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Tom Schofield - Magical Reality

Tom Schofield - Magical Reality

Children’s Magical Realism for New Spatial Interactions

Magical Reality, presents outputs from research funded under the AHRC/EPSRC Next Generation of Immersive  Experiences, comprising:

  • a smartphone app, ‘Magical Reality’;
  • a toolkit methodology ‘Not Just Digital Knowledge’
  • 4 published papers.

The project responded to a need in interaction design research for creative, humanistic ways to approach space and place in designing Augmented Reality (AR). A 7-month-long participatory process involved literature experts, archivists, storytellers and children. Working with the archive of children’s author, David Almond, whose magical realist novels blend everyday reality with the fantastical, materials were digitised to become three-dimensional and interactive.

Using new smartphone AR technology, we placed them in  a walking tour of the landscape around project partner, Seven Stories: The  National Centre for Children’s Books.

Children's Magical Realism for New Spatial Interactions: AR and Archives from Digital Cultures on Vimeo.

Magical Reality drew on humanities research into magical realist literature to engage with children’s imaginative resources and their experience of place through a series of co-design workshops. It contributed knowledge to interaction design in how using speculative design workshop techniques with children could inform the development of mobile applications, for the first time doing this in the context of AR and archives.


Focusing on children’s experiences of local places and their use of imagination when prompted by archival materials, findings provided insights for designers on how children perceive the presence of the ‘unreal’ (in the form of digital objects) as an object of horror and fascination. To cultural organisations we showed how ideas from  fiction could provide new uses for archive material. To children’s literature research we offered insights into how  magical realism might relate to contemporary technologies  and what that might mean for the creation of new hybrid  texts. We later adapted our workshops, taking them to disadvantaged children in Newcastle allowing them to design their own AR tours.

Field testing the app as part of Manchester Science Festival. We ran a workshop additional to our work at Seven Stories as part of the  festival programme. Here we used an atmospheric space in a cellar beneath the city using it to situate children’s stories in response.
Tom Schofield - Magical Reality