Bridging Cultural Differences Through Shared Experiences
(A Digital, Audio and Visual, Travel Companion Experience Platform)
A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of the Themed Entertainment Design Department in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts in Themed Entertainment Design at The Savannah College of Art and Design
Savannah, GA ©November 2020
Greg Andrade , Committee Chair
Bob Shreve, Committee Member
Mk Haley, Committee Member
This paper is dedicated to my ancestors both distant and close.
For my husband, who has worked tirelessly to help me achieve my dreams.
For my parents and grandparents. Your hard work and sacrifices were not lost on me.
For my siblings, who were some of my earliest friends and heroes.
For my extended family, who have supported me in all of my endeavors.
For my friends, who have been sounding boards, helping the idea factory keep going.
For my teachers, professors, and mentors: thank you for your guidance and direction.
For my students and rowers, who helped me stay younger, more curious, for longer.
For the people around the world who have the magic of stories in their souls; who share these with their families and communities and make this place a little brighter.
Thanks will never be enough.
My truest hope is that I have made y’all proud.
If your name is here, I have many accolades and thanks for you. Please accept my gratitude.
My thesis committee: Greg Andrade, Bob Shreve, and Mk Haley.
My family: Matthew Frake, Elizabeth Vincent, Paul K. Bailey, Rose H. Bailey, Walter Lee Vincent, Joseph Hoke Board, Elizabeth “Betsy” M. Board-Guzzardo, Lisa Renee Vincent, Cheri and Don Conaway, Megan, Hailey, and James Kammerer, Anna Larena Schreiner, and all of my ancestors who have left their wisdom behind in their stories.
My Teachers, Professors, and Administration: My first teacher, my Mama; Mrs. Fowler, Mrs. Deckert, Mrs. Wilder, Mrs. Tarkington, Mr. Wrage, Sra. Cinotti, Mr. Hale, Dr. Fooshee, Mr. Respess, Mr. Meek, Mrs. Tilley, Mrs. Davis (who would be beyond excited that I wrote a paper, willingly), Mr. Montanye, Mr. Gracia, Mr. Sheffield, Coach Register, Sr. Dobson, Sra. Barry, Herr Marshall, Mrs. Chester, Mrs. Matthews, Dr. Debra Murphy, Dr. Elizabeth Heuer, Louise Freshman Brown, Paul Ladnier, Alex Diaz, Dr. P. Scott Brown, Kyle Keith, Nofa Dixon, John Paul Lowe, Scott Dietz, Lisa Ryan, Malchus Janocko, Shana McKay Burns, Sari Gilbert, Dr. Anne Swartz, Jimmy Benedetto, Sarah Talbot, Ruth Hutson, Sydney Bacenas, Andra Reeve-Rabb, and Karl Rouse.
My friends, students, and colleagues: Michael Orta and Chloe Furfine-Orta, Brendan Favo, Lia Rudd, Wendy Wills Keeling, Melvin Keyes, Randy Shilling, Bethany Alden Riggs, Cheryl Splane-Borja, Joel Zika, Julian Ochoa, Henry Duhaime, Maris Slavin, Dave Hall, Chris Lange, Yongyi Liang, Branden Tolley, Kevin Goad, Arielle Spencer, Kira Prince, Sara Joy Needham, LaRisa Dunham, Lorie Wheeler, Rachel Fugate, Carlos Ginatta, Roqaia Bahammam, Bridget Weitzel, Tom Melady, Nicole Gaudier, Alex Underwood, Emily Lê, Sarah Beals, Bryce Mullins, Igor Pertile, Alessandra Poma, Jady Chen, Gabriel Lewis, Xheni Bare, Dawn Raja Somu, Ally Brody, Jennifer Chen, Anna Morgan, Elisabeth Batchelor, Marissa Batey, Haley Collins, Joyce Cameron Davidson, Ahmad Hasona, Parker Hudson, Kamille Smith, Sakura Elizondo, Ashtyn Miller, Marielle Paz, Paris Brown, Camille Ferron, Faith VanPelt, Conor “CJ” Gohl, Evan Forman, Ten Francis, Kyle Branch, Mariam Hussein, Abdo Rahim, Madiha Zahir, Godwin Djokoto, Haris Sheikh, Aaron Sindhu, Zach Mills, Dylen Worthington, Vic Martin, Franco Francesca, Michael Borio, Kathleen Maida, Paula Renfro, Anita Sheikh, Larry Yudin, Janine Brand, Dan Wilcox, Vicky Schrimsher, Robin Reed, Kim Rolfe, Michelle Wolrich, Scott Price, Beth Pecarek, Bill Darty, Pete Gerlach, Tammy Roper Tuschhoff, and Ann Marie Sullivan.
My favourite art history nerd and embracer of all things awesome: Joseph “Joe” M. Rohde.
Industry professionals and mentors: Tina Harper with Echoes.xyz, Hamish Sewell, RJ Temple, Michael Libby, Cynthia Sharpe, Harriet Cheng, Dustin Stephan, Theron Skees, Jay Francis, Jason Surrell, Chuck Fawcett, Melody Matheny, Dave Werner, Michelle Hicks, Andrew Porter, Cynthia Vergon, Chris Willrich, and Nathan “Nate” Jones.
Very importantly, however, the Indigenous Peoples of the world, including: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation, The Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Myaamia Center, The Māori Peoples, and Common Ground Australia.
Table of Contents
“Travel is fatal….” 2
“Do what you can….” 3
“A country without a language….” 5
“The world is a book….” 9
“An education capable of saving humanity….” 10
“Technology is nothing….” 12
“It’s on strength of observation….” 14
List of Figures 16
Icon and image and text credits for platform 21
Bridging Cultural Differences Through Shared Experiences
(A Digital, Audio and Visual, Travel Companion Experience Platform)
This thesis will address the initial opportunity and preliminary concept for a global- scale, geolocation capable, storytelling application that will be an individualised, themed, Augmented Reality experience, incorporating the Oral Traditions, stories, and music from Indigenous Cultures and local peoples in their own source languages and translating them into the guest’s language of choice as they are walking, riding, or otherwise moving throughout the environment. This application will also double as a travel tool, allowing the content user to select from items in an informational mode, incorporating different icons, attractions, food and beverage offerings, hotels, festivals, events, etc. Finally, the guest will be able navigate through the application remotely and hear all of the curated stories and music from the comfort of their own home or classroom, with gamification that allows the guest to better understand and connect with the global community during times where travel isn’t an option.
Keywords: Cultural Experiences, Themed Entertainment, Themed Experiences, Indigenous Language Preservation, Cultural Preservation, Language Dormancy, Augmented Reality, Geolocation Based Storytelling, Enhanced Entertainment
Themed, Enhanced Experiences for Increased Understanding and Empathy
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrowmindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of (people) and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad1
1 Mark Twain, “The Innocents Abroad”, (New York: American Publishing Co., 1869), 650
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” 2
Growing up, I was taught to see the need then work to improve it; to always leave a place better than it was before I arrived; to give generously of my time and talents. When tasked with creating a themed place or experience for my thesis, there were many paths and all were viable options: An immersive experience in situ at Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland (Fig.1); A potential land for a theme park project in the UK; Recreating an amusement park from the turn of the 20th century as a lens to tell the story of immigration to the United States. All of these would have been wonderful projects but none of them were adequately filling the needs of the global population. I then recalled the alarming statistic I had heard 4 years before during a trip to Australia and New Zealand: Globally, we are losing one spoken language every two weeks. Those languages are people, stories, history, songs, knowledge… the very heart and soul of our tapestry of nations. Poof. Just gone. Joe Rohde once asked for us all to be a conduit of any increment of positive change3 and I really wanted to make sure that was happening. When I spoke with my faculty regarding this need, they agreed that while this was a heart-breaking reality, the thesis called for me to address themed entertainment, experiences, and place making in some way. Simply put: if I wanted to confront the need to preserve and protect against cultural loss on the global scale, I would need to be creative in the method of storytelling and allow this story to guide the research and project as a whole After months of research, discussions with Indigenous People from across the world, more virtual meetings and brainstorming with industry leaders and some of the most creative contemporary minds I could find, I think I have come to the tip of a very, very large iceberg.
2 Theodore Roosevelt, conservationist, naturalist, historian, and 26th President of the United States of America
3 Joe Rohde, “Existing in the World”, 13 September, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygfo-FVyWn0
This thesis addresses the opportunity and preliminary concept for a mobile platform called “Storyteller”. This name is derivative of the Ancient Irish tradition of Seanchaí, (seanchaidhe/seanchaithe) which was the highest ranking job title for Gaeilge storytellers. Having been raised in a very diverse and multicultural region of the United States by a family of educators, explorers, and storytellers, I felt naturally drawn to this topic. Given my personal connection to the subject and my own educational journey, the title came rather easily, facilitated by the early application of Occam’s Razor4.
Storytellers “were divided into well-defined ranks – ollaimh (professors), filí (poets), baird (bards), seanchaithe (historians, storytellers), whose duty it was to know by heart the tales, poems and history proper to their rank, which were recited for the entertainment and praise of the chiefs and princes. These learned classes were rewarded by their patrons, but the collapse of the Gaelic order after the battle of Kinsale in 1601-2, and Culloden in Scotland (1746), wiped out the aristocratic classes who maintained the poets, and reduced the role of the historian and seanchaí.”5
This profession or title is by no means relegated to Gaeltacht areas in Ireland and Scotland. Many other cultures have employed similar persons within their communities. Several groups in West Africa have the Griot6, a position which encompasses the conveyance of the Oral Tradition of passing on the history of the community through songs, stories,poems, and satire. In his 1969 book, “African Music, A People’s Art.”, Francis Bebey said,
“The West African griot is a troubadour, the counterpart of the medieval European minstrel. Some griots are attached to the courts of noblemen, others are independent and go from house to house, or from village to village, peddling stories and adding new ones to their collection. The griot knows everything that is going on and he can recall events that are no longer within living memory. He is a living archive of his people’s traditions. His repertoire is extremely wide… The virtuoso talents of the griot command universal admiration. This virtuosity is the culmination of long years of study and hard work… The profession is by no means 5 a male prerogative. There are many women griots whose talents as singers and musicians are equally remarkable.”7
4 Occam’s Razor: the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities. (Merriam-Webster)
5 Eugene McKendry, “Study Ireland: Storyteller”, Last Modified 20 February, 2015, https://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/schools/11_16/storyteller/pdf/gen_notes_all.pdf
6 Ro Ho, “Griot: Title given to a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet and musician”. Last Modified 12 November 2012, https://originalpeople.org/griot-title-given-to-a-west-african-historian-storyteller-praise-singer-poet-and-musician/, Accessed 10 August 2020
7 Francis Bebey, “African Music, A People’s Art.”, (France: Horizons de France, 1969; Translated Brooklyn: Lawrence Hill Books, 1975), 46.
The position of “Storyteller” has been an integral part of our global history since the first people began keeping an Oral History of traditions, stories, songs, and poems. In some cultures, this necessary task is the responsibility of every member in that society, with the Elders maintaining the Sacred Tradition as “Holders of the Culture, Keepers of the Stories”8. This is particularly true for many tribal peoples in Australia. For over fifty thousand years, Aboriginal Australians (Figs. 2, 3) have maintained their Oral Tradition, as it “has been passed down from generation to generation… storytelling (is) a learning process – children (learn) from an early age how to survive their environment by listening to their elders.”9 European society has employed bards, playwrights, poets, songwriters, singers, actors, historians, fableists, and musicians for centuries. Therefore, it should come to no surprise that cultures and communities across the planet and throughout the eons have had the same need. Wherein these cultures have found them necessary, current and future societies should continue to find value in maintaining these traditions. Ultimately, global cultural continuity becomes relevant to and is dependent on everyone, in every society, forever.
“Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam.” 10 (A country without a language is a country without a soul)
Unfortunately, cultural continuity through the Oral Tradition is becoming harder to maintain. During the United Nations General Assembly, on 17 December 2019, then UN President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande presented substantial data regarding the growing extinction or dormancy of Indigenous Languages11. In the findings, it was estimated that out of the four thousand surviving Indigenous Languages in the world (Fig. 4), they are being lost at a rate of two every month. (1,800 or 45% of these languages are found in Africa, alone.) Furthermore, only 6% of the global population count themselves amongst the speakers of these 4,000 Indigenous Languages. In all, there are 2,926 endangered languages, or 41% of all living (spoken) languages across the world. Mr. Muhammad-Bande went on to say that ,“it was ‘equally noteworthy’, that 15% of the poorest people on the planet are indigenous.”12 These are truly astounding numbers and frankly, should be seen as a call to action. (Fig. 5) Considering the disproportionate impact that Covid19 has had on Indigenous Populations around the world, these estimates likely have changed substantially.13 Many cultures’ stories and traditions aren’t translated into the languages of nearby tribal groups and communities, as these groups have often had limited access to technology.
2019 was labelled by the UN and UNESCO as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and the findings prompted UN General Assembly, the following day, to call for a Decade of Indigenous Languages, establishing 2022-2032 as the official designated time period for this call to action. In their proclamation, the UN invited “indigenous peoples, as custodians, to initiate ideas for preserving this endangered facet of their cultural and social life.”14 Timing, therefore, seems to be of the essence for the creation of a way to connect the local, Indigenous Cultures with the broader global community in a sensitive and appropriate manner, allowing for complete autonomy and discretion of those same Indigenous populations. The concept, therefore, seems to be a platform for a mobile application. Accessible, inexpensive, and able to circumvent many roadblocks and hurdles that one may associate with the creation of said program, (ex. penetration of technology15 and “smart phone” capabilies.1617)
8 Len Collard, “Nidja Beeliar Boodjar Noonookurt Nyinning: A Nyungar Interpretative History of the Use of Boodjar (Country) in the Vicinity of Murdoch University”, Murdoch University, 2002
10 Pádraig Pearse, c. 1916 (Translation from Irish: A country without a language is a country without a soul.)
11 Ethnologue, “How many languages are endangered?”, 18 March, 2020 https://www.ethnologue.com/guides/how-many-languages-endangered
12 UNESCO, “Two indigenous languages dying every month: UN President.” 17 December, 2019, https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/12/1053711
13 Terri Hansen, “How Covid-19 could destroy indigenous populations.”, BBC Future, 29 July, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200727-how-covid-19-could-destroy-indigenous-communities
14 UN, General Assembly 74th Session, 50th Meetings (AM), 18 December, 2019, https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/ga12231.doc.htm#:~:text=The%20General%20Assembly%20proclaimed%20 2022,recommended%20by%20its%20Third%20Committee%20
15 World Bank, “World Development Report- 2016” 2016- http://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/961621467994698644/pdf/102724-WDR-WDR2016Overview-ENGLISH-WebResBox-394840B-OUO-9.pdf
16 Kyle Wiggers, “Pew: Smartphone penetration ranges from 24% in India to 95% in South Korea” 5 February 2019, https://venturebeat.com/2019/02/05/pew-south-korea-has-the-worlds-highest-smartphone-ownership-rate/
17 Javier Yanes, “Mobile Technologies for Third World Development.”, 22 August, 2019, https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/technology/innovation/mobile-technologies-for-third-world-development/
The aforementioned concept is a global-scale, geolocation capable, storytelling application. (Fig. 6) The user experience will be an individualised, enhanced, and Augmented Reality themed experience. Upon the download and installation, users will be prompted for their own input via the interface, choosing things that interest them, ex. cultural practices, art, music, cuisine, history, legends, etc…. Once the user has input their own selections into the interface, the application will ask for permission to access the device’s GPS, allowing the application to search the area surrounding the user, allowing the user to discover and experience new and dynamic content. (Fig. 7) Users will also have the ability to navigate through the global map while not connected to the device’s GPS, allowing the content to be accessed while at home, in the classroom, or en route to their destination.
Ultimately, the development organisation would be a non-profit, allowing for partnerships in academia (K through University), local, federal, and international governments and organisations, qualifying for and receiving grants. Following marketing trends for travel, many have begun to actively direct their discretionary funds to organisations, businesses, voluntourism, and experiences that have substantially positive impacts on local communities and assists in conservation of communities through economic, ecological, as well as cultural immersion and restoration projects.18 “Mission” or “service” based travel occasionally has a negative impact on local and Indigenous Peoples19 through the othering20 and objectification of these communities. This often happens by very people who are there to “do good”, the implementation of this application allows the communities themselves to direct the narrative, creating the product and driving the market demand by curating the supplied materials. In doing so, all of the resources stay in the community.
The content that the user enjoys will be entirely created and provided by Indigenous and local peoples in their own source languages, allowing a careful and sensitive curation of the information, stories, and music by the very communities that the user will be learning from and potentially be interacting with. This allows local Indigenous Populations’ full ownership of the material and discretion to select and control the information, music, and stories that tourists, students, and others outside of their own communities have access to, while still allowing their Oral Traditions to be appreciated by everyone. In addition to source-language story curation and storage, using the services of translation experts, application will then translate the information into the users’ language of choice as the user is walking, riding, or otherwise moving throughout the environment. By collecting the source-language content provided by the Indigenous and local communities, members of their own community will have unfettered access to these audio and video files and other materials in the event that they should ever find themselves wanting to connect to the data. In short: by creating the content for this application, the groups themselves are creating an audio/visual backup system of the stories, music, and any information and materials that the communities deem necessary and important. This storage is part of the library of data that will continue on in perpetuity.
18 US Travel Association, “State of American Vacation, 2018”, https://www.ustravel.org/sites/default/files/media_root/document/2018_Research_State%20of%20American%20Vacation%202018.pdf
19 Cassandra Terri Cummings, “The Positive and Negative Effects of a Short Term Mission Trip.”, 27 November, 2018, https://medium.com/sojourners-heart/the-positive-and-negative-effects-of-a-short-term-mission-trip-c9991876ddc9
20 Othering, (or treating a person or group of people as “other”) is the act of viewing or treating (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself or one’s perceived social, ethnic, racial, religious, economic, or age group.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page” 21
In addition to the access to these stories, music, and materials, users will also have the ability to access an informational mode within the application. This mode allows the program to be implemented as a travel tool, prompting the user to select from items within this informational user interface, incorporating different icons, attractions, food and beverage offerings, hotels, festivals, events, etc…. Based on the September 2019 Whitepaper by Travolution and <intent>, 81% of all of the travel sector respondents said they considered it very important for brands to provide personalised experiences to their customers while 84% claimed to be actively implementing plans to provide or otherwise invest in these personalisation capabilities by the end of 2022.22 Also in 2019, Airbnb partnered with the biotech firm, 23andMe to recommend heritage inspired vacations or holidays. According to their data, over 50% of Americans, 69% of French people, and 89% of people from India have travelled to at least one country of their ancestral heritage.23
Meanwhile, TripAdvisor conducted a global survey of their users in 2017 and found that heritage and historic tourism increased 125% in popularity with a forecasted potential increase exponentially more in 2018 and moving forward. Contemporary travellers are often prone to seek personalised and culturally immersive vacation experiences, so the tourism industry continues to expand their personalisation options. Andrew Sheivachman said, “Vacationers want to experience something new and are tired of the same old tours and activities….”24 and the data definitely supports this statement.
Finally, the user will be able navigate through the application remotely and hear all of the curated stories and music from the comfort of their own home, vehicle, or classroom. This ultimately allows the guest to better connect with local communities from around the world, facilitating a deeper understanding, and cultivating a lingering curiosity to develop meaningful insights during times in which travel isn’t an option.
“2020 has been a year like no other and while it will be some time before travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, all signs point to the fundamental and enduring role that travel plays in all our lives. It continues to bring moments of joy and inspiration to people across the globe during times of uncertainty, whether through dreaming and planning, or cherishing the trips we have been able to take. Enhancing our understanding of one another and our common desire to explore beyond the horizon, I believe that travel has a unique potential to come back stronger than ever in the years ahead as a primary driver of growth, equality, and prosperity for people everywhere….”-Sociologist- Arjan Dijk25
21 Attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo
22 “Whitepaper: Personalisation in travel – opportunities, challenges and attitudes”, Travolution, 12 September, 2019, https://www.travolution.com/articles/112552/whitepaper-launch-personalisation-in-travel-opportunities-challenges-and-attitudes
23 Nicole Martin, “Airbnb Partners with 23andMe to recommend heritage inspired vacations.”, Forbes, 5 June, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolemartin1/2019/06/05/airbnb-partners-with-23andme-to-recommend-heritage-inspired-vacations/?sh=3d2bb32f382a
24 Dan Peltier and Andrew Sheivachman, “Tours and Experiences: The Next Great Untapped Market in Online Travel”, 18 September 2018, https://skift.com/2018/09/18/tours-and-experiences-the-next-great-untapped-market-in-online-travel/
25 Arjan Dijk, “9 Predictions for the Future of Travel.” 22 October 2020, https://insights.ehotelier.com/global-news/2020/10/22/nine-predictions-for-the-future-of-travel/
“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking: it involves the spiritual development of (humankind), the enhancement of (their) value as (individuals), and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.”26
Educational users will have access to first hand recordings of the people and communities they are studying, exploring topics like: world history, geography, politics, economic and ecological impacts, global languages, climate science, farming practices, health and safety, community organisation, folklore, fine arts, crafts, music, theatrical presentations, architecture, cultural preservation, biodiversity of local flora and fauna, and religious beliefs.
Educators will be able to create individualised learning plans for their classrooms, and share these experiences with a global community of students and educators, as well as the communities who provide the content. The target use and audience for this application bridges beyond being a user interface for local content creators, curators and docents, a tool for novice to seasoned travellers, and a way to enhance engagement and depth of understanding within the realm of education. Travel consultants, tour developers, and local tourism boards as well as content creators for this industry could also use this as a way to develop more culturally sensitive, timely, relevant, and ecologically conscientious approaches at enhanced themed experiences. By expressly directing the application to exhibit itself as having two key features 1) a curator or docent for themed, immersive, cultural experiences and 2) a travel planning tool, the application is a scaffold for various types of content available for the guests. The content creators are able to provide the material as well as context for dynamic and exciting experiences, and developers are able to partner with local and Indigenous Communities to provide up to date, AugmentedReality models that are pertinent and sensitive to the needs of both the community and the guest. Hamish Sewell, Founder of Soundtrails, an interactive geolocative, audio storytelling project in Australia said,
“Nowhere are stories more powerfully experienced than when heard on the site with our feet on the ground. The voices, the sounds and songs that bring the place alive and affords it meaning connect us with the world around us and those who come before us.”27
Through his work, and the work of countless others, I was able to better understand the relationship platforms and applications like Storyteller have for Indigenous and remote populations around the world. By removing the content creator from the role as educator, storyteller, and public face of their culture, and allowing independent travel operators to construct their own narratives, the tourism industry has cut them from a lot of funding that would inevitably help the local community. By creating the impression that the people are the attraction, and not the stories and history, Indigenous Populations have become a side-show,instead of the cultivators of culture and influence. Creating a simple, intuitive, effective, and efficient scaffold (Fig. 8) for the content creators to record and upload their materials into the database is the preliminary step in developing this platform. Upon consultation with different experts in app development, specifically in geolocation based and Augmented Reality offerings, it is imperative that the initial user interface for these content creators be multi-platform capable, and that experienced designers are engaged to this end. The ability for Indigenous Communities to access this interface with ease and fluency is paramount for the success of the overall concept. Subsequently, the user interface for the end user should also be intuitive and efficient, allowing for ease of navigation in both the storytelling mode, as well as the informational mode.
26 Dr. Maria Montessori, “Educazione e pace”, (The Ohio State University: International Bureau of Education, 1932)
27 Hamish Sewell, Soundtrails, https://storiedland.com/soundtrails-community
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”28
“Smart phones exist. To pretend otherwise is like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.”29 The goal of application development in the field of tourism, museum and educational programs, and cultural immersion should be to establish the device as the tool, or prompt, not the subject. By redirecting the attention from the actual device and application to the material being enjoyed, the user is connected to the subject matter more deeply than as a stand-alone experience. Ultimately, the intent for an application like this is for lifelong usage. The addition of gamified content is one of the main ways to achieve this, actively encouraging the user to keep the application installed on their mobile device or tablet and access the app with some degree of regularity. This gamification also increases educational achievements and allows learners to maintain their engagement with the subject for far longer than without perceived goals, either virtual or otherwise.30 The Storyteller application is conceptually designed to remove points of friction for those learning about and experiencing new cultures and places. Some of these include discomfort interacting with locals or experiencing new types of food or entertainment due to a lack of initial understanding or familiarity. Actively establishing partnership relationships with and supporting local Indigenous Communities allows for the development of culturally sensitive programming, like flexibility in story delivery methods from outside of the Western European tradition, which would clearly be outlined by the Indigenous Groups themselves. This allows the partnership funds to be allocated to the Indigenous Communities and local peoples, further cultivating the preservation of the language, stories, and culture of these content creators as well as increasing the language prestige for early language learners and people attempting to re-establish a connection with their own cultural heritage and potentially assist those who are working diligently on waking previously dormant languages in their process.31
Without diving too deeply into app development and programming, I have consulted with a number of experts in this field. All of the technology I have suggested currently exists in some form and this is all technologically achievable. Fortunately, the projection of future technologies, usable to this end is highly likely, and very nearly certain. During a conversation with one of these experts, it was suggested that I explicitly state the current achievability and precedent to license external technology companies’ products, tailoring their capabilities directly to the needs of this conceptual application. By licensing existing products, it negates the need for the developers to “reinvent the wheel”, allowing the application developers and designers to focus on innovation and enhancing the end product on behalf of the content creators. Furthermore, the technology companies themselves may even venture into partnership with the non-profit due to the nature of the application itself, and the visibility or perception that the aforementioned partnership might lend to their company as a patron of cultural preservation or other philanthropic needs.32
28 Steve Jobs, Co-Founder & former CEO of Apple
29 Michael Libby, Founder & CEO of Worldbuildr, 11 November, 2020
30 Kasper Welbers et al., “Gamification as a tool for engaging student learning: A field experiment with a gamified app.” Sage Journals, 27 February, 2019 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2042753018818342; https://doi.org/10.1177/2042753018818342
31 George Ironstrack, Assistant Director, Myaamia Center Director, Education Office, Phone call on 11 November, 2020.
32 Michael Libby, Worldbuildr, Virtual Meeting 11 November, 2020
“It’s on the Strength of Observation and Reflection That One Finds a Way. So We Must Dig and Delve Unceasingly.”33
The culmination of this process has been the start of many conversations, confrontations, and personal insight. If failure is the mother to success, I feel as though I have just begun my journey. Standing beside giants in the industries of themed experiences, creative thought, and tourism, I am humbled to have found myself on this path, initially led by the gentle prodding of my professors, thoughtful consideration given to in-depth discussions with my thesis committee members, endless brainstorming sessions with my family, friends, and colleagues, provocative questioning by various mentors, and even input from strangers. Continually and unceasingly questioning why has led me to this, posed by Rabbi Hillel the Elder, “If I am not for myself, who is for me? But if I am for my own self [only], what am I? And if not now, when?”34 This application is timely, necessary, and pertinent. If used by the global Indigenous Population for the sake of increased understanding and language prestige,in partnership with philanthropic organisations, ethical tourism, and academia, the UN decree of The Decade of Indigenous Languages could help stem the tide of the decimation of so many Indigenous Populations’ connection to their own cultural heritage. Allowing Indigenous leaders to drive real, cultural, and experiential learning, educators from around the world will be better able to assist their own students with understanding the interconnectedness of our world of nations. By cultivating and curating themed, enhanced experiences, through the development of and regular implementation of this application, the global community as a whole will have assisted in the preservation of much of its own cultural heritage3536 and virtual heritage3738 thus increasing the understanding between communities, bridging the divide of cultural differences through shared experiences.
33 Claude Monet, 19th and 20th century painter
34 Rabbi Hillel the Elder, from the Hebrew: “הוּא†הָיָה†אוֹמֵר¨†אִם†אֵין†אֲנִי†לִי¨†מִי†לִיÆ†וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי†לְעַצְמִי¨†מָה†אֲנִיÆ†וְאִם†לאֹÆ†עַכְשָיו†¨ אֵימָתָי†”¨†https://www.sefaria.org/Pirkei_Avot.1.14?lang=bi
35 Ann Marie Sullivan, “Cultural Heritage & New Media: A Future for the Past”, 15 J. MARSHALL REV. INTELL. PROP. L. 604, 2016, https://repository.jmls.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1392&context=ripl
36 Cultural Heritage includes tangible heritage (architecture, arts, crafts, books), intangible heritage (folklore, traditions, customs, and knowledge), natural heritage (biodiversity of flora, fauna, and culturally relevant landscapes.), and now includes virtual heritage
37 Dave Bharat, “Virtual Heritage: Mediating Space, Time And Perspectives, in NEW HERITAGE:
NEW MEDIA AND CULTURAL HERITAGE” 40 (Yehuda E. Kalay et al. eds.), 2008
38 Virtual heritage projects incorporate digital interactivity and media-rich representations to offer passages through time and space that are qualitatively different from what may be possible using traditional media and narratives; significant shifts in virtual heritage studies have been made by identifying key characteristics of successive generations of interactive digital media.
List of Figures Page
Figure 1: Newgrange 17
Figure 2: Aboriginal Land Distribution Map 17
Figure 3: Aboriginal Language Distribution 18
Figure 4: Language by Speakers, Regions 18
Figure 5: Map of World Endangered Languages 19
Figure 6: Application Wireframe 19
Figure 7: Discover your world 20
Figure 8: 20
Figure 1: Newgrange, Passage Tomb, 3,200 BC/BCE, County Meath, Ireland.
(Photo © Tourism Ireland)
Figure 2: Map Showing the Distribution of the Aboriginal Tribes of Australia
(Norman B. Tindale, 1940.)
Figure 3: Contemporary (AIATSIS) Map of Indigenous Australians
(David R Horton, creator, © AIATSIS, 1996)
Figure 5: Map of endangered world languages, 18 March, 2020.
(Ethnologue, © OpenStreetMap contributors, © CARTO)
Figure 6: Screen shots from a preliminary wireframe for an application, Storyteller
(Created in partnership with Henry Duhaime, a very patient UX/UI Designer and friend)
Figure 8: Platform to be used as a scaffold for local and Indigenous Peoples to record and store their materials, stories, and information. It can be shared with guests, or saved for community use.
Story by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project
Map by Yo! Baba from the Noun Project
quill by Hea Poh Lin from the Noun Project
Search by Philip Belov from the Noun Project
profile by VectorBakery from the Noun Project
panorama by iconbox89 from the Noun Project
Heart by Vicons Design from the Noun Project
Sound by Gregor Cresnar from the Noun Project
Hiking by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project
Photos Video by Baboon designs from the Noun Project
recording by Aybige from the Noun Project
Images and Text
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