Meaningful Landscapes: Spatial Narrative, Pilgrimage and Location Based Media


Session Title:

  • Locative Media and Social Data

Presentation Title:

  • Meaningful Landscapes: Spatial Narrative, Pilgrimage and Location Based Media




  • “In the ancient city of Llasa it is common to see a throng of people circumambulating the sacred precincts… I have followed the circular flow of the pilgrim’s movements …While walking and praying in the yak-butter-lit, mystical space, the pilgrims appeared transported into an enhanced, symbolic world – an augmented reality.”  _Czegledy, N. 2005. On Spatial Perception, Proboscis.

    A range of recent location based media projects and practices involve navigating landscapes layered or augmented with personal, social or historical meaning. In what ways do they echo and intersect with older cultural practices involving spatialised narrative and the walking of a meaningful landscape – the practice of pilgrimage? This paper will explore pilgrimage as a form of spatial narrative, in both European and Asian culture, and the ways in which earlier notions of walking a meaningful landscape might inform emerging location based and augmented reality practices. The paper will draw upon a range of walked, pilgrimage-style experiences, including the 88 Temple Buddhist pilgrimage on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and more secular practices describing journeys to sites of collective / cultural significance, as well as make reference to selected work-in-progress materials from Heyward’s current creative work, Pilgrim.

    With the enormous rise in uptake of iPhone and Android enabled phones over the last eighteen months, increasingly museums and other cultural institutions are seeking to bring cultural contents to mobile audiences in meaningful ways. Easily accessible mobile apps such as Layar and Junaio readily allow virtual annotation of the environment, however, issues of engagement and motivation can be problematic for both practitioners and audiences. While FourSquare and SCVNGR utilise challenge and reward models to maximise audience participation, religious and secular pilgrimage practices across many cultures continue to engage people in complex and challenging conceptual and physical journeys, taking place across extended periods of time, and traversing considerable geographic spaces. This paper explores spatialised, walked narrative in location based media and in pilgrimage practice, and the potential intersections, echoes and challenges that artists and cultural practitioners might encounter in developing locative and augmented media projects.

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