Interactive Digital Technologies and the User Experience of Time and Place




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title


De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


This research examines the relationship between the development of a portfolio of interactive digital techniques and compositions, and its impact on user experiences of time and place. It is designed to answer two research questions:

• What are some effective methods and techniques for evoking an enhanced awareness of past time and place using interactive digital technologies (IDTs)? • How can users play a role in improving the development and impact of interfaces made with IDTs?

The principal creative and thematic element of the portfolio is the concept of the palimpsest, and its artistic potential to reveal visual and aural layers that lie behind the landscapes and soundscapes around us. This research thus contributes to an evolving cadre of creative interest in palimpsests, developing techniques and compositions in the context of testing, collating user experience feedback, and improving the ways in which IDTs enable an artistic exploration and realisation of hidden layers, both aural and visual, of the past of place.

An iterative theory-composition-testing methodology is developed and applied to optimise techniques for enabling users to navigate multiple layers of content, as well as in finding methods that evoke an increased emotional connection with the past of place. This iterative realisation cycle comprises four stages – of content origination, pre-processing, mapping and user interaction.

The user interaction stage of this cycle forms an integral element of the research methodology, involving the techniques being subjected to formalised user experience testing, both to assist with their further refinement and to assess their value in evoking an increased awareness of time and place. Online usability testing gathered 5,451 responses over three years of iterative cycles of composition development and refinement, with more detailed usability labs conducted involving eighteen participants. Usability lab response categories span efficiency, accuracy, recall and emotional response.

The portfolio includes a variety of interactive techniques developed and improved during its testing and refinement. User experience feedback data plays an essential role in influencing the development and direction of the portfolio, helping refine techniques to evoke an enhanced awareness of the past of place by identifying those that worked most, and least, effectively for users. This includes an analysis of the role of synthetic and authentic content on user perception of various digital techniques and compositions.

The contributions of this research include:

• the composition portfolio and the associated IDT techniques originated, developed, tested and refined in its research and creation • the research methodology developed and applied, utilising iterative development of aspects of the portfolio informed by user feedback obtained both online and in usability labs • the findings from user experience testing, in particular the extent to which various visual and aural techniques help evoke a heightened sense of the past of place • an exploration of the extent to which the usability testing substantiates that user responses to the compositions have the potential to establish an evocative connection that communicates a sense close to that of Barthes’ punctum (something that pierces the viewer) rather than solely that of the studium • the role of synthetic and authentic content on user perception and appreciation of the techniques and compositions • the emergence of an analytical framework with the potential for wider application to the development, analysis and design of IDT compositions



creative computing, interactive digital technologies, creative technologies, palimpsests, composition, rich internet applications, usability testing



Research Institute