The Department of Hidden Stories

The Department of Hidden Stories was a mobile app designed to engage school children in creating stories and exploring books and libraries. Rather than attempting to directly encourage children to read books, the app simply aimed to give children a reason to encounter books, which is the first step to finding something that captures their imagination and that they might like to read.

Working with creative writers, we developed a mobile app that would guide children through story creation by prompting them with a series of characters and fortunate or unfortunate events. Children searched the library for books to inspire their stories and captured fragments of their story using the phone camera. Then they could virtually ‘hide’ parts of the story in the books they had discovered so they other children could follow their trial through the library’s shelves.

Because the system WAS based on barcodes, we can imagine similar games working on a huge scale: someone in a bookshop in Newcastle could find fragments of a story written in a library in London.

Key Publications

Wood, G., Vines, J., Balaam, M., Taylor, N., Smith, T., Crivellaro, C., Mensah, J., Limon, H., Challis, J., Anderson, L., Clarke, A. and Wright, P. (2014). The Department of Hidden Stories: playful digital storytelling for children in a public libraryProceedings of CHI 2014, ACM, 1885–1896. doi:10.1145/2556288.2557034