The OTIH project team, with the help of many others, performed a major set of in-situ trials using a new iteration of our system and infrastructure during May. The aim of the project was to use OTIH technologies to engage several diverse groups from the local community with the Mill Road Cemetery site in Cambridge.
Four days of trials were performed with three groups:
- The Friends of Mill Road Cemetery
- A group interested in the nature and biodiversity of the site, mainly comprised of students at Anglia Ruskin University
- A class of year 10 drama students from a local secondary school: Parkside
Suitable activities and technological support were envisaged through close cooperation witheach user group: The Friends used their two sessions to locate graves and link them to an existing database of records about the people buried in Mill Road. The nature group took photos of the diverse flora and fauna present at the site, whilst those indoors identified the species from these photos using online resources and books. Finally the Parkside drama students identified the war graves on the site with help from data available from the Commonwealth War Graves Commision, and investigated the history of these members of the armed forces as part of the development of characters for their GCSE studies.
In each case, a subtly different version of the Drupal-based CMS and MS Surface application was set up to support the activities the groups were interested in. Attention was paid to how each group could make use of time at the site and in a ‘In Here’ lab set up at Anglia Ruskin. A live video feed, instant messaging and voice calls were the main communications channels provided between the outdoor and indoor locations.
The trials produced a great deal of data through which we can understand the potential for these types of activities to support engagement, learning and reflection around a location. Themes for further analysis include the ability to provoke serendipitous realisations through the juxtaposition of the indoor and outdoor contexts, to understand the value of various forms of collaborative, dialogic and situated learning, and to explore how the activities engaged ‘publics’ with diverse – but often interrelated – interests in the history, present and future of the site.
A lot of enthusiastic people gave their time to help make these events a success. Special thanks goes out to Caro Wilson from the Friends, Sarah Tovell from Cambridge City Council, Simon Ruffle and Victoria Smith from Stride Design, Keri Russell and Fabrizio Manco from the ARU, Kay Blayney from Parkside, and Reverend Margaret Widdess representing the Trustees.
Making these events happen required a great deal of work in a short period of time. The OTIH team was bolstered by Estefania Martin and Pablo Haya, visiting the Open University from Madrid, and Janet van der Linden from the Pervasive Lab and Canan Blake from IET at the Open University.