Students From UNL's Carson Center Use Geolocation, Audio to Tell Interactive Stories

Dec. 4, 2020, 12:12 p.m. ·

Man Sitting on Bench While Holding Phone (Photo by Pexels)

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Imagine you are new to the Lincoln area and you are waiting at the corner of 9th and Ost. You're bored and you see on your phone your location is tied to an interactive story that promises to not only entertain, but also show you around town.

That's the basic concept of the Story City projects, according to Hannah Pederson, a first-year student at the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. The interactive, location-based audio stories were created by 38 UNL students in 2020 as part of the center’s Story Lab 1 class.

“We were assigned to use the Echoes app and create certain sounds to tell a story,” Pederson said. “ECHOES is an app based on geolocation, so when you go inside a certain area, then sounds start to play.”

Pederson’s audio story, titled, “The Audition,” focuses on the realm of superspies and intrigue, but she noted her classmates' approaches were varied, ranging from bank-heist scenarios to historical walkthroughs.

While Pederson’s 11-part ECHOES story focuses on the realm of superspies, her classmates took different approaches, from bank-heist scenarios to historical walkthroughs. She did warn that some of the more interactive parts of stories may be on hold due to the pandemic.

One part of her story would have had the listener interact with a local business that agreed to take part.

While Pederson’s story may be out of commission for now, several of the other stories created by her classmates are designed to be experienced all year around.

Ash Smith is an Assistant Professor at the Carson Center and assigned the Story City Project.

“A lot of my work has been really thinking about cities and the civic imagination,” Smith said. “How we can re-imagine cities and space and place around us.”

Before working at UNL, Smith was involved in a project at the University of California where she explored ways to tell unique stories concerning the southern border.

“Place is definitely my entry point in terms of making art and I really want to know this place better,” said Pederson. “Also, at the same time, can we project ourselves forward?”

Smith said the Story City projects advanced both goals.

“This medium of geo-location helps us take a place that, yes, is using GPS to orient us at a place on a street corner, however on that street corner we could look all the way back to the past and all the way to the future,” Smith said.

As a form of entertainment, Smith said the projects allow for accessible fun.

While this was the first year she assigned the project, Smith indicated that it will not be the last. Ideally, she wants to create an entire archive of stories.

“That is something I would love to continue doing,” Smith said.

For more information on the Story City Project, click here

For more information on the ECHOES geo-location app, click here.