Datascape: narrating hybrid virtual/physical worlds
February 3rd, 2009

Researchers at UC Irvine have been developing an interactive, “social geographic storytelling platform” called Datascape to enable novel modes of interacting with both physical and virtual spaces. Part art project, part social technology, Datascape includes a mobile “virtual periscope” mounted on a vehicle, an art installation, and software applications for both mobile phones and the web. Conceptually, Datascape aims to overlay community narratives on physical spaces, bringing virtual or digital spaces together with geographic ones. The project also looks at the possible social implications of such hybrid storytelling, exploring how different communities might use these kinds of spatial narratives:

Datascape is a social geographic storytelling platform that enables artists, researchers, community groups and others to narrate their communities and physical spaces through interactive virtual worlds that are laid on top of the physical world. We are developing software and devices to create and explore these narrratives through a vehicle-based virtual periscope, a gallery-based installation, and mobile phone and web applications. Our research goals are to explore the opportunities for spatial narrative that can be offered by a system like Datascape, to understand the interactional consequences of different configurations and manifestations of the system, and to examine the range and use of community-authored narratives and how they can make legible digital/physical spaces.

Datascape is also looking for possible participants to test and explore the system, at the moment based primarily in Los Angeles and Orange County: “Proposals should also consider the local and immersive nature of the virtual world experience as contrasted with a typical top-down cartographic mapping approach.” Some ideas they suggest include visualizing an existing research project with a geographic component, issue-based interventions, aesthetic re-imaginings of existing communities, interactive media experiences generated by location-based information, and place-based interactive storytelling. If you would be interested in participating, email Eric Kabisch with a brief description of the issue, data, story, or experience you are proposing, or visit the site for more info.

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