With the rise in popularity of mobile & social technologies, and the increasing drive to take technology to the streets, designers are tackling the issues of designing for wide audiences with different devices & across multiple everyday environments.

How do you design for an environment that you and your participants will have little to no control over?

How do you decide what technologies to use?

How do you know what the pitfalls are when creating large scale interactive experiences that need to know where people are?

This framework is intended as a guide to the things you need to consider when creating an interactive experience that depends on location in some way.

Location-aware: knowing where your participants are at any given time.

Location-specific: designing for/within a given location (building, campus, block, town).

The framework is not intended as a 'do-this, then do-that' list of things to do. It is a 'think about this, think about that' guide that should make life easier for you when tackling this particular design space.

It is informed by the experiences of those who have come before, and the issues & concerns that they had to deal with in their design process.

Each aspect of the framework will feed into, inform & influence other aspects. There is no set sequence or recipe for working with the framework. Individual aspects will be more relevant for consideration at different times of the process.

Enough explanation!
Take me to the framework!


not work!

Being 'of play'. A state of mind we willingly enter that takes us out of our everyday world. A place where we understand the rules & explore our imaginations alone or with others.

Play is 'not serious' but can contain great seriousness and is something that comes naturally to most people.

Read More:

Rules of play: game design fundamentals by Salen & Zimmerman 2004

Homo Ludens: A study of the play element in culture by J. Huizinga 1970

Designing for Homo Ludens by Bill Gaver in i3 magazine: 2-5 2002 - available from Equator website


active involvement

Rather than passive consumption, participants actively engage with the experience, the space & others around.

Interaction may be with a physical object, a person, across the physical/digital divide. A response is always given.


system & outcome

As a system: the designed set of interactions that particpants engage with, an 'Experiential System'.

As an outcome: the participants' memories of their time with the 'system', an 'Experience'.

All together: what you are creating is a designed & set of interactions that participants engage with that occasions a memory (positive or negative) of the activities completed.

Read more:

Theoretical foundations for experiential system design by Marc Davis 2003


where are your participants

Having an awareness of where your participants are during the experience, tracking them as they move through space.

Absolute: the actual position is transmitted by a device/technology (ie. GPS, mobile cell identification)

Relative: the position is determined relative to other objects in space (ie. via sensors) or by their interacting with the system at a known point.

Self-declared: the participant is made responsible for declaring their position to the system.



Restricting the experience participation to a particular location.

Bound World: the experience needs to be restricted to a particular (size or style of location) but is not designed with the specific characteristics of that location in mind.

Fixed World: the experience is designed with the specific characteristics of the location in mind. Highly localised & intrinsically linked with the people, resources & contents of the location.

Transferrable World: the experience is designed with the specific characteristics of a location in mind. More flexible than a fixed world dependency, an experience can be ported to similar locations with minor changes.

Example works

Can you see me now? by Blast Theory

Location Aware: tracks on-the-street players using GPS, online players are tracked on an online map.

Location Specific: transferrable world. This work has been deployed to a number of locations, adjusting the online players map to match.

Both online & on-the-street players, using a digital map overlaying the physical world to communicate between.

In fact, most of the works created by Blast Theory operate on-the-streets, using a variety of methods & to varying degrees of location-dependence. I like Frank & Uncle Roy All Around You are also good examples.

Grafedia by John Geraci

Grafedia is a 'geo-annotative' work that allows people to link digital media (text, audio, video, websites) to physical locations.

Handwritten hyperlink text is written on the physical world & when accessed (via email or SMS) provides the reader with digital content linked to that specific location. Links can be accessed in-situ or at a later date.

Yellow Arrow by Counts Media Inc

Yellow Arrow is another 'geo-annotative' work that allows people to link digital media (text, audio, video, websites) to physical locations.

Digital media is linked to uniquely coded 'yellow arrow' stickers which are placed in physical locations and is retrieved via SMS. 'Geo-annotative' works allow inhabitants of a space the opportunity to share their individual experiences & thoughts about a location.

Enough explanation!
Take me to the framework!