Object/Place is a tablet-based installation that explores the similarities between local and refugee communities in the Atlanta metropolitan area through common objects. Object/Place was made on Klynt, using Photoshop and Premiere Pro to design and edit. In the interactive, the user can explore five different categories (sports, food, business, community, and education) or 10 different unique objects (two in each category). The goal is to bridge the gap between "local" and "refugee communities" in the Atlanta metropolitan area, and examine what exactly it means to be "from" a place.

Object/Place is a Digital Media Master's Project by Abby Golfo at the Georgia Institute of Technology, completed in Summer 2018. The project was advised by Dr. Michael Nitsche (Advisor and Committee Chair), Dr. Nassim JafariNaimi (Committee Member), and Dr. Yanni Loukissas (Committee Member).

Demo Video


Can digital storytelling be used to facilitate cross-cultural understanding and advance social justice?

In American society, museums serve as an educational resource, as well as a place for entertainment. In 2009, it was estimated that there were 850 million visits to American museums each year, dwarfing visits to all major league sporting events and theme parks combined in the United States (American Alliance of Museums, 2018). In their role as an informal learning environment (ILE), museums have employed storytelling techniques to disseminate information. Storytelling has the ability to allow participants to: create and maintain social bonds; express ideas and feelings about themselves to others; reflect and construct the ways they see the world; and conceive possible futures (Pujol, et al. 2013; Clarke & Wright 2012). In an ever-increasing technological world, museums have been integrating technology (digital touch interfaces, motion capture, virtual reality, augmented reality, etc.) to engage audiences. According to Clarke and Wright (2012) and Gubrium and Scott (2010), this type of digital storytelling supports social recognition and shared values, and is a tactic to building awareness of human rights and social justice issues.

Despite these numerous benefits, digital storytelling is not always effectively carried out in a way that advances social justice (JafariNaimi 2018). Rather, the ubiquity of digital media technologies can sometimes lead to misuse of digital storytelling that works to exploit, undermine, and harm marginalized communities. How can digital storytelling be used to facilitate cross-cultural understanding and advance social justice?

There needs to be more analysis of digital storytelling as a means for people to learn about cultures different than their own.


Through Object/Place, I explore theories of cross-cultural digital storytelling, object-oriented learning, and participation in museums. The final digital media artifact is an interactive installation that uses storytelling in order to address the perceived differences between local and refugee communities in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The project works to bridge the gap between communities and explore the commonalities we may overlook when we label people as “displaced” or “refugees.” Through common objects, the interactive serves as an entry point to stories that connect us. As Gubrium and Scott (2010) posit, digital storytelling “affords participants the capacity to produce a tangible artifact that represents their own experiences and, as a group, to articulate a more hopeful future rooted in principles of human rights and social justice” (p. 129). As digital storytelling methods become increasingly prevalent in educational spaces, like museums, it is worth exploring the effect on cross-cultural learning or intercultural competence and understanding.

Before designing the interactive, I first reviewed existing literature on the aforementioned topics of cross-cultural digital storytelling, object-oriented learning, and participation in museums. In this design research phase, I did not yet have an exact concept of what the final artifact would look like or feel like, instead allowing the theories to guide the formation of design criteria and design decisions.

After reviewing literature and related media, I developed a set of design criteria. My design criteria were that the user must be able to:

  • explore layers,
  • navigate individual-group-material dimensions, and
  • contribute their own story.

Design Process

My design process consisted of concepting, sketching, wireframing, then designing on Photoshop and Klynt. I used Premiere Pro for advanced animations, and Klynt for microinteractions.

Concepting and Sketching

While concepting and sketching, I largely focused on achieving a "layered" feel, in addition to graphic composition.


I brought these concepts, sketches, and newfound inspiration (by way of the mood board) into Adobe XD, focusing on the visual weight and the information architecture of the piece.

Final Design

The final designs were made for the 10.5 inch iPad Pro (2224 px x 1668 px). The experience begins with a four-second-long intro video that introduces the interactive, then leading the user to the "Attract." From there, the user is free to explore and navigate the interactive's categories, objects, and multimedia.

Future Work

There is a lot of opportunity to build upon this work from a theoretical perspective, as well as a project-based perspective.

Theoretically, I believe there is opportunity to build on the existing research that I have put forth here, including Clarke and Wright (2012), Wood and Latham (2013), JafariNaimi (Under Review), Simon (2010), Paris and Hapgood (2002), and more. There are some thorough studies and work that I have enumerated here, but many others I have not. In particular, I am interested in competing perspectives that focus on the threat and failure of digital storytelling in cross-cultural contexts in a similar vein as JafariNaimi (Under Review). I am also interested in more specific case studies dealing with marginalized communities that can provide both quantitative and qualitative information.

In terms of the project, there is opportunity to make Object/Place much more participatory. On the scale that Simon (2010) presents, Object/Place falls under a “contributory project,” which is the simplest to manage and the simplest for visitors to engage with. However, with more dedicated work with the communities that the project is concerned with, Object/Place could be a more collaborative project. For the purposes of this project (and given the short timeline), I was more concerned with the feasibility in exploring digital storytelling to facilitate cross-cultural understanding. To this point, there is opportunity to conduct more testing and to iterate based on those findings.


  • American Alliance of Museums. (2018). Museum facts and data. https://www.aam-us.org/programs/about-museums/museum-facts-data/
  • Clarke, R., & Wright, P. (2012, October). Evocative of experience: Crafting cross-cultural digital narratives through stories and portraits. Paper presented at Proceedings of the 7th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Making Sense Through Design, Copenhagen, 14-17 October (pp. 318-321). Association of Computing Machinery.
  • Gubrium, A. C. & Scott, T. (2010). Teaching and speaking to social change: Adigital storytelling approach addressing access to higher education. Societies Without Borders 5:2, pp. 126-151.
  • JafariNaimi, N. (2018). Doing justice to stories. Under Review.
  • Paris, S. G. & Hapgood, S. E. (2002). Children learning with objects in informal learning environments. In S. G. Paris (Ed.), Perspectives on Object-Centered Learning in Museums (pp. 37-54). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc..
  • Pujol, L., Katifori, A., Vayanou, M., Roussou, M., Karvounis, M., Kyriakidi, M., Eleftheratou, S., & Ioannidis, Y. (2013). From personalization to adaptivity -Creating immersive visits through interactive digital storytelling at the Acropolis Museum. Workshop Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Intelligent Environments, Athens (pp. 541-553).
  • Simon, N. (2010). The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz: Museum 2.0.
  • Wood, E. & Latham, K. F. (2013). The objects of experience: Transforming visitor-object encounters in museums. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Creek Press.
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