This project aimed to develop a digital prototype of audio-vision storytelling related to the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. The testimonial audio recordings of political prisoners, Jewish, Sinti, or other categories of people that were imprisoned in the camp are presented through an interplay of spatial audio and user immersion in a 3D web scene.

The pilot prototype explores new digital storytelling and educational formats directly in the browser and serves as an alternative way to preserve the voices that witness the atrocities of the National Socialism period in Germany.

Spatial Audio Storytelling

Spatial audio storytelling combines visual and acoustic perceptions to create an in-depth audiovisual experience in which users find information or stories through an immersive experience. By entering the first virtual scene, the user is caught by a dark environment with various beams of lights located in different spots at a specific distance between each other. In this scene, the user hears a slight buzz of voices in the background made up by the different voices of the testimonies that are pulled together in an indistinguishable way.

By moving within the initially dark virtual scene, the positional audio technology allows the user to decide how to navigate according to the direction the voices are coming from. Inside each specific cone of light, the volume of one specific testimonial voice is at its maximum level and it is not possible to hear other voices anymore. This gives space to the testimony speech to be clear without any external interferences. As additional information, the names, photos of the time and a brief description of the person speaking, are shown to complement the audio story.

The potential of audio as a trigger for navigation directly uses the natural capability and properties of the human auditory system. One of the main goals of the spatial audio storytelling prototype is the rethinking of the linear timeline of the audio player. This leads to the creation of new spatial experiences in which the user can navigate interactively within an “audio story”.

The creation of virtual memory sites

The main challenge of this work was whether and how we can technically build up the navigation and the interaction through the implementation of spatial audio design on the web. Therefore, whether it may be possible to enhance the user experience through almost solely auditive stories. The prototype thus aims at fully immersing the user within a digital environment that creates an higher approximation and new educational digital storytelling formats.

To this aim, this project explores a new alternative idea of storytelling and education outside of the academic institutions, by transforming the already existing audio guides, available on various websites, into a virtual component that might enhance cultural heritage and preserve those memories.

The collaboration and the support received from the memorial site of Sachsenhausen allowed to gain access to the auditive audio guides that enable the visitors to discover the stories of the Holocaust witnesses.

The design of an interactive audio experience requires an initial research aimed at finding of the right technology that could be adopted in the prototype. In this work, the principal goal was firstly to allow the use of regular PC audio in the web browser and link it to different audio scenes. Furthermore, an important aspect was the connection between the digital environment created by the different scenes and the user navigation within them. That means, the development of a digital space where the user is able to move in all directions, carried primarily by what the users hear, hence by the direction from which the different audio files come. The technical development for the presented prototype was therefore realised by using the spatial audio properties of the Web Audio API library and the Three.Js Javascript library as the main front-end development tool.

From millions to one - from one to millions

One of the main concept that is posed with this prototype is the usage of digital technologies for the expression of the instinctive reaction of the human mind facing any tragedy that may involve a community. Thus, the main principle underlying this project is the perception of a singular voice in comparison to a thousand, that changes how we feel emotionally. The involvement of millions of people, all connected to human history, can bring an immense tragedy to be reduced to simple numbers. For example, the newspaper daily reports events happening all around the world that affect millions of people. Those numbers and statistical studies can have an initial effect of inducing negative feelings on us (sadness, angriness as examples) and might cause a chain reaction of indignation, contempt, or compassion. This news affects the mind, forced to focus on the multitude, counting directly every singular person affected by this tragedy, and reducing it to statistical data. This can create a general feeling of detachment, due to just focusing on big numbers statistics. On the other hand, hearing one individual story out of millions makes a big difference in how we perceive it. The story of one person, even if unknown to us, creates a deeper empathy, emotion, and approximation. Therefore, by focusing on an individual voice, the audio storytelling of the prototype aims to give rise to an inevitable empathy with the human story itself. In contrast, the initial buzz of indistinguishable voices in the dark web space represents the multitude of numbers in which the individual stories are sidelined.


This project proposes an initial investigation of the potential implementation of sound spatiality in the web for the memorial site Sachsenhausen. Specifically, the project is the result of the interdisciplinary relationship between the technological possibilities, design process, and collaboration with the memorial foundation. The use of digital technologies allows the development of new possibilities to interact with cultural heritage and spatial audio has been proven to be a valid contributor. Even though there are many improvements to be solved in the development of the prototype, the audio interaction demonstrates an intersection of human senses capable of improving a user experience with cultural services. Furthermore, it opens to innovative ideas for visitor services with educational purposes also outside the memorial.

The project was held at the University of Applied Science in Potsdam, by Daniele Maselli supervised by Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk (University of Applied Science) and Prof. Dr. Angela Brennecke (Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF) and made in collaboration with SPUR.lab and support from Papito Favaro for the technical development.

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