Layar-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and reappropriate public space.

Liao, T., & Humphreys, L.

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Liao, T., & Humphreys, L. (2015). Layar-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and reappropriate public space. New Media & Society, 17(9), 1418–1435.

Augmented Reality , Layar , Mobile , Place , Space , Tactics

As augmented reality (AR) is becoming technologically possible and publicly available through mobile smartphone and tablet devices, there has been relatively little empirical research studying how people are utilizing mobile AR technologies and forming social practices around mobile AR. This study looks at how mobile AR can potentially mediate the everyday practices of urban life. Through qualitative interviews with users of Layar, a mobile AR browser, we found several emerging uses. First, users are creating content on Layar in ways that communicate about and through place, which shapes their relationship and interpretations of places around them. Second, we found a growing segment of users creating augmented content that historicizes and challenges the meanings of place, while inserting their own narratives of place. Studying emerging uses of AR deepens our understanding of how emerging media may complicate practices, experiences, and relationships in the spatial landscape.

Main finding
As augmented reality (AR) is increasingly available via a number of technological devices, and as such this study attempts to interrogate how use of mobile AR in particular relates to everyday practices in urban settings. Results of this study indicate that creating and using AR platforms changes the way people feel toward spaces, even when not using the program. Further, user-generated layers can be oriented toward (a) public or (b) private communication, but often public communication focuses on providing information about facts about a place, whereas private communication can be very personal (e.g., placing a digital “object” in someone’s home as a gift. AR layers are also often used to historicize or memorialize a public space (such as creating virtual memorials) or to question authority over place; particularly bringing voices to otherwise excluded groups.

Description of method used in the article
Phone and Skype semi-structured interviews (N = 12) with people who actively create mobile augmented reality (AR) layers in the mobile AR platform, Layar. Interviews focused on how users used Layar, how it influences their decisions and experiences, how it changes their relationship to spaces, and their motivations for creating new layers. [Interviews likely occurred in 2011 and 2012 although not directly stated.]

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