Postgraduate Research Archaeology Symposium

Matthew Tyler-Jones (2016)

Keywords: Cultural heritage, interpretation, technology, storytelling, games, museums, heritage sites


This presentation will survey the current state of digital heritage interpretation and especially the use location-aware technologies such as Bluetooth LE, NFC, or GPS. Most such systems deliver interpretation media to the device itself, over the air or via a prior app download. There is a danger that the screen of the device becomes a window that confines and limits the user’s sensation of being in the place and among the objects that they have come to see. While this does enable the device to display interpretation that is both more relevant, and in some cases more personalised to the needs of the user, it also leads to a “narrative paradox”.  The more the media is tailored to the movements of the user around the site, the less coherent and engaging the narrative becomes. Story-games can show us how to create an experience that balances interactivity and engaging story, giving the user complete freedom of movement around the site while delivering the kernels of the narrative in an emotionally engaging order. Mobile digital technology has developed to a point where such an adaptive narrative is also possible in cultural heritage environments. However this presentation will show the real opportunity that digital technology now provides, to escape the confines of the device’s screen. Instead, we can enable the environment itself to respond to the choices of the visitor, and deliver a truly personalised interpretation experience.