Jack Lowe

Jack Lowe

I am a cultural geographer and interactive narrative designer whose research and creative practice explores how people engage with place through playful, site-specific, experimental and/or immersive media forms.

I am currently working as a Research Associate at the Digital Cultures Research Centre, based in the Pervasive Media Studio at Watershed, a digital creativity centre in central Bristol.

My recently-completed practice-based PhD project involved independently making and testing location-based games in East Kent, UK. This method sought to understand the potential of location-based game development and play for discovering, sharing and engaging purposefully with the wide-ranging narratives through which this area is imagined, lived, performed and contested today.

Creative works have included The Timekeeper's Return, a mixed-reality treasure hunt in Canterbury's Cathedral Quarter played using QR codes; Canterbury in 3 Words, a participatory storytelling platform and location-based treasure hunt played using the What3Words app; and The Gates to Dreamland, a locative audiowalk game based around Margate's Dreamland amusement park (made as part of A Different LENS – a collaborative story-mapping project funded by Arts Council England, Kent County Council and Margate NOW).

These projects follow prior professional and academic experience in this area. I have worked with four-times BAFTA-nominated interactive arts organisation Blast Theory as a volunteer; with StoryFutures as a consultant on location-based games; and I have presented research on the narrative environments of digital games at international conferences on several occasions. My work with StoryFutures notably led to my involvement as a writer, narrative designer and consultant for Interrobang?!, a theatre-meets-online gaming experience developed by immersive theatre company Gideon Reeling.

In parallel with my PhD research, I have a longstanding interest in the cultural geographies of video game environments; in particular how a sense of place can be crafted in their hybrid physical and digitally-rendered landscapes. I’m interested in how post-phenomenology might provide theoretical frameworks through which we can apprehend the relationships between different kinds of materials, bodies and social contexts in the production of game experiences, such as feeling ‘a sense of place’ or 'attunement' with their associated landscapes. My research in this regard has centred on 'walking simulator' games, where I have used autoethnographic play techniques alongside interviews with game developers to study these phenomena.

These research interests stem back to a broader fascination with psychogeography; and particularly how different kinds of practices might engage with elements of a place’s cultural significance. To me, this is a creative challenge as well as an academic one – hence why I’ve long been interested in research that bridges between disciplines, reaches beyond the academy, and explores creative methods of inquiry.

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