The SmallTalk project explored how physical opinion gathering devices could be used to let children express their opinions and give feedback directly, without any mediation by an adult. In this project we worked with a theatre production company called Fevered Sleep, who are resident at the Young Vic Theatre in London. Fevered Sleep produce magical and immersive theatre performances that are tailored towards a young audience. One of their requirements is to evaluate how the performance was received by this young audience in order to continue to deliver the best possible experiences in the future. They have used various methods for gathering feedback from children in the past – some requiring much time and mediation effort by adults, and some taking place in school environments several weeks after the performance. For the evaluation of Fevered Sleep’s 2014 production “Dusk”, they worked with us to develop a child friendly physical feedback system that would sit at the back of the theatre, and that the children could interact with on their own to give their opinions about the performance immediately after they had seen it.



The SmallTalk system consists of five colourful boxes with different buttons, dials and rollers for answering a series of questions. The questions covered demograpics, the children’s previous experience of going to the theatre, what they enjoyed and remembered most about the performance, and how it made them feel. Audio buttons were added beside each question and answer text so that children who couldn’t yet read were still able to take part and provide their feedback. The last box included short video clips of the main character from the performance asking questions, and the children could speak their answers back to him by talking into a large fluffy microphone at the side of the box.

We used the boxes after seven different performances of Dusk and had over 60 children interact with them to give their feedback – the very youngest being only 3 years old! The responses show how the children empathised with the main character and shared his emotions as the performance progressed. The last box with the video clips and microphone was particularly successful, capturing a variety of spoken responses that gave intriguing insights into what was most memorable for the children.

Check out the project webpage for more details:

SmallTalk Project


Sarah Gallacher, Connie Golsteijn, Yvonne Rogers, Licia Capra, and Sophie Eustace. 2016. SmallTalk: Using Tangible Interactions to Gather Feedback from Children. In Proceedings of the TEI ’16: Tenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI ’16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 253-261.



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