Into the AR Metaverse: Child Co-Design for cultural exchange in the UK and China
This paper presents work in progress from StoryFutures China (Royal Holloway, University of London and Brunel University), which is developing a novel Augmented Reality (AR) experience for and with children (aged 7-11 years) from the UK and China. Through exploring a theme of ‘science and nature’ between the UK’s National Gallery and a partner museum in Shanghai, this immersive experience aims to stimulate children’s interest in, and learning about art, art galleries, and the science of nature. In so doing, the experience is designed as part of a project exploring how to foster intercultural and economic exchange between cultural institutions in the UK and China.
Whilst such an exchange is a complicated and difficult process, involving finding points of common understanding and shared benefit across economic, IP, reputational and workflow issues, the child-led co-design process has found nimble, engaging and funny ways to facilitate a cultural exchange between the UK and China. Through the children’s co-design in Roblox, Zoom and real world platforms, the project has developed a magical metaverse for the immersive AR experience that binds together cultural institutions across the world in the shared goal of protecting cultural treasures.
This paper will discuss the contributions of this project to co-design methods and participatory research with children in intercultural contexts. It will reflect on the various ways children became involved in the co-design process, highlighting its successes and challenges. The paper will evaluate effective ways to initiate and sustain methods that enable children to be involved as active agents at different stages of the design process, and that allow children and adults to work together as design partners. In so doing, the children play a pivotal role in facilitating and enabling the cultural and economic exchange of the adult stakeholders.
Royal Holloway, University of London
Christine Singer is a Children’s Immersive Audience Researcher at StoryFutures, Royal Holloway (University of London). She works on the StoryFutures China project (Royal Holloway, University of London and Brunel University), where she oversees research activities focused on young audiences, including child co-design and user testing with children and families. Christine’s wider research expertise is screen media for children and young people in contexts around the world. She has previously worked on projects including European children’s screen content addressing forced migration and diversity (at King’s College London) and children’s media usage during the Covid-19 pandemic in England (with Open Data Institute). She holds a PhD from SOAS, University of London, with her doctoral thesis focusing on children’s films and television in South Africa.