Today we’re ‘releasing’ a new ‘thing’. It’s an experiment…. a prototype… we’re not sure what it is yet…

Throughout the summer we’ve been playing with existing locative platforms. A lot of the time we get asked by clients to build them something using location, but a lot of the time it’s either just too damn expensive for the project, or would take away from the project by being tacked on to an otherwise nice tight package. Frustrated by the cost of new development, we decided to spend time messing around with what’s already out there. Even though we don’t like them so much, we started playing with QR codes to create contextual portals of interactivity, rather than strictly GPS-enabled gubbins. These were cheap, quick, easy like digital sketches. We tried out SCVNGR in a museum (in the V&A!).

Two of my favourite things are stories and time-travel. Everyone at Mudlark knows this. I like the layer that historical knowledge can apply to the everyday. It’s what Augmented Reality endeavours to do. Sometimes you don’t need apps, and sometimes you do. There are a few out there that have tackled history, so we thought we’d have a go at the future.

'Girl X' from Derby 2061
‘Girl X’ from Derby 2061

It started with Derby Train Station. I think we were just testing to see if Foursquare would let you make something up. It did. So we made an alternate version of the train station “location”. It was some time in the future, when a Monorail (the first sign of the future) arrives in town, and Toby started adding ‘tips’ about Memory Ports in the carriages (this set ended up setting the tone for the whole of the project).

On the next trip out of town, I checked into the future Derby Monorail Station on Foursquare instead of the present day version. The ‘Tip’, rather than a commercial for something around me, felt more like a story. It felt like a nugget of another layer. It made me want to find more. Add to that a healthy dose of Pat Cadigan and Philip K. Dick and the next thing you know there’s a spreadsheet and collaborative Google Map open and we’re barn-storming what Derby will be like in fifty years.

A bit of time and a fair bit of thinking later, and it’s ready to road test. Fifty locations scattered around Derby city-centre and Darley Abbey (where our studio is) exploring what the city might be like in fifty years’ time. There’s a story in it to find. In fact there are a few. There’s the story of new industry, of civilian life in a new culture changed by it, the story of buildings being repurposed, of politics, of clock-making and time. All told by a female guide from the future.

Luckily, Foursquare have just released ‘Lists’, providing us with an easy way to share the whole story with users. Click here for that. We’re also making a Wiki for all the bits of story we’ve invented, and hope to add more to it if people add nuggets of their own to the locations.

Greg’s still on the fence about this project. He keeps asking me what ‘it’ is. So, for Greg:

It’s an experiment to find out the following:

  • Can you tell a story on Foursquare?
  • Will users engage with it?
  • Will Foursquare and it’s user base let you mess with the program?
  • How does it square up as the surface layer of a deeper story (tested out on the Wiki but possibly transferable to long-form print)?
  • Is it just me being me, or can checking in to things that aren’t there feel like the future (or past)?

It’s right on time to be something for a load of southerners to play with when they come to Derbyshire this week to immerse themselves in old industry at our Laptops & Looms three-day event, where we visit the historical heart of the Industrial Revolution, sitting in silk mills pondering the future.

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Comments for this entry

This is a fantastic idea! I absolutely love it. Can we do something similar in Sheffield City Centre? I will volunteer some students from the University to help for free.

Very good stuff. Have you used Broadcastr? This could allow you to add another level, more storytelling-based but with location details attached.

I think it’s possible to tell a story on foursquare, but not as a standalone service. Although I’m sure you’ll prove me wrong.

There are some good ‘additions’ to foursquare that could give the depth (sensory depth as well as plot depth) to any story you wish to tell.

The next question is: how do you get people to engage in something that requires they travel to real places to get the next piece (chapter) of the story?

(I have some ideas on that, too)

Ayup folks,

Jessica – of course. I’m not sure how we can help. Greg is from Sheffield, and we’ve spoken before about doing something with P. Dreadful’s semi-fictitious/random city tours.

What are the students studying?

Purplesime – no I haven’t tried Broadcastr before. Looking into it right now.
The question of getting people to engage with a story across a distance is massively important, and that’s something we hope to learn more about. 2061 isn’t a game like Gumshoe or Shadow Cities, so it’s possibly harder. Although the overarching ‘narrative’ is split up into fifty small nuggets that are in the very least random, but at best could tease you into finding out what the hell it means. We’ll see how it plays out…but if you’ve got any ideas let’s talk! I’m at richard dot birkin at wearemudlark dot com.

re: Broadcastr – thanks for hooking me up with that. I’ve got just the thing for it. Something I’ve so far tested in SCVNGR could work so much better in it.

Loving this, but as Simon asks, is this just for a flesh audience?

Say hello to

He’s built using data from

He’s also loaded up to react with your 2061 tagging.

Feel free to Clone him and populate Derby with fictional friends from the future.

Jessica — happy to talk to you about the kind of things we’re looking at doing with this.

Simon — hello there. The idea (from my experience) is that it’s an ‘ambient story’, not directed. It’s about letting people brush up against the thing by accident, and letting them decide how much they want to engage with it. Whether they just want to check in at the Memory Bank, or find all the crumbs.

As Richard says, we’ve toyed with Dropp, GeoLoqi, SCVNGR, Trover, audioboo — etc etc etc etc etc — but they require you to always be on and never quite deliver what we wanted, in the way we wanted to.

Frankie Roberto

Have you tried using ?

Hey Frankie,
Yeah I had a bash at creating something with Wanderlust. It’s a great idea, but I found that making something in that linear way was really hard. I came up against ill-fitting place categories a lot that skewed what i was initially trying to do. In a way, the playable-in-any-city feature of Wanderlust made it harder to do something that was very tied to one place, and the unique detail of that place.
I might go back to it and try something else very soon now that, by trying lots of things on different platforms, I’ve got more of an idea of what works, where, and why. Maybe a 2061 geography could work in there. It could definitely be one to try for cities that I know nothing of, but other people do.

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