My research will culminate in four days of work with a small group of excluded teenagers, and a project in a park.

The research that I am conducting is in support of the hypothesis that the use of digital technology, particularly mobile technology, social networking, digital photography, and the use of mobile phones, can be powerful pedagogic tools in encouraging engagement, creativity, cooperation and a sense of achievement.

The experiment is dependent on allowing the teenagers to develop their own ideas for the project, and gain a degree of ownership, to allow for individual creativity, to feed on the energy of a group, and leave room the unexpected, whilst also ensuring a degree success in the outcome.

There will be no time to create a polished, finished mediascape, but I plan to create a working prototype with the students, that we can test at the end of the week.

If this is not possible in the circumstances, bottom line will be that the students engage with the project, and enjoy the week.

Below is a proposal that I wrote in early in 2008 in a bid for funding the pervasive media project that I am working on. Firstly the first draft, and then the drastically trimmed proposal that was needed for uploading to the site. This was not a successful bid, which is OK by me, as I would not have had time to pursue it if it had been successful, but the idea I definitely plan to pursue.

This is as yet just seeds of an idea, but with a rich loam!

I teach art, specialising digital media, and currently also doing an MA in interactive media at UWE. I am experimenting with Mediascape as a part of this course and have made an approach to the Holburne Museum in Bath, exploring the possibility of collaboration, and they are keen (Cleo Witt is the contact). The museum itself has closed for major refurbishment so the education centre (housed in the one time Gardener’s lodge) will focus on the gardens - the Sidney Gardens, one time Georgian pleasure garden, frequented by Jane Austen, with Brunel’s GWR and the Kennet and Avon canal passing through in deep cuttings traversed by beautiful bridges. A site steeped in history. My original idea involved students creating mediascapes as a combined art/history project that we would then ‘test’ on visitors to the gardens. But there are a myriad of other possibilities. I take students there this week to take photographs, the day being organised and hosted by the museum and involving input from a professional photographer. In preparation we have been exploring technical, social and artistic considerations in relation photography. Perhaps a Mediascape could involve aspects of this, the device giving students advice about photographic considerations - camera angle, depth of field, close-up, shutter speed, etc., as they walk around the gardens with their cameras. They could also log where they are when they take a photo. building up a photographic map, perhaps an artwork in a Richard Long sort of fashion, my thoughts are too fresh to elaborate, the project itself will be an exploration!

Much of the work that I have done in preparation for this project has been leading me towards the idea of a ‘patchwork quilt’ - gathering an eclectic mix of audio recordings and images that would make up an impression of the park. The experimentation at Sidcot School made me realise that a huge number of recordings would be needed to fill the space of the park, and I began thinking of either a game format, or a guided walk. When I discovered that I only had four teenagers, rather than the eight I was expecting, the project felt even more difficult. Within minutes of introducing the concept to the group however one of them had come up with the idea of a treasure hunt through the park, brilliant, we had a plan, and one from them rather than from me.

We started with some group games, organised by a friend who has a small community theatre company called ‘foolworks’. A game of pass the hat - and tell the group what it is... the more outrageous the better. Condoms featured, which shows the nature of some group members... Then some story telling games, attached to features in the part.

A high for me was Lissa showing me how to exchange files with bluetooth, with a look of amused disdain on her face, as if I should know this, being the teacher - and then spending the whole morning organising them. Axl out and about making recordings, coming back regularly to show them to us, and Ash doing all the games on the iPaqs. The mentors sitting back in the education centre drinking tea, or out on the park benches making up and recording stories.

Another high was getting the idea of putting the disposable cameras and clipboards around the park was to simulate a future version of this mediascape that could include the possibility of participants downloading the mediascape onto their own mobile devices - the url could be on signs as you come into the park - and that photos that are taken, stories told, experiences and thoughts shared, could all then be uploaded directly to a moderator, who could vet them and then incorporate a selection back into the mediascape - this incorporates ideas of flickr, geotagging, and social networking.

I have included a fuller outline of this week in the ‘walking blog’ except that these recordings were made in the car as I travelled back from Bath.

Pasted Graphic

Image from the Bridgeman Art Library