Liam Betsworth

Performative, Extravagant, Expressive Place-based Experiences. Cu @ Swansea

Hafod Copper Works Chimney

The Hafod Copper Works in an abandoned industrial site that lies on the banks of the River Tawe in the Lower Swansea Valley. Once the world's largest copper works, the site is now derelict and in dire need of regeneration & redevelopment.

While many bodies are currently working to bring about the regeneration of the site, it was my specific task to develop imaginative and inventive visitor experiences at the site. This was achieved through a range of different technologies – mainly those that are handheld and accessible to all.

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Thesis Abstract

Many of the mainstream mobile location-based services that we have become used to in public spaces are good at delivering information privately, in context, but the opportunity to incorporate more engaging and exciting interactions is often overlooked – especially where the output is of shared public interested. Smartphones now offer us multimodal interaction, gestures and internet connectivity, all providing opportunities to interact in new, extravagant and expressive ways.

As members of Cu@Swansea—a multi-partner project leading the regeneration of the world significant Hafod-Morfa Copperworks—we have been tasked with designing a range of technologies that will attract people into the site, not to experience a finished, curated piece of heritage, but to bring the site to life, provoking discussion amongst the local community, stakeholders and other visitors. Instead of allowing people to pass each other, digitally divided, we focus on designing interactions that will start conversations, encouraging people to join together in a collaborative, public experience.

This thesis details the design, development and evaluation of a set of novel, extravagant, expressive mobile location-based experiences. We experiment with both audio and visual effects as a baseline. We then attempt to extend the framework, developing a remote mechanism that can be used to scale-up and direct audio-visual experiences. We consider the design and evaluation of our systems from a performative standpoint, attempting to optimise engagement between the perfomer—user of the system—and spectators – bystanders engaged in this performance. This was achieved through a range of amplified manipulations and effects. During the design process, we organised community engagement events, meeting with stakeholders and holding a focus group with interested members of the community. These engagements concentrated more on deployment concerns, such as attitudes towards these technologies, and how they may be successfully integrated within the site.

Our main contribution in this work is a novel, performative mobile framework for more extravagant, expressive interactions in public spaces. Although our ultimate aim is to design and deploy these experiences for use within a heritage context, our findings suggest that these technologies could be utilised to promote a more social, active engagement in a range of public spaces.


Progress and developments at the site will be posted here as they occur.

19/05/2015 – PhD Viva Examination

Today, I passed my PhD viva with minor corrections! I was especially honoured to have world leading Human-computer Interaction expert, Prof. Steve Benford as my external examiner. The entirety of the research, including the motivation, prototypes and testing were received well by both examiners, further strengthening and validating the contribution of this work.

Now is the time to build on and extend this research, investing in the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks by introducing these technological interventions to the masses. Watch this space.

22/04/2015 – Conference Paper Published

I presented a works-in-progress paper at CHI 2015, detailing research I had carried out on remote guidance and navigation with mobile devices. The paper was titled Director: A Remote Guidance Technique.

The paper takes a fresh look at remote guidance between humans, mediated by a mobile device. The main contribution is a novel remote guidance framework, which can be extended to facilitate scalable, performative location-based experiences.

06/02/2015 – PhD Thesis Submitted

After nearly 3 and a half years, my PhD thesis has been submitted for examination. The thesis details a progressive journey through the prototyping and evaluation of concepts, drawing key design implications at each stage. The thesis concludes with a framework for those wishing to build future performative, extravagant, expressive place-based experiences.

28/09/2014 – Journal Article Published

I am excited to announce that we have recently published an article on Performative Technologies for Heritage Site Regeneration in a special issue of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing!

The article discusses the potential use of expressive interactions to encourage a more active, social engagement in public spaces such as heritage sites. The article contains details of our intial prototypes, some of the studies we have conducted throughout the project and a thorough evaluation of our results.

14/06/2014 – Hafod-Morfa Copperworks Open Day

On 14th June 2014, an open day was held at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks. This gave us the chance to demonstrate a number of our technologies to the public. On the day, we set up an interactive audio exhibit that allowed visitors to turn the sound in buildings on and off. The usage data from this was captured for further analysis. Estimates from organisers put the footfall at around 5,000 visitors for the day.

In an attempt to better understand visitors opinions on sharing performative media, we also conducted a short discussion with a number of groups, asking visitors what they thought about the concept of being able to share their own images, videos and sounds for others to experience at the site.

05/02/2013 – Work Begins On-site!

Groundwork are the company that have been appointed to carry out the regeneration work at the site. You can keep up to date with their developments on their Hafod & Morfa Copperworks blog.

16/02/2012 – Funding Secured

We've managed to secure £5,000 of funding to incorporate technology into the site. We hope to spend this money on high-end projectors and sound to place on site.