#1252: “Kinfolk” App is Cultivating an AR Archive of Black History with Digital Monuments & Speculative Futures

Kinfolk: Black Lands is described by co-founder Idris Brewster as “an Augmented Reality Archive of Black, Brown, LGBTQ, and underrepresented history in general using the power of immersive storytelling and immersive media to uplift stories from our past and connect those with the present and the future.” It’s an application that features over 20 prominent figures from Black History including digital monuments and statues that you can place in your home or local outdoor environments.

There are also a number of public spaces of historical importance that have site-specific AR installations to engage audiences in the places where these histories occurred. I’ve covered a previous incarnation of Kinfold when it was Movers and Shakers back in episode #656 with Glenn Cantave when it was focused on recontextualizing the Christopher Columbus monument in New York City with augmented reality art.

I had a chance to catch up with Idris at Tribeca Immersive 2023 to unpack the current state of the their Kinfolk project as well as Kinfolk app for iOS and Kinfolk app for Android, each with native AR features. We also dig into some future plans for their continued content expansion, looking into more immersive and volumetric work, and the potentials for more speculative future art that taps into the Black Imagination and Afrofuturism potentialities.

Kinfolk earned a special jury mention for Tribeca Immersive Storyscapes with a jury comment saying, “A profound and authentic representation of the Black experience in America, KINFOLK’s mission to bring history to contemporary audiences through AR technology not only celebrates the richness of Black culture and history in New York City and beyond, but also serves as a powerful tool for education and understanding, making it a standout contender deserving of recognition.”

This is the final episode of my interviews with creators featured at Tribeca Immersive 2023, and here’s a full list of all 16 episodes in this series:

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. It's a podcast that looks at the potentials of immersive storytelling and the future of spatial computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. So this is the last of my series of looking at different immersive experiences from Tribeca Immersive, and this is a piece called Kinfolk Black Lands, which I actually showed at Tribeca earlier in 2021, and described by one of the co-founders Idris Brewster as an augmented reality archive of black, brown, LGBTQ, and underrepresented history in general using the power of immersive storytelling and immersive media to upload stories from their past and connect those with the present and the future. So they're featuring prominent figures from black history and creating different statues that you can either place within the context of your home or they also are starting to get into more site-specific locations where you can go to these different locations and have a lot more context of these people and what they were able to accomplish. So, a lot of this is contained within their application that you can download today. It's called Kinfolk that you can get from the App Store. And they've been expanding it out and using the potentials of augmented reality to explore this type of history that they want to shine a light on. So, I previously covered when they were called Movers and Shakers, I did an interview with Glen Contave back in episode 656. where at the time Glenn was using a lot of these augmented reality applications to protest the Columbus monument there in New York City to add additional context to the history of Columbus and his connections to slavery and to bring up a lot of the less favorable images of Columbus in the context of all these monuments that are spread out throughout the course of the United States and especially in the context of New York City. So we talk about the evolution from movers and shakers into kinfolk, but also all the different ways that Idris wants to start to expand this concept of using augmented reality to explore art and to have more social dynamics and more participation as they move forward as they're cultivating their community. This experience actually picked up a special jury mentioned in the main StoryScapes competition. I just wanted to read this jury comment. It says, a profound and authentic representation of the Black experience in America, Kinfolk's mission to bring history to contemporary audiences through augmented reality technology not only celebrates the richness of Black culture and history in New York City and beyond, but also serves as a powerful tool for education and understanding, making a standout contender deserving of recognition. So, that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Wyssa VR podcast. So, this interview with Idris happened on Tuesday, June 13th, 2023 at Tribeca Immersive in New York City, New York. So, with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:52.993] Idris Brewster: My name is Idris Brewster. I'm the co-founder of Kinfolk. Kinfolk is an augmented reality archive of black, brown, LGBTQ, and just underrepresented history in general, where we use the power of immersive storytelling and immersive media to uplift stories from our past and connect those with the present and the future. So we create digital monuments that people can experience in their own space through the app, and we're currently building out the next iteration, which will be able to go out to public spaces and engage with them in the places where those histories occurred.

[00:03:25.737] Kent Bye: Great. Maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into this space.

[00:03:31.219] Idris Brewster: So I've had a bit of a background, I guess. I've come from a family of storytellers, more traditional like filmmakers. There was a film about my life from when I was five years old to 18 years old called American Promise that followed me. through the lens of a black kid going to an all-white private school. So from the early age, I guess, I was thinking critically about my place in the world of being an other and always thinking about solutions to that. But through my schooling, I was really interested in graphic design, digital media, coding. I'm on the cusp of a digital native, born in 94. But then when I went to college, I went to Occidental College. And I majored in cognitive science and computer science. So for my thesis, I was able to get access to the Oculus DK2. Before it was released and I was doing experiments, putting people through VR and really focusing on the connection between VR and emotions. But then did that, was really interested in building games and building immersive experiences because it blended my background as an artist as well as a technologist. But then when I graduated, I worked for Google. It was a place called Google Code Next, which was an education space at Google where we taught black and Latino high schoolers around New York. how to do coding, but through the lens of art, storytelling, and community design. And so we're teaching them how to make beats, how to 3D model, how to solder, how to use Raspberry Pis. So a lot of really creative ways to use technology because When I went through schooling, it was very rote in terms of the way you learned computer science. So that was what I did there. But on the side, I was working on projects. I'm a hip-hop musician. I do a bunch of different sort of audio and visual work. And I was trying to find a way to bring all those together. and that's why A.R. seemed like the best place to do that. And so, met a few of my folks that are kinfolk that were, we were seeming to tackle the problem in the city that was speaking about, well the problem that we were trying to solve was the mayor was deciding what to do with the Christopher Columbus monument. You could either take it down, make it a landmark and keep it up, And so we were advocating for the removal of the statue and wanted to bring up statues of our own. And so we brought the demonstrations at Columbus Circle, at meetups, places, and we were just going all around the city trying to show off our AR work that told the true story of Christopher Columbus. But really what ended up happening was they ended up making it a landmark and all the noise, all the storytelling we were trying to do didn't really end up working. But we did realize that this is a tool to tell stories in a new way, immerse people, and also reimagine your public spaces like never before. So that's why we started building out these monuments. We've got residencies at the New Museum through New Ink, also Eyebeam at the same time. And I was like, all right, I'll take the leap, leave Google, come do this full time. And we ended up getting a large grant from Verizon to really push things forward. And then that kept spiraling until 2021, when we were able to release it to the public for the first time on the App Store.

[00:06:37.242] Kent Bye: Yeah, 2021 seemed to be a big year because you not only released Kinfolk, I remember Tribeca, it was a pandemic year, so I was singing remotely, but also at Sundance you had a piece with Traveling the Interstitium with Octavia Butler, you had a WebXR type of piece with HipHop, and maybe you could describe that piece, because that was in a complex of other immersive pieces that were all part of that project.

[00:06:57.711] Idris Brewster: Yeah, so that was Traveling the Astitium, and it was like an experience to do with Terrence, Nance, and a few other folks who what we were thinking about was how can we take the work of Octavia Butler, be inspired by that, and then bring that into an immersive space, but also make it accessible through web, since it was going to be at Sundance. Actually, we didn't know that at the beginning. So we met for like three to four months, had homework each month to read Octavia Butler, think about deeply. these books and how to translate them. And so for us, it was like, again, for me, I'm always thinking, how can I blend interests? And I think that's why I'll always stick to immersive because it's a space to bring a bunch of things together. But it was all inspired by what if one moment in time. hadn't happened and black folks were able to sort of travel through dimensions to find this pocket universe where they could be free, they could be safe, and they can be creative and really control their environment without dealing with the repercussions of oppression and real world issues. And so that's why I was like, all right, we're creating a new world, a new environment. And that's why we created what I called for my piece, It was called Quantum Summer, and it explored this ancestral space. We made a whole island through Quill, and each portion of the island had a different soundtrack, where we created songs with my friends. We had four different songs plotted around the island, and people could just, using WASD, move through the space and really hear the stories through music, because the thought behind that was black folks really archive their histories in different ways, I would say. There's of course writing it down, but throughout our history it's been more oral, it's been more performance, it's been more art and expression, visual art, and so trying to capture again that dynamic way to tell our history, and that's why music, song, was a really great way to do that. And I think rap, it was a bunch of rappers, and I think how I see rappers are sort of griots, like they're storytellers, shamans of the cultural experience, and so I wanted to use them as the basis to tell these stories, and so those different rappers we called Afronauts. were really chronicling our history. And you would go around the island, really experiencing these different sounds. We built it all in 3JS, and it was like beautiful water shaders, beautiful sky shaders, and the interaction was, it turned out to be a really great project that I was really excited about. I want to do more, like, I'm really thinking about now, especially, how I can do more projects like that. So yeah.

[00:09:34.692] Kent Bye: And I really enjoyed the Quantum Summer. I thought it was really well done in terms of giving me the sense of exploring this Afrofuturism place that had a lot of really amazing music with it as well. So I really appreciated the piece. But I also had a chance to meet one of your collaborators back in 2018, Glenn Contave. I did an interview with him, Movers and Shakers, where he was talking about the very early days of the AR protests for the Columbus statue. So maybe you could talk a bit about the collaboration with Glenn and Movers and Shakers and all the other people that came together to form Kinfolk.

[00:10:06.881] Idris Brewster: Yeah, so me and Glenn met in like 2017. He was doing these protests at Columbus Circle and around the city, and I was learning to build AR apps. In college I was doing more VR, so thinking about how to do AR apps, and we met through a mutual friend who went to Wesleyan with Glenn, and we thought that this could be a great way to build the prototypes to see what AR could do for activism and protest. We got together, I started prototyping. I was, for like the first three years, I was building all of the experiences that we were showing off. And then yeah, we started this together to like the merging between AR and activism. Did the protests at Columbus Circle, then we got the grants and it spiraled into us now expanding this into the classrooms to see how this work could expand education in an immersive way, and kids definitely love it. And so after 2021, when we did the Tribeca, we had Movers and Shakers, but then the app is called Kinfolk, and people were just calling us Kinfolk. And so that's why I would say Movers and Shakers transitioned into Kinfolk and what it is now. And along that path, we met Micah Milner, who was our other co-founder. who was building out these amazing 3D monuments already. He was building out a model of Colin Kaepernick, Serena Williams, Jackie Robinson. And for us, it was like, at the point, we were doing 2D, like image recognition. We would make canvases, people would point the app at the canvas, the videos would play. But then, with working with Micah, we're like, all right, now we can actually recreate physical monuments in the digital space. and sort of to make our dreams come true. Instead of building one physical monument for thousands, if not millions of dollars, we could build hundreds and hundreds of AR monuments. that people could place anywhere. And so that really formed the trio of what became Kinfolk now. And in 2021, we met our newest hire, which is Jasmine Mays. And she was a principal at a digital arts high school in Cleveland, where they were teaching kids things like Blender, Unity, music making. And she was looking for opportunity to build out the next generation of what education could be. And up until that point, I feel like what we were missing was that education portion. Like, I taught kids computer science, but if we're speaking about history, and especially if it's getting used in schools, that's not an environment that I'm used to. Glenn didn't know that. Micah didn't know that. And so that was like really the missing piece for us. It's like, how can we properly educate in an engaging way? that's also preparing kids for the future. And so we had her on, as well as a lot of other folks, like Angela Fan, our designer, Carissa Romero, who's our lead researcher, Ileana, who is now doing our community outreach. Because for us, what's really important is that it's not just building monuments and putting them out there. It's the innovative part beyond the technology is the community engagement aspect of the tech platform. Like, we really don't focus on our voice. We're focusing on the voices of the communities we're working with. So we have a co-creative process where we go into communities like Flatbush, find the community organizations who are leading the charge in terms of advocacy, public memory, and then we do a design process. We have our 3D team led by Micah, we have our development team led by Prashisthapan and Pry Interactive. And then we work with them, traditional artists like painters, sculptors, to really bring to life a vision in AR. So essentially we're evangelizing a lot of folks to really learn about this new medium. And it's been really great to see the different ways in which other folks who aren't used to AR start to think about it. Because a lot of artists are already thinking very spatially, I would say. But then they can actually bring that spatiality to life without being restricted to the physical materials. it's like pretty freeing, I would say. So it's been really great. So I think that, yeah, that community engagement piece and then also collecting submissions and ideas from community members on who they want to see celebrated is really integral to the whole thing. We don't want to replicate inequities that exist with physical monuments where communities aren't being really considered or talked to as much as they should around what's going to go up in their public spaces. You want to be an example of how to do a true democratic process of honoring the community's voice and bringing that to life so that they can take up these spaces and learn from their history. So that's a really huge portion and really what our focus is going to be on in the near future.

[00:14:31.061] Kent Bye: Yeah, so I remember back in 2019, there was an original version of the app that had maybe three or four statues that you could put into your space. And now, the app has, like, 21 different monuments that are in there. And I'm sure there's more coming. And for each one, there's a two and a half to three minute overview. There's a number of different pages with all the curriculum that you're talking about, all the back story, and the questions along the way, and links to more information. And so, yeah, I'd love to hear what has changed from the initial 2021 showing that you had here at Tribeca, and what you're showing here, and all the stuff. Because you also have the other component of the QR codes, or at least the markers that are associated to monuments around New York City. Not sure if that's a part of the existing archive of 21 different models that are already there, or if they're different. So yeah, I'd love to hear some of the context of what you have in the app at this point.

[00:15:22.620] Idris Brewster: Yeah, so we're always iterating and always improving. It started out as like, we just want to get this information out there. And the main focus was the AR. So you can bring the monuments into your space. When you click on the monument, you could bring up cards that have biographies, that have artifacts that you could learn from. We released a playlist at first, so you can listen to music. We didn't keep doing that, but we also wanted to showcase different materials and different media that you can listen to, watch. I think it's really all about providing a way to deep dive on all of these experiences. So if you want to see the monument, you can. If you want to just read the biographies, you can. But if you want to really learn about these figures, you want to provide the platform to do so. Because in public spaces, you see the monument, you don't really get the nuance. You don't get the story. You don't get the community's input. And so that's why We want to create a framework and a structure to be able to add media in there that can allow that deep dive. But over the years, we realized, one, like, there's not much engagement. You're really receiving a lot of curated information. And also what we found is, especially as we move closer to public spaces, Having a long bio or having all this information there, it's maybe sort of hindering. Like we want people to go experience it. And we've also learned people don't really like to read that much. So I think now what we're thinking about is how can we make a more tight, engaging experience that is sort of shorter and maybe you can just listen to it if you want to. And that's what we tried here. Like we have first person audio narration, which we've never really done before. to add more storytelling into it. We wanted to bring the textbook alive. We want to make people feel like they're in the room with folks. And I think that's where we're constantly building towards. But now, really still, we have 21 Monuments. It's still a similar format. We're actually doing a lot of design thinking right now about how to get to that next level and release it to the point where it's more engaging, there's more interaction. There's a gamification aspect to it. So these are all the things that we're thinking about. And the last part I'd say is that in the near future, we're really thinking about how are we not the ones just creating the monuments. Like, we can continue to add as many monuments as we want. We have a hundred planned over the next year to release, which is a lot. But for us, it's like, this work truly creates impact if we allow others to contribute as well. And there's examples of platforms out there like Artvive that let people upload different videos or different ways to scan images and bring those to life. And the issue for us is like 3D is not everyone has those skills, especially in communities where they might not even have the most access to the tools to build the computers and things necessary to build the digital art. And so it's the thinking about. How can we lower the barrier to entry for people to contribute to Kinfolk? Is that voice messages that they're leaving? Is that video that they're leaving? Is it reactions or emojis? I think we're really starting to think about what are the ways that we can have a more two-way street of engagement on Kinfolk, because it's really meant to be a community platform. And I think we're, again, constantly building, constantly iterating to figure out how we get to that point. But we've got the base, and the next step also for us is to do geolocation. so we can start facilitating experiences at these sites across the country. What we have now is QR codes around New York City that people can go and that's honestly a test to see if people will go see them and how we can incentivize people to go there. So that's what we're doing here now. It's not meant to be like this is kinfolk geolocation. No, this is us testing and iterating to see what is the best way to incentivize people to go out and experience these. We've also have artists that we're working with, like Derek Adams, who is an artist who just got signed with Gagosian. We worked with Hank Willis Thomas and talked with a few other artists to see if working with higher profile artists also can incentivize people to go. Because also, AR is a new medium for public art that I think a lot of folks aren't grasping how large and how big that could be. So that's something we're trying to usher in and trying to find ways to get people to go out. I think that's also the questions we're trying to answer.

[00:19:39.899] Kent Bye: That's great. And maybe just a quick follow on is, how many different monuments do you have QR codes around New York City at this point?

[00:19:46.630] Idris Brewster: Right now, we only have six. We use Tribeca as a point to test it out. But in the fall, we're planning on releasing 30 around New York City and 10 around Los Angeles. Again, starting slow. For us, it's never about one particular BAM moment. It's about taking baby steps because we're in it for the long term as well. We view this trying to get to a 10-year-plus long project and something that's self-sustaining. Yeah, I think right now we have 21 monuments. By the end of June, we'll have 29 monuments in the app. We're releasing some for the Juneteenth festival we're doing this weekend, as well as the Tribeca monuments we're going to release for Tribeca's over. But yeah, we're trying to then add an artist series on top of the monuments we currently have in the app. so that we can spread those around and have a gamification collectible aspect to it that we're trying to roll out. We're trying to have people give reactions at these public spaces, add their voice into these conversations and shape the spaces in which they're moving around in. And so we're still working through the best ways through AR to make that happen.

[00:20:56.837] Kent Bye: And so in this exhibition that you have at Tribeca, there's three different monuments that are here that have, like you said, more of a first-person narrative that you're experimenting with. In the app, there's more audio overviews to provide a little bit more context. So when you go to a monument, what's the experience that you see with some of these monuments? And maybe talk a little bit about the role of monuments existing in the architecture of these cities and what you're trying to do with trying to deconstruct or add additional context to those monuments.

[00:21:25.626] Idris Brewster: Yeah, I mean monuments historically have been a technology that has been used to control our imagination and control our memory. It's been used as a tool to tell one-sided stories or Eurocentric points of view and it's been used to erase the contributions of black, brown, underrepresented and queer folks in these spaces and honestly it's been a point where These groups have built this country, and we need to see the proper ways to see that memorialized. And I think monuments are a great way to do that, but it's also about capturing and preserving that history as well. And the spatialized form of doing so is a really interesting way to make sure that these experiences are honored, but also in an immersive way, you can bring them to life. And so for us, it's about Again, having a communal experience around the monument. And I think we're sort of doing that here. It's not a multiplayer shared experience here, but people are all engaging at the same time around the monument. They're seeing it, I think, in the perfect world. Everyone would be seeing the same exact in that shared linked space. But we have the monument rising up from the middle of the altar, I'll say. And they're activating these monuments. And then there's spatial audio. at three different points around the monument, really forming a circle that allows people to really move. I think movement is a big portion of it, and tells a story in a way that immerses you in that point in history. For example, like Land of the Blacks, which was in a black community that existed in the 1600s, probably the first free black community that existed in the U.S. The monument there is of Manuel de Guerreiro, who is one of the members of the Land of the Blacks. And while you're there, you're hearing the docks in the background, which is in downtown New York. You're hearing the farms, which is the land that they were given. You're hearing bells that are the church bells near the docks. And so trying to visually bring you back to that point in time. And I think we view a similar thing happening in public spaces. you get to be immersed through sound and visuals. But then I think the next part that we're seeing is we want people to leave their mark, right? Like we want people to say they were here, leave their point of view here, leave their reactions. In a future world it'd be great for people to leave their own monuments or leave their own artifacts because everyone has a story to tell and we want to find a place for those historical stories to be told. And so, yeah, I think it's, again, about having that shared experience. And when you go on site, you're looking at the monument, but maybe around the monument there's other collectibles and other things to discover that start to tell that story in a new, deeper way. So we're really thinking about beyond the monument, what are the other AR experiences that are connected to it that you can uncover? with movement, with tapping, with voice, with all these different senses to really tell a full spatial story and for us that begins with the monument but then it can lead you around to experience other things and so it's around populating these circles and these areas with a bunch of different little mini experiences like each of the cards that we have in the app, those could be spatial. A lot of these engagements, people recording videos or leaving voice memos, these all could be spatialized. And so we're trying to really master that form of spatial storytelling and really excited for what this next version is going to be. So, yeah.

[00:24:57.264] Kent Bye: Yeah, so I had a chance to see all these monuments that are a part of the exhibition here at Tribeca. Took a look at the application and actually put all 21 of the monuments here in this space right here.

[00:25:08.868] Idris Brewster: One more time. OK, I didn't know that was possible.

[00:25:12.089] Kent Bye: It kind of loses tracking in this space, because it's a big open. But anyway, I was able to at least put them all down. I haven't had a chance to go see the six other monuments that are out in the world. So I'm curious to hear a little bit more context about that. Because when I was talking to Glenn Conte back in Movers and Shakers in 2018, when he was doing these protests in collaboration with you to take the Columbus monument as an example and to tell some of the stories of slavery that he had. the hidden history that is not seen. Maybe there's a monument there, but there's all this other stuff that that monument is invoking in people who know the full history, but yet is without context. And so AR is able to overlay that additional context. So I'm wondering if you could elaborate on the six different monuments that are around this area and the different ways that you're either adding new context or helping to deconstruct some of the different aspects of what that monument is. is, or if you're just trying to create that as a context for the type of kinfolk monuments that you have. So yeah, I'd love to hear a little bit more about any number of the six different locations you have around this area that you're starting with as an experiment.

[00:26:15.353] Idris Brewster: Yeah, I mean, I can tell you about one of them in specific, which was David Ruggles. So we have around six monuments. Three of them are from the exhibition that we're at currently, right now at the MoMA, that focus on New York City histories like Seneca Village, Seneca Village, David Ruggles, and the Young Lords. And so David Ruggles was an abolitionist that existed here in the 1800s. He lived on Lisbon Art Street, which is not too far from here. And he was basically, I don't know, Batman of sorts. Like there was one of the first instances of like a modern day abolitionist. Slavery at that time was abolished in the North, but there were still people who were bringing slaves over the North and keeping them as slaves. So he would, one, go and free them. And if they were slaves who were free in the North were brought back down to the South, you actually go back down to the South on boats, on farms, and get them back physically. And so that was a really inspiring story. And it's the story of a guy who lived in Tribeca. And so for us, it's about He has a home as a landmark, but still people walk by and don't even know it. And most people don't even know what David Ruggles looked like. And so for us, we haven't really input any of the different contextual experiences yet. Like you go there, you see the monument, you bring up the cards. And I think that's something that we haven't released yet to the public. But when you would go down to the areas around Tribeca, one of them is David Ruggles, you'll see him really, really tall, and you'll be able to engage with his story, listen to his biography. So we haven't really released the point in which we're actually activating the public spaces to how we want. but hopefully we can get good feedback on the experience of getting people there and experiencing the monument in person to see how we can shape our experience that we're going to release in the fall because for us it's really like is my belief that the best use for AR is interacting with your public environment. I think you can bring things into your space that creates accessibility, but the true perfect use, I would say, is out in the public and walking around. And so the phone, the iPad sort of hinders that experience, I would say, a little bit. Like this exhibit was glasses, and you maybe didn't have to hold the iPad so much that it would be a truer experience, but we still want to move forward to the way that we can activate these spaces. And that's really, again, back to the power conversation is like, we have no control over what our public spaces look like. But this digital realm allows us to activate spaces and make up for the fact that on the list of national historical sites in this country, like less than 8% are about black and brown folks. And so in order to right that wrong, going through the government or waiting, that would just take a long time and perhaps forever. And so AER can be a tool to put things up wherever we want, have people be able to understand the lived histories of these neighborhoods, these cities, especially with gentrification, but also be tools of advocacy to advocate for things to be built in the physical sense. If enough people are placing monuments of Shirley Chisholm at Prospect Park, That's data that we can use to tell the government, hey, maybe this needs to be here. This is what the people are saying. And so our true vision is to be a voice of the people in terms of what they want. Engaging with these public spaces and visual storytelling, that's all a part of the chain to achieve. social change. And it's not like the AR isn't the be-all end-all. It's like, oh great, we have these AR monuments up. Change is happening. No, these are the artifacts that are coming from the process of imagining these spaces, preserving these histories, and we hope that they can be tools to push movements forward, to push education forward. I think a lot of what we did realize that teachers were the main ones using this when we released it in 2021 because of the pandemic, because of the ways that it can bring these places. Kids just, kids pick up an iPad at Kinfolk, they know what to do immediately. Whereas other folks who are older, it maybe takes a little bit longer. So I think it's also the ubiquitous nature of this technology is really great and that's a really interesting play. You can go out to public spaces and see it, but we're also not trying to gatekeep this history. We're not trying to create inaccessibility. That's why there's the scan mode and there's going to be the explore mode to go into public spaces. The place mode is always really important so that people can just learn about this wherever. And what we've also found is that some folks we're working with want this to be public monuments. Like, we want everyone to experience them. And some really want them to be private monuments that are for their community and only really their community. And so that's why what we've built out is a geofencing feature where we can really limit who can experience this. And the great thing is that the app is going to be different for people depending on which part of the country they're in. And there's an element of privacy that I would say working with some communities that they yearn for that we have full control in order to make them as private or public as they want. So that spectrum of how accessible do you want it to how inaccessible do you want it has been pretty interesting for me to discover while building this out and working with people in cities across the country.

[00:31:25.417] Kent Bye: Yeah, a couple of things I wanted to share in terms of experiencing the different types of monuments that you have is that sometimes it's just a statue of the person and they're just standing there or sitting there and sometimes you have a little bit more of an installation and that, you know, whenever you're placing these monuments, On the app, they do a 360-degree turn. And so sometimes you have things in behind that are like these portals into the other world. That gives you a little bit more of a spatial context into something. Imagine if something like the David Ruggles, it's in a spatial context that it's actually his home. And there's a broader. Context that is meant to be site-specific in the physical realm in his actual monument of his home But sometimes if I'm just looking at a series of people without context my mind is like, okay, what time are we talking about? You know, what's the broader context? And so I found myself reading more about it and then going back and listening to it but having the portal actually gives you this ability to have a more of a spatial context that is setting a broader context for what's happening. And I found that to be really great use of AR, just a neat way that you can create these portals into these broader spatial contexts of like kind of like almost like a TARDIS, like Doctor Who, where you're like looking inside of someone's body, but you're seeing a much broader spatial context. So that was helpful, and I'd love to hear some of your reflections on, as you've been iterating with these different monuments, the different ways that you're trying to set the broadest context possible to either the scene that you're building out to give some of that additional spatial context or augmented with audio and the text and orienting in a place and time.

[00:32:53.920] Idris Brewster: That's very interesting that you share that. It's not a new thing, but I like that interaction. Looking at it, going back, and then going back. Hadn't really thought about that sort of flow before, so that's interesting. But for us, I mean, the portals came about. I love the portals. I want to do a portal for every monument. Sometimes it's like, all right, chill. We can't do it. It's a lot of work. But for us, it was about There's this like tendency with America in general to like create heroes and myth-making. It's very white Eurocentric way of going about honoring history to where you're putting individuals up on a pedestal but not really celebrating the community. And that's something that we're really looking to combat. It's like these figures, yes, they were amazing, but they were individuals. They're humans. Their lives, their stature, their achievements aren't unattainable. We want to make people feel like they're in the room and they're on the same wavelength as a lot of these heroes. And so the portals came about as a way to combat that. hero-making, individualism, so that we could, one, view these histories and these monuments in a context of community. That's why you look at Seneca Village, you're looking at the entire community that existed there with the landscape that we pulled from maps that existed of Seneca Village. Because for Seneca Village, there was no pictures of it. There was very few pictures of people that existed there. And so that's why we didn't create a monument of a figure necessarily for that specific monument. It didn't exist. And so that's why we created this portal, two-sided portal, where you could look at one side is the community feel, like how did it feel to be amongst the group? And the other side, it's like we always portray these heroes in very strong positions and powerful positions, but how do we portray them in the more subtle moments of their life, the more quiet times, the more contemplative? times, and I think that's what the portal is good for. And so with the Young Lords, who was a revolutionary group of Latinx and Afro-Latino members in the South Bronx and Harlem, on the backside of their portal, we portrayed them in a living room of one of the community members of the Young Lords, and they're giving TB tests to that person because they had to do that because the government wasn't giving the proper TB tests in the 70s to the Puerto Rican community up in Washington Heights. And so that was a moment where we showed that. For like Zora Neale Hurst, and we made a portal for her hometown in Edenville, Florida, which is also one of the first free black communities that existed in Florida. And so when we need to see that broader context, it's great to see it in space. And it's not just a picture, it has depth. And that was us trying to bump up engagement as well. Like the monument in itself is great, But how can we be more engaging? How can we be more interactive? How can we provide more visual information for people to digest that tells the story of these histories? So it's just a new way that we wanted to showcase the history. And of course, we wish people could walk through. And that's going to come sooner rather than later. But that's definitely something that people have been asking for and we're thinking about. But even just the sense of being able to again, put more visual information into a monument, the portal seemed like the most effective way to do that. You can have a window, and then you can create a huge depth. I mean, behind those portals, if you go look in Unity, they're huge, like those scenes. They're very big. But I think viewing it from one point of view is also pretty, one angle is interesting. And so we want to keep creating these portals because it's really effective in breaking down the community aspects of these figures and putting them in a context of the real world.

[00:36:45.293] Kent Bye: Yeah, I definitely tried to walk through some of the portals.

[00:36:47.114] Idris Brewster: I'm sure you did. I sometimes do, but... Yeah, it's... That's a technical challenge that we're looking to overcome, but it's not, like, the top priority, I guess, for us right now. Because as a small team, like, we gotta pick and choose our battles. Like, there's a long list of features and improvements that we have to make, but we gotta pick and choose and prioritize. I mean, the portals work as they are.

[00:37:12.211] Kent Bye: But hopefully soon we can start to make allow people to walk through we're actually building an experience where people can walk through it For Atlanta from working, Atlanta, but yeah Yeah, that makes sense And just having the parallax view without being able to really peek your head and I think like you said it does give that broader spatial context which is sometimes the thing that I was craving in some of the different scenes and I guess one question is do you have a sense of like because there's a certain timeline under which all these people are operating on in terms of when they were born and just a larger context of how to Tie all these things together in a way that orients people in a spatial way that you can understand Where each of these monuments are fitting in an overall timeline in a spatial context I'm wondering if that's something you've been thinking about in terms of how to orient people in this place in time with all these different Historical figures that you've aggregated so far

[00:38:02.432] Idris Brewster: Yeah, I think that's interesting. In terms of like a spatial timeline, that's an idea we've thrown around. But as of right now, it's like the work is so disparate in different areas of the country that our focus right now is gathering as much as we can and creating that context maybe outside of the app. So our curriculum, our materials online really help to shape that story and draw the parallels between the figures. But again, in terms of priorities, I think if we can do something outside the app that is effective for the now until we're able to build out in-app, then nine times out of 10, we'll choose that direction because it's simple. Simpler and it's still as effective. But I think one thing that we're are thinking about is what is the context that people can go in before maybe jumping into the AR space or jumping into all these monuments. How to provide further context to how these histories fit together. So that's definitely something we've thought about, haven't really moved on that. And I think like when people are using these apps, the curriculum and the PDFs that we're making are really those guides. for people to put things together. And we're really focused on building out this 100. And then maybe at that point, we can start to tie things together. Because the thing is, there's infinite amounts of history. But the timeline is pretty 1600s to present day. We even started to make more speculative monuments that maybe are about the future, about a time that maybe doesn't belong on this linear timeline. And so that's another angle which we really are starting to play with more, is how can we bring speculative storytelling into it? The historical aspect can get limiting from time to time. But yeah, we haven't really moved on putting that context within the app yet, but down the line that is something that we are thinking about.

[00:39:47.054] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's some phrasings, the way that you talk about the static nature of some of these monuments versus the more dynamic and participatory nature that you're talking about, that you're striving for, that I think in my mind mirrors some of the philosophical paradigm shifts from, say, Western philosophy, substance metaphysics, that does seem to see the world through the lens of these static objects with these properties on top of them versus something that's much more of a process relational approach that is trying to see the relationality and the processes the unfolding dynamic nature and the participatory nature of reality all the way down the quantum level but also in the context of kinfolk how you're trying to escape from that more static mode of these monuments that are fixed in time but not really adapting to the evolving understanding of that history. And so I'd love to hear an elaboration of how you start to think about fighting against this static mindset for what you're doing with Kinfolk into this more dynamic and participatory mode of being.

[00:40:39.448] Idris Brewster: You broke that down well, I'm not gonna lie. I like how you said that. And I definitely relate to that. It definitely summed up a lot of the philosophies that we as a team have. And for us, this medium isn't meant to be static. We need to take advantage of the medium. And that's why it's like... I mean, if you look at these physical monuments, the static nature, like one, it can't be changed. Life, time, history is not like that. It's constantly changing. It's never like one dimensional. And so it's really, for us, it goes back to how do we capture that lived experience and bring it into a form that can be experienced. I think it's about going back to the medium. I mean, there's so many ways to engage folks and people's attention spans are shortening up nowadays. I think the next step for us is also, how do we create monuments that animate? How do we create monuments that move? How do we bring that back to life? How do we use volumetric to capture stories that can move, breathe, speak to you? For us, it's always, how do we bring things more to life? And I don't think we've fully solved for that yet. I think that's something that we're really still pushing, especially against the technological limits that we have of putting things onto a cellular device. If this was all VR, it'd be a lot easier. I think for us it's about how can we create a more dynamic way to engage with history. A lot of it's textbooks, a lot of it is statues, and a lot of it can't really shift. But with AR, we can create the space that's moving, that feels alive, and that also on the back end is dynamic. We can update monuments. If a community doesn't want something there, we can change it. We can add things into the monuments. We can make it move later in the day. We want people also Something we were actually talking about earlier today is how do we get people to shift and change the monument? How do we get people to add to the monument experience in themselves? And so it's about making it more dynamic, but it's also making it more community-focused and embedded. And how can we actively shift our environment is sort of the philosophy that we started out with. We want to change our area. We want to change our public space. We want to change this monument. everything is so rigid to where we don't have the power to do that. But with AR, we can change the monument. We can scan the Columbus, click on him and add a mustache. Like that's a funny example. But there's ways that we're thinking about it. How do we further engage, activate and shift our environment and not wait on anybody else to do so? And so I think that's the core of what Kinfolk is trying to do. And we're still moving to that point. But yeah, it's all in the spirit of just going back to it like black African oral culture and how we capture our history through movement, through speech, through storytelling, through means that maybe aren't as static as writing something down and calling that the truth. because the truth is definitely more dynamic and it's always shifting. It's not something that's definite all the time. And so we want to make space for that, but do so in a way that's spatial, that people are naturally used to engaging with. I think I use the word natural, but it's funny because like, Humans have been really conditioned with technology and the way that it's been before to make it feel like XR and AR is unnatural. But again, if we give kids an iPad and they're like moving things around and moving spatially because they haven't been conditioned in that way before, I feel like XR is honestly maybe a more natural way of engaging with information. It's how we do it in the real world with our eyes, hands, and legs. But we've just been conditioned to not be engaging with the technology like that. So I honestly think it's a more natural way to engage with the world. But it's about creating the onboarding and the experiences to make sure that people understand that they can shift their phone and move things around. Maybe what you see or what you hear might not always be in front of you on the screen. It might be around you, which is how it would be like if you were in a space with other people. And so, yeah.

[00:44:41.765] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I think as you move forward, as you start to translate all those large bodies of text into more of a dynamic, interactive, spatial experience, I think you've got a lot of the foundations and curriculum there. But I think turning it into an immersive embodied experience through the AR itself I think is going to be a key part as well.

[00:44:57.142] Idris Brewster: Yeah, no, I mean, we were just doing some tests in the park around how to make an engaging, immersive experience where you're learning about these monuments, but extends out from just a monument, but it's all around you. So that's the direction we're going. And we feel like we have a great idea and a great way for people to engage in the public spaces. For us, it's just about making it happen. And I think the fall is when we're going to be able to see the next iteration of that, at least our first iteration of what this new mode of storytelling in public spaces and in private spaces. Like what we do out in the public can just be brought to your home as well. But that's when you'll see the next iteration.

[00:45:34.089] Kent Bye: I wanted to ask a question about a comment around the black imagination and black creativity being sort of the ground, referencing back to Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy, which is much more of an event ontology and saying that the underlying nature of reality is not only processes and relationships, but for Whitehead, he said the ultimate nature of reality was creativity. And our organ of accessing that creativity was our imagination. So there's something around the lack of black lands that the roots of expression of black culture was through this black imagination and black creativity. So it was a very provocative comment that that he had made and I'd love to hear any, it was really striking to me just in terms of the resonance to these other ideas that were beyond just thinking about things in terms of the nature of reality as these static concrete objects. But I'd love to hear any elaboration on the black imagination and the black creativity and the role of cultivating these cultures.

[00:46:25.358] Idris Brewster: Yeah, I mean, I think that black creativity, just creativity in general, imagination is key for expression. It's key for processing things as an artist, like as you're creating, you're also processing, you're also thinking, you're also realizing. And so for me, it's like the process of creativity and having an artifact of that creativity that's not text is also something that's universal. People see a monument. You don't need to speak English or Spanish to feel these experiences in a spatial way. And so that's also, it's sort of a universal language, I would say, of sorts in terms of this sculpture or just different kinds of creativity that maybe aren't grounded in language. But also, I think what's important is the imagination required for progress, for social change. I mean, these folks were enslaved and people like Samuel Anderson at Flatbush and Sessile Barrier Ground, like, he imagined a world where he could buy land, where he could achieve these things, especially when everything around them was telling him that that wasn't possible. Even Don Martin Luther King, it's cliche, but I have a dream, really goes back to how important the imagination is in cultivating an idea of what could be and I think movements in general need that imagination, need that spark for everyone to feel like, hey, this is something that we can do and we can achieve and we can shift things. And I think it's these stories that are really important for us to be able to feel like we can achieve progress, we can move forward, we can have ownership over our stories and over our experiences and our lives. And so I think a part of it is showing the imagination of the historical figures that the imagination that these people had and using that as inspiration for us, for the children more specifically, to be able to imagine that new future. And so it goes back to us also like augmented reality is a way to democratize access to the imagination. and a way to physicalize it in a way where in some points imagination should be imagination and maybe it shouldn't be AR but I feel like also if you make this imagination more tangible with visuals, with AR experiences that you can feel, hear, see, touch is really important and so like that radical imagination is something that we're trying to embody in the monuments, in the storytelling, in our curriculum, a lot of our curriculum design and activities around kids imagining. After they experience the monument, they're able to then bring that inspiration into their own lives and their own communities and think about what's possible. So it's really about unlocking that and a lot of the work we do with community members is unlocking their and our imagination. But then here's like, all right, this is what we imagined. Here it is. And now let's place that in spaces to inspire others. And so a lot of it is about inspiration, but it all comes back to how can we capture these different ways in which black and brown folks have been expressing and imagining. And finally, we have the technology that can really make that possible like never before and also make it accessible so that we can spread the reach of this inspiration.

[00:49:49.588] Kent Bye: And it sounds like as you move forward, you're really trying to tap into the imagination of all the people that are experiencing this and having them have their own ways of feeding back into this feedback loop and also call back to Octavia Butler, who had quite a vivid imagination for what was possible with her science fiction stories. And so I'd love to hear any reflections on this role of Afrofuturism in a way that you're able to set a context that maybe allows people to step into a potential future that is not actualized yet, but also to see how everybody could collaborate in contributing their own imagination to help co-create a future that doesn't exist yet.

[00:50:25.290] Idris Brewster: I mean, yeah, Octavia Butler was pretty prophetic and pretty powerful in the worlds that she built. And I think a lot of times, especially in lower middle class communities, imagining requires time and requires some semblance of freedom. And for me, it's about helping bring that imagination to the folks around us and to these spaces where maybe it doesn't exist all the time. And so Afrofuturism is a pretty radical idea that it's really based on like what if we built our own worlds and then that's something that I feel like plays a role in inspiring specifically black and brown folks. Something I say a lot is that we are building the future that we want to see. And one, in order to build that future, it's a collective experience. I think a lot of times it's about the collective imagination. When we think about the collective imagination in the U.S., that is void of a lot of black and brown stories and thoughts and ideas. And I think when it comes down to engagement, just representing the historical, It, quite frankly, maybe just doesn't hit for some people. They're not as interested in history. And maybe this is a way to get them interested, but I think it's not going to maybe sustain. There's something about myth. There's something about thinking about things that don't exist that captures people's attention, captures their imagination, and is really inspiring as well to a broader audience. And so we want to find ways to use history as sort of the launchpad to jump into a space of imagination. And that's sort of what I did with Quantum Summer, thinking about the history of blacks being brought over from Africa to America. But what if the story of how Africans were jumping off these ships to their death, what if they were jumping off them to a space where they could create and call their own? And so it's using this historical framework as a way to jump into alternative histories. And these alternative histories, even though they're alternative, not real, fictional, it does expand our minds into what's possible and the work that can happen today. And so Afrofuturism is a very ethereal, it's something that's very out there. And I think that bringing these monuments and these artifacts and these Afrofuturist expressions are basically speculative work. into the context of seeing and engaging them in the real world is also pretty interesting because it helps, I think, ground a lot of the work of Afrofuturism into a lens of something that can be, again, push forward direct action, push forward social change. And telling stories and inspiration is really the key of what we're trying to do. And the speculative monuments that we've been creating are really exciting for me because they're not only bringing historical aspects but they're bringing in aspects of like comic books, bringing aspects of music all into an experience that can then maybe relate to a broader spectrum of people. So there's really something to be said about imagining a new future that maybe not enough people get access to because of circumstances and so a lot of the work of Kinfolk is making that imagination accessible, tangible, and something that you can see and also share with other people. And I think that's what the power of art is. And everyone's an artist, I like to say. So that's something that we are looking to do with Kinfolk.

[00:54:03.611] Kent Bye: Beautiful. And yeah, just to wrap things up, I'm curious what you think the ultimate potential of immersive storytelling and spatial computing might be and what it might be able to enable.

[00:54:15.541] Idris Brewster: The ultimate power of spatial computing and storytelling. Hmm. Well, that's a twofold answer. I would say, first off, back to my original answer, back to what I just said. Spatial computing, from a storytelling perspective, makes the imagination possible, I would say. It allows people to feel that imagination, allows that to be shared with on a broad spectrum. And I think that immersive storytelling is a way to connect our local communities and our local experiences across a national and global stage. The fact that the work that we're doing in Flatbush, Brooklyn can then be experienced by someone in Beijing, China is really amazing experience in that same way. Like you're in the room with this. Sculptures don't really travel. Video is 2D. And so I think the storytelling aspect really makes these vivid, authentic, and personal and communal experiences something that can be shared across geographical bounds, which is why I think it's the perfect dynamic for an archive. It's something that you can do a lot of regional local work that's extremely impactful on that local level, but then these stories and the artifacts from that work can be shared with everyone. And so I think it's a way, again, to connect us between our struggles, our identities, our aspirations, and our imagination. So that's really, I'm excited about all the spatial computing components and the glasses and the VR headsets and all that. the technological development that has to happen for this to really achieve mass adoption. But it's really the communal feeling and the human connection that I feel like this can really create that I'm extremely excited for. And it's like people across the world can feel like they're in the room with someone and speaking to someone. which is something that's never really been possible before. And so I'm really excited for the human side of what this could become. I say that with a could because there's a lot of ways that things are moving with AI, especially, that I just feel like need to be addressed. And I feel like there needs to be more storytellers Involved in the building of this technology, which I think there will be but I'm really excited for the human connection that this spatial computing can bring together The presence across geographic bounds that it can bring and that's I guess what drives me to do the work is to really bring that to life Great and is there anything else that's left and said that you like to say to the broader immersive community?

[00:57:03.337] Kent Bye: Hmm

[00:57:06.689] Idris Brewster: I was at AWE about a week ago. We were announcing the Niantic partnership that we were doing. And I was... I don't want to lie. I just wasn't... I wasn't like... I don't know. I'll just say it. I'll just say it. I think that there is an emphasis on Maybe AWS is an enterprise sort of conference, so maybe that's why I felt this way. But there was a really emphasis on selling us on this hardware that wasn't really accessible to me and accessible to the communities that I'm working with specifically. And I want folks to really think about the human side of how people are engaging with this technology. There needs to be more emphasis on human interaction within these spaces. I mean, besides a lot of the glasses not really working for me or not really impressing me, I feel like there needs to be more emphasis on how people are going to use this technology. And I feel like there's really a lack of that. And no matter how expensive we create these VR headsets to be, one, if it's not cheap, And two, if it's like, if it's not accessible, then I don't really know what it's doing. And so I really feel like there needs to be technology builders for progress, of course, to move hardware forward. I understand that. But I guess at AW, I just wish I saw a little bit more of the storytelling and human aspect to it and the actual ways in which it would get brought to a larger audience. I feel like a lot of the focus is still on a subsection of our population and I would love, and I know that there are people out there doing this work, so shout out to you all, but really helping to expand it out. let's try to find a way to get better content out there as well. It could be educational, it could be fun, it doesn't need to be history, but I would love to see a lot more storytelling happen within these environments, and that's why I love a lot of these Tribeca experiences here, because it's bringing that storytelling, that art aspect, into it. and maybe we could be less, maybe the immersive, I think what I like about what Kinfolk does is we bring people from all different sections, people who haven't been using immersive, historians who don't even think about technology, and we're bringing them in together into a space to build the future of this immersive platform. And I wish more folks were doing that. And so I love a lot of what's happening in the immersive community. But sometimes you got to cancel out the hype and just think about the practicality of what we're building and who we're building it for. I mean, like, it wasn't until recently that there's, I love the Apple headset because I was like, yo, I could wear the Apple headset without messing up my Afro. And that's like one design example of how it's not even being built for black and brown folks. Like, a lot of black women don't even want to put on a headset because it's going to mess up their hair and a bunch of situations like that. And so I'm rambling now, but I would just like to say that focusing more on the human aspect and the practicality of what we're building, I think would be much appreciated because I do want to see this grow to a larger audience because it's such amazing technology. But I do think it's going in a good direction and I do think that there's still a lot of work to be done. So let's get to it.

[01:00:36.027] Kent Bye: Yeah, just a quick clarification, because in the evolution of VR industry, the Google Cardboard was the most accessible in terms of education. And then the broader industry didn't really have a lot of excitement. And then eventually, Google dropped all support for Google Cardboard. And then now we have at AWE, you see a lot of head-mounted headsets. But aside from Niantic that was advocating phone-based AR, or Snap that were there advocating phone-based AR, but Niantic Lightship is really targeting from a whole range of different Mobile headsets as well as like head mounted displays and so light ship is trying to cross that boundary But when you walk around the exhibition floor, there isn't a lot of phone based AR Applications or demos or anything? It's really leapfrogging into this next iteration of these really expensive head mounted displays which don't really work for me quite yet either and we have the Apple Vision Pro, which is $3,500, which is also, so I don't know if that's what you're referring to in terms of the lack of the phone-based AR emphasis on a conference like AWE.

[01:01:35.177] Idris Brewster: I don't know. I think that the Apple headset, I guess I understand the price point a little bit. I mean, Apple has the phone, so I don't know if maybe now is not the time for mass adoption of headsets and maybe they're building towards that 10-year future where headsets would be better. We've done better with the headsets, honestly, with the Quest, I would say, but I wasn't referring to the Apple Pro headset.

[01:01:58.657] Kent Bye: But just the lack of mobile phones that we meant?

[01:02:01.458] Idris Brewster: It was the lack of mobile applications that the mobile phone isn't going anywhere. I think AR on the mobile phone will be dominant for a long time, in my opinion. So I would have liked to see more mobile applications at AWE and across the board. And the favorite ones that I engaged with at AWE, like NC2, which was the mobile AR application to view. city planning buildings, and the more democratized versions is where I gravitate towards. I didn't see enough of that at AWE.

[01:02:32.288] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Idris, thanks so much for joining me to help break down your journey. We can focus that now, and it sounds like you have a lot of big plans for where it's going to go in the future with expanding from 21 up to over 100 monuments here within the next year or so. Lots of ways that you're going to start to make it more interactive. Yeah, I'm just really excited to see where you take it all in the future. And yeah, really powerful use of AR to help tap into the collective imagination of the communities to imagine and to live into a future that doesn't quite exist yet. So yeah, really powerful piece. And thanks for taking the time to help break it all down.

[01:03:05.632] Idris Brewster: Thank you, Ken. I really appreciate you having me on. Listen to the podcast and definitely glad to be a guest. So thank you.

[01:03:12.360] Kent Bye: So that was Edger Spuster. He's the co-founder of Kenfolk, which is an augmented reality archive of black, brown, LGBTQ, and underrepresented history, in general, using the power of immersive storytelling and immersive media to upload stories from our past and connect those with the present and the future. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, so I think this is a really inspiring project and to see how this is the very early phases of one of the affordances of augmented reality is to take aspects that are in physical reality and to be able to add additional layers of context and meaning. And if there isn't a lot of physical things that are marking these moments of cultural history then they're able to add that through either a statue that has a portal that has additional context or different audio recordings and Soundscapes and really a whole curriculum of information that is associated with each of these different statues that they've had He said that by the end of 2023 they were aiming to have over a hundred different statues and at the time of the application there was around 21 Statues that you can already start to check out today so one of the things about the application is that it is very text heavy and in Talking to Curtis Hickman of the void He just wrote a book called hyperreality the art of designing the impossible experiences and one of the rules that he has is Beware of media apathy which is that generally people don't like to read a lot of stuff and so you have to kind of assume when you're in immersive experiences that people are not going to want to read a Part of the thing that's happening right now with Kinfolk, Black Lands, is that they're translating a lot of this written stuff that they've been able to embed in the context of their app, and they're trying to create more immersive, interactive experiences so that it's more in a spatial context. I think there's always going to be limits with how much you can communicate in the context of a spatial statue or whatnot. And so you're always going to need some more written or diegetic aspect to give it a lot more context and details. But to try to blend that more seamlessly together, I think, is part of the direction that they're trying to take this in, because they have quite a lot of information that's there. But to try to create it into more of an embodied experience, I think, is the challenge as they move forward. And that's what they're going to be looking for, creating more dynamic, interactive, and participatory elements of this application. Because one of the things he said is that they're trying to really cultivate this community around these stories and these parts of histories, but also to think about the long term potential of demonstrating that there may be a demand to feature specific folks from black history. In the context of these cultural sites, he mentioned some statistic around like seven or 8% of all the different cultural heritage sites were from black history. So there's an under-representation of some of these different cultural history sites and using augmented reality to create a stopgap of honoring these folks from history to tell these stories and do it in a way that's a spatial context and create a site-specific aspect of it as well. That's one of the dynamics that they're starting to explore of trying to take people and go to these specific locations and then once they get there, having some type of immersive experience that is unfolding there. So yeah, just looking to Pokemon Go and the lessons of what's it mean to create these emergent social dynamics, I think is a strong potential for where this could go in the future. But also looking these aspects of Afrofuturism and the speculative future aspect of trying to tell stories about potential futures that haven't quite happened yet. And so trying to project out to the future to tie in together, like looking into the past of what's already happened and the prominent figures from history and moments of cultural history and cultural heritage that's included in Ken folk, black lands, but also to project that out to the future for imagining where they want to go in the future using these aspects of the black imagination. So really appreciated not only the further elaboration in the context of this interview, but there's a couple of points in the context of the piece of Kinfolk that is exploring this idea of black imagination. So yeah, lots of exciting potential futures of thinking about the more speculative and Afrofuturism elements of technology like augmented reality. So Yeah, really impressed by what they've been able to achieve with Kinfolk Blacklands since I first came across the project in 2018 with my interview with Glenn Contave and looking forward to see where they take it in the future. So that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast, and if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue bringing this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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