includes a wide variety of media production, technical skills and business acumen. However at this period of development practitioners from widely varying fields in art, design, and technology find little time, or common ground, to reflect on their practice. This session will draw on results from workshops and events where the panellists have provided space for reflection and discussion amongst practitioners in this emergent field.

There are new, and different, relationships between designers, commissioners and those using these new experiences. New equations for value are emerging, which are different from those within more traditional mediums. What is the value, in pervasive experiences, to all these different stakeholders? Why is it worth doing, what does everyone get out of it and why do they enjoy it? The discussions will be fundamentally grounded in the ecologies of value that provide perspective on these issues.

This panel is assembled from the network of researchers and practitioners who provide practical and theoretical perspectives to The Pervasive Media Studio. The Studio is an organisation that creates space and opportunities for this emergent field of pervasive media, encouraging collaboration across boundaries, experimentation, reflection and analysis. It draws in a diverse community of artists, creative companies, technologists and academics.

Paper Abstracts

The Ecological Value of Pervasive Media

by Prof. Jonathan Dovey

Digital media has created an age of media plenty from the era of analogue scarcity the existing patterns of political economy are being gradually destabilised. This project again brings academic research methods to bear on cultural industry case studies to produce knowledge about how the new generation of web native creatives will create sustainable value networks.

New start-ups in digital media are developing new business models ranging from targeted advertising, sponsorship, product placement, subscription, retail, and 'pay per play' application markets. These models cross commercial and public sectors; some continue existing patterns of media economy, some are distinctively new. However the new conditions of the digital market characterized by plenty as opposed to analogue scarcity require new ways of developing sustainable businesses. This expertise is as yet very underdeveloped especially within the creative communities that hold the keys to successful applications and compelling content.

Pervasive Media can be thought of as a new field; commissioners, brands, clients, funding bodies often have difficulty grasping its potential. Very few media professionals, let alone members of the public, understand what Pervasive Media is, or could become. We are at a new frontier. The work of the Pervasive Media Studio is underpinned by the work of definition and taxonomy through a series of experimental productions that begin to determine what this new form of media delivery can be. At this period of development practitioners from art, design, and technology find little time or common ground to reflect on their practice. Academic expertise in a knowledge exchange context can facilitate this reflection outside of the day to day constraints of the market.

The Language of Pervasive Media

by Dr. Constance Fleuriot

There is an emergent language of Pervasive Media. A set of jargon, vernacular and descriptive terms that surround the production of these new experiences is being generated by the producers, designers, artists, academics, critics and users that surround Pervasive Media. This has developed in response to the lack of the correctly nuanced language in other media production. This current research develops work that was carried out during the Mobile Bristol project, where various design dimensions of mobile media were identified, such as sociality, place, or genre.

Through workshops with practitioners and academics based at the Pervasive Media Studio the key concepts and the details of the language that is used to describe the experience and production of these pieces of pervasive media. At first a number of archetypal and successful projects were explored, getting people to experience them and then discuss them, often with the designers and artists themselves present. Following on from that a number of key concepts were identified, such as play and space, and these were examined more generally and compared across projects.

This work is leading towards the production of a ‘Pervasive Media Cookbook’ that will present key projects in pervasive media as well as a critical look into the specifics that set Pervasive Media apart from other media experiences.

Matter 2 Media and Krstl

by Dr. Tim Kindberg

This talk will briefly outline setting up and running Matter 2 Media, a Pervasive Media company. It will also present one of the companies products and discuss the barriers and opportunities that the company has in this new field.

With expertise in mobile applications and pervasive media technologies, particularly location based services, and over a decade of experience, Matter 2 Media develop exciting new experiences for real-world spaces. Through its professional services, matter 2 media also consults, troubleshoots, researches, analyses and develops software.

Krstl is a product that was developed through an award from the Technology Strategy Board. Krstl delivers content and experiences through engaging physical portals called crystals. Crystals, which can take many interactive physical forms (see the example above and below), are embedded in retail, leisure and event spaces including shops, shopping centres (malls), cafés, pubs, clubs and exhibitions. Visitors and customers interact with crystals to download content such as video clips and coupons, receive content from their friends, or take part in a shared application such as a vote, a game or a lottery. Visitors interact using their mobile phones over the mobile web (including Wi-Fi) or Bluetooth.

The Cultural Aesthetics of Pervasive Gaming

by Dan Dixon

The vision for Pervasive Gaming is often grandiose, nothing less than the playful mixing of game structures and the everyday, the world as a game-board and life as the pleasurable interweaving of normality and game. But the current reality is locative games with simple mechanics, ARGs played in introverted communities and new, urban sports played without any technology. The field of pervasive gaming has an epic vision, but an everyday trajectory.

The experiences of these games cannot be evaluated purely on the game or play itself. The players and designers of these games sit in a web of significance that extends well beyond the games, the events and situations that these games are played in. The aesthetics of these games is only appreciable when the cultural situation they are embedded in is appreciated. It is in this that they are truly pervasive, rather than based on mobile or ubiquitous technology.

The vision for Pervasive Media is also grandiose, yet the applications are also often banal and quotidian. What are the parallels between an understanding of the culture and aesthetic appreciation of Pervasive Gaming, and Pervasive Media in general?

Bios of the Participants

Dan Dixon

Dan Dixon is Senior Lecturer in Creative Technologies at the University of the West of England. His research interests are social media, computer gaming, and ubiquitous/physical/pervasive computing.

Prior to moving to academia, he worked for ten years in commercial web design and development roles as Senior Consultant with Headshift, UK’s leading Social Software company, as Product Manager for the BBC’s online communities and Production Director for London new media agency Syzygy.

His research uses ethnography to study the players, designers and organisers of pervasive gaming events and festivals. This creates an understanding of the specific aesthetics of these new forms of physical, technology augmented, gaming. He is constructing a critical, empirical, framework for understanding these games as a social and cultural phenomena, whilst also asking the question of whether this reflects the emergence of a ‘ludic society’.

Jon Dovey

Jon Dovey has recently been appointed to the new Faculty of Creative Arts at University of the West of England with a view to raising the profile of media research there. Since joining UWE he has established the Digital Cultures Research Centre; interfacing industry and academia and based at the Pervasive Media Studio. Jon is a leading researcher in the field of interactive media and gaming and spent the first 15 years of his working life in video production, working through the early years of Channel Four as a researcher, editor and eventually as Producer. He worked principally in documentary and experimental video, co founding original scratch artists Gorilla Tapes in 1984. His video projects gained international distribution and recognition and have now taken their place in the documented histories of UK Video Art. After moving to Bristol in 1990 he worked at the Watershed Media Centre for two years before teaching at the University of Plymouth in 1992 and then at both the University of the West of England School of Cultural Studies and the University of Bristol. As Head of the Department of Drama at Bristol University he piloted a £13m redevelopment through University planning stages.

He is Knowledge Transfer Fellow at the the Pervasive Media Studio 2010-2011 and is researching the the Aesthetics and Value of Pervasive Media innovations.

Tim Kindberg

Dr. Tim Kindberg's research interests are in applying ubiquitous and mobile computing technologies to digital media, particularly in urban settings. He is currently the research director for the Pervasive Media Studio, the founder of start-up Matter-2-Media and a visiting professor of Computer Science at the University of Bath. Before that he was a senior researcher at HP Labs in Palo Alto and Bristol, senior lecturer in Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London, and principal software engineer at start-up Zebra Parallel. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Westminster and a BA in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge.

His research has included ubiquitous computing systems, distributed systems, and human factors, working on recent projects such as Activeprint and Cityware. He is an expert on pervasive (ubiquitous) computing and makes use of cameras, location technologies and other sensors found on mobile phones to deliver media that integrates with the real world around us.  He has been the leader of industrial partnerships. He is a textbook author, holds five patents, has published many scientific papers, and is a regular speaker at conferences.

Matter 2 Media provides consultancy and technology for the mobile and digital media industries, including campaign strategy; software for phones, websites and services; and digital signage.

Constance Fleuriot

Dr. Constance Fleuriot is a researcher at the Digital Cultures Research Centre, based in the Pervasive Media Studio. She is working with Jon Dovey on an AHRC funded Knowledge Transfer Fellowship investigating the language, aesthetics and value of pervasive media. She founded featherhouse, an independent content agency specialising in digital, social and pervasive media, which in 2010 launched fashion popcorn, a new network for creative people working in film, fashion and digital media.
Constance was a founding member of staff at the Pervasive Media Studio, working on public engagement projects for the studio, attempting to draw in people of all ages and backgrounds.

As a Research Associate at Bristol University, Constance was one of the principal investigators on the Mobile Bristol Project investigating the social impact of emerging pervasive and mobile technologies. Since then she has been working as a freelance consultant in user research and locative media design, and facilitating location-based mixed-media projects with a variety of user communities.

She worked on the development of the Futurelab createascape website, a resource for pupils and teachers on how to use HPlabs mscape software in an educational setting. She still runs mscape workshops, mainly with schools, but has experience in teaching mscape to people of all ages.

Constance's interests encompass showing people how to be creative producers with pervasive technology and not just consumers.  She is also interested in exploring what might be embedded or hidden in pervasive technology applications, whether deliberate or due to the assumptions of the designer.