Please take this very short survey


The problem with doing a PhD part-time is that trends change more quickly than my research. It doesn’t mean that my research has been overtaken, but questions I asked three or four years ago might have very different answers.

To that end I have a very short survey I’d like to you do two things with. First of all, answer it yourselves, and secondly, share the link with as many people (over 16) as you can.

https://www.isurvey.soton.ac.uk/24912

It really won’t take even five minutes to completeime. **Edit 22 Sept: so far the average to complete the survey is three minutes, fifty seconds.** Thank you in advance for your participation.

The Navigation of Feeling

“What are Emotions?” is a question asked by William Reddy (2001) in his book The Navigation of  Feeling: A Framework for the History of History of Emotions. The first part of that books looks at the answers, from Cognitive Psychology in the first chapter, and Anthropology in the second. He points out early, however that:

Western specialists who study emotion cannot even agree on what the term emotion means.

He references Paul Ekman (et al)’s attempts to codify emotions by the few facial expressions that all cultures seem to attach a shared meaning to. That this is in the Cognitive Psychology chapter is interesting – I would have suggested it’s a more anthropological approach, but as Reddy points out it did encourage a lot of study looking at biological indicators of emotion, such as heart rates, hormone levels, skin conductivity etc. Reddy also points out two “nagging problems: (1) What happened to emotions when arousals subsided and the face returned to normal? (2) How were emotions such as love. shame or nostalgia to be fit into the scheme, when they had no obvious single facial expressions to go with them?” Not only that, he argues that “twenty years of work by many researchers” has shown only that “In the absence of forced choice and pretest training, agreement on other than happy faces was weak. If photographs of spontaneous facial expressions were used (i.e., naturally occurring ones, rather than the carefully posed ones of the initial tests), agreement sagged further.”

He also highlights the problematic relationship between emotion and cognition: “If
a sudden sense of fear redirects attention to a dark corner of the room, why not conclude that this sense of fear is the cognition of the potential danger of that corner? No experimental or test procedure has been offered so far that would allow one to rule out this possibility; it is resisted solely on the grounds that it counters the commonsense belief that emotion is something separate from thought, something opposed to ‘reason.'” That “reason” he argues is questioned more and more. Try as they might, philosophers and researchers are finding it harder, not easier to distinguish between “what counts as voluntary or controlled, and what counts as involuntary or automatic.” This is not helped by subjects’ mis-attribution of arousal.

Reddy also explores the difficulties measuring emotion. Most psychologists use valence, a measure of how pleasant or unpleasant an emotion is, and intensity, a scale of how difficult it is to override the emotion. Of course its not so black and white, fear is an “unpleasant” emotion, and yet horror movie audiences, theme park riders and gamers actively seek it out. Similarly Reddy argues that am emotion’s intensity may be altered by the triggering event’s relevance to a person’s goals – here he uses health anxiety as an example, “we generally pursue health for its own sake; but it is obvious that health is a means or condition for the pursuit of many, many other goals. As a result, pursuit of health as a means and pursuit of health as an end in its own right are likely to be indistinguishable (both to observers and to the person involved). Like-wise, loss of health is widely regarded with fear or anxiety. Such fear or anxiety is a “badge” of the deep goal relevance of health.”

When he goes on to explore mental control, I fear he strays more into the study of cognition that emotion, but he is striving to support an argument that “emotions can be regarded as overlearned cognitive habits.” I think Panksepp and Bevan might disagree, but I’m not seeking to argue the point – for my studies, whether emotions exist beyond cognition, or are tightly intertwined with cognitive thought is hardly relevant. When it comes to a cultural, or anthropological, approach I think my conclusions will be the same – my model already separates out social emotions from the more visceral ones identified by Panksepp and Bevan.

Reddy begins his examination of an anthropological approach by outlining the idenitity crisis of the discipline itself, especially in the area of the “production of knowledge”. He spills little ink on the psychocultural model of emotions. This approach, as with cognitive psychology, is built on the idea that there is “a broad commonality in human emotions”. He tackles the contructionist approach first, with the work of Michelle Z Rosaldo. Her study of of the Ilongot people of a mountainous region of the Philippines led her to conclude that emotion was, at least in part, a product of language.  However a roughly contemporaneous study in Tahiti by Robert Levy concluded that people suffered the symptoms of grief even if they didn’t have a word for it. Its interesting to note that the two in these studies examples given are opposed on my model. Grief is one of the mammalian emotions identified by Panksepp and Bevan, while Rosaldo’s word liget, while not having a direct analogue in English seems to fit well with Fiero in my model.

However, Reddy also relates a constructionist argument that is also a more cutting critique of the psychological view of emotions, from Catherine Lutz. “In Lutz’s view, the notion that emotions are biologically based is not simply erroneous, it is part of a larger, insidious, gender-biased Western view of the self that privileges alleged male rationality over the supposedly natural emotionalism of women. Expert and lay assumptions coincided, Lutz charged, in regarding emotions as internal, involuntary, irrational, potentially dangerous or sublime, and female. Men were rational and therefore better suited to action in the public sphere. Ethnographic research showed, however, that emotions were a product of social interactions and showed, as well, that outside the West, emotions were generally not distinguished from thinking in the peculiarly sharp way Westerners distinguished them, and were generally regarded as an outcome of social interaction, rather than as rising up, ineffably, from within.” This argument requires a change in philosophy. If knowledge is constructed by culture, it hard to criticize constructed knowledge, be that headhunting in the Philippines, or Western cognitive science. So, according to Reddy, Lutz’s approach was less about culture and more about discourse as defined by Foucault. But that is an argument well beyond the scope of my work.

Reddy gives some attention to other anthropological models too, but not much. What clearly interests him about those me mentions are steers towards a concept of emotion as performance. Indeed his long conclusion to the chapter, which starts out as an attempt to reconcile cognitive psychology and anthropology, is mostly about control of emotion through performance – oversimplified as putting on an happy face, or to use the example he prefers a “‘bright face’ (mue cedang)” in Balinese.

 

Smart conservation

Lascaux2

Yesterday, to Oxford, to meet with the brilliant Niki Trigoni, who among many other things founded Navenio, a company that provides infrastucture free mobile location analytics.

It occurred to me, during our conversation, that there is a case for MLA in heritage sites that may be stronger than the story delivery that I’ve seen concentrating on. Organisations that look after heritage sites are normally incorporated with a mission something along the lines of “preserving (the site) for public benefit.” The “benefit” in that phrase is most commonly understood as access. Sometimes however, allowing access to the site so risks the preservation of the site that it has to be closed, for example at Lascaux.

So heritage sites must balance their duty of public benefit against their duty of preservation. A balance that its complicated by the fact that the visiting public support the preservation, with admission fees at the very least,or being so inspired by the preserved site that they go to contribute by subscription, donation, volunteered time etc. There is thus, generally, a conservation imperative to increase visits, to better finance preservation.

To help get that balance right, heritage sites monitor the impacts of visitor upon the place, and one tool they use is mapping the way visitor behaviours change, over time as visiting habits change, or in responses to changes within the site itself. The National Trust, for example, uses a methodology called Conservation for Access, or C4A.

But C4A is relatively resource heavy – it requires the (generously given) support of a small army of volunteers, and the analysis of the data takes time. So it is done only occasionally, every few years, and provides only a snapshot of  visitor behaviors from the period when the data collection took place. It is thus a relatively blunt tool. It is used to help the organisation budget for conservation, including staffing levels, and sometimes to inform changes to the visitor route, to protect fragile environments. But the effect of those changes might not be measured until the next time resources are dedicated to a C4A data collection and analysis.

Could we use MLA to crowdsource similar data? Could we persuade our visitors to share their movements around the place every day, building up a more accurate, always up-to-date and year round (the C4A toolkit was originally developed when most National Trust buildings only opend between March and October) picture of how the place is used? Would we find out that visitor behaviours change as, for example, ambient light levels change with the seasons?

A first iteration could offer us more accurate data for conservation monitoring and forward planning, but if it also demonstrated dynamic changes to visitor behaviors triggered by changes in the environment, then it might help make the case for real time analytics. Imagine being able to change the offer subtly to reduce the conservation pressure on one part of the site. Imagine the site being able to do that automatically, for example playing an audio presentation in an adjacent room, not triggered by visitors entering that room, but to attract visitors into that room, when the heritage assets next door are under too much visitor pressure.

Is it possible? I’m sure it is. Is it cost effective yet? That I don’t know, but a suitable experiment, over a few years across and number of sites might help us find out.

 

Heritage Jam 2017 #THJ2017

Winner - In-Person Team
I don’t like to brag, but … who am I kidding, I LOVE to brag! Here’s my winners’ certificate from 2015. It’s not too late, you could have one too

I’m in Crete for this year’s Heritage Jam, which is a shame, because I had such fun in 2015. I thoroughly recommend participating:

The Heritage Jam (http://www.heritagejam.org/) is back for another year of creative and innovative heritage work, and we would love everyone – from anywhere in the world – to get involved!

The Jam is a free creative event centred around making new and different interpretations of the past for audiences of your choice on a specific theme. You can create these interpretations individually or in teams – in person or remotely.

The Jam will be hosted by Leeds Museums and Galleries at Leeds City Museum, on the 27th and 28th of October 2017. There is also an online Jam for those unable to travel, which runs from the 18th of September to the 26th of October.

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN – read more: http://www.heritagejam.org/home2

This year’s theme is ‘The Bones of our Past’, inspired by the ‘Skeletons: Our Buried Bones’ an exhibition currently hosted by Leeds Museums and Galleries at Leeds City Museum in partnership with the Wellcome Collection and the Museum of London (http://www.heritagejam.org/blog/2017/9/18/and-the-theme-is).

Do you need to be an archaeologist or heritage professional to participate? NO! The Jam is open to all, including anyone with a passion for history!

Is there a fee? NO! The Jam has no participation charge, so there’s no reason not to join!

To sign up all you have to do is follow the link on our website – http://www.heritagejam.org/signup – and fill in a registration sheet.

All of our policies, including codes of conduct for the Jam, can also be found on our website: http://www.heritagejam.org/policies/.

We hope you can join us for this one of a kind event in October!

Sara & the #THJ2017 team

First impressions of Hololens

A couple of weeks back, I had my first experience with Microsoft’s Hololens. The university acquired a number of units to experiment with. My archaeology colleague Pat Tanner has been trying one out and showed me and Learning expert Sarah Fielding progress so far. Pat is a traditional shipwright by trade and PhD student, exploring the archaeological evidence of boat building techniques. Some of the results of his work is available here.

To work with Hololens, Pat had learned the basics of Unity 3d, so that he could place a relatively simple model he’d already made “into” the Hololens. That’s the model we were looking at.

another representation of Pat Tanner's model
The ship model that Pat demonstrated in Hololens (obviously this is a poster presentation, not what you see in the augmented reality). (c) Pat Tanner

Wearing the unit was more comfortable that I expected. It’s lighter than I imagined, and the weight distribution is better than the front heavy VR units that I’ve tried. That’s not to say that it isn’t still a little front heavy, but it is not as tiresome as Vive or Oculus Rift. Talking of which, it has one huge benefit over VR devices, I can wear it for more than a minute without it making me nauseous. This is a huge benefit for me, as I normally can’t explorer the wonders of VR properly.

One of the reasons of the lack of nausea is the fact that the objects you see are in the real space. It’s Augmented Reality, not Virtual Reality. (Microsoft insist on calling it Mixed Meality, but I’m not convinced they are right to do so. When it interacts with physical objects, then maybe.) So, Pat creates an entirely blank stage in Unity 3D which in virtual space overlays the meat space room we are in. Then me imports his model and positions it on, say the table in front of us. Of course the table doesn’t exist in the Unity 3D world. There, the ship model is just floating in space, but wearing the hololens, you can see it, ghostly, but because of the stereoscopic vision, it has the illusion of some “weight”. You can turn away from it, walk away from it, or walk closer, bend down to peer inside. The bulwarks of the ship are no barrier to you. You can push your head through the sides of the ship to look at the lower decks.

Or, stepping back, you can your gestures to “grab” the model and move it about. A camera system in the headset looks out for these gestures, and raising a finger in your eyeline places a box around your object, with handles at each node. Once you’ve move the model to where you want it, a pinch motion on top of those nodes lets you grab that and, depending on which node you have hold of, you can spin the model around or scale it.  This interface seems a bit clunky as though, in the absence of a new paradigm for AR gesture interfaces, we’ve fallen back on what worked with mouse controls on 3D modelling on screen. I’m sure, as more people develop AR devices and applications, a new gesture paradigm will arise.

But there may be another reason why using Hololens was more comfortable than VR units. And that reason may be something that I found a little disappointing. I was expecting my vision to be filled with the augmented world. As it was, what I saw was a “letterbox”, with the models sliding “off screen” not into the periphery of my vision, if I turned my head. That letterbox effect was initially exaggerated, before I realised that the head-band itself was obscuring the throw of the projection, blanking out the top third of the image. Adjusting the headset to push the band itself further back, and lowering the lens back down in front of my eyes, gave me a slightly taller letter box, but still a letter-box. Now I don’t know if this was a limitation of the hardware, or of the Unity 3D set-up that Pat was using, but I must admit to being a little disappointed in that aspect (…ratio 🙂 – did you see what I did there?)

Overall though, I was impressed. Can I see heritage places equipping their visitors with hololens to overlay what’s there today with what might have been? Not at these prices, but I am sure that this sort of AR has a brighter future than those VR headsets.

 

Designing another survey

I’ve been mulling it for weeks, but I’ve decided that I need to get some more data. So I’m preparing another survey, to be promulgated via the internet. It’s going to be asking cultural heritage visitors about their use of mobile devices around heritage sites. I got a pretty good sample size last time, so I hope I’ll get a similar response this time.

Though I feel that my social networks might be more likely to fill this one in, I’m curious to see how it compares to the one that was overtly about gaming. I don’t want to wonder whether there are more gamers than museum visitors in the world… 🙂

Actually though, I am going to include a couple of questions about mobile gaming. I want to see if certain attitudes have changed in the three years(!) since that survey. I expect to see more people (even museum visitors) aware of location based gaming after the Pokemon Go phenomenon. So I’ll have two questions based upon (but updated) a couple from that survey.

The main purpose of the survey though is to identify barriers to mobile device use around heritage sites. There’s a lot of conjecture it seems, in the literature but very little data. I think that’s partly because most of the audience research is based on questions asking “what would encourage you to use mobile devices” rather than “why wouldn’t you use them”.

The Lost Palace

One of the installations dotted around Whitehall to enhance the Lost Palace Experience
A couple of days ago, I took some colleagues to Whitehall to try the Lost Palace, a digital experiment that Historic Royal Palaces is trying over three years. This is the second year of operation and this run lasts until only the 5th of September, so if you want to try it, book quickly.

At its heart, the Lost Palace is an audio tour, but uses an number of tricks and effects to enable the visitor to interact with their environment and create a better sense of presence. Starting at the Banqueting House, the last building standing of the old Whitehall Palace the tour take on out into the streets and squares of London to imagine the building that once stood their, and importantly, to eavesdrop on what went on in those buildings.

The first section though takes place around a model of the old palace, upon which is projected an aerial view of London today so that you can see how streets now run through where buildings once stood. As the mechanics of your “device” are explained you also watch the projection transform into contemporary plan of the palace as it once was.

The “device” itself is interesting  – a vaguely horn shaped block of wood, which hides a phone inside, connected to a pair of earphone that give you binaural sound effects and narration. At the wider end a black “charred” block of wood is directional, point it up and the volume of the music being played in the room above increases. we are told we can also touch this charred end to various pieces of similarly “charred” wood we’ll find out and about to trigger bits of narrative. This is obviously actually triggered but some sort of RFID arrangement, which is at the heart of the National Trust’s a Knights Peril tour at Bodiam. We know that the team behind the Lost Palace visited Bodiam to try out that tour while developing theirs.

Once we are familiar with how to use the device, we are directed outside to touch the first charred wood planks and get transported back to become part of the crowd at teh Restoration of Charles II. This is quite an effective piece on immersion  – as you find your place to touch wood you hear people behind you wanting to get past. For a split second you think your fellow tourists are being a bit rude, until you realise these are seventeeth century voices jostling behind you, eager to give their child a glimpse of the new King.

From there we are transported to the palace’s theatre where William Shakespeare is casting for Lear. In one of a few misteps in the script, we are encouraged to audition, to emote and declaim in front of not just the general public, but (worse) our fellow tourists, which who we are about to spend 80 minutes. Readers who know me will know that I’m not shy about such things, but this was too early in the tour even for me. I think later, after we had had a go at being being Lord Rochester (my favourite debauchee) vandalising Charles II’s sundial, and I’m sure we would all have been a bit more willing to participate in street theatre.

My the directional capabilities of the device are best used outside the MOD building, where, having rowed into the Thames (which once lapped against the walls of Whitehall where the MOD now stands) you could point your device at different windows and hear different echos of the past, including Charles II’s “pimpmaster general” talking with Nell Gwynn; papist plots and more prosaic (and recent) offer of a cup of tea.

Then around the building to listen in on various scandals, vadalise a sundial and cross the  to road to stand under the entrance of the (now) Scottish Office eavesdrop on Henry VIII secret marriage to Anne Bolyn above the Holbein Gate. After that, we go into horseguards, and are offered a choice – on one side participate in a joust, on the other a visit to a cock-fight (or for children) the royal menagerie. After which, the device starts beating in your hand, like a human heart. Like Charles I’s heart.

And you follow his final steps to the same spot, by the entrance to the Banqueting house, where you witnessed the triumphant restoration of his son. This is where the scaffold stood upon which Charles I was beheaded. As the device beats in your hand, you hear the King’s last words, exhorting the executioner to cut swiftly and cleanly once he has made his peace with god. Then …

..the rhythm stops.

And time shift again as you enter the Banqueting House proper to admire the ceiling and take part in a dance. I would have danced myself, but the bean-bags on the floor looked awfully inviting.

The experience as a whole is a great demonstration of, not so much presence (you have to stay aware of 21st century traffic) but a sort of immersion, a suspension of disbelief that I experience when playing tabletop games rather than computer-based ones. In other regards, especially the piecing together of fragments of story, experienced out of sequence, it felt like a “walking simulator”, like Gone Home or Dear Esther.

I’ve just handed in the latest draft of my first four chapters, but I can see I will have to add something about this experience to that.

Affect and affordancies: my final (?) model

I have spent far too long on rewriting this section of my thesis these last few days, constantly going back to the model itself and tweaking it, then readjusting it, them moving things around and finally tweaking and correcting it once more. And the texts has been through so many edits I’m not even sure it makes sense to anyone anymore. If you have the time and inclination, I’d appreciate it if you could give this the once over and tell me if its in English…

(Its about how games trigger emotions, by the way. Oh and I’m not doing links, or proper references at this stage – you’ll have to make do with my EndNote metatext.)

Let’s start with some neurobiological research. Panksepp and Biven’s{, 2012 #96} thesis is that all mammals share seven instinctive emotions, even if different species’ higher brain functions can be very different. They label the seven core emotions: SEEKING; RAGE; FEAR; LUST; CARE; PANIC/GRIEF; and, PLAY

The core mammalian emotions defined by Panksepp and Biven

Everything else, they say, are sensory affects such as hunger, or socially constructed. It’s interesting to note that play is here identified as an emotion, not just a behavior. What evolutionary benefit does a play emotion give us, and other mammals? Panksepp and Biven suggest “to learn nonsocial physical skills like hunting, foraging and so on. It is also surely important for acquiring many social capacities, especially nascent aggressive, courting, sexual and in some species competitive and perhaps even parenting skills. It may be an essential force for the construction of the many higher functions of our social brains. Playful activities may help young animals learn to identify individuals with whom they can develop cooperative relationships and know who to avoid […] In short, the brain’s PLAY networks may help stitch individuals into the stratified social fabric that will be the staging ground for their lives.”

Nicole Lazarro{, 2009 #69} draws on the work of Paul Ekman in her study of emotions experienced by gamers. She explains how his research identified six emotions which appear to have universal facial expressions and a number of other emotions which while not quite meeting his criteria for being universal, come very close: emotions like Naches (pride in another’s achievements), Fiero. These two, along with schadenfreude and embarrassment add handy descriptors to the social emotions that Panksepp and Biven lump together and ignore in their study. Similarly, disgust puts a name to one of the sensory affects. I’ve also added her “ wonder” to that sensory category. And, while descriptors for the six core emotions sit well with her research, some of the emotions she lists in her study, for example Amusement, Curiosity, and Anger/Frustration, add nuance to some of Panksepp and Biven’s descriptors, so I’ve included them in the diagram below. All these emotions, she says, can frequently be recorded and recognised when watching players of video games.

Lazarro’s observed emotions in gamers

So, now we have a model of the core emotions, as described by Pankspepp and Bevin, overlaid with emotions attributed to gamers in the work of Lazarro. To that I have below added a third layer. The are affective triggers, drawn from Lazarro and Sylvester’s recommendations for game mechanics, or affordancies, and that trigger emotion in gamers, and Hamari{i, 2014 #148} et al’s motivation mechanics from their study of gamification. Given that each is a conflation of descriptions from up to three sources, they deserve some further explanation.

The final (?) model

Environment and spectacle – While there is an enduring fashion for games that retain the “eight bit aesthetic”{Stuart, 2012 #165} the general trend of graphic development has been towards cinematic realism and “presence” {Riva, 2014 #4; Pinchbeck, 2005 #30; Pinchbeck, 2009 #33}. “Presence originates from the term ‘telepresence’, made famous by the computer scientist Marvin Minksy in a 1980 paper of the same name. From around 1991 (the date of the first issue of the MIT journal Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments), presence has been typically defined as the capacity of the technology to make the user feel transported into a remote place and be able to efficiently interact with it.” {Pujol, 2012 #56}

Pujol and Champion attempt to unpick the definitions of presence. Starting with the idea that the ideal is a sense of being there, or blanking out the digital mediation of screen and controller, they touch upon immersion as a product of field of view and optical resolution. They also briefly summarize the idea that the human component of the system is likely to respond to the affordancies offered by the VR according to their interests, if the virtual component can in turn respond in a realistic way. They touch upon co-presence (sharing the VR with other users) before arguing that social presence (interacting with other users and virtual agents) is vitally important idea in the “potential [their emphasis] convergence between the presence and cultural heritage fields.”

“The conventional notion of presence as the sensation of ‘being there’ is a highly simplified way of expressing an internal perception of the environment and of ourselves in relation to it. A more comprehensive explanation would be that the sense of presence results from the interaction of various factors. These factors depend both on the system (immersivity, visual accuracy, real-time physical and social interactivity, invisibility of devices, consistency of the content) and on the participant (perception, attention, empathy, engagement, meaningfulness or relevance of the content, control, suspension of disbelief).” {Pujol, 2012 #56} In one game, set in the tunnels of a post-apocalyptic Moscow underground, Sylvester describes how play moved to the ruined, frozen, surface and the powerful effect it had on him as a player: “Though most would call Metro 2033 a shooter or RPG, I wouldn’t, because I don’t think its about shooting or roleplaying. I think its about discovering how a place like that makes you feel.”

Whether or not the gamers Lazarro studied felt they had been transported to the virtual world, she did see evidence of Wonder in their expressions, often from beautifully rendered or animated environmental effects. Sylvester separates out the beauty of “a sunset over the ocean” from the spectacle of “a slow-motion dive to dodge an incoming rocket.” He also offers a warning not to over use either.

Acquisition, points and leaderboards are reasonably self explanatory. At the crudest level, they are sharable social evidence of success, skill or commitment. Their affective and motivational power comes from sharing, but acquisition also has an impact on the individual. As Sylvester acknowledges, gambling games are all about acquisition, and computer games often simulate the acquisition of wealth (or simply points). Of course gambling works in two ways, and the bitter emotions of loss shouldn’t be disregarded.

Insight – Learning rewards and encourages curiosity and seeking. Not just any old learning though. “If a lesson is obvious,” says Sylvester “there’s not much buzz in finally getting it because it was always fairly clear.” Instead, he advocates a moment of insight, where everything that has come before “clicks into place and reveals the shape of the whole.”

Challenge is the emotional trigger that we most readily associate with video games, testing the the player’s dexterity and pattern learning before rewarding him or her not just with a sense of accomplishment, but progression within the game. Sylvester argues that it is not as essential to games as it might appear, and cites Dear Esther as a game that can “create powerful emotions without players struggling.” However, Lazarro says that the opportunity for challenge and subsequent mastery can be an important motivation for some, if not all gamers. She quotes the anonymous wife of one “hardcore” gamer “I always know how my husband feels about a game. If he screams ‘I hate it! I hate it! Ihate it!’ then I know two things. A) He’s going to finish it. B) He’s going to buy version two. If he doesn’t say these things he will put it down after a couple of hours.”

Threat – Sylvester conflates revulsion (disgust) and fear, but here I’m using Threat as an affordance of the core Fear affect. Some things (Sylvester cites spiders and snakes) scare enough people (whether instinctively or through cultural learning) that they are often used in games to provoke fear. Of course the fear response on a gamer sitting in an armchair in front of a monitor is going to be different from the fear of the same person lost in a dark forest, but some games work hard to create a close approximation. Sometimes it’s what you can’t see that scares you, and so game designers have learned to use cinematic effects such as jump-cuts and music to to increase tension and invoke a fear response.

Sex is a hard thing to get right in video games, though many have tried. “Let’s be honest, sex in games is rarely super sexy sex.” Say the video game journalists Nielsen and Grey {Nielsen, 2016 #166} “… the key to effective video game sex: good writing, good characters.”
Which brings us to the narrative arc, this is what film can do so well, engaging the audience’s empathy with one or more characters, as they face internal conflicts, grow and change. Change is a common factor for a lot of the affordances described above, and indeed, Sylvester declares that “the bedrock principle behind all emotional triggers is change”. I will address narrative in more detail in chapter 3. (XX)

Feedback, or rather the absence of it, is a trigger for panic/grief which, as Panksepp and Bevin explain has a lot to do with isolation in mammals. When our character stops responding to your controls, is when a player feels a fleeting moment of grief. Feedback is offered to gamers through what happens on screen, haptic engines in controllers, and by sounds and music.

There’s a lot to say about music, which I will address more fully in the next section. Before we move on, note how, in the model I’ve described, affordancies are placed in boxes radiating away from the core, social or sensory affects that they are most likely to trigger. In my text though I’ve already mentioned how some affordancies might contribute to the triggering of other affects: revulsion might help trigger fear for example. Sound and music can be used to trigger, or contribute to triggering, all the affects. Imagine the soundtrack to Jaws or Psycho, and contrast that to the music of Love Story for example. Music is playful, yes, so I’ve placed the label there, but its influence is more diffuse, an I’ve represented it in the diagram with a fuzzy halo around all the affects, to indicate how it can trigger our emotions without us even knowing:
“And music is wonderfully subtle – even more than most emotional triggers. Nobody ever gives it the credit it deserves because nobody consciously pays attention to it during play. But even though the conscious mind is oblivious, the unconscious is still processing the music into a continuous flow of feeling. You can tell because music is easily separable from the rest of the experience. Listen to a game soundtrack by itself, and you’ll feel much of what you felt during play. Play the game in silence, and you’ll be surprised at how hollow it feels.” {Sylvester, 2013 #89}

A new, easy to read guide

In a pleasant surprise today, a new book dropped through my letterbox. Interpretation in a Digital Age, by Paul Palmer and Neil Rathbone, is a concise, easy to read introduction and guide for Heritage professionals starting digital projects in their places. It promises "objective and practical guidance", and lives up to that promise.

It's an easy read, and neatly sums up the history of handheld guides in heritage sites as it walks the reader through concepts like: Bring Your Own Device; native, web and hybrid apps; media creation; webcams; and locational and proximity triggering. Palmer and Rathbone conclude a useful chapter on accessibility and inclusiveness with with a section on Mindfulness, wherein they argue we "need to develop more skill in the psychology of storytelling using digital media rather than blame the media". A sentiment with which, given the subject of my study, I can only agree.

There are chapters on using technology outdoors, understanding wifi, compliance and intellectual property, and project management. An optimistic chapter near the end explores some of the possibilities that "the digital toolbox" might enable, and the book ends with a jargon busting glossary that reveals the intended audience museum and cultural heritage professionals who not digital experts but are thinking of commissioning something and don't want to be fast-talked by potential suppliers.

It's not an academic work, it doesn't have references to other texts. Rather it is based on the practical experience to the two authors. So it's very good, if not technically detailed, on the how, and also offers practical advice on project management that will last longer than some of the technologies that are now current, but it lacks the why. It's not their intention (I think) to sell the concept of digital technology to heritage sites, rather it's a response to heritage sites looking to see what what is possible. Indeed in the introduction the authors refer to the "Gartner hype cycle", the tendency to over-estimate the potential of technology, and peter to be disappointed by its limitations. Given that more and more evidence I'm seeing suggests only a maximum of five percent of heritage visitors use apps or other mobile technologies, and that I heard recently that mention of an app is currently likely to kill an HLF bid stone dead, I'm still questioning whether it's possible to build a business case for the creation of digital content, let alone the purchase of hardware etc.

Pokémon Big Heritage event, Chester

It had to happen, and Big Heritage stepped up to the plate and made it happen. Tomorrow and Sunday, there will be a Pokémon Big Heritage event around the streets of Chester.

Part of Chester’s Heritage Festival, but officially in partnership with Niantic, the creators of Pokémon Go, the event was brought to my attention via the Pokemon Go app. Chester Castle will be open to the public for the first time, and there will be re-enactors a-plenty there, but there will also be Pokestops and Pokegyms. There are also two paper-based trails: a Pokémon Pastport that you can get stamped at four (currently secret, to be revealed on the day) locations; and, a ten question quiz trail that you’ll need the help of the app to solve.

Big Heritage may have been canny in approaching Niantic for an event this weekend, and it’s the first anniversary of the launch of Pokémon Go. Would Niantic be so willing to support similar events in the future at different times of the year?

My family are cast to the three corners of the country that aren’t near Chester this weekend, so I won’t be able to go. But I’ll try and drop Big Heritage a line, and see if they’ll share their evaluation. 2400 Facebook users have said that they are planning to attend. Are they all from Chester? Or are any of the travelling? Of course Niantic will know exactly where everyone comes from 😉