Alongside undertaking research I also write about play, digital games and experimental research methods that combine art and design practices with those from the social sciences. I publish reports for industry, peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and blog posts.


Image: Dylan Yamada-Rice

Using the Arts to Explore Tech Determinism
History shows us that it takes many different approaches to make change happen. The tactics that each group chooses are not a matter of personal taste but solutions to a particular problem. Too many years spent failing to make radical change happen can turn energies to smaller, achievable, single-issue campaigns. Conversely, the limits of reform push people and movements to revolt (Robinson, 2019, n.p).

This blog post reports on a workshop called “Gipton Space Agency” led by myself and Eleanor Dare (as part of our work for X||dinary Stories) that used art to critique tech determinism with a specific focus on space tourism. In a way turning energies to smaller, achievable, single-issue campaigns like others that have gone before.

The workshop was held at Space 2, an arts and social change charity in Gipton, Leeds.

Starting with an approach from immersive storytelling, teasers were left on social media as a hint to what was to come (see above image).
Thompson, J., Yamada-Rice, D., Thompson, S., Murray, L. and Taylor, M. (2023) Development and introduction of a mixed realities playkit: decreasing the incidence of general anaesthesia for paediatric MRI. British Medical Journal, Early Innovation Report. Online first (09/11/23). doi:10.1136/ bmjinnov-2023-001083.


Image: UKAHT

     Lessons learnt from a unique setting and a fanatical audience that can guide immersive storytelling development more widely.

Working with the UK Antarctica Heritage Trust (UKAHT) I undertook research to look at their initial development of a Virtual Reality (VR) experience of Antarctica. On a personal level, I had never previously dreamed of visiting Antarctica, but as I came to learn through this project, it attracts a lot of fanatical people with a desire to do just that. These “fans” who became the research participants brought this project to life and highlighted insights that can be useful for those making immersive storytelling experiences more widely.

Often when conducting research, it can be a struggle to recruit participants, and in market research it is common to circumnavigate this by using a professional recruiter, and offering financial incentives. So, when UKAHT suggested they would be able to find volunteers by including a request in their newsletter I was sceptical. What followed was a deluge of hundreds of emails requesting to join the research as a volunteer and outlining their exact connection to the place in autobiographical form.

The participants were split into focus groups based on the following criteria:
  1. Had been on a cruise to Antarctica
  2. Had worked as part of the British Antartica Survey (BAS)
  3. Were a young person or teacher connected to the region through the UK National Curriculum
  4. Were interested in the region but had never visited

In this post I will outline how each of these different expert groups provided insight into the importance of one particular aspect of immersive storytelling design in relation to their unique connection to the context of the story. These are (1) details, (2) memory, (3) physical materials and movement, and (4) interaction.

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This is the second of two posts about the future of broadcast media according to kids, and forms part of a project myself and Eleanor Dare have been undertaking through a commission by the University of York’s XR Stories. The first post focused on the methodology we created for children to show us directly how they think the dissemination of heritage brand story characters might be altered by emerging technologies. Here, I extend on the last post to highlight the methodology used to allow children to engage with world-building a heritage brand using emerging technologies, and their thoughts on immersive and interactive possibilities for future broadcasting.

Heritage Brands and Future Broadcasting Possibilities

Our investigation of this topic focused on using the Beano as a case study. This is because the Beano can be classed as a heritage brand.
Brand heritage is a…concept within the marketing discipline, which suggests that the consumer appeal of products and services offered by older companies may be enhanced by the historical characters of their brands. (Hudson, 2011; Urde et al, 2007 in Hudson, 2015)

In the case of the Beano, which began in 1938, this would suggest enhanced interest in maintaining the historical brand. Additionally, it is a good illustration of a brand that has already withstood reincarnations, such as from comic, to TV show and app, with this history providing context for exploration of how emerging technologies might shift and change the brand again.

The aim of this project was to seek children’s own ideas for how emerging technologies might alter their interaction with brands. In order to discover this, Eleanor and I developed a methodology that would bring participants into direct contact with emerging technologies, as many young children have not yet had the opportunity to explore virtual/ augmented reality, photogrammetry or concepts around early metaverse prototypes or Artificial Intelligence (AI).


I specialise in narratives and storytelling. Most commonly in relation to children’s media, such as digital games, toys and TV shows. To do so I conduct research that crosses academia and the kids media industry. Often using a combination of methods from social sciences combined with those from art and design. I also use graphic narratives to analyse data, think through drawing and tell stories.


Image by Richard Nash

This knowlege exchange project involved members of the UK-Japan Location-Based VR for Children Network working with artists’ book and zine practitioner Richard Nash to explore ways in which his expertise could be used for secondary analysis of the project data to generate new knowledge. The final creation of the zine was framed as a structured co-production methodology that was undertaken in three stages. 


Image by Julliette Coquet
This project aims to give children better control over how they are observed by digital sensors and in doing so addresses the core concerns of the HDI network around ‘surveillance and resistance’ by actively addressing issues of privacy and control arising from the increased use of sensors in digital devices to collect user data. It aims to inform and empower the users of devices, specifically children aged 8-12, by co-designing tools to understand, resist, and subvert the sensors embedded in common digital devices and smart objects. The tools will provide children with agency over how their lives are presented through data, and how this is used to inform a range of products aimed at making money from them.
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I worked as a researcher and advisor for the hit TV show Moon and Me. It is an example of the importance of research to good design. 
VR Other Worlds (2020)