Between 2019 – 2020 The University of South Wales collaborated with a consortium of creative commercial practitioners dubbed Fictioneers in a UKRI funded, Audience of the Future R&D demonstrator project designed to further develop digital storytelling within the UK Creative Industries. Using the popular Wallace and Gromit IP, the consortium drew upon their combined skills in games production, animation, creative marketing and new technology development to create a location-based experience targeting young audiences entitled Wallace & Gromit: Big Fix Up, designed to propel new and playful identities for a traditional narrative media.
Wallace & Gromit: Big Fix Up is an ambitious and complex production. Through their research and development efforts, Fictioneers sought to develop a viable production alternative to branching tree, digital story-telling structures which risk combinatorial explosion. Instead, the application delivers a rich tapestry of serialised, short media elements. Linked by a central, enhanced mobile application, the multi-platform media include YouTube videos and comics, as well as augmented reality game-play challenges. The application aims to engage new audiences and provide innovative ways for long term fans to interact with media favourites. Mimicking a variety of social newsfeed items these media elements are variable, chunked and optional to view. They are also pre-determined and closely networked via the 23 ELO 2021 - abstracts central newsfeed. The story-flow is complex nevertheless, incorporating enhanced augmented reality story-telling, multi-platform media and mobile game-play.
The hybridity of this experience posed new challenges regarding the most definitive way to describe the experience on offer, as well as the most helpful frameworks to evaluate it. With few alternative terms on hand to describe this genre, the term experience was often used to describe the sort of hybrid encounter made possible via this complex network of media influences, but experience is still an open-ended concept that can be hard to pin-point. Alternative terms like digital story-telling may also be useful place-holders to help delineate interactive and narrativised experiences from traditional media encounters, nevertheless such terminology is still only useful to an extent. Narrative frameworks such as characterisation, pace and tone are relevant to projects like Wallace & Gromit: Big Fix Up, but they don’t capture all the elements that audiences encounter in real time. Describing the experience as a game can be equally problematic, since it can set up expectations of a very different type of challenge-driven, dramatic experience than this application delivers.
In this paper I explore what additional insights can be gained by also considering the interplay of technology and creativity within the research and development process. Technology is a defining feature of this digital storytelling experience. Augmented reality technologies, for example, offer dynamic, enhanced tracking and visualisation opportunities, whilst also demanding strict file-size constraints, comprehensive audience testing and extensive cross-disciplinary collaboration. By evaluating the creative and technical processes shaping the development of this hybrid media identity, I explore the ways in which any effective definition of this new type of distributed genre is likely to be as much about co-ordination, as new experience.
A text and video conference paper by Bronwin Patrickson, Research Fellow for Impact & Evaluation
A talk about the documentation and evaluation process of a USW Creative Industries R&D project partnering with Fictioneers in collaboration with Aardman on the new Wallace & Gromit: Big Fix Up upcoming multi-platform and augmented reality experience.
USW Research Fellow for Impact and Evaluation Bronwin Patrickson shares the behind the scenes process of documenting and evaluating the creative R&D project, joined by 5 USW Media Interns who also helped to create additional content for the site: Gabi Page, Gina Parkinson, Harry Pettigrew, Beth Randell and Charles Stylianou
The Covid-19 global pandemic has greatly impacted all walks of life, including students gaining work experience within the creative industries. This free online masterclass looks at how alternative digital internships allow students to learn skills, gain knowledge, and makes social connections that can shape careers and enhance your employability. Led by four University of South Wales interns on the Audience of the Future Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up AR project (partnering with Fictioneers in collaboration with Aardman), this event is highly valuable to both students and staff. The class provides first-hand experience of the processes of applying for digital internships, the interns’ roles and experiences on the project, what internships provide outside of a degree programme, and how teaching staff can facilitate these opportunities for their student cohorts. There will also be a chance for the audience to ask questions and get tips and advice from the presenters during a live Q&A session.
Guest Lecture, London South Bank University 'Audience of the Future: AR and Audience Research' Oct. 13, 2020Read Now
Audience of the future: AR and Audience Research
Dr. Helen Davies and Dr. James Rendell, Audience Research Leads on the USW Audience of the Future Demonstrator Challenge Programme introduced undergraduate students at London South Bank University to the various approaches to researching audiences for the development of Augemented Reality media, centring on two key aspects: usability and immersion. The talk looked at traditional face-to-face methods, and also considered how the use of digital software for remote testing - Lookback - also facilitated research during the pandemic, and what this meant for conducting ethical studies.Online, Oct 13, 2020
DRS2020 Conversation: What Creative Challenges Are Posed By Commercial UX Design Practice? August 12, 2020Read Now
What Creative Challenges Are Posed By Commercial UX Design Practice?
This online conversation facilitated by Dr. Bronwin Patrickson and Dr. Helen Davies was held as part of the 2020 Design Research Society Virtual International Conference, August 11 - 14, originally scheduled to be held at Brisbane, Australia.
Aim: To revisit historic debates regarding the definition of UX Design Practice, and challenge, or workshop those definitions by exploring new collaborative methodologies that are both creative and audience focused.
Approach: This discussion is grounded in the practical example of a current design research challenge to reinvent traditional media favourites for new and emerging extended reality applications. That this project is a publicly funded (UKRI), collaboration between University researchers and Industry practitioners implicates some of the issues regarding the conceptualisation of UX Design as both a creative and commercial practice.
Inspired by this example, participants will be introduced to a range of creative UX design approaches, then invited to devise and share potential responses to the challenge of immersive media design. During the course of the conversation participants will also conduct a mini-network analysis of the creative influences at play in such an exercise.
Takeaways: Participants will be introduced to a range of creative UX practices, as well as the particular challenges of immersive and augmented reality media design. The discussion enables participants to develop more nuanced ways to describe, analyse and evaluate UX Design practice and audience research being developed within a University/Industry collaboration.
Innovation Through Collaborative Audience Research
In this paper Dr. Helen Davies and Dr. Bronwin Patrickson discuss the range of benefits and challenges encountered, as well as the workarounds negotiated during a UKRI funded, Audience of the Future R&D demonstrator project designed to further develop digital storytelling practice within the UK Creative Industries. The Audience of the Future initiative has enabled the University of South Wales (USW) to collaborate with a consortium of creative commercial practitioners dubbed Fictioneers. Using the popular Wallace and Gromit IP, the consortium will draw upon their combined skills in games production, animation, creative marketing and new technology development to create a location-based experience designed to propel new and playful identities for a traditional narrative media. Using transmedia elements such as comics, YouTube videos and mobile tools, these enhanced experiences aim to engage new audiences and provide innovative ways for long term fans to interact with media favourites. The university is providing research and development support for this collaborative effort through audience research, documentation services, analytic expertise and a space for reflection.
Collaborations between University humanities researchers working together with the private sector have become more common-place, often motivated by funding initiatives such as the United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) Creative Cluster strategy. This multi-million pound capacity building fund purposefully promotes research and development Creative Industry Partnerships as a way to foster cross-sectoral innovation. By providing opportunities for inter-cultural learning, student and civic engagement, as well as regional social cohesion and cultural capital development (Williams et al., 2017), these sorts of partnerships offer many potential rewards.
They also pose a number of challenges. Universities and industry are likely to bring different cultures, values, motivations, expectations, even different languages (definitions and understandings) into these sorts of collaborations.
This conference presentation is delivered by the two researcher authors, Dr. Helen Davies and Dr. Bronwin Patrickson who take it in turns to present their individual contributions to this paper directly to camera. This ‘talking head’ style is also overlaid and intercut with sample observational documentation footage of the behind the scenes collaborative development process including extensive audience research and Fictioneers’ own promotional preview videos.
Williams, A., Dovey, J., Cronin, B., Garside, P., Flintham, M., Smith, M., . . . Taylor, F. (2017). The Hidden Story: understanding knowledge exchange partnerships with the creative economy.
In this virtual masterclass, Dr Helen Davies and Dr James Rendell presented on their current roles as researchers partnering with Fictioneers in collaboration with Aardman on the new Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up augmented reality project. The talk considered the dynamic nature of collaboration between academia and media industries, how Covid-19 has impacted on working relationships, and the digital tools facilitating new approaches to audience-based research.
Looking to the future through lookback (a remote audience research tool): utilising technology in audience research, Helen Davies
A contribution to a DIY collection of reflections upon research activities and methods that have emerged in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The collection was created using a crowd-sourcing approach between April 27 – May 18 2020, when the UK and many other parts of the world were in full ‘lockdown’. Emerging from this period of extreme and unprecedented change in […]
Fictioneers Lightning Talks: Lessons learnt from creating an augmented story (ONLINE)
AN ONLINE MASTERCLASS FOR USW STUDENTS
USW is currently working in collaboration with Fictioneers, a consortium of creative commercial practitioners on a new immersive, multi-layered storytelling experience. Working alongside Aardman, the project brings to life the popular characters of Wallace and Gromit and utilises ground-breaking mobile technology and multi-user augmented reality.
As part of this collaboration Fictioneers gave an afternoon of lightning talks to enable students to learn more about this exciting project and hear about the current opportunities.
There were 5 short talks from the teams working on the project, starting with a broad introduction to the “Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up” project, then the marketing team will talk about how they are editorialising storytelling, next some of the technology behind the project will be discussed, with insights about the game engine and mobile elements, the design team will discuss how they have approached prototyping in Augmented Reality (AR), and last but not lest the USW research team will discuss how audience research has been incorporated.
Finally, 4 research testing internship were announced, to be made available over the summer exclusively for USW students. By signing up to this session students had the opportunity to take part in some paid remote testing – a unique opportunity to test and provide feedback that will help inform the design of this project. The application process was discussed in detail.
Working smart while we're apart
A blog post co-authored by Dr. Helen Davies and Dr. Bronwin Patrickson to describe how Fictioneers are adapting to working remotely on Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up.