A new generation of pervasive technologies is enabling people to break away from traditional desktop PCs and games consoles and experience interactive media that are directly embedded into the world around them. And locative media, the combination of mobile devices with locative technologies, supports experiences and social interaction that respond to a participant’s physical location and context. Together these convergent fields raise possibilities for new cultural experiences in areas as diverse as performance, installations, games, tourism, heritage, marketing and education.
A community of researchers working in pervasive media, also known as ubiquitous computing, are exploring location awareness as a requirement for the delivery of accurate contextual information. Another community, primarily consisting of informal networks of technical innovators and cultural producers, which identifies its field as Locative Media, is exploring developments in and applications of locative technologies within social and creative contexts. One of the aims of this network is to bring these two communities together, linking academic research initiatives and agendas to key figures and ground breaking developments that are currently taking place outside mainstream academia.
The creative industries are also beginning to take up these opportunities, led by artists who are actively charting out the potentials and boundaries of the new pervasive and locative media. Other cultural sectors have also been exploring the potential of pervasive and locative media including the games industry through commercial examples of locative games played on mobile phones such as Bot Fighters and Battle Machine and also research projects such as ARQuake, Mindwarping, Pirates! and Border Guards. Researchers have also demonstrated applications in heritage and tourism, for example personal tourist guides and outdoors augmented reality displays and as well as in mobile learning experiences and participatory local history mapping projects.
A key characteristic of this research is its interdisciplinary nature, with many of these projects combining practicing artists, technology developers and also ethnographers, whose studies of early experiences that are actually delivered as public artworks have yielded new insights into the ways in which participants experience pervasive media, for example how they (and performers and technical crew) deal with uncertainty of location and connection, and, conversely, new metaphors for engaging in locative media.
However, realising the full potential of pervasive and locative media requires several further developments. First, it is necessary to expand the research community, drawing in new academic partners and also a greater range of partners from the creative industries. Second, it is important to deepen the interdisciplinary relationships between artists, technology developers and social scientists working within and between these two convergent fields. This is not only a matter of reflecting on this relationship, it is also necessary to pursue it in practice, which means forming new collaborations leading to practical projects. Third, we need to clarify and deepen the research agenda for this area, by opening up a variety of research questions, including:
• To what extent does the convergence of pervasive media and locative media signify a commonality of views, definitions and issues in each field?
• What new kinds of cultural applications will become possible through pervasive and locative media? Can we envisage new installations, performances, games and other public experiences?
• Can common design frameworks and tactics help create powerful user experiences? Can we identify and share design guidelines and generate useful abstractions, for example building on recent proposals for deliberately exploiting uncertainty and ambiguity
• What tools are required by creative users, for example that enable them to easily (re)configure an experience to work in different locations or to orchestrate it from behind the scenes. What new research challenges do these embody, for example, how do we visualise the state of the technical infrastructure – networks and sensors – or intervene in participants’ experiences?
• What methods do researchers use to design and evaluate their experiences? We already see the use of ethnographic studies, audience discussions and even analysis of system logs; how should these be extended and can we share approaches, tools and even datasets to enhance our understanding of experience and design?
These questions, combined with the need to build a broader interdisciplinary research community, provide the underlying motivations for this network.
Older PLAN documents
Original announcement and call (PDF)
Pervasive and Locative Arts Network (PLAN)