Education is a sitter for location based services and there have been many applications for tourists around the world where people can learn about the places they are visiting, what their significance is, stories and items of interest.
A couple of months ago I was driving through rural Mississippi on the Natchez Trace and came across the Pharr Mounds. To most people, this would just look like a couple of little hills. In fact this is an Indian burial ground used between 1 and 200AD, almost 2,000 years ago! Archaeologists found platforms, fire pits, human remains, many artefacts ceramic vessels and even a greenstone platform pipe. All there was to see at the site was a sign with basic information, but what stories have been lost?
New Zealand has a rich and diverse history, much of it recorded in books and video, carvings and artefacts, much passed on by elders to their mokopuna, but to most of us this information is not easily accessible, certainly not in situ.
Several years ago I picked up a couple of hitch hikers up north and drove them to Auckland. They were setting up an Iwi radio station and going to Auckland to learn how to do it. On the way down they told me many stories about landmarks we drove past. They were fascinating stories, but like the Pharr Mounds, only known by a few people.
There are tourist applications like Tourism Radio, which provides commentary about locations as you pass through them, but wouldn’t it be great if there was a location based depository of information that you could use on your mobile phone, using GPS.
Imagine if you had an application that allowed you to access information about the history of pretty much any location you were in. As an example applications like Localmind can allow you to ask questions of people who know about what’s going on around you.
Your mobile phone with GPS could allow you to access information about pretty much any location around you. It might be oral history, a story about Kawharu, the fighting chief of the Ngati Whatua of the Kaipara district, who is said to have twice sacked all the pa on the west coast, between 1680 and 1710 as told by one of his descendants. It could be pictures, or augmented reality showing what the Whare-Kura Pa in Muriwai might have looked at, as you point the camera in its direction.
The Ministry of Culture and Heritage has a phenomenal database of information, as do the Iwi throughout New Zealand, but what I think would be great is to have that information at everyone’s fingertips as they travel around the country, brought to life with today’s technology. There are of course several developers with applications in New Zealand for tours, providing information about historical buildings and so on. I’m thinking we need something more focussed on education and accessibility. Imagine if you could go to hundreds of locations in New Zealand and experience something like this, but on your mobile.
Our youth don’t read books, but they will soon all have smartphones as does 50% of the NZ population. Imagine being able to point your phone around you and find out what the plants are called, what medicinal or other properties they might have. Who lived here tens or hundreds of years ago and what did it look like then?
Would something like that be of interest to you? Should the Ministry of Culture and Heritage be developing a program to make something like this happen? Are there projects happening now? I would welcome comments.