Video still for Rider Spoke Rider Spoke at The Barbican 2007The device interfaceRider Spoke in Sydney 2009. Photo credit Alex KershawRider Spoke Falmouth UniversityBlast Theory

Cyclists explore the city at night recording stories about their lives and listening to other people’s.

Rider Spoke invites you to cycle through the streets of the city. Guided by an app, you search for a hiding place and record a short message there. And then you search for the hiding places of others.

A screen shot from Rider Spoke

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To cycle alone, in the evening, with no particular destination offers a rare freedom. In Rider Spoke this is combined with an opportunity to think about the people in your life and to share them with strangers who you will never meet. Guided by Ju Row Farr’s narration and a delicate score by Blanket, you can lose yourself for a while.

“As soon as it was over, I wanted more. We are truly fortunate in this century, in the wired and anonymous city, to have rediscovered aboriginal notions of songlines and dreamtime, to explore with the aid of mobile technology a new form of strangely low-tech play. Rider Spoke was magical, and I look forward to the next Blast Theory project”. William Wiles  (Icon magazine)

A description of the work

The interface for the app uses imagery drawn from Mexican votive painting, sailor tattoos and heraldry: swallows flutter across the screen to show available hiding places, prefab houses indicate places where others have hidden. Votive paintings express gratitude (or sometimes a request) to a saint. Tattoos and heraldry are both badges of identity; early tattoos were hard won symbols of belonging, often indicating an achievement for a sailor. Sometimes they showed how far you had sailed. Sometimes they were expressions of hope for a safe return from a voyage. This combination of styles reflects Rider Spoke’s themes of travel, reflection, personal expression and hidden messages.

As you head out on your ride, the app alerts you to available hiding places. When you choose to answer one of the questions, you can find the perfect place to make your recording. Alone, in an out of the way spot you reflect on your life. Then your recording will stay in that spot for other riders to find later.

The other aspect of the game is to find the hiding places of others. When you search, the app will show you the nearest recordings and you can choose which ones to listen to. The recordings are only available in this context: played to you, alone, in the place where they were recorded.

As you roll through the streets your focus is outward, looking for good places to hide, speculating about the hiding places of others, becoming completely immersed into this overlaid world as the voices of strangers draw you into a new and unknown place.

The streets may be familiar but you’ve given yourself up to the pleasure of being lost.

Rider Spoke continues the artists’ fascination with how games and new communication technologies create new hybrid social spaces in which the private and the public are intertwined. It explores where theatre may be sited and what form it may take. It invites the players to be co-authors of the piece and a visible manifestation of it as they cycle through the city. It is precisely dependent on its local context and invites the audience to explore that context for its emotional and intellectual resonances.

Rider Spoke was first shown at the Barbican in London in October 2007 and has subsequently been presented in Adelaide, Athens, Brighton, Bristol, Budapest, Cambridge, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Falmouth, Kupio, Leeds, Linz, Liverpool, Madrid, Sydney and Terni.

Rider Spoke is sponsored by Trek and was developed in collaboration with the Mixed Reality Lab at University of Nottingham, Sony Net Services and the Fraunhofer Institute as part of the European research project IPerG (Integrated Project on Pervasive Gaming).

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  1. Francis Chapman
    / Reply

    It’s quite a unique project. Thank you for sharing. You inspired me to explore the city streets at night and share the breathtaking views I am seeing as I ride my Morpheus bike.

  2. Jamie Griffiths
    / Reply

    Great project. I made a website based storytelling project… (www.therapeuticbiographies.com) but I love the physical aspect of Rider Spoke. I also love the way it creates a sense of intimacy and privacy at the same time. But the recordings are only accessible when riding with the Blast Theory computer device, correct? Would be great if riders could use their own phones to access the stories at other times too… ?

  3. Julianne
    / Reply

    Rider Spoke is one of Blast Theory’s most enduring works, it leaves resonances wherever it goes. It turns the act of cycling into a journey of meditation and reflection. In all the places that Rider Spoke has visited there are now stories and secrets hidden in street corners, under stop lights, on tops of buildings and down dark alleys. I have had the pleasure of being a Rider Speaker on several occasions and each journey brings back old memories and creates new ones. May Rider Spoke live on forever!

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