Hard Place/Good Place Yarra Ranges. Video produced by Yarra Ranges Council.

Hard place/Good place is a creative research project, focusing on lived experiences of being in a ‘hard place’ or a ‘good place’, through a collection of personal and community stories, told through Augmented Reality [AR] experiences.

Hard Place/Good Place: Yarra Ranges (2022) reveals the stories of young people in the Yarra Ranges (Vic) who were impacted by the 2021 storm event. It invites the viewer into an immersive experience of places and objects that these young people identified as the focus of their stories. Exhibited at Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, 28 Sept – 27 Nov 2022. Read more at The Age here.

Inspired by works such as Parragirls Past, Present*  the AR works each explore the lived experience of place, comprising a spoken personal ‘lived experience’ narrative (up to 15 minutes) and 3D immersive experience of moving through that place, led by the recorded voice of the story-teller.

The AR experience is viewed on iPhone or tablet and created by 3D scanning of the place/location that features in the narrative. AR involves overlaying digital information (the scanned image) onto a real-world environment, with the effect that space in front of the viewer appears to be transformed.

The initial projects will focus on experiences in regional, rural and remote locations across Australia, including areas affected by drought, bushfire and flood. The AR works will be published online and exhibited via The Big Anxiety festival / The Big Reach in Queensland and in the Yarra Ranges in Victoria in 2022. See HERE for more information about Hard Place/Good Place at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum.

The fEEL production team will offer mentoring and tech advice to support people through online meetings/ workshops (the project was originally designed to operate during times of COVID border/travel restrictions). The team now also travels to locations to scan and record stories.

The goal is to enable people to generate 3D AR digital stories in which they narrate their story while moving round a given site. They record a script or improvised story or conversation relating to the site. Then a 3D scan is created.

Technical background

Augmented reality (AR) superimposes a computer-generated image or object on the user’s view of the real-world. It creates believable composites of virtual objects in the real-world environment. Just as in the real-world, visitors can circumambulate and explore a scene to examine from all sides or get closer to reveal more detail.

Award 2023

Hard Place/Good Place: Yarra Ranges has been awarded the Archival Survival Award for Small Project of the Year (Museum) 2023 by Victorian Museums & Galleries.

A remarkable storm recovery project and exhibition driven by young people in the Dandenong Ranges who were affected by a severe windstorm in June 2021. This initiative exemplified a successful lived experience storytelling project, achieved through extensive cross-sector collaborations.Partnerships were formed with UNSW’s FEEL (Felt Experience and Empathy Lab) for AR technology and research, Yarra Ranges

Council’s Recovery Directorate for community engagement, state government funding for psychological support, and collaboration with RMIT University for exposure at The Big Anxiety festival.

The project centred around the stories of seven young participants, offering a unique perspective on disaster recovery, with their voices often overlooked in such situations. Their experiences and chosen objects or locations were presented through augmented reality, fostering community engagement and empowerment. The project’s impact was significant, with participants becoming community ambassadors, and it served as a crucial resource for healing and recovery after the storm.

Judges Comments: The judges noted that this project highlights successful collaboration between university partners and participants, with a strong emphasis on engaging stakeholder communities and demonstrating the project’s lasting relevance, particularly in the context of climate change. It underscores the essential role cultural organisations can play in their communities during times of crisis.

Victorian Museums & Galleries press release.

*Parragirls Past, Present: was created from photogrammetry scans of the Parramatta Girls Home site. You can read more about that project here