Telling Tales of Engagement: The Wray Broadband Project

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Computing & Communications


This proposal seeks to tell the story of the Wray Broadband project in a fairly unusual fashion: through the construction of a digitally enhanced 'scarecrow' to take part in the annual village scarecrow festival that takes place in May. Both the design and construction of the scarecrow and the actual festival itself, including the village parade, would then become part of a documentary film. Lancaster University students will be involved in the detailed design of the scarecrow - but we expect it to incorporate a moveable camera (so that the scarecrow can provide images to its own blog, twitter feed, and so on).

In parallel to the development of a physical scarecrow, we propose to build a 'virtual festival' application that showcases scarecrows designed by local schoolchildren. The application, available to iPhone and Android devices, will require users to interact with the digitally enhanced scarecrow in Wray, in order to 'open up' a new set of scarecrows across the village that can only be viewed through the mobile device when stood in key locations. We plan to incorporate a competition element into the application, awarding users points for visiting the locations around the village and tagging (or 'catching') the virtual scarecrows. All the scarecrow designs and the application development will form part of the eventual documentary.

After the festival we anticipate the scarecrow going on tour at museums and galleries and, in this fashion, together with other artefacts and applications, telling the tale of the Wray Broadband project.

Planned Impact

We intend to tell the story of the Wray Broadband Project via a variety of outlets. Firstly, we will construct a digitally enhanced 'scarecrow' to take part in the annual Wray village scarecrow festival in May 2013. Secondly, we will build a 'virtual festival' application for mobile devices that showcases the scarecrow festival and includes designs created by local schoolchildren. Finally, we will produce a 5-10 minute documentary film that describes the design and construction processes for both the physical and virtual scarecrows. After the festival we anticipate the scarecrow going on tour at museums and galleries and, in this fashion, together with other artefacts, the video and mobile application, telling the tale of the Wray Broadband project.

We will work closely with our Knowledge Business Centre (KBC) based in InfoLab21, who will support this dissemination activity via a multifaceted approach, including hosting public events, working with community groups and industry partners, and communication via their public facing website.


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Title Telling Tales: Digital Scarecrow at Wray 
Description A series of three videos were produced and released via Youtube 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact Wray Village in rural Lancashire provides a unique testbed for Lancaster University to try out new technologies such as innovative ways to bring broadband to rural communities. This series of videos highlights the impact of the work during the last 10 years. The video shows Lancaster University as it prepares to create and deploy a Digital Scarecrow at the famous Wray Scarecrow Festival in 2013. 
Title Wray Digital Scarecrow 
Description An interactive digital scarecrow known as Scarebot. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact ScareBot is an interactive digital scarecrow designed with the help of the children. ScareBot incorporates as wide range of technologies including an Android tablet, a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino, and LED lighting. ScareBot can be interacted with in a number of ways: he blows bubbles from his feet when you send him a text message, and will also text you back a thank you which includes the current date time and weather where he is located; he can play a wide range of sounds using RFID tokens; and you can put your own face on the tablet that makes ScareBot face using the webcam on his arm. ScareBot has been used to highlight the impact of the work with Wray village across the last 10 years, and has been taken on tour to tell this story right around the country. 
Description In terms of research impact, the first element of the research began in 2003, focusing on how the autonomic behaviour of Wireless Mesh Networks could be enhanced. One of the key design characteristics of Wireless Mesh Networks is in their ability to self-manage and 'heal' themselves in response to various network conditions. The research at Lancaster focused on developing a new framework in order to unify the components required to build WMNs, permitting improved communications, configurability and customisation. The work incorporated a preliminary deployment of the technology into the village of Wray in 2004, offering the community access to broadband Internet services for the first time. The first practical deployment of the technology also highlighted areas of further research based around two key challenges pertaining to WMNs; that of network security and network resource management.
Exploitation Route Following on from successful deployment within Wray, the North West Development Agency supported a second WMN deployment led by the community; based around the Wray model (a book documenting the community process in building this network was also published [Annison, 2006]). A commercial company was then formed, WenNet Ltd, to manage mesh networks for rural villages and which continues to operate a commercial service for the Wennington area.

The work in Wray has had a profound effect on rural communities. Indications from the village show stronger social cohesion, higher adoption rates for new technologies and stronger usage by all demographics. This effect has been used by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) to lobby government for better broadband access in rural areas ( The Wray deployment has provided a vital test bed for future research; and in 2009 Wray was officially designated a Living Lab under the European Network of Living Labs (ENoLL) programme. The Wray Living Lab has garnered a variety of research funds including funds from the Technology Strategy Board, the EU frameworks program, Microsoft and the BBC. The University-led deployment in Wray has not only had a significant positive impact on the community itself, but also served as a catalyst for further research leading to IP-licensing and commercial activities.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

Description The Wray Broadband Project has had a considerable impact, not only in terms of academic research output but, more importantly, in terms of its social and personal impact on the village and villagers themselves and the surrounding area and connected communities. In terms of its social impact, the project has enabled around 100 rural businesses to get online and provided 230 families with free internet access after years of campaigning for a connection. It was the first project to be developed by the RuralConnect 'Living Lab' in an approach that takes research out of the traditional laboratory environment and into the community to investigate and understand the 'real world, real time' impact of our design interventions and modify them accordingly. In this approach local residents benefit through the introduction of valuable services such as the internet while researchers gain data from the real world. In early 2011, Lancaster deployed a 2nd generation WMN system into Wray village. This technology was designed to address many of the challenges with rural deployments, particularly in relation to network management, resource contention and ultimately network bandwidth. The new platform would also empower communities to become content creators, a feature highlighted when a cricket match on Wray village green was broadcast live via the WMN and out across the Internet This was reported by the Guardian and tweeted by Stephen Fry. Wray is one of very few rural locations in the UK with the upload capabilities to send user generated content like this to the internet. Wray was the first village in the UK to benefit from wifi broadband in 2003 and the first village to get hi-speed broadband in 2010. The Wray Broadband project has benefited both local villagers and local businesses, ranging from a nuclear energy consultant to an occupational health company, interior designer, a writer for a New York magazine, and several artists. The impact is most obviously seen when the villagers themselves happily testify to the impact the project has had on their lives. For example, Jennie Buckland a homeworker, writing reports online for Guide Dogs for the Blind said: "This connection makes all the difference because I wouldn't be able to work away from home with small children and the speed of the connection makes it easy." Her husband, a deputy headteacher, can also connect to the school website in the evening and work online. Other villagers to benefit include a geologist in the oil extraction business regularly working and tele-conferencing across time zones from home; the village postmistress who can have Sundays off by ordering online ; and university students who are now able to study online. In this NWDA video, sculptors Maggie and Boris Haworth describe sending designs to clients in the US and connecting with family abroad including an online project to support an orphanage in Thailand. The wifi connection has also prevented retired villagers from feeing isolated, as former farmer Barry Lindsay describes, "it created a whole new way of life for me and an interest past retiring age": The local project manager Chris Conder, whose family has farmed in Wray for four generations, said: "I got involved with the Wray project as a means of getting a broadband connection for myself, my husbands' farm business and my kids. The digital divide grows ever wider, with the rural population now severely disadvantaged by lack of access to modern methods of communication." The project has enabled her to run her own IT business from home but has also enabled her family to stay in touch. Chris said: "The project has built a lot of cohesion in the village, it has meant everyone helping each other, either to get a connection in the first place or to use it how they want to once they have got it. Once one person learns how to do something or find something online they share the knowledge with others.. " Currently the network is being upgraded and a 100Mbps fibre pipe has been installed in the Wray Institute for the Nextshare P2Pnext television project. A big screen TV is now in place in the computer room, and the project livestreamed the royal wedding to the big projector screen in the main hall. The villagers in Wray have also helped the neighbouring village of Wennington get online as the project is rolled out across the UK As a social enterprise and a regeneration tool, the Wray Broadband project provides a model to be replicated in rural communities across the UK (and abroad) as local people take control of their own digital future. As a result of this project, other organisations, including the BBC, have become involved with the people of Wray as they look at the social implications and potentially life-changing impact that broadband has on individuals and small businesses.
First Year Of Impact 2004
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Title scAREecrow Time Machine 
Description The scAREecrow Time Machine is a mobile IOS application available via iTunes. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact This is a mobile augmented reality application developed to raise awareness of the research carried out between Lancaster University and the village of Wray in Lancashire during the last 10 years. The mobile application offers a digital enhancement to the annual Wray scarecrow festival: allowing visitors to select past scarecrow festivals to experience and then display scarecrow images from that year at the relevant locations as they move through the village, thus, allowing them to traverse both time and space.