Digital traces and physical places – our first Tweasure Hunt

The idea of this event goes a long way back. In January, Mairead NiChroinin – theatre artist in residence with the Galway Arts Centre organised two workshops in her area of research: games, theatre and technology. One was dedicated to creating location-based, immersive games and it was run by  Hilary O’Shaughnessy.  As the workshop happened on a Monday, we couldn’t make it to Galway for it.

On February 1st, through the means of a (secret) Facebook group, the idea of a Twitter based treasure hunt – a tweasure hunt – was shared with a few people with an interest and/or experience in urban games. One of them had participated in a Tweasure Hunt organised in Dublin by Damien Mulley and Alexia Golez in January 2010. We met, we discussed about it – the technicalities looked were very simple – a Twitter hashtag – but the “what” and the “where” needed a bit more work. A lot of ideas were thrown into the hat:

  • Sharon Slater’s Limerick’s Life had a lot of interesting material that could be used;
  • Lou Dennehy’s idea of making people connect with some of the city’s storytellers was taken on board;
  • unveiling some less known local stories like the Russel Crowe visit to the Charlie St Georges pub, was another point;
  • we discovered that a UK based crowdsourcing initiative meant to list historical plaques (Open Plaques) already had 59 plaques listed for Limerick, many of them missing a photo;
  • we also wanted to encourage participants to bring a contribution, no matter how small, to life in the city. This is how the idea of erecting temporary plaques came about.

We were supposed to do a test run in March, but unfortunately it didn’t happen – we were all too busy! But because miLKlabs entered the event into the Limerick Life Long Learning Festival, the event was publicized via posters, brochure, radio and various websites – so April 1st 2012 was a fixed date!

The week before, Gabriela, Sharon and Tara met and discussed what needed to be done. Eventually, we decided to hand out a map and a list of clues to each team. They were supposed to accumulate as many points as possible by:

  • taking photos of historical plaques and making one of their own,
  • getting photographed with people involved in the Limerick Tidy Town initiative, and also sharing good and bad aspects encountered on the streets of Limerick; (the dates and times of the two events coincided, so we decided to cooperate, rather than compete!)
  • shooting a photo from the same angle as a historical photo of Limerick from the Limerick’s life archive,
  • taking a photo of a fake plaque planted by us close to a historical one- the date was April 1st, after all!

The idea of making participants meet locals in specific venues to elicit stories that could result in new plaques had to be abandoned – the logistics were getting too complicated!

Initially we wanted to ask the participants to upload their photos to Flickr and tag them so that they could appear on Open Plaques. But taking into consideration that the time was limited, each team was potentially going to produce a photo of each plaque, and the photos were going to contain team mascots, we decided to take this task upon ourselves.

The day before, we went out to check the location of each plaque to be included. Some of the plaques couldn’t be identified (like this one), others were very high up and impossible to read from across the road, and Arthur’s Quay had no less than four historical plaques in four different points of the building – which was a bit confusing for the participants. The final list of plaques to be included and the clues associated were put together during the night that preceded the event through the Facebook group and a shared Google Document.

We didn’t assume the participants would manage to do all these things in two hours – but most of them did! All the photos had to include the team’s mascot (we used stencils found in a stationery shop- an elephant, a butterfly, a train and an aeroplane) and had to be tweeted using the #LmkTH hashtag. The idea of a team logo/mascot (together with other excellent ones) were the result of a brainstorming with Gabriela’s 3rd year students from the Digital Media Design course at the University of Limerick.

On Sunday April 1st, we met at miLKlabs at 11:30am – for tea, cake, registration and a briefing. As people arrived in waves and as Frank (as a member of miLKlabs) volunteered  to mind the entrance door and guide people, some of our instructions (also handed out in a printed form) were never heard.

Forgetting the hashtag or the mascot wasn’t the worst thing though. Our fake plaque (an April Fools play on the Fanning name) was taken away by the first team who found it 😦

Team Elephant was made of two families (four adults and three young kids). They went up to a great start, but by the end of the tour they were slowed down – we assumed it  was the ice cream stop!

Team Butterfly was a family of three – and they literally flew through, securing the win.

Team Train was formed ad-hoc: a lady and a young student who had arrived separately were paired up with Frank, who had a smartphone, a Twitter account and great knowledge of the city. They took off like a rocket, and later discovered us, the monitoring team in Cafe Arabica.

Team Aeroplane was a young couple who created their Twitter account then and there. After two check-ins, they went off the radar and we thought we lost them to the nice weather. It was just a hiccup of the mobile network – in the second hour, their messages poured one after the other, making us dizzy.

The start was given at 12:07pm, and the teams were due back at 2:07pm. We left the Franciscan Friary, where miLKlabs is located, and went to a cafe with wi fi around the corner. We monitored the Twitter feed for the #LmkTH hashtag, also checking the participants’ Twitter feeds. This is how we discovered Team Train was actually ignoring the hashtag and we had to send them a warning. The score was kept on a Google spreadsheet that we shared, so that we can monitor the progress in real time. We tried to encourage the teams on their journey around the city as well.

At 2pm, we went back to miLKlabs to meet the participants. The winning team was announced: Team Butterfly had the best score!

Everybody agreed they had a good time, and we exchanged contact details in order to keep in touch for the next round. Many more plaques to photograph, secret corners of Limerick to unveil and landmarks to discover!

* If you came across interesting historical plaques and you would like to contribute to the Open Plaques repository, check their instructions! The great thing is that although the photo will be posted on your Flickr stream, once you tag it, it will appear on their site! Happy hunting;)

2 thoughts on “Digital traces and physical places – our first Tweasure Hunt

  1. Pingback: Tweasure Hunt: A stroll through Limerick city in search of American connections | Connected Limerick

  2. Pingback: Tweasure Hunt - Limerick Life Long Learning Festival

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