UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For the ninth year in a row, Penn State’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction (CHCI) has released a mobile app to complement the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, being held July 13-16 in State College. Through the app, visitors will not only be able to virtually navigate the vendors and attractions, but also take advantage of features to share memories of past Arts Festivals and favorite places from this year’s festival.
Jack Carroll, distinguished professor of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), and his CHCI team created the app to allow festival-goers to check in on artist locations and event schedules through their smartphones. While the app retains its core functions, the team introduces a new feature every year.
Said Carroll, “What we spent time on this year was place-based memories and place-based experiences.”
The app development team, comprised of IST assistant professor Ben Hanrahan and graduate students Emma Zhu, Jiawei Chen and Jomara Binda, utilized the GPS feature on smartphones to place geo-tags at the locations of Arts Festival memories and favorite places.
When festival-goers visit one of their favorite places, they’ll be able to post a short geo-tagged description. They will similarly be able to share memories of past Arts Festivals, contributing to a collective archive of experiences on an interactive map of State College.
“People are doing these things anyway, building attachments to places where they bought a print or a tea kettle,” Carroll explained. “The way people react to their places is part of the way we organize meaning in our lives.”
This feature was created in partnership with PlaceSpeak, a company based in Canada that encourages communication on grassroots issues. It also is funded by a grant from the Penn State Institute of Cyberscience and a Fellowship from the Faculty Academy for Engaged Scholarship.
As an IST researcher, Carroll is interested in exploring community informatics, especially how local populations can be strengthened and invigorated by new technologies.
“I’m interested in finding ways to help community members share their data on things they care about,” he said. “Our work is exploring new ways to get people thinking about where they live and what’s going on.”
He added, “This Arts Fest app is one small piece of that, by leveraging a community celebration. Our app is a continuing attempt to probe the information needs and possibilities of the community."
The app is free to download for iPhone users on the App Store.