Audiophoto Narratives for
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Swansea University | firstname.lastname@example.org
It is widely assumed that the Internet is a global
information resource. This is not true. For many
people in the poorest parts of the world, the
Internet is both technically and psychologically
inaccessible through lack of infrastructure,
money, and the requisite forms of textual and
computer literacy. The StoryBank project has
been tackling some of these issues by using the
fast-growing infrastructure of mobile telephony
to support an alternative form of information
sharing in pictures and sound.
Situated in the Indian village of Budikote and
inspired by developments in audiophotography
and mobile imaging [ 1, 2], we have been exploring the possibility of semiliterate communities
using the camera phone as a new kind of pen
and paper for creating and sharing audio-visual
stories. The system design has been described
in a recent conference paper [ 3], and we are
currently preparing a full write-up of the trial
results. Here we want to promote the simple
story format arrived at in the research, and point
to some of the interaction design challenges of
supporting it in this context.
The mobile is undoubtedly a transformative
technology for development work. Networking
and power-management innovations and large-scale investment mean that even very remote
rural locations are getting connected. But a word
of caution: One cannot necessarily deploy in-built phone interfaces and applications for populations that do not have our exposure to computing or the levels of textual literacy we assume.
Hence, three non-textual applications were
written for the Nokia N80 camera phone:
StoryCreator, StoryPlayer, and StorySender. This
was a considerable challenge, since all existing
mobiles employ a menu-based style of interaction with textual labels. In contrast, we used
culturally sensitive icons developed with our village population to control simple multimedia and
file-handling functions. StoryCreator was used to
author short audio-photo narratives, comprising
a storyboard of up to six still images synchronised to a voice-over of up to two minutes long
(see Figure 3). Users are led through a story-creation process to fill media slots in a template,
either image first or sound first. Once the media
elements in each stream are recorded, users are
prompted to synchronise the streams by replaying the sound clip and tabbing through the images at the time they want them to appear. The
only editing supported is to review and delete
media elements or their synchronisation.
Despite the creative limitations of this design
and a very slow response time on some of the
actions, rural Indian users were able to use it
in a one-month trial to record a variety of story
content with minimal training. One hundred and
thirty-seven stories were recorded by 79 people,
using 10 phones, on topics ranging from agriculture and health to education, self-help groups,
and entertainment. The average number of images used was 4. 5, with a mean voice-over length
of 66 seconds. A typical story is shown in Figure
1, with the local Kannada language voice-over
translated and transcribed below the picture to
which it relates. A young boy describes the challenges of rearing cows in a short agricultural
story lasting 1 minute 50 seconds; this plays
back full-screen like a PowerPoint slideshow with
spoken narration. A range of creative effects
were demonstrated across the corpus, including
the use of song during activities, the unfold-
[ 1] Frohlich D.M.
Bringing photos to life
with sounds. Springer
[ 2] Sarvas R., M. Viikari
M., J. Pesonen, and H.
Controlled and immediate sharing of mobile
images.” Proceedings of
Multimedia 2004, 724-
731. New York: ACM
[ 3] Jones M, W.
Buchanan, D. M.
Frohlich, D. Rachovides,
M. Frank, and M.
yourself: Designing for
in a rural Indian context.” Working Paper.
DIS 2008, Capetown,
South Africa, 2008.