CD#18 – Talking, walking, living history

Dave Brown

The new term is now under way, and there are many new faces to welcome to the community. A more familiar face is our new Scholar in Residence, Dave Brown, who was around during the summer, but who has recently joined us in earnest for the coming year. So if you are wondering what Dave is up to at the Castle, read on, as Dave explains about his work and what it means for tourism and research at the Castle.

“It’s not unusual to see people wandering about on the grounds of Herstmonceux Castle peering intently into their smartphones” says Dave. “But you might notice me doing it a bit more frequently than most, accompanied by a chorus of dings, beeps, and disembodied voices.

Despite appearances, however, I’m not a tech addict; I’m a prof in the Dept. of Geography and Tourism Studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. My apparent obsession with digital devices stems from my work on Interpretours, a mobile digital interpretive platform that uses smartphones to automatically deliver multimedia information on many topics to users, based on their current physical location.

The diverse and storied Castle estate provides an ideal location to create content for the platform. Though there’s no substitute for a real-life, knowledgeable tour guide, the platform can enhance the experiences of visitors and Castle community members by providing wayfinding information, interpretive routes of the extensive grounds, and specialised thematic information about the history, architecture, natural history, and evolution of the Castle and its grounds.

Delivering site-specific, GPS-triggered multimedia content to your mobile.

Like Herstmonceux, many places have unique heritage features, rich histories, and wonderful stories – but it’s not always easy for visitors to fully appreciate what an area has to offer without doing a lot of research beforehand. Interpretours is designed to address this challenge – by being a kind of ‘knowledgeable GPS unit‘. Based on your interests and physical location, the app guides you to your chosen points of interest and back again – by car, bike, public transit, or on foot – with automatic turn-by-turn directions using one familiar, portable, and easy-to-use device – your smartphone. You can visit individual destinations, explore areas at random, or follow custom or prepared tour routes. But unlike a regular satnav, it also tells you thematically relevant stories along the way, and provides automatically-triggered interpretive information for each point of interest you visit when you get there. It also works in many different environments, from dense cityscapes to remote rural locations where the Google cameras have never visited. No street address or pre-existing mapped route is required.

The platform’s authoring tools also allow users to easily create and share their own geo-located interpretive blurbs for points of interest, as well as custom route itineraries keyed to their own needs and interests. As an educational tool, the platform uses a full spectrum of multimedia tools allowing instructors to create self-guided learning walks for field studies on any topic, and researchers to create specialized geo-located research utilities to share with their peers. And students can complete media-rich field assignments, the best of which can live on as interpretive resources for other students and the public.”

Dave will be working with BISC faculty and partner institutions on digital interpretive materials for locations in London and elsewhere in East Sussex. If your interest has been piqued, find out more about the Interpretours platform from the website or from Dave himself. And if you have your own ideas or opportunities for the platform, or just want to say ‘hello’, feel free to track Dave down in his office (209) or email him on  dbrown@brocku.ca. He will happily tell you more about the project!

»Telling stories since January 2017«