Museum of the Hidden City
Pro Bono Research Lead
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“Walking Cinema: Museum of the Hidden City” uses location-based audio, Augmented Reality, and documentary film making to address affordable housing issues in San Francisco, and is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through this two and half hour long AR experience, users physically traverse the Fillmore District as they are told the story of the neighborhood through two historical characters, each of whom narrates the tour in spoken word poetry, which is written and performed by young Bay Area poets. This emotional story, driven by community-based empathy, gives users an immersive look at how the district was impacted by affordable housing projects.

With our research program, we sought to better understand the target user populations for “Walking Cinema: Museum of the Hidden City,” and how such populations are affected by this experience. In addition to identifying the user populations whose interests are most aligned with this experience, we glean insights into these populations’ expectations, motivations, goals, and preferences. Additionally, we found that the experience had profound, multifaceted effects on the participants. Both visitors and San Francisco natives were interested in learning more, they felt more engaged with their community, and they felt closer to the physical location that they were exploring. All in all, the impact of this experience can be summed up in the words of one participant, Olivia: “It colored in a story for me about a city I felt familiar with. It showed me my blinds spots and encouraged me to work to fill them on my own.” Our research proves the profound impact that this location-based AR experience will have on the users’ understanding of San Francisco. Furthermore, in addition to bolstering users’ understanding, this experience will foster emotional investment and actionable engagement within the community.

Presented at MIT Media in Transition conference in May 2019.

M. Epstein & L. M. Herman, “Location-Based Augmented Reality Journalism and Civic Participation,” In Proceedings of the 10th Media in Transition Conference, 2019.

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under review
This paper will examine the civic impact of location-based journalism. An emerging media form, location-based journalism uses the GPS, networking, and multimedia capabilities of mobile devices to deliver news stories that interact with audience surroundings. Media outlets such as the USA Today, KQED, and the BBC have produced location-based journalism applications to expand their crime, culture, and human interest stories. This paper exams the reported impact of several location-based journalism projects and then dives deeply into audience studies for the WALKING CINEMA: MUSEUM OF THE HIDDEN CITY. The project is a first-of-its-kind mobile audio and augmented reality app that explores the housing crisis in San Francisco. The project builds on research started at MIT in mobile storytelling and work author Michael Epstein has done with Detour, PBS, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The paper will build on Eric Klopfer's concept of "ubiquitous games" to promote engagement and learning (J. Perry and E. Klopfer, 2011.) Our data is based on the audience study model focusing on awareness, empathy, and action as set forth in the MIT Center for Civic Media's AR project with the San Diego Zoo (Ho, P. H., Miller, G. A., Wang M. Y., Haleftiras, N., Zuckerman, E. 2017.) The paper will highlight audience perceptions of how location-based storytelling vs. online media influences their desire to take action on a current issue.
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