Scenes Unseen

Scenes Unseen

Scenes Unseen

Web-based Chatbot for exploring the city of Edinburgh

Scenes Unseen is a project exploring storytelling through conversational user interfaces (CUI). By chatting with three bots – a robin bird, a weeping ash, and a postbox, viewers can learn more about the city from alternative perspectives.


Cities are made of scenes – cars clustering on roads, pedestrians walking on sidewalks, street lights illuminating the night, children frolicking in parks . These scenes portray the diversity and dynamics of a city and compose a unique language of the city. Yet as a complex system, a city is more than these visible scenes, it is also the incorporation of diverse logics and politics, a frontier zone where different components and actors encounter, a space embedded hidden interrelationships and interdependences. We, human beings who create cities, are not the only inhabitants, though. Together with the non-human entities, we shape the environment and our culture. In turn, they also shape us and our city life. However, in our process of urbanisation, we tend to overlook these non-human inhabitants, as well as the impact of our actions on them.

What is the role of non-human entities in our city and our city life? How do they perceive the city? What are the unseen scenes?

Scenes Unseen is a browser safari through which people can view the city of Edinburgh differently. To raise awareness of our action’s impact on the city and non-human actors, the browser safari enables viewers to see the city from non-human actor’s perspectives and to discover unseen scenes. To better present the city of Edinburgh from alternative perspectives, I selected the robin bird, which is said to be UK’s favourite bird, the weeping ash, which has its story according to the city council, and the postbox, which is regarded as a British cultural icon. The webpage thus contains the visual views of the non-human actor, as well as a chatbot. The robin bird, for example, displays its unique sense of smell through the digital collage as well as the conversational interface.


As the essential part of the interaction, the design of the conversation script concerns the personalities of the robin, the weeping ash, and the postbox, the structure of the conversation, the end goal to which the conversation leads, and more importantly, what the content the conversation should convey. Overall, these anthropomorphic characters have very friendly personality. The conversations have similar frame with the same end goal of encouraging viewers to share the website. Although having different stories, these conversations all attempt to raise empathy to the nohumans and to change the viewers’ perspective of these nohumans.


Technology Behind

The website was designed in Sketch and coded using HTML/CSS, Javascript in Text Editor: Visual Studio Code. An important part of realizing the seamless and natural conversational interaction is the transitions and effects, which was created using CSS3 new features for animations and jQuery library for DOM manipulation. The website is hosted in Windows Azure, you can try it here.