Pittsworth Stories is a series of living lab experiences that aims to foster digital participation through community members’ interest in telling contemporary and historic local stories. The rural town of Pittsworth is forty kilometres South-West of Toowoomba and local residents are passionate about preserving its distinct history and identity. Many of the participants in this living lab are retirees and local volunteers who expressed an interest in promoting the town and its activities through digital channels. Most of the residents had some experience using digital technologies for personal communications such as email, word processing and digital photography, but only a few felt confident with social media and online platforms.
The FDPP project worked with members of the community to design experiences to assist in the development of simple story telling techniques through digital photography, audio recording and short written stories. Initially, the platform used for these activities was Place Stories, an online resource developed by Brisbane Arts organisation Feral Arts with funding from the Australia Council. Through a series of living lab experiences, participants created a series of ‘stories’ in the form of images with written text, images with audio recordings and stand-alone audio recordings. The FDPP researchers particularly relied on the experience of participants, including one who was a practising journalist, another who creates audio stories for local radio and another who is an experienced photographer. The living labs experiences culminated in an exhibition at the local art gallery where the website was available for browsing, and some of the photographs were mounted as a small community exhibition.
The next phase of the project has involved the development of a website for the Pittsworth Family and Local history Society built on the Wix platform. A core group of participants in the Pittsworth Stories living lab took on this project with mentorship from one of the PDPP team. Other ongoing activities have included more direct experiences for community members with social media platforms such as Facebook.
This is very much an exhibition opening with a difference. Galleries no longer need to have four walls and artists have new ways to produce and display their creations. You can take great pride in accomplishing your story projects and seeing the end results laid bare for others to enjoy.
— Pittsworth Councillor Ros Scotney, launching Pittsworth Stories, 7 November 2014.
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