Coral Manton

Maker of playful experiences with technology and people

Coral Manton

Shared Pasts: Decoding Complexity uses augmented reality technology as a mechanism to reveal layers of narratives built on historic artefacts and places. The project aims to give a 360 degree view of the past revealing the complexity surrounding cultural collections and landmarks, showing that meaning-making is dependent on the lens through which you see the past. This is a new platform to allow the retelling of history; showcasing, enabling and enhancing narratives from many more points of view.

At this moment in U.K. history there is a pressing need to tackle the challenges of seeing from others perspectives, recognising complication, and dealing with the echo chamber. This project aims to challenge people’s potential bias in their approach to history. Enabling people to orientate themselves to see diverse outlooks via an intuitive interface and system of ‘recommendations’ based on seeing/experiencing alternative narratives.

Bristol, like many U.K. cities, holds many contested histories rooted in colonialism. This project will look to expose the intricacy around some of these histories, revealing the characters, societal and political structures, social pressures, cultural contexts etc. around historic objects and places.

Immersive technologies are being adopted in the cultural sector to allow users to experience history – however this retelling of history through immersive experience can often simplify complicated stories – focusing on a singular point of view. This new AR platform enables the user to explore complicated, often underrepresented, narratives from differing points of view to gain a 360 view of the past.

Further to this the app has a machine learning backend – based on a recommendation system (similar to platforms such as Netflix). However we aim to subvert the concept of personalisation – recognising that a personalised approach to history can reenforce existing biases. Our system recommends you follow on narratives that widen your field of view based on opposing points of view from data demographics different to your own.

The focus of this prototype is revealing narratives of colonialism, Empire and slavery in Bristol. Allowing conversation to take place around the cities relationship to wealth, growth, and the most destructive and dehumanising trade to take place – that of the transatlantic slave trade.

This project brings together a multidisciplinary team led by Coral Manton, a qualified museum curator, creative technologist and lecturer in Creative Computing at Bath Spa University. She is working with Chris Hunt, director of Controlled Frenzy, to develop the application and supporting platform.

The prototype is developed using research by Sue Giles, Senior Curator of World Cultures at Bristol Museums and historian Professor Olivette Otele, Professor of Slavery at Bristol University. The narratives will be developed by writer Lisa Harewood and interactive fiction researcher Julia Scott-Stevenson.

The narratives are voiced by Adjoa Andoh – a Bristol born actor. Voice direction is by Sarah Addezio.

With the support of Bristol Museums, The British Library, Bath Spa University and The South West Creative Technology Network.

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