Culture Connectors

Using new media and contemporary image making to make heritage accessible

Supported by : Prince Claus Foundation/ British Council

What I did: Writing Grant Application, Project conceptualisation, Scripting,  Site Reece and Research 

Date : 2017

As a part of the Flow India Team, I planned and conceived Culture Connectors, a rich media and immersive VR experience aimed to leverage the power of new media and technology to make heritage accessible and engaging for young learners across India.

Moving beyond facts and mere appreciation of the past, Culture Connectors redefines engagement with heritage by allowing learners to make personal connections, gain a bigger picture of the past and the present to understand continuity and change.

The first pilot experience explored the layered history of Qutb Cultural Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Delhi, India.

As the Education Lead, I researched and scripted content for a rich, layered transdisciplinary learning experience appropriate for learners in the age group of 12- 14 yrs. This experience comprised of audio narrative, maps, images, stories, interviews and puzzles to enable self directed exploration of the different facets of the site – history, architecture, design, religion, mathematics, built and natural heritage.  Using Smithsonian’s  IPOP model of engagement, we structured the narrative to answer six important research areas –

  • Big Idea: Why was the site constructed and what does it mean to us today?
  • Cross Cultural References: Design and motifs, construction, beliefs and myths.
  • Engineering and architecture : Technique, material, conservation today
  • Life in the past : Idea of kinship, gender, ancestry and race, art and poetry, trade.
  • Size, Location, other features : Spread of the complex, height of the minar, natural heritage, Delhi and Mehrauli as neighbourhoods.
  • People: Stories of rulers who commissioned and/or restored the structures, other related rulers,  ordinary stories of masons, architects, travellers.

In order to sustain engagement and interest, the entire experience was gamified by providing opportunity to explore, look closely, listen to stories, solve puzzles , answer questions etc and rewarding ‘personality badges’ to the player accordingly.

  • Viewing icon : Allows for exploration
    • Personality : Swift footed explorer
  • Close looking icon: Allows one to look closely
    • Personality : Sharp eyed Sherlock
  • Did you know icon : Stimulates curiosity
    • Personality : Heritage Wizard
  • Puzzle icon : Presents a challenge
    • Personality : Riddle Master
  • Story icon : Tells a story
    • Personality : Story Glutton
  • Flora icon:  Takes you to the garden
    • Personality : Green Ninja

I was supported in communication design and user experience design by my colleagues Anukriti Kedia and Arundhati Mitter (Director,Flow India). The final technical production was done by Rahul Dutta, and Titash Neogi. Renuka Rao supported us in monitoring and evaluation.

Along with novelty and richness of the experience, it was important for us that the VR experience provoked cross disciplinary inquiry, encouraged appreciation of pluralism and challenged cultural and gender stereotypes.

While contemporary immersive image making techniques like VR technology help to build a playful and exciting engagement, it was equally critical to exercise caution and mindfulness towards the psychological and physiological effect of the headset on young users.  A pre-experience session with teachers and students was hence organised to provide information about this new technology. To avoid discomfort, the experience was designed to be no longer than 30- 40 minutes.

The app can be downloaded on Google Play store here

To learn more about the design process, my colleague Anukriti gives an excellent insight here