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Travelling Stories: Mobile Applications for Storytellers Anxo Cereijo Roibás1, Nina Sabnani2, and Riccardo Sala3 1

SCMIS,University of Brighton (UK) National Institute of Design (India) 3 Dare (UK)


Abstract. This paper discusses the outcomes of a research carried out in collaboration with the BT Mobility Research Centre and the National Institute of Design in India, aimed of understanding appropriate applications for the use of mobile phones as leisure multimedia devices for nomadic users such as commuters and travellers. This work intended to go beyond the use of mobile devices to broadcast of TV or download of music, video clips, paying special attention to the contextual usage of this media and trying to solve some unsolved issues for these interfaces as the low sociability, creativity, contextual sensitivity and interaction that so far they enable. It prospects a use of mobile interactive multimedia systems in future communication scenarios in which users can create and share self-authored & contextual digital content. Websites such as YouTube, AOL and Yahoo providing access to personal videos that have been taken using webcams, video cameras or mobile phones, evidence an emerging trend where users become authors of multimedia content. This selfauthored content production is finding application in different areas: information (travel, finance, mortgages, cooking, culture, health, etc), entertainment (sports, gossips, performance, etc), government, commerce, etc. For example, BeenThere and TheWorldisnotFlat are user generated travel sites where people can share tips about places to go on holiday. Moreover, some major newspapers like The Guardian, use this content in their Travel section. Furthermore, other more structured websites link the videos to specific places – using, for example, Google maps - enabling users to locate the videos in a map, relating the self-authored content to a specific context. Another interesting example of self-authored content is, which is an ‘exploration of human emotion on a global scale’, or in other words, a navigation among different people’s feelings (self-authored texts, sounds, pictures or videos) and emotions in the past few hours. These feelings are organized by the users into six formal movements titled: Madness, Murmurs, Montage, Mobs, Metrics, and Mounds.User centered design methodologies that take effectively into account peripatetic users interacting in their real contexts are crucial in order to identify realistic scenarios and applications for pervasive interactive multimedia systems that provide positive user experiences. This article supports the statement that handhelds due to intrinsic attributes such as friendly multimedia production tools (video, pictures and text mainly), ubiquitous presence, communication capabilities and nimbleness to dialog with surrounding platforms such as iTV, PCs, PDAs, in-car-navigators and smart-house deployments, are highly plausible tools to support users’ creation and distribution of self-authored multimedia content in pervasive communication scenarios. This paper explores the futures J. Jacko (Ed.): Human-Computer Interaction, Part IV, HCII 2007, LNCS 4553, pp. 869–880, 2007. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007


A. Cereijo Roibás, N. Sabnani, and R. Sala of pervasive interactive multimedia systems, and in particular the user experience related to the generation and publishing, broadcasting and narrowcasting of self-authored multimedia content through mobile devices. For this scope, it analyzes some traditional storytelling methods and tools, specially the kavaad that is still in use in Rajasthan, India - in order to understand mechanisms can be the most suitable for storytelling self-production and sharing.

1 Introduction 1.1 Mobile and Pervasive TV Becoming interactive, TV is replacing traditional 'passive' TV platform (Spigel et al., 1992) through the increase of active participation by the viewers, substantially influencing people's experience with television and their TV-related social behaviour (Lee et al., 1995). As shown in table 1, several network operators in Europe, the USA, Japan, Korea and Canada are starting to broadcast TV on handhelds. Table 1. Commercial and Trial Mobile TV Worldwide

This is commonly defined as mobile TV (Fig. 1, Source: Yankee Group, 2005).

Fig. 1. TV broadcasting on a handheld

Users’ adoption of powerful handhelds with multimedia features and an increasing interoperability between platforms is resulting not only in expanding the iTV consumption beyond the domestic context, but also in supporting a ubiquitous TV presence. We can define this ‘almost everywhere TV’ as ‘pervasive TV’. While mobile TV regards handhelds as interfaces to receive and interact with TV content, pervasive TV considers a whole system of interfaces (TV, PC, mobile phones, Public Digital Displays, etc) that can be chosen by the user according to his specific context (Cereijo et al., 2005). A good example of TV ubiquity can be already found in the 2000 UK edition of the reality TV show Big Brother. As shown in Figure 2 this program has been made accessible through four interfaces (TV plus iTV, mobile phones and the Web). Users could access information about what was happening in the ‘house’ from

Travelling Stories: Mobile Applications for Storytellers


any location and at any time with the most practicable interface. More interestingly, each interface allowed different applications (e.g. forum and archives in the Web, voting, additional textual information and videos on iTV and alerts and news on mobile phones).

Fig. 2. Big Brother UK on interactive TV, mobile phones and the Web

Each interface (PC, iTV, mobile phone, PDA, car navigator, etc.) has its own specific characteristics from an HCI (screen size, resolution, etc.) and a technical (memory, transfer. info speed, processing capability, etc) points of view. HCI designers need to optimise the usability of such interfaces by identifying service formats that are most suitable and distinctive interaction patterns (Weiss, 2002). There are several reasons to believe that the future of pervasive TV won’t consist of merely broadcast of traditional TV content on mobile devices. The first one is related to the intrinsic physical diversity between both interfaces (TV and handhelds) making them unsuitable for the same way of delivering of content. The second regards the context of use: TV is traditionally used in a domestic private environment (Spigel et al., 1992) and usually involves a social sharing (Morley et al., 1986) while mobile phones are mainly used in public environments, entail an individual experience (Perry et al., 1001) and generally the viewing time is much shorter. Moreover, unlike TV, handhelds are regularly used in different situations and with different purposes and they are likely to be used as an auxiliary tool to assist users' in a main activity (in this sense, mobile content could be related to the specific context of the user - context awareness) (Harper, 2003). Finally, there are also operability differences: TV (including interactive TV) is considered a passive or low interactive medium while handhelds entail a high interactivity and connectivity. Therefore, broadcasting of TV programs on handhelds is likely to be as deluding as interactive TV was. In other words, pervasive iTV will be something else and will have to do with issues such as socialibility, context awareness, creativity, interactivity, convergence (iTV, mobile phones, in-car-navigators & Internet) and connectivity (one to one and one to many). These dissimilarities influence the way of interacting with them and therefore imply distinct interaction patterns and content as well as different service formats and features.

2 Creating Future Scenarios Due to the high uncertainness about technological trends and users’ future needs and expectations, the analysing the user experience in future scenarios of mobile and ubiquitous interactive multimedia for leisure is not an easy task. In fact, rapid changes


A. Cereijo Roibás, N. Sabnani, and R. Sala

in users’ habits and technological advances have generated enormous uncertainties and call for innovative research and development methodologies (Cereijo et al., 2006). This research is structured in 2 main parts that ran in parallel: the first one aimed to unfold what users would expect from interactive multimedia systems for leisure while on the move through their mobile phones. We’ve denominated these interactive multimedia systems as Mobile iTV in order to use an easily comprehensible concept for the users; however, we made clear that this notion should be abstracted from the traditional model of TV broadcasting. The second part intended to understand how crucial issues for this media – especially in nomadic situations - such as sociability and context sensibility could be solved with mobile phones. To do this an ethnographic research (consisting in observation and interviews) about how storytellers in Rajasthan used interactive boxes (Kavaad) to gather people together, entertain and share experiences related to their specific context. 2.1 Part One: Unfolding Users’ Expectations This phase has been carried out in collaboration with the BT Mobility Research Centre in the UK. Its methodology consisted of initial focus group sessions with representatives of the users (commuters and travellers have been selected as target group1). Each workshop involved around 13 participants living in South England and aimed to get the users view about trends on multimedia mobile applications, TV at home and on the move, new forms of content for mobile TV, advanced interaction possibilities and finally, possible interconnections between handhelds and other devices. This activity has been combined with a theoretical investigation of existing technologies and successful interactive user experiences in other areas (e.g. games). This phase also included ethnographic research using Cultural Probes, questionnaires and naturalistic observation (photo/video recording in-the-field and data analysis). While focus groups and analysis of study-cases were good sources of functional and data requirements; Cultural Probes and questionnaires provided good information about users’ requirements and finally in-the-field observation has been a very valuable technique to identify environmental and usability requirements. Cultural Probes aimed to get inspirational responses to understand beliefs, desires, aesthetic preferences and cultural concerns of users without observing them directly. This technique that was initially used by Gaver to find new features in community design (Gaver et al., 1999) has been recently exported to HCI (Hulkko et al., 2004). Six selected users have been given a pack with the probes material under condition of returning it back completed after two weeks. Each pack (Fig. 3) included four main items with the following indications: 1

It has been assumed that commuters and travellers are a particularly relevant and interesting population segment for investigating novel processes and forms of interaction with mobile multimedia content. The growing interest and dedication to mobility and mobile life among commuters and travellers are strikingly shown in the rapidly increasing share of resources used for mobile life. Use of public and private transportation and walking in urban mobility has been increasing steadily, as has the amount of money spent for mobility and telecommunications (Pooley et al. 2005).

Travelling Stories: Mobile Applications for Storytellers


• Maps: World (‘where would you imagine having a daydream?’); City (‘Where would you like to go but you can’t?’); House (‘Where would you like to be alone?’, ‘where would you like to meet people?’); Family, friends and colleagues relationships (‘show frequency and nature of contacts’). • Questionnaires: a set of eleven postcards aimed to provide a very informal and open approach, encouraging instinctive and casual replies about the users’ vision on the topic and were distributed to twelve target users. • Camera: ‘take a picture of an image/video you’d like to take with your mobile’. • Media Diary: ‘record TV, cinema and radio use (what, when, where, with whom)’. • Photo album + colour pencils: ‘collect things, images and stories of your week; make sketches’.

Fig. 3. Cultural Probes packs

Review of Results of Part One Unsurprisingly, this research uncovered a scarce users’ appeal in having broadcasting of traditional TV (or iTV) formats on their mobile phones (except some exceptions such as brief life updates of a decisive football match or extraordinary news). Mobile and pervasive iTV will have to do with issues such as socialibility (Lull J., 1980), context awareness2, creativity, interactivity (Palen et al. 2000), convergence (iTV, mobile phones, in-car-navigators & Internet) and connectivity (one to one and one to many). Therefore the concept of mobile and pervasive iTV will likely have more to do with the emerging of mobile communities that are a sort of 'DIY producers' of multimedia content: they will create multimedia content in specific contexts and with precise purposes and share it with others. Moreover, the questionnaires, observations and focus groups revealed two main categories of users in terms of sending multimedia messages (photo/video with or without text & sound): − Spontaneous or impulsive user (e.g. when travelling, during an exciting night out, when sighting an interesting thing, place or performance, or just to update on domestic issues such as children, new partner, etc). The addressees are the members of the user’s restricted social personal circle: family, friends & colleagues. − Reiterative or structured user (e.g. mob blogs). The addressees belong to a broader social circle such as enlarged communities. 2

A recent definition of context-awareness is due to Dey & Abowd (1999) who defined it as “any information that can be used to characterise the situation of an entity, where an entity can be a person, place, physical or computational object” and “the use of context to provide task-relevant information and/or services to a user, wherever they may be”. Context is becoming increasingly important in handheld and ubiquitous computing, where the user's context often changes rapidly (Pascoe et al. 1999).


A. Cereijo Roibás, N. Sabnani, and R. Sala

Also identified were users’ preferences when receiving multimedia content on their handset from people, places or things: ‘If on the move, better if related to my context’. Context awareness provides customized information that can be defined as the right information in the right place and in the right time. This relates to the work of Abowd and Mynatt (Abowd and Mynatt, 2000) who apply a set of five questions to obtain what they call a good minimal set of necessary context. These are who, what, where, when, and why questions related the context of the system. The cultural probes showed clearly the desire of users to access TV on their handhelds with two main purposes: as an enhanced democratic tool (e.g. voting on public issues or having ‘5 minutes of fame’) and to leave their ‘signature’ along the way (e.g. by putting down personal digital content on public digital boards). Therefore, the concept of mobile or pervasive iTV will probably be related to the emerging of mobile communities that are a sort of 'DIY producers' of multimedia content: users that create content in multimedia formats and share it with others. 2.2

Part Two: Encouraging Sociability in Context

This phase of the research has been carried out in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Design in India and involved ethnographic methodologies such as observation and interviews with storytellers and kaavad makers in the Rajasthan region and aimed to analyze how storytelling making and sharing (or socialization) processes can be stimulated by means of an interactive tool (the kaavad) and understanding at the same time the dynamics of this process in order to apply this concept to catalyze contextual sociability in context among travellers and commuters using ordinary mobile devices. Storytelling Tradition in Rajasthan Telling stories was and still is an effective way of communicating and getting people together. Once upon a time when there was no television, no radio and no cinema there were stories and storytellers. These stories were both, verbal and non-verbal. The cave paintings tell the story of what was important to our ancestors and then much later, when events needed to be remembered, record-keepers were especially assigned the task of memorizing and narrating the achievements of the community. Soon, the record keepers turned storytellers to hold an attentive audience mesmerized. Some took this up as a profession and began to travel. These storytellers used to travel from place to place, telling stories in which they wove fantasy and information about people in strange and magical places, triggering the imagination and curiosity of their listeners. Music and dancing were integral part of the telling and often included chanting and playing of instruments. In India, telling and listening to stories was traditionally considered very sacred. (Miller, 1994) Even today, amongst believers, it is very auspicious and sacred to hear and tell stories from the great epics. Such a tradition of storytelling is still alive in Rajasthan, India. Rajasthan has a rich tradition of storytelling and some forms are better known than others are. Most popular is the Kathaputli or string puppets, where the heads are carved from wood and painted. The body is usually made of stitched cloth and the hidden puppeteer manipulates them with strings attached to the heads of the puppets (Ahuja, 1994). The performance usually includes puppets moving to music, narration and sound effects. The stories are small vignettes and do not necessarily connect one

Travelling Stories: Mobile Applications for Storytellers


to the other. The other two forms of storytelling are more religious and belong to the Phad and Kaavad tradition. (Jain, 1998) Both are traveling shrines, however, the Phad is a painted story scroll about local heroes and the Kaavad is a three-dimensional shrine with painted stories from the great epics of mainstream Hinduism (see Fig. 4). The Kaavad tradition dates back to the 16th century AD when the vernacular languages made it possible for the epic legends of Ramayan and Mahabharat to be told in local dialect and language. This tradition may have evolved out of a need to integrate with mainstream Hinduism and facilitate worship at the doorstep when travel may have been difficult for most people.

Fig. 4. The researcher, the storyteller and the kaavad maker

Fig. 5. The kaavad closed and opened

The Kaavad Shrine The Kaavad is a traveling temple/shrine, which comes to the devotee rather than the devotee coming to the temple. It consists of several wooden panels, hinged together that are iconic of a temple (see Fig. 5). There is a sense of traveling inside a real temple as the panels open and close. A typical Kaavad has a text up front that tells its origins and explains how the storyteller will use the donations given by the audience. There is a secret panel at the bottom, which serves as the donation box at the end of the performance. The panels have painted images from the epics of Ramayan and Mahabharat. The stories on the panels may differ from one Kaavad to another but the inner sanctum sanctorum always has the painted idols of Ram, Sita/Janaki and Lakshman from the holy epic, Ramayan. (Bhanawat, 1975). There are several kinds of Kaavads used by different communities. The Telling The stories can be told in the day or night but never on an eclipse day. The Kaavad is worshipped with incense before the panels are opened. In the true epic mode, the storyteller introduces himself, his village and what story he is going to present. He also tells his audience about the benefits of listening to these stories. He squats on the ground, holding the Kaavad in his lap, lights the incense sticks, says a small prayer and begins the narration by pointing at the images with a peacock feather (see Fig 6). As the stories are told, the panels are opened and more stories are narrated. Eventually all panels are opened and the devotees have an audience with the gods. Anyone may come and listen to the stories. It is open to all regardless of caste or creed. The storyteller gives an overview of the stories on the panel, introducing all the characters. After making the general introduction, he returns to each image and tells the story in detail. Anyone from the audience can stop him and ask for explanations. If the audience wishes to move onto another story, he may skip some and move to the


A. Cereijo Roibรกs, N. Sabnani, and R. Sala

next panel. As several stories are associated with the same character, he may use the same image to tell a different story each time. At the end of the telling, the devotees offer food, flowers, and gifts and are blessed in return. This blessing ensures them a place in heaven and immortality. The audience offers food and donation to the storyteller and he wraps the Kaavad in its special square cloth ( Bhanawat, 1975)

Fig. 6. The storyteller interacting with the Kavaad

Fig. 7. e-Kavaad for educational purposes

This convergence of media and performance from the oral tradition has some parallels in the technology led, Multimedia of today, where various experts collaborate and bring together media like text, image, sound and film onto a single platform; to teach, entertain, inform and inspire. The concerns of mobility and access have been addressed in the past by the makers and tellers of the Kaavad tradition and can offer insights into similar issues today as well issues of interactivity and bringing the community together. Review of Results of Part Two The idea of a mobile temple has also inspired the use of the E- Kaavad as a travelling school. Just the way, the temple came to the devotees, the contemporary Kaavad interface allows primary school children to access stories and information by touching an image and making it come alive in an animated form. The first prototypes of e-Kaavad developed in this research aimed to use the current technologies and new media to bring quality education to all, without distinction, without any barriers of language, religion or economic status. However, in a further development of the Kavaad concept led to conceive an interactive system where a nomadic teller could share his/her experiences by guiding the narrative of the story in a spontaneous way. This system consists of a shared platform that enables the teller to manage in real-time the storyboarding of his/her story. This storyboard making implies contextualizing the story (e.g. to the location, time and audience) by deciding the audio-visual content he/she wants to share in synergy with the multimedia communication ritual he/she uses to interact in real time with the audience by (e.g. talking, pointing on the visual content he/she is showing, gesticulating, singing and dancing). Contextualization is supported by a direct feedback with the audience. This nomadic system is conceptually different to user generated travel sites such as travel blogs websites where there is no physical (or virtual) co-presence between the teller and the audience and the content is not contextualized.

Travelling Stories: Mobile Applications for Storytellers


3 Prospected Applications From all the several personas that have been created, the following one (Table 2) represents better the major typologies of users of these prospected pervasive multimedia systems. Table 2. Summarized description of the main Persona Raoul is a single 28 year old lawyer living in East London and frequently traveling abroad for work, is interested in archaeology, traveling and practicing extreme sports.

Different future scenarios for pervasive multimedia systems have been proposed, considering various typologies of users. In this phase we used dramatizations and role playing in order to achieve a high engagement of the users during the creation of the scenarios. The scenarios were created in collaboration with 10 representatives of both target groups of users, who thereafter confirmed their reliability. From all this scenarios, the following one has been selected as more appropriate for this context. Scenario Raoul is spending two weeks travelling in Northern India combining his archaeological passion with some trekking in the Himalaya. As his schedule foresees to visit many locations every two days he moves to a new destination which implies finding a new guest house and meeting new people. Raoul loves sharing his experiences with other travellers and people from the village. For this purpose he uses the m-Kavaad application on his mobile phone to aggregate people around to illustrate a multimedia story of his travel and generate discussion. The narrative process involves a spontaneous storyboarding in which the teller decides which content show to his public dragging it into the shared application. This performance might include singing, gesticulating, dancing and other corporal and oral expressions. The m-Kavaad application has a context aware feature that informs users in the proximity about other travellers with stories to tell and matching profiles around. M-Kavaad The concept behind the mobile Kavaad goes beyond a mere mobile-container of information but intends to be a ‘shared album’ for multimedia content. It consists on a shared Bluetooth enabled whiteboard application for mobile phones using that helps the storyteller to share photos, video, audio and text for example regarding his travel experiences with other users. The storyteller might use a pen to drag the content he/she wants to share with the other users and to indicate some detail in his/her screen and the other users can see in their own devices the same content and a sign (e.g. dot or arrow) indicates the specific spot the storyteller is pointing with his/her pen (see Fig. 9).


A. Cereijo Roibás, N. Sabnani, and R. Sala

Fig. 8. Raoul uses his m-Kavaad to share his travel experiences

Fig. 9. m-Kavaad application

4 Future Directions The next phase avails of enactments and simulations - instead of mediated data collection as in the previous stages - and foresees the creation of proof of concept mock-ups and development of user experiments that will bring to light the relevance and feasibility of the scenarios, applications and forms of content previously identified. In this phase there are being developed (and empirically evaluated) some prototypes of applications for the concept of m-Kavaad. Three validation sessions have been organized consisting in in-situ theatre performances following the scripts of the scenarios. The plays were performed in public environments by some of the users while the others could comment on what they were watching. The advantage of these in-situ enactments is that they provided valuable information about some contextual factors that had not been identified in the research process. Finally, thanks to explorative prototypes - horizontal proof of concept mock-ups -, relevant and plausible applications that have been identified during the research are been assessed – making use of the practice of pretending - in the field. These very early prototypes incite experimentation, are easy to use and adopt, encourage discussion between users and designers and have a very low cost. However, due to their low-Fi appearance they result unconvincing raising criticism by the users. Moreover, they focus excessively on functionality if not tested in the real usage contexts. The m-Kavaad application shows how such open and pervasive interactive multimedia systems might provide an exceptional virtual platform that might foster and enhance the development of new communities of creative users that can share content and collaborate with leisure purposes during nomadic activities. As a future development of this topic we can foresee advanced mobile shared applications where users cannot only share self-authored content and moods but also create multimedia content together. In this sense it is worth mentioning Davenport’s view of the topic: ‘Since the earliest days of cinema, artists and technologists have dreamt of a future in which everyone could create and share their vision of the world. With the evolution of ubiquitous mobile networks and the enhanced mobile handset as creative device, we are on the cusp of realizing improvisational media fabrics as an active expression in our daily lives’3. 3

Glorianna Davenport, Principal Research Associate at the MIT Media Lab in Cereijo Roibas A. (2003), Ubiquitous media at the intersection: iTV meets Mobile Communications, Panel at the Proceedings of HCI 2003 Conference. Bath.

Travelling Stories: Mobile Applications for Storytellers


5 Conclusion This research tries to recognize the mutual influence between technology and society. Just as technology shapes society, we also need to investigate how society shapes technology. This particularly holds with a social technology that needs to be integrated into household routines. In making predictions about new technology we need to explore the critical disconnections between the ways in which such technologies are produced and the ways in which they are consumed, naturalized and rejected (Cereijo and Sala, 2004), (Fischer, 1992), (Lee and Lee, 1995). In order to address complex issues such as understanding, emotion, security, trust and privacy, the data gathering techniques presented in this paper focused on users rather than on their tasks or objectives with the analyzed interfaces. This research showed how the physical and social contexts have a strong impact in the users’ attitudes towards mobile interactive multimedia applications: the context influences in a positive or negative way the users’ emotions and feelings towards the interaction process, persuading or discouraging its use (Kjeldskov et al. 2004). For example, during the in-the-field assessment of the proof of concept mock-ups some users found unsafe recording video with their mobile phones in a crowded street, as they were very concerned about thefts. The user centered approaches illustrated by this article are based on ethnomethods and user studies of new and emerging behaviour and needs, focusing on several multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary domains of pervasive interactive multimedia systems such as sociability, context awareness, creativity, interactivity, interoperability and connectivity (one to one and one to many). The physical and social context might have a strong impact in the PQoE (Perceived Quality of Experience) of the analyzed interfaces: it influences in a positive or negative way the users’ emotions and feelings towards the interaction process, persuading or discouraging its use. This field research uncovered a scarce users’ appeal in having broadcasting of traditional TV formats on their mobile phones (except some exceptions such as brief life updates of a decisive football match or extraordinary news). Therefore the concept of mobile and pervasive multimedia systems will likely have more to do with the emerging of mobile communities that are a sort of 'DIY producers' of multimedia content: they will create multimedia content in specific contexts and with precise purposes and share it with others. This project explored the storytelling tradition in Rajasthan looking at identifying the storytelling processes, tools and methods used to convey the message to the audience in a synchronous way. Thereafter it aimed to understand whether these mechanisms and traditional interaction modalities could be ‘transferred’ to the area of HCI with handhelds to enable users to share experiences, or in other words, to socialize. In this way new communities will find themselves in new communication contexts and in new expressive situations: they will be able to create their own ‘movies’ and share them with other users, places (real and virtual environments) and objects (intelligent objects and other digital-physical hybrids). This expression of users’ creativity needs to be corroborated by interfaces that support some form of social interaction (Preece et al. 2003). Open, diffuse and pervasive interactive multimedia systems can provide an exceptional virtual platform that might foster and enhance the development of new communities of creative users that can share moods, content and collaborate with different purposes such as work, entertainment or government.


A. Cereijo Roibás, N. Sabnani, and R. Sala

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Travelling Stories: Mobile Applications for Storytellers  

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