Telling stories with memory, place and technology

PhD candidate Kavita Gonsalves seeks to find meaning in connections to place with community-driven digital storytelling.

Initially, Kavita’s research, supervised by QUT Design Lab researchers Professor Marcus Foth and Dr Glenda Caldwell, aligned with overarching goals of enabling more relationships building among people in the Kelvin Grove Urban Village, particularly those facing social stigma. 

When quarantine measures from COVID-19 came into full effect, the project took another level of poignant significance. 

As well as researching and demonstrating how human interaction takes place across physical and digital placemeking, the project was able to address elements of loneliness and social isolation. 


“As the residents come from different parts of the world, varying demographics and cultures, the project’s digital storytelling and learning experiences brought them all together,” Kavita said.

“Through the process of intimate storytelling, the residents will become aware of one another’s histories, develop an understanding each other’s backgrounds and help build meaningful connections within the community.”

From the story of a 13-year-old boy leaving Mongolia to move to Kelvin Grove with his family, to the many stories that include themes of anxiety, domestic violence, the experience of studying at QUT, and racism, the 16 stories aim to give insight into the lives of those living in the area. The project used geolocative code to make the stories place-based.

A website to access all of the stories can be found here.

The project culminated in an exhibition held at the Kelvin Grove Urban Village markets on 10 October, 2020, where other members of the community and from further afield could learn more about the stories.

Chatty Bench Project participants at their exhibition opening at Kelvin Grove Urban Village.

After physical distancing restrictions had eased, project participants were also able to come together and enjoy a picnic.

Being part of the project boosted the morale and confidence of many participants, who were pleased to now have familiar faces in the neighborhood of KGUV.

Chatty Bench Project participants enjoy a picnic at Kundu Park to celebrate the opening of an exhibition at Kelvin Grove Urban Village markets.

Communify’s Cait Wildman describes how the project came about:

“Outside the Exchange community centre where I work, we have a public bench where people sit with devices and headphones and hook into our free wifi. There was seldom interaction between the bench users. So I made a sign and stuck it on the bench and added ‘sit here, if you don’t mind people stopping to say hello’. To my delight, the community responded positively and before long the sign became a talking point,” she said.

“We took this humble idea and, in collaboration with Kavita (QUT Design Lab) and Sam (Village Church), have turned it into this fun, digitally-based project called Chatty Bench Project.”

The project was funded by the Kelvin Grove Urban Village Principal Body Corporate (KGUV PBC) and is a community collaboration between QUT Design Lab, Communify, Village Church and KGUV PBC. It was also supported by Brisbane Housing Company, Queensland Academies Creative Industries (QACI) and La Boite Theatre Company.