Biographical Digital Storytelling


Recently I’ve had a couple of opportunities to discuss ideas about digital storytelling in relation to libraries. I’m not thinking about stories in books or solely about stories as fiction, but other possibilities. I touched on part of it in a recent blog post about storytelling in games, but I’m thinking even broader than that.

Firstly, I attended an event at the British Library as part of meetup for people interested in interactive narratives tied in with Sherlock Holmes and the internet of things. This session divided those attending into small groups who had to build up a murder mystery using online media, linked to RFID tags and a hand drawn scene. Each team created clues from images/video/sound on the internet, gave them descriptions, drew a crime scene, added individual clues to each RFID tag, placed them at relevant points on the crime scene and then passed the crime scene to another team to figure out the crime based on the clues.
This was an interesting and fun idea in itself – the idea of being involved in creating, telling and discovering a story – all linked together in the process.

The discussion in the pub afterwards was interesting too. I met someone (a photographer and filmmaker) from my hometown and we got talking about various digital storytelling ideas we’d been involved in. I got thinking about a little digital project I’d put together a few years ago – a biographical map featuring key locations in my life¬†and I wondered if there was any scope in developing this map and opening it up to others so they could add their own history to an area. A sort of very personal local and social history. Local history is often built on personal narratives and stories and it would be a way to build up a idea of the location, one that broader history resources don’t always cover. People could add their own text, videos, images, sound recordings and others would be able to access them too. Now I’ve managed to work with live data in Processing I’m thinking this might be possible.

Secondly I visited DOK Library in Delft. This made great use of 2 large touch screen digital tables. One focusing on local history maps and images and another focusing on multimedia stories created by library users – some of the stories created were fiction and some were focused on the importance of libraries in library users lives. These digital tables highlighted that some people want to and are willing to share their stories with people who have a shared connection, and that some people are interested in reading those stories. Using an interactive storytelling experience is also a fun way of drawing people’s attention to those stories.

Both of those sessions have given me an incentive to work at my original idea.

A #bl_labs Game Jam Idea


[Edit: I managed to get the game below finished – it’s a work in progress – but I didn’t finish in time to enter the jam. The game “60 second Art Heist” can be downloaded here. ]

I was hoping to get involved in the British Library game jam that’s happening this week, but my programming skills let me down. I couldn’t get past a problem that meant I was able to download all the images from Flickr as the program was running – some of them loaded, others didn’t. Anyway, I still like the idea I was aiming for, so I thought I’d share it…

It would have been called something like “Art Thief” and the idea was that it would play along these lines.

The setting is a gallery with 3 framed images on the wall. All of the images are taken from the British Library’s photos on Flickr.

gallerycroppedpaintings statue

A speech bubble appears next to the art thief (who is disguised as one of the gallery’s statues), commenting that the buyer would pay handsomely for a particular type of artwork. The particular type (eg flora, portrait, architecture, cycling) is taken from a tag of one of the 3 Flickr images that is displayed on the wall.


The player positions the cursor over one of the paintings using a joystick and presses the button to select it. Up shoots a hand and nabs the selected painting.


If the player chooses an image that matches the tag in the speech bubble a bundle of money appears and their money goes up. At the same time if they get a correct tag/image combination like this their average percentage accuracy rate increases – they don’t see this. In fact they don’t know this is happening behind the scenes.

gallerycroppedpaintings stolenFor some time the process continues with changing tags and images until you’ve played the rounds enough times for the game to determine how accurate the player is at choosing the correct tag/image combinations asked of them. Until this stage all of the images presented have been tagged already, so we know which images have been tagged with what keyword. However, now untagged images are gradually added into the game. When presented with a comment such as “The buyer would pay handsomely for a “flora” artwork.” the game can determine how likely the player is to have chosen an image to match the tag based on their accuracy score. For example, if during the earlier rounds of the game they have an accuracy rate of 92%, we could suggest that any untagged items they selected later on were 92% likely to match the tag the game has asked for.

At the end of the game the untagged items url, suggested tag by the player and their % accuracy score could be stored in a csv file along with other players scores/suggested tags.

For added variety more images could be shown at the same time. The player might also be against the clock, or avoiding moving when the gallery security guard is watching.