Kids Interest in Immersive and Interactive Future Broadcasting Possibilities
This is the second of two posts about the future of broadcast media according to kids, and forms part of a project myself and Eleanor Dare have been undertaking through a commission by the University of York’s XR Stories. The first post focused on the methodology we created for children to show us directly how they think the dissemination of heritage brand story characters might be altered by emerging technologies. Here, I extend on the last post to highlight the methodology used to allow children to engage with world-building a heritage brand using emerging technologies, and their thoughts on immersive and interactive possibilities for future broadcasting.
Heritage Brands and Future Broadcasting Possibilities
Our investigation of this topic focused on using the Beano as a case study. This is because the Beano can be classed as a heritage brand.
Brand heritage is a…concept within the marketing discipline, which suggests that the consumer appeal of products and services offered by older companies may be enhanced by the historical characters of their brands. (Hudson, 2011; Urde et al, 2007 in Hudson, 2015)
In the case of the Beano, which began in 1938, this would suggest enhanced interest in maintaining the historical brand. Additionally, it is a good illustration of a brand that has already withstood reincarnations, such as from comic, to TV show and app, with this history providing context for exploration of how emerging technologies might shift and change the brand again.
The aim of this project was to seek children’s own ideas for how emerging technologies might alter their interaction with brands. In order to discover this, Eleanor and I developed a methodology that would bring participants into direct contact with emerging technologies, as many young children have not yet had the opportunity to explore virtual/ augmented reality, photogrammetry or concepts around early metaverse prototypes or Artificial Intelligence (AI).
To do so, we created two sets of public engagement workshops for children and families attending the National Science and Media Museum. In the first ones, children used analogue and emerging technologies to explore the future of Beano Characters, and for the second set (reported on here) to explore world building.
Following a format of using Beano comics and figures as prompts for speculative design (Dunne and Raby, 2013; Wargo and Alvarado, 2020), child-participants were asked to take a cardboard box and turn it into a building for future Beano Town (Figure 2).
Children were also invited to use Play-Doh if there were smaller details they wanted to add to the town. Once completed, participants added their building to those made by other children to collectively create Future Beano Town (Figure 3).
Once made, kids learned how to scan their building using a photogrammetry app to produce a 3D asset that could be used within game engines.
The outputs from the combined workshops gave us characters and story world assets, which we went on to explore in relation to creating immersive and interactive spaces using emerging technologies. For example, Eleanor used the assets in an immersive VR world (Figure 4).
Whereas, I used them to create an interactive game within Roblox, a so called prototype metaverse for its seemingly endless possibilities for playing and socialising online (Figure 5).
During the workshops we showed children early versions of these spaces to gain further insight from them. Early thoughts on the data we collected (although not yet fully analysed) include emerging themes around interaction, new technologies and creativity, and mashed-up brands.
In my last blog post I talked about the decline of kids TV viewing and the decision to stop broadcasting CBBC as a linear platform in the coming years. Kress (2010) writes that if we want to understand the future of communication practices we have to look to what is changing in relation to societies and technologies. This nods towards changes in the technologies children are using to consume content with online gaming platforms appearing to take up much of the time past generations might have given to traditional broadcast media, such as linear TV viewing. An example of how this adds up is outlined in the graphic below from Influencer Marketing Hub which shows that Roblox had 45.5 million daily users recorded in 2022 with larger projections predicted for this year (Figure 6).
What is different about traditional TV viewing and contemporary gaming trends is that online games allow distanced social interactions to take place whilst engaging with content.
New Technologies and Creativity
Returning to Kress’ (2010) ideas around technological changes propelling communication changes, he describes how the internet shifted the relationship between consumption and creation to be two rather than one-way. Since he wrote this in 2010, shifts have further occurred so that emerging technologies and their accompanying softwares make once complex processes relatively easy for everyone to use and self-teach. For example, Roblox, offers a user friendly Studio to allow content creation that can then be seamlessly shifted to their online gaming platform and consumed.
The photogrammetry app we used as part of our methodology is simple enough for children to create immediate outputs with physical materials to be used in digital spaces. This further removes barriers for less advantaged children who might only have shared computer access or limited wifi connection to still be involved in digital production should they wish.
Children’s love of creating with cardboard and Play-Doh was no less depleted than it has ever been. Perhaps because opportunities to make with physical materials have been marginalised in favour of STEM and STEAM subjects, children showed real excitement at creating with physical materials.
What it also shows is that whereas formal education, including higher education (where Eleanor and I teach) are making an artificial divide between analogue and digital making, this is not the case for children who seamlessly enjoyed blending the two. Indeed it is not the case for many creative professionals either. As AI begins to emerge and impact on the ways in which we create and consume content it is also worth noting that the best examples of AI use are when artists collaborate to create with AI (Main et al, 2022), much in the way we invited children to create through our methodology.
The final point to make is that children sought to create the most playful and engaging experiences regardless of brand. So whilst we were working with the Beano as a focus for the workshops, this did not limit children to thinking their ideas had to be confined to this brand. In the example below, one child chose to make Sponge Bob House for Beano Town (Figure 7).
When asked about the decisions around this, children talked about their love of brands combining for limited edition content etc. Again, this relates to ideas from Kress in his earlier writing (1996) where he talks about children using whatever is around them to make, play and communicate, a complete “mash-up”, regardless of the original intention for their use made by adults.
So far, the key to future broadcast media for kids seems to be to create content that blends brands and allows for fun social and interactive experiences.
Dunne, A. and Raby, F. (2013) Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hudson, B. T. (2015) Brand Heritage. IN: Cooper, C. L. (ed) Wiley Encyclopaedia of Management.
Hudson, B.T. (2011) Brand heritage and the renaissance of Cunard. European Journal of Marketing, Vol.45(9/10), p.1538–1556.
Kress, G. (2010) Multimodality: A social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. London: Routledge.
Kress, G. (1996) Before writing. Rethinking the Paths to Literacy. London: Routledge.
Main, A. Grierson, M., Yamada-Rice, D. & Murr, J. (2022) Augmenting Personal Creativity with Artificial Intelligence. C&C ’22: Creativity and Cognition, June 2022 p.462- 465. Published online at ACM Digital Library.
Urde, M., Greyser, S.A. and Balmer, J.M.T. (2007) Corporate brands with a heritage. Journal of Brand Management, Vol.15 (1), p.4–19.
Wargo, J. M. and Alvarado, J. (2020) Making as worlding: Young children composing change through speculative design. Literacy. Vol. 54, p.13– 21.