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MEMEX: MEMories and EXperiences for inclusive digital storytelling

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MEMEX (MEMEX: MEMories and EXperiences for inclusive digital storytelling)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2020-11-30

Social cohesion is the ongoing process of developing a community of shared values and challenges and equal opportunities, based on a sense of trust, hope and reciprocity. Accordingly, achieving social cohesion involves reducing disparities, enabling people to have a sense that they are members of the same group or community and face shared challenges. Inclusion of social groups at risk of exclusion has been a running theme in European Cultural Heritage discussions. Several initiatives in the cultural heritage domain have explored the power of storytelling and crowdsourcing in promoting an increased awareness and engagement from the general public. Both techniques are known to significantly increase audience engagement with cultural heritage enabling it to be easily shared, recommended and embedded in other media.
Despite the number of proposed projects targeting inclusion through CH, in this domain as well as in others, the ability to effectively measure social inclusion remains a challenging problem. Therefore, the strategy used in MEMEX is to clearly define and analyse the degree of the limitations and barriers that marginalised groups find to access culture and participate in the cultural life of their communities.
The MEMEX project encourages cohesion through collaborative tools that provide inclusive access to tangible and intangible cultural heritage and, at the same time, facilitate encounters, discussions and interactions between communities at risk of social exclusion. These tools will empower communities of people with the possibility of welding together their fragmented experiences and memories into compelling and geolocalised storylines using new personalised digital content linked to the pre-existent European Cultural Heritage. To this end, MEMEX will nurture actions that contribute to practices of recognition of differences by giving voice to individuals for promoting cultural diversity.
The technological embodiment of MEMEX is an app installed on a smartphone allowing non-expert users to create and visualise stories related to their personal memories and experiences digitally linked to the geographical locations of either intangible or a tangible cultural places/object. The interface will allow users to annotate using Augmented Reality any physical object or location with their memories in the form of digital images, videos, audio recordings or textual input using a smartphone. Effectively, the users of MEMEX will be active actors shaping contemporary and historical content, including new material from their experiences and memories, and personalising cultural heritage and creative media content in a meaningful and social inclusive manor.
The target communities of MEMEX are socially fragile targets that are systematically excluded from various cultural opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of a different group, and which are fundamental to social integration. As a heterogeneous sample of these communities, MEMEX will deploy three distinct pilots to analyse different expectations from communities located across the European territory:

- Migrant women in Barcelona (Spain);

- Communities from former Portuguese colonies in Europe (Portugal);

- Priority neighbourhood from Paris northern suburbs (France).

MEMEX overall technology goal is to create easy to use ICT tools for the communities at risk of exclusion and, at a larger extent, for European citizens to create and engage into stories linked to our cultural heritage. The tool will be shaped over the user needs and it will allow to collaboration in the input of content and in the creative process of storytelling while encouraging social cohesion and recognition of differences with effective instruments to combat social exclusion.
The policies procedures and technology of the collaborative tools developed in MEMEX aim to promote an innovative vision for creating digital stories that will reach different targets of stakeholders in the field of culture and education.
In the first year of the project MEMEX has managed to identify heterogeneous target groups within its three pilot locations (Paris in France; Barcelona in Spain and Lisbon in Portugal) that encompass different communities needs, develop a larger understanding of both the social and technical requirements and develop the first version of the MEMEX App. Within the first year, two critical milestones have been achieved. The first in May (M6) with the establishment of the requirements of the project. This investigated the communities needs from a social perspective by identifying the causes of social exclusions and the audience development strategies to engage users in adopting the MEMEX app. The definition of the requirements was greatly aided by a pre-pilot study conducted in Lisbon (Portugal). At the same time, the technical requirements investigated how the technology could be suited to the social requirements while delivering innovative and ground-breaking research. The second milestone was delivered in November 2020 (M12) with the release of the first version of the MEMEX app bringing together both story creation and story visualisation aspects of the project. In the MEMEX app these aspects are joined together into one easy to use application that already in use by the pilots for the evaluation in the first half of the next reporting period. This significant effort of the consortium has brought together the efforts of technology partners and social partners to develop a suitable app to support the objectives of the project.
MEMEX combines technical, social and humanities innovation and it proposes revolutionary, yet reachable, technology that makes finally viable the inclusion of groups at risk of marginalisation. The project will advance current research to obtain a usable prototype app that can be effectively used by non-expert users. Given the interlaced components of the project, MEMEX ambition will be first related to the technological innovation regarding the state of the art and patent landscape.
MEMEX will rely on participatory design methodologies, like workshops, focus groups, collaborative sketching, etc., involving actively the communities in the pilots and the general public in order to design and implement tools for collaborative storytelling usable by non-expert users. More specifically, the interdisciplinary knowledge of creative writers, digital humanities, and HCI will bring to the production of exemplar stories, templates for interactive stories to be used by the general public.
Thanks to its ambitious goals, concepts and planned advancements to the current state of the art, the MEMEX project will have a high impact on a wide numbers of EU actors contributing to the social inclusion of communities at risk of being marginalised and to the promotion and understanding of CH to broader audiences. The MEMEX proposal is directly contributing to the specific expected impacts identified in the work programme under the addressed topic DT-TRANSFORMATIONS-11-2019 “Collaborative approaches to cultural heritage for social cohesion”. Indeed, the technology of MEMEX is expected to fundamentally revolutionise the way to create content with collaborative tools which can have a wider application beyond the project scope.
The MEMEX Poster in English but available in all languages of the target areas.