Fort Vancouver Mobile - A video overview

Courtesy of: Research Assistant Aaron May of Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program. Produced in 2011.

Video highlights from the apps (36-minute version)

This montage provides a sampling of some of the video media in the Fort Vancouver Mobile apps. This app is much more than just a video distribution system, but these videos show the variety of content, from expositional segments to new journalism to those intended to prompt the development of interactive narratives.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What was the York Factory Express like?

The York Factory Express route, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
A student in CMDC 354.02 at WSU Vancouver, Marcia First, created this Google Earth tour, showing what travel was like between England and the Pacific Northwest in the mid-1800s.

York Factory Express tour 

As far as I know, Google Earth doesn't allow this sort of tour to be embedded in blogs (please let me know otherwise). So to watch the tour, you will need to download the .kmz file and play it in the Google Earth system.
For those unfamiliar with "The Express," here's the first paragraph from the Wikipedia entry on it:
"The York Factory Express, usually called "the Express" and also called the Columbia Express and the Communication, was a brigade operated by Hudson's Bay Company in the early 19th century connecting York Factory and Fort Vancouver. It was named "express" because it was not used only to transport furs and supplies but also to quickly move departmental reports and letters. It was the main overland connection between the Columbia Department and the Hudson's Bay Company's headquarters at York Factory. Bulk cargo to and from the Columbia Department was shipped by sea. The express brigade was known as the York Factory Express on its eastbound journey in the spring, and as the Columbia Express or Autumn Express on its westbound journey in the fall. The same route was used in both cases. Its length was about 4,200 kilometres (2,600 mi). To expedite messages the express messengers would often speed ahead of the main bodies carrying supplies and furs."

And a link to the full entry.

Paul Kane's wanderings

A group of five students in CMDC 354.02 (Digital Storytelling) at Washington State University Vancouver -- Brady Berkenmeier, Lorraine Botros, Cathy Manwell, Cassie Watson and Linda Zandi -- have been working on a new Fort Vancouver Mobile module, based on artist Paul Kane's "Wanderings," that we will be trying to develop into a real working piece during the next couple of months. Here is a Flash animation presentation, created by Berkenmeier, that the students presented on the project, minus the extensive verbal accompaniment. Yet the images show a lot about the inventive ideas this group has for the project. Will post more as this develops.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Historical Promotion Grant success!

The 2011 Historical Promotion Grants, administered by the Clark County Commissioners, have been awarded, and the Fort Vancouver Mobile project once again was a major recipient; this time for: $19,912.
That money will be used to build much more mobile content at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Updates will be posted here as the plans develop. Thank you again Clark County Commissioners (and the Historical Promotion Grant committee)!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chinuk Wawa in the Village

WSU Vancouver student Lorraine Botros recently attended a weekly discussion group in Portland, Ore., in which people practice and discuss Chinuk Wawa. Wawa is the jargon that was spoken around Fort Vancouver during the mid-1800s, allowing the more than 35 different ethnic groups living in that village just outside the fort's stockade to communicate. The local discussion group is led by Wawa language expert Evan Gardner. Botros and her CMDC 354.02 team plan to incorporate Wawa into their Fort Vancouver Mobile module under construction.

More information on Chinuk Wawa from the Oregon Encyclopedia

Here are some of the initial pilot clips that Botros, a student in the Creative Media and Digital Culture program's Digital Storytelling class this semester, shared (Thanks, Lorraine!):
House edited

And here are some other notes Lorraine shared:

Chinuk Wawa (Chinook Jargon) resources:
From Lorraine: "Evan Gardner provided me with resources to record the Chinuk Wawa phrases. He is willing to work with people to get a more complete recording in the future."
Gardner is the creator of the language game, "Where are your keys?"

A Brief Introduction to the "Where Are Your Keys?" Fluency Game from Willem Larsen on Vimeo.
He can be reached through in the Contact Us section.

Another resource:
Eric Bernado, 'I am a Member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde from the Watlala Band of the Cascades of the Chinook peoples. I have a Masters in Education from the University of Oregon and am a semi-fluent speaker of Chinuk Wawa and will be teaching a community language class at Portland Community College starting in January (2011).' Learn Chinook Jargon blog.

More public domain resources for period music

Music from the Romantic period in the public domain, via


And Civil War big band music from the Library of Congress:


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fort Vancouver Mobile - A video overview

Aaron May over the past few weeks has created the video overview of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project that now adorns the top of this site. May, a FVM intern, is a talented senior in Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program, and he will screen the final cut of this video for the CMDC Digital Storytelling class on Dec. 8.
May's mission has been to create a video to help people to understand and visualize the project, even from afar. The distinctions of mobile storytelling are difficult to describe, and, it turns out, tough to show, too. But May's vision, from my viewpoint, makes the material accessible and clear and also shows how much fun a mobile-historical experience can be. Thanks, again, Aaron!
Please let us know what you think about this video, and what questions you still have about the project. We want to answer them, and we want the development of Fort Vancouver Mobile to include input from users or potential users at all levels of creation.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Great news from iDMAa

The Fort Vancouver Mobile project was part of the WSU Vancouver display given honorable mention at the annual International Digital Media Arts Association conference earlier this month in Vancouver, B.C. Typically, iDMAa only gives one award, first place, but the judges were so impressed by the sampling from the Creative Media and Digital Culture program at WSUV, including the FVM project, that they created the honorable mention award as a way to recognize the effort. Thanks again to FVM intern Aaron May for taking the project out into the larger world and helping to bring back the glory.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Public domain music from 1800 to 1860

Found this fabulous reference list of public domain music roughly from the Fort Vancouver period:

While the versions here aren't always great, they do give a sense of what the song sounds like, and enough reference information to find other public domain versions.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beta testers needed

More in-depth research on the Fort Vancouver Mobile project is planned in the next two weeks. We're looking for a few additional beta testers. If you are interested in history and open-minded about technology, and want to help, please send your contact information to:, with the subject line Beta Tester. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fort Vancouver Mobile video intro

FVM intern Aaron May, from Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program, has spent the past couple of weeks working on a video that helps to explain the project and illustrate it, especially for people not familiar with the fort and what we are doing.

In addition, he is taking a digital display, plus a paper handout, to the iDMAa Conference this weekend in Vancouver, B.C. (see earlier post).

This video will be part of that display, along with other strong projects representing the CMDC program. In the near future, I will get the piece posted in a more permanent and prominent spot on this page.

Thanks, Aaron! And for everyone who helped with this part of the project, including lead actor Brady Berkenmeier, the CMDC 354.02 Digital Storytelling class (providing feedback and serving as extras in the footage), Forrest Burger of RiverBend Productions (providing fort footage from The Village opening), Chief Ranger Greg Shine (an extra in the film and major supporter of the project) and Dr. Dene Grigar, who made May's internship possible.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Example of one of our plotted GPS field maps

One key step in creating a high-quality mobile interactive experience (or airrative, as I have started to call this form, because the immersive story exists entirely in the air) is to walk the physical site, really get to know it and then design a highly detailed, plotted and annotated site map, with GPS coordinates identified for each spot that the creative team might want to use. That way, say, the team wants to embed a video that relates to the Old River Road entrance at this site. It can get out this map, find that spot is identified as Node 24, then look up the accompanying annotations of coordinates and details about what already is being delivered there as well as nearby, for compositional coherence.

Animated logo - mobile version

Here is the latest version of the FVM logo and opening animation of the Fort Vancouver Mobile app, in mp4 format. Still looking for a better compression format that works with Android devices and looks good (not really impressed with the playback quality here). Suggestions? ...

FVM logo animation in mp4 from Brett Oppegaard on Vimeo.

Kanaka Twitta-graph (Twitter and telegraph inspired communication)

Here is the initial exchange at the fort, related to William Kaulehelehe's hiring. What do you think of how this turned out?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Twitter-like dialogue being incorporated into the Kanaka module

One of the different ways we are putting media into the Kanaka module of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project is a Twitter-like animation that turns historic journals and letters into short bursts of locative information.
The first example is related to a Hawaiian pastor's calling to Fort Vancouver in the mid-1800s. This pastor, William Kaulehelehe, ended up being in the center of an international conflict at the fort, as a loyal British subject ousted from his home on the banks of the Columbia River, as the U.S. Army tried to bring order to the frontier in the Pacific Northwest. That's a much longer story, but my hope with this part of the dialogue is to present the discourse of the period as it influenced his decision to come but also as it reflected attitudes of the period, and rhetorical strategies.
I'm using the Twitter format as an inspiration and basically taking the actual historic text and adapting it to the faux-microblogging format (with design advice from Kapuanani Antonio of the Ke Kukui Foundation).

It will look something like this:

The core script is as follows: 

@RevBeaver: @HudsonsBayCo An ordinary, respectable countryman @FortVancouver, with his wife, might promote good behaviour of Sandwich Islanders

@ChiefFactor John (John McLoughlin): Need a trusty educated Hawaiian of good character to read the scriptures and assemble his people for public worship.

@GerritJudd (adviser to the Hawaiian king): @ChiefFactorJohn Wm. R. Kaulehelehe, @WRKaulehelehe!

McLoughlin: Need him to teach, too. And interpret.

Judd: Not as well-qualified as the first person selected but @WRKaulehelehe has good character, is faithful, industrious, and a skillful teacher. High recommendation.

McLoughlin: 10 pounds per annum

Judd: @WRKaulehelehe in regular standing as a member of the church. Wife accompanies him, no doubt will prove herself useful.

McLoughlin: 40 pounds per annum

Judd: @WRKaulehelehe @MaryKaai Go to the Columbia District? 3-4 weeks voyage away. Parish awaits.

Kaulehelehe: Aloha! @KawaiahaoChurch Aloha! @FortVancouver

More lines and characters will be added in other spots around the site, intending to continue the conversation in a less linear way.

Fort Vancouver Mobile at iDMAa 2010

Fort Vancouver Mobile intern Aaron May (of Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program) is bringing a FVM display to iDMAa, the International Digital Media Arts Association Conference in Vancouver, B.C. next weekend, Nov. 6-7.
This display will include a video that May created, which I will post here soon, and handouts that look like this:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Second round of prototype testing underway

Students in the Creative Media and Digital Culture program at Washington State University Vancouver are giving the Fort Vancouver Mobile app prototype a second round of on-site testing this week. Major improvements have been made already between the first round and this version of the app. Next round of release will be in December, at the Christmas at the Fort special event. A lot of content is in the pipeline right now. Will post updates as they come.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An even better version of the FVM opening animation

Graphic designer Kapuanani Antonio, of the Ke Kukui Foundation, was gracious enough to refine the opening Fort Vancouver Mobile image even more. What do you think now? ... In my opinion, much better. Will turn this into an animation soon to see how it looks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New FVM logo

Here is the new FVM logo in a still image:

Any suggestions for improvement?

New logo under construction, and animated

I thought we needed something to acknowledge the main Fort Vancouver Mobile partners right when the app loaded. So here is an animated logo, from the original design by Dr. Dene Grigar at Washington State University Vancouver, with input from Greg Shine, chief ranger at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Fort Vancouver Mobile draft logo from Brett Oppegaard on Vimeo.

What do you think?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beta test tonight cancelled, due to rain

I'm not sure why I didn't think of this possibility months ago, when I set this beta testing time and date as 7 p.m. Oct. 9 in the Pacific Northwest. But the rain and cold tonight would make for a poor beta testing environment with mobile phones in an essentially open field, so I have instead given the Fort Vancouver Mobile app to Washington State University Vancouver students in my Digital Storytelling class for testing over the next few days, with a report due by Wednesday. That should continue development of the app at essentially the same pace as planned, and keep all of the phones dry.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New "Kanaka" splash page and more ...

I can tell we're getting close to releasing Version 1.0 of the Fort Vancouver Mobile app, because so many of the abstract ideas we have had about this project are becoming concrete. The image above is one of those small details, a splash page that lets users/learners know they are moving into this particular "Kanaka" module. The user won't actually do anything with this screen, but it will serve as a visual transition into the interactive Kanaka story.

And a couple of important prototype screen shots to share, too, courtesy of technical consultant Joe Oppegaard. The first one shows the main module selection screen at this point. So, the user would open the app, get to this screen, and then choose the module in which to experience (then the splash screen above would launch, followed by other content). Since we are starting with "Kanaka," that is the one bar shown here. But in the near future, we will have various other bars from which to choose, all leading to different content, like a different game cartridge/disk leads to a different game.

Every node of content we create also will have some sort of user feedback loop included. Here is an example of one of the prompts that will pop up, and users will be asked to fill in the data box. That data then will be routed to a particular storage file and, in one of the later phases of the project, we will publish the user responses on a Web site, hopefully live, so users at home can monitor and interact with users on site. That publishing phase is down the road in the development plans, but we are thinking about it, as we create this phase of the project.

Feedback is always welcome! We are trying to develop this project as much in the open as possible. So feel free to post comments here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Early imagery of the FVM project

Whipped this mini-poster together quickly as a way to help people begin to visualize what the Fort Vancouver Mobile project is: an innovative and new way to share historical interpretation through mobile devices. This historically based digital media -- video, audio, text, animation -- is being integrated specifically into physical locations (pinpointed by GPS) to create mixed-realities, with users/learners sometimes alternating, sometimes blending digital and physical worlds through their mobile phones.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Video production for version 1.0 is finished; thanks, Troy!

After a marathon editing session on Saturday, Sept. 11, videographer Troy Wayrynen and I finally have finished putting together the five video clips that will be included in version 1.0 of Module 1. We decided to try first saving those in mp4 format, at a size of 320X240, in an effort to make small usable files (less that 2 MB) that could be streamed easily. Once we get the kinks of the mobile delivery system of the app out of the way, then I suspect we'll want to increase the resolution to take advantage of the fabulous HD-quality videos we produced. We also are considering posting the high-quality versions of the videos on the web, for users to be able to watch at home. We suspect that will appeal to those who have seen the smaller versions on site and then want to see the high-quality renditions, or for those people who can't make it to the fort, for geographical or some other accessibility issue.

Videographer Troy Wayrynen

Troy really deserves a lot of credit for his effort on this project, which truly was on a shoestring budget (we used a shoestring one time as a way to give William Kaulehelehe, played by Frank Van Waardenburg, a tie for his costume). At every shoot, Troy worked harder than anyone, often just reacting on the fly, coming up with solutions for the various issues that arose, from lighting to blocking to narrative holes. And the quality of his work on this project was exceptional in every way, extremely creative and ambitious. The final videos you see in Module 1 are almost entirely the result of Troy's vision and talents, and there simply is no way this project could have been made without his unbelievably high work ethic and generosity and continual push to make better images and final videos.
Just one quick example: We started the final round (of at least five different rounds) of video editing at 6 a.m. Saturday, and by about midnight, I could hardly keep my eyes open. We still were trying to finish the last clip. I had no ideas left. The video clearly needed something more, and Troy just kept innovating and experimenting with different Final Cut techniques, until he finally devised a complex concept of layering two clips that also included animating a historical document underneath it all. I was blown away not only by his vision and imagination but also that he just never gave up and never conceded, that the clip was going to be the best one we could make. When you see these videos at the fort, I think you will know what I mean. It is going to be very exciting to share them with you soon!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The cutter and Kaulehelehe

Fort Vancouver's Chief Ranger Greg Shine and I were talking about the Fort Vancouver Mobile project a week and a half ago, and Greg asked how else he could help.
I said we were trying to create a scene in which the protagonist of module 1, William Kaulehelehe, arrived at the site in the mid-1840s, and if Greg could get the Lady Washington to pull up to the beach, and unload Kaulehelehe, that would be fabulous.
Without missing a beat, Greg suggested we might instead have Kaulehelehe arrive on a cutter, and the fort staff and volunteers just so happen to have a cutter, built under the supervision of Douglas Brooks, and a training program for volunteers eager to get some use of the vessel.

So visual editor Troy Wayrynen and I suddenly were on the north bank of the Columbia River on Thursday night, Sept. 9, between 6 and 8 p.m., with ranger Douglas Halsey and cutter coordinator Jeff Cool -- plus the crew: Craig Webster, Dan Ochoa, Mike Twist, Cassie Anderson, Garron Guest and Ben Coder -- all in period costumes, escorting our Kaulehelehe (the fabulous Frank Van Waardenburg) to shore.

William Kaulehelehe (played by Frank Van Waardenburg) on the cutter on the Columbia River.
The cutter could not reach the beach, so Doug Halsey hopped out of the boat, in water about up to his knees, and Frank climbed on, piggy-back style, and was carried to shore. Doug told me that was the customary way of getting gentlemen to the beach in those days, and he even bowed and gave Kaulehelehe a tip of his hat. It was quite a scene, and I am so very thankful to all of those who took part in making it happen, from Greg Shine to the cutter crew, Troy, Frank, and especially Doug, for helping to put the effort together, and then volunteering to be the crew member who carried William to shore. It was one of the most memorable moments I have had with this project so far, and it just illustrates the kind of generosity and selflessness of everyone who has worked on Fort Vancouver Mobile effort to date. What an amazing group of people we have around here!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

More video/audio production completed; with a special thanks to the Ke Kukui Foundation and Tommy O's

Courtesy of Greg Shine and his iPhone
Another major round of video/audio production is finished (completed on Aug. 18), with more than 50 people now contributing to the Fort Vancouver Mobile project to date. Momentum certainly is building!
Before we move on to the next production mountain, I want to acknowledge and thank everyone who worked so hard this week.
That list includes the Ke Kukui Foundation, especially Deva Yamashiro and Kapuanani Antonio, who recruited and organized about two dozen performers for various roles, featuring: Frank Van Waardenburg (William Kaulehelehe), Virginia MacKenzie (Mary Kaii), Kaloku Holt (soloist/dancer), Hono Yacapin (dancer) and Tommy Owens (dancer). When the video shoot went late, into dinner time, Owens also generously catered an impromptu meal for the cast and crew from his restaurant, Tommy O's, one of the best bistros in the area. We highly recommend Tommy O's, which has one location near Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver and another in east Vancouver, off NE 192nd Avenue. (Thanks again, Tommy!) In addition, the Ke Kukui Foundation, through its halau Kaleinani o ke Kukui, performed various chants in Hawaiian that we plan to use in the piece, recorded in its studio, including "The Lord's Prayer" featuring soloist Bully Magsayo.
The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, under the supervision of chief ranger Greg Shine, provided generous support for the project in many ways, too, from arranging the ideal setting and props to the organization of volunteer performers, assisted by Kimm Fox-Middleton. That included the recruitment of historical interpreters -- Douglas Halsey, Aaron Ochoa, Dan Ochoa and Roma Len -- to portray soldiers of the period (pictured above with Frank Waardenburg). Those five graciously endured the heat in heavy wool costumes, take after take, and the soldiers even stuck around to be in the background of the hula scenes.
As for all of these costumes, the fort's costume shop, under the direction of Eileen Trestain, also delivered timely and high quality assistance for several days leading up to the shoot.
The invaluable media specialists, and production workhorses, were videographer Troy Wayrynen and assistant director Jonathan Nelson, while Dr. Dene Grigar from Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program also assisted on site with storyline development and production management.
That is an amazing list of supporters, added to the many other people who also have been contributing so far. I really can't say it enough, but mahalo, again, everyone!

William Kaulehelehe and Mary Kaii

The first phase of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project will be to produce a multimedia piece that illuminates the story of William Kaulehelehe (and wife Mary Kaii).
Here is some background material on the couple, contributed by the Ke Kukui Foundation's Kapuanani Antonio: Kaulehelehe bio
Are here are photographs of William and Mary next to the performers (an image also provided by Kapuanani Antonio) Frank Van Waardenburg and Virginia MacKenzie:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Audio equipment donated to FVM by Bart Phillips and the Clark-Skamania Fly Fishers

Bart Phillips
A hearty "mahalo!" to Bart Phillips, CEO and president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council as well as a member of the Clark-Skamania Flyfishers!
Phillips and his Clark-Skamania Flyfishers organization worked with Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program recently, through a Digital Technology and Culture 476 class, under the direction of Dr. John Barber, to create this website: Clark-Skamania Flyfishers.
Pleased with the results, Phillips and his group donated money to the program for purchase of hardware and software, some of which directly paid for much needed production equipment for the Fort Vancouver Mobile project. 
That included a lavaliere microphone, reflective panels and audio equipment rigging, all of which arrived the very day, Aug. 18, of the most extensive media creation portion of the project to date. The timing couldn't have been better. This equipment as well as other portions of the donation bolstering CMDC labs also will be used in various WSU Vancouver classes, including DTC 354.02, Digital Storytelling, this fall, a service learning project at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site involving mobile devices.
So thank you, again, Bart Phillips, Clark-Skamania Flyfishers and CMDC's co-directors Dr. Barber and Dr. Dene Grigar for investing the money in this project.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ho`ike & Hawaiian Festival, FVM featured in the program

Our cultural partner on Phase 1 of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, the Ke Kukui Foundation, is offering its annual Ho`ike & Hawaiian Festival July 29-31, 2010, in downtown Vancouver. More details are on the group's website, but here is a draft version of the part of the event's program that features the Fort Vancouver Mobile project (mahalo, Kapuanani!):

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Video clips from The Village opening

Courtesy of Forrest Burger, RiverBend Productions (thanks, Forrest!). These will be the basis of a mobile media module we will be working on in August, to test the technological systems of the mobile app in place but also to experiment with what we can do on site with video, including examining download speeds and optimal compression formats:

Village Opening:

Necklace Giving:


Fort Vancouver National Trust president Elson Strahan:

Fort Vancouver ranger Victoria Nakamura:

Fort Vancouver Superintendent Tracy Fortmann:

Artist (needs ID):

Walk to Village:

Ranger (needs ID):

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt:

Fort Vancouver archaeologist Doug Wilson:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New screen shots have arrived

Fort Vancouver Mobile coding whiz Joe Oppegaard of Montana Banana Design has been working hard this month on creating the backend framework for the FVM (thanks, Joe!), and here are excerpts from his latest report:

"home_screen.png - You'll see the new icon and updated text for the app name."

"welcome_screen.png - This is the first screen that comes up when you load the app.  I just kind of took a stab here at some text, mainly just to show that text can go there. ... This welcome screen can have all of the formatting of a web page, such as tables, bold, italics, inline pictures, etc. I do think we should keep it short, so the user can see all of the text/images without scrolling, if possible."

"resources.png - Notice the new Resources tab on the top (you can see it highlighted on this image and not highlighted on the welcome screen screenshot.  Like the welcome screen, this content can have all of the
formatting of a web page.  Clicking on the links will open the web browser and take the user to the site (as you would imagine)."

"internal_html.png - This and the formatting I mentioned above are one of the big updates to the back end of the system.  This is a local HTML page with images that is actually a part of the application itself, so the user doesn't have to be online to view it."

"external_site.png- This is an example of a trigger taking a user to an arbitrary external site.  In this case, I have it going to the YouTube page for the previous sample video I made.  As at this point it's basically just a web browser, everything works as you would expect, and I was able to view the YouTube video."

Joe also said he has written the code to get cell phones on site to vibrate at the various points of interest, based on GPS location. I suspect that each magic circle will have a roughly 10-meter (30-foot) radius, but maybe we can adjust that smaller or larger as we go and test.

Among the other notes, he has switched to XML coding (or a universal file coding, instead of hard coding just for this version), so that the content can be read by any other application. He is working on the Android version first, so XML should allow fairly easy migration into the iPhone version (or any other version we want to produce). Next on his list is the pop-up dialogue boxes. An impressive chunk of production by Joe, and we might even have the chance to demo the app on July 21.

Anything else, coding-wise, on the wish list before July 21? ... Post it here, and we'll talk it over.

Also, we can start creating the first designs for the pages. Any thoughts on that, for anything you see here?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Village opening, a video preview

Videographer Forrest Burger of RiverBend Productions and I spent some time Saturday, June 19, at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site's Brigade Encampment, which also was the official opening of The Village.

The Village is where the Fort Vancouver Mobile project is focusing its efforts this summer, and here is a rough preview video that Burger created to give a glimpse of the kind of multimedia material we gathered:

Burger and I and app designer Joe Oppegaard, maybe others on the team, too, will be working in July to create a mobile module of this event that will begin to demonstrate our larger mobile media plans for the site, in tangible forms.

If you want to try it out, send an email to, and I'll put you on the list of beta testers.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Audio tours in Carlsbad Caverns / Roswell, N.M.

On my most recent trip to West Texas, in May, I decided to swing through southeast New Mexico to tour Carlsbad Caverns, an amazing World Heritage Site, which also was the research lab for the following academic article:
Novey, L. and T. Hall (2007). "The effect of audio tours on learning and social interaction: An evaluation at Carlsbad Caverns National Park." Science Education 91(2): 260-277. 
The same tour that Novey and Hall studied was offered, so I took it, and had a chance to reflect on their findings. In short, the caverns are part of a huge cave system that features many beautiful examples of underground rock formations, from stalactites to stalagmites and everything in-between. At certain times of the year, more than 1 million Mexican free-tailed bats live in this area, and they all leave the cave around dusk each night (pictured above, a fascinating event to watch). It is very difficult to describe any of this in words. But understanding the place in context to humanity is important for sense making.
There are many books and displays in the visitors center, including an Ansel Adams exhibit in which he expressed frustration over not being able to capture the essence of the caverns on film. But there also is the audio tour, which involves carrying around a two-foot long wand, with a keypad on the front. There are 50 signs placed along the main cavern path, and visitors simply type in the corresponding number and then hear a couple of spokespeople, a man and a woman, chatting about what is around that spot. 
Novey and Hall found that this tour significantly increased visitor knowledge about the caverns. On the negative side, it also decreased the amount of time visitors interacted with each other in groups, illustrating a common concern about incorporating mobile technology in such situations. There are connections made in the digital world and disconnections in the physical and social surroundings. 
One aspect of the study that doesn't seem to be taken into account is the quality of the audio tour. While it is professionally produced, and the speakers clearly are trained broadcast types, the generally inane patter between the two reminds me of the warm-up for the meteorologist on the nightly news. 
If this audio was transcribed and coded, I suspect it would be remarkable only in its inefficiency of actually sharing useful information, particularly in transferring knowledge related to the specific location where the sign is located, which seems to be the point. A lot of the scarce information ends up being redundant, and the corny jokes are mind numbing. But this audio tour also shows glimmers of promise, when it mixes period music into the background at times, and especially when it includes interviews with experts or expert commentary on the caverns. Those few clips typically were chatty but also dense with information.
While I was in the area, I also stopped by the UFO Museum in Roswell, N.M., and took its audio tour. 
That tape (yes, it was delivered via cassette tape) featured just one speaker, a highly informed and engaged expert, who delivered virtually nothing but dense information, complemented by an occasional radio clip from one of the witnesses to the incident. The content was a highly rhetorical argument for believing the case presented by the museum, that something strange happened in Roswell in the summer of 1947, involving aliens from outer space.
The audio also periodically would include music in the background, to emphasize the emotions of the moment, or to set a scene. It made its argument but also encouraged listeners to explore the material and the ideas for themselves, so there was a moderately open-ended nature to it. There were a variety of production flaws as well, from editing glitches to a lack of location markers and audio guides, which led to disorientation with the material or missed references to objects on display. The tape just played on and on, without explaining where the listener was supposed to be, or when it was time to move to the next exhibit. 
More than anything, these experiences just reinforce to me the high value of the researcher having control over and being part of the creation process for the mobile content being delivered and studied. It is more work, of course, but it seems so much more valuable to be able to determine the effects of mobile media when one feels comfortable and confident in the design of that material.
Otherwise, it seems that the research is tainted to begin with, by a faulty tool. I suppose anyone can follow along and criticize whatever content is created, making this argument potentially circular. Yet the quality of the content driving the user experience being studied should be considered, too, and judged as part of the whole, just like methodology and all of the other aspects of the research. Have you seen any studies that do take such facets into account?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Village officially opens at 10 a.m. on June 19

The newly reconstructed Village area of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site officially will open at 10 a.m. on June 19. Hope you can make it!

From the press release (photo courtesy of Greg Shine, National Park Service):

"VANCOUVER, WA - Superintendent Tracy Fortmann has announced that the Fort Vancouver Village Grand Opening Celebration will take place at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, 2010. This free event will be held at the site of the historic Village, located to the west of the reconstructed stockade at Fort Vancouver and north of the Land Bridge.
The event will coincide with the first day of the annual Brigade Encampment special event, and will officially open the new trails and replica employee houses in the Village area." ...

To read the rest of the story, click here

Monday, May 24, 2010

WSU Vancouver supports the FVM project through a "mini-grant"

Just received news today that Washington State University Vancouver will provide $3,000 in grant funds to the Fort Vancouver Mobile project. This "mini-grant" is part of an annual drive by the institution to support faculty research, and Dr. Dene Grigar, co-project manager and PI for Phase Two, put together the application and shepherded it through the process. This grant will help to fund Phase One, the proof of concept for the project, which we will begin producing later this summer. More details to come. ... Thanks for all of your hard work on this, Dene!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Another FVM app iteration: GPS coordinates trigger mobile phones on site within 3 meters

Lead code writer Joe Oppegaard of Montana Banana Design has generated another early iteration of the Fort Vancouver Mobile app, this one demonstrating the GPS triggering of mobile devices within 3 meters at the fort site, as shown here:

The text blurbs in this example can be replaced by any form of media, including audio, video, animation, etc., and set to push to users on site and play when they enter the designated 3-meter (roughly 10 feet in diameter) hot zones.

Some comments from Joe on the coding process before and during this iteration:

"I found an open source QR Code reading library, which means that we don't have to link to another QR reading app, we can actually have one built in. It looks easy to use, though I haven't implemented it yet. The other piece of that puzzle is grabbing an image from the camera on the phone, but I assume that the Android libraries make that easy.

Secondly, I've also been catching up on accessing GPS data from the Android as well, which also isn't too hard. So that means hopefully pretty easily I can implement the "if the GPS loc is X, then vibrate the phone and fetch video Y. ...

The development environment allows me to feed GPS data to it, so I actually test it all out as if I'm actually walking around the Fort."

From a later message:

"I successfully have the app listening to GPS data and have set it up so that unique code will execute when you get 3 meters away from any specific lat/long pairs.  So for example, if you walk within 3 meters
of the opening to the Bastion, the "Bastion" code will execute (right now all it does is tell you where you are, but is just a stub for where the video or informational page will show up later).  When you get within 3 meters of the door to Chief Factor's house, the "Chief Factor" code will execute, etc.

I got the lat/lon coords from Google Earth. ... I would suggest using Google Earth (or go down there with a GPS) to grab all of the coords for any place that in the future you think you might want to have something happen at.  We can always add content as we get it and place holders in the mean time.

The QR code library is looking to be a bit harder to integrate, so my suggestion would be that for now we focus mainly on the GPS auto-detection part of the app on the Android.

The phone emulator allows for setting up a "path", so I can feed it gps coords for testing as if you're walking around.  I'm going to try and do a video of it tonight to show you what it's looking like."

Monday, May 10, 2010

A QR code tour in Long Beach, Wash.

Stumbled upon a QR code tour of Long Beach's boardwalk this weekend, including a short text block about Clark's Tree (where William Clark, of the Lewis & Clark expedition, apparently gazed at the Pacific Ocean for the first time, then carved his name into a tree, in 1805). 

Here is what this particular location code gave me:

This bronze tree represents one on which Captain Wm. Clark carved his name in 1805.

The original tree lasted until nearly 1900. Commissioned by the City of Long Beach, the bronze replica traveled by barge in 2003 from Clarkston, WA., on the Snake and Columbia Rivers, stopping at various ports over a 4-week journey.

Local sculptor, Stanley Wanless, cast the tree in Utah, but it was sent on the river route to follow the final leg of the Corps of Discovery journey to the Pacific Ocean.
Once the barge arrived in Ilwaco, the statue was moved by crane to a trailer which hauled it along Pacific Highway and placed it at its present location.

The setup looked like this: With the plastic sign posted to the top of a wooden post nearby. As you can see (forgive the image quality; it was taken with my phone on a bright sunny day), someone already has tried to pry the sign off, or maybe just pounded on it for fun.

Fort Vancouver has been experimenting with QR codes, too, under the direction of Chief Ranger Greg Shine, and these can be helpful and effective. In short, all I had to do was open up a QR code reader on my Android phone, point it at the code and the code directed me to the URL, which displayed the custom page.

It was interesting to learn about the sculpture's background here, but I also felt like I had so many more questions at this point. I really would have liked to have received much more content, particularly content that engaged me beyond simple Chamber of Commerce newsletter type information. It sounds like this tree had an amazing history, and I suspect preserving it, or at least the memory of it, was a significant community issue. I was impressed that a town the size of Long Beach was using this sort of technology, but I have to say this sign raised my hopes for an experience much higher than what was delivered. Maybe a few lessons learned by all of that.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fort Vancouver's other digital efforts to open up the historic site to a broader audience

Fort Vancouver Mobile is just part of the national historic site's efforts, led by Chief Ranger Greg Shine, to incorporate digital media into historical interpretation.
There are podcasts available on site, and here are some other links that you might find interesting:

FOVA Flickr Site:
Images can be uploaded and accessed by the public. Shine has been geotagging images as well, so they show up on the "map" feature as well as via augmented reality smartphone programs such as Wikitude, Robotvision, Layar, Geodelic, etc.

FOVA Twitter Feed:
Site updates, media releases and other timely notices or occurrences.

FOVA Facebook: "Fort Vancouver National Historic Site"
People can become a "fan" of Fort Vancouver NHS and post images, updates, etc.

FOVA Foursquare:
A location-based/geosocial networking program for mobile devices, it lets the user "check in" at places; earn points, badges, and mayorships. And share that information with friends. The fort, Village, & VC are officially set up and available for folks to check in and become mayor, etc.

Audio equipment list

Here is the list of audio equipment we plan to purchase soon to help with content production on this project:

This roughly $6,500 purchase is being funded by a Clark County Historical Promotion Grant (thanks again, Clark County Commissioners!). At the end of this project, the equipment will be donated to the Digital Technology and Culture program at Washington State University Vancouver (soon to be the Creative Media and Digital Culture program). Fort Vancouver Mobile videography specialist Tom Turner compiled this list of our needs (thanks again, Tom!).

A second lavaliere mic is part of another grant request. ... Anything else missing?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Beta testers needed

We're looking for a few beta testers to work with early prototypes of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project. This particular stage of testing requires people to be in the 18 to 65 range, who are technologically savvy (preferably with experience using mobile devices) and interested in history (preferably of the 19th century era). If you are available, want to be involved and fit that profile, please send your contact information and availability for testing to: Thanks!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Developing separate graphics for our behind-the-scenes work on this project?

When corresponding about this Fort Vancouver Mobile project (writing grants, sending letters of inquiry, etc.), it would be helpful to have letterhead and other graphical support to give our materials a professional appearance and continuity. Dr. Dene Grigar of Washington State University Vancouver has designed this logo draft, with such goals in mind. What do you think? Should we have a separate look for our behind-the-scenes materials, like this? If so, what feedback would you give on this draft?

What do you think should be the first Fort Vancouver Mobile image users see?

Of the button choices below (or make another suggestion), what do you think should be the initial entry point for the Fort Vancouver Mobile application? What words should be below the image? Why? ...

Button candidate No. 3

The National Park Service arrowhead. Broadest appeal, the least local flavor.

Button candidate No. 2

The Fort Vancouver logo. ... Iconic local image.

Button candidate No. 1

The Village logo. Our initial work will be focused in The Village.

The button!

Well, we had to start somewhere with the coding of this project. So we, or I should say Joseph Oppegaard of Montana Banana Web Design (based in the Seattle area), took a Fort Vancouver logo and turned it into an app button for the Android platform (third row down, just to the right of email). It was a test more than anything and the text needs to be trimmed, but it is the first official digital artifact in this proof of concept stage. So hurrah! Or, I should say, Huzzah! ... For the real button, do you think this Village logo should be used, or should we start with a Fort Vancouver logo (that shows the stockade) or even the iconic National Park Service arrowhead (which Chief Ranger Greg Shine has OK'd for our use on this project)? I'll post all three individually, so you can look at them closer.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wireless Internet system idea on hold

In talking to the fort's Chief Ranger, Greg Shine, about the potential of creating a wireless Internet system in the fort's Village, he made me aware of the federal policy at the site that specifically prohibits just such a system from being built on National Park Service land. There could be alternatives, such as working with the nearby Vancouver National Historic Reserve to rebuild the wireless system that group (or a previous incarnation of that group) once had, to create a cloud large enough to cover The Village. But with no money for that cloud (probably a $10,000 start-up cost, plus $50-$60 a month in service) and a significant amount of discussions needed to make it happen, plus the October launch of Phase One coming quickly, it seems prudent at this point to just design Phase One for 3G and gradually build toward the larger goal of Wi-Max coverage throughout the reserve. I'll update when anything changes on that front. Thanks again, by the way, to Forrest Burger for his help in investigating this possibility!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Internet access in The Village

As we develop mobile content to embed in The Village, an additional task that needs to be completed is bringing reliable Internet access to the area, so users easily can explore that content.

Colleague Forrest Burger, founder of RiverBend Productions, and I met with general manager Jason Paulson and area manager Jeff Choi of ClearWire this week to talk about the possibilities of creating such a delivery system.

Basically, there are four options from ClearWire's perspective:

* Create a WiMax cloud in the area through physical infrastructure investments (roughly $7,500 - $10,000) that would allow anyone we choose to get a 4G Internet connection, ideally to access our content. This is the coffee shop model, in which we create a local Wi-Fi system that anyone in the area can access.

Positives: Reliable and consistent Internet connection throughout the grounds that could be password protected, for use only with National Park Service-related programs; monthly costs would be minimal, maybe $50-$60 a month for 4G access for virtually unlimited access to users. Offers powerful signal, covering the entire National Park Service property, turned on all of the time, that we could control, and it could be delivered to virtually unlimited users at once through their mobile devices (Campfires and Candlelight attracts about 5,000 people on a single night; this is essentially the only way we could handle a large load of users like that at once); 4MB download speeds are roughly four times as fast as standard Wi-Fi.

Negatives: High up-front costs; technology will be obsolete and need to be replaced or upgraded in a couple of years; it's not clear if the National Park Service would even allow such a system to be installed on its property (although projecting from Pearson Airfield might be an option); many different devices accessing the content means many design headaches.

* Rent Wi-Max devices and have users check them out, Mondai Viewers built by HTC, that could be preloaded and customized to deliver content via 4G connection.

ClearWire offers these Mondai hand-helds at a group rate that could be relatively affordable, buy 10 at $50 each, or $500 for a fleet of 10. A warranty on the devices is available for $5 a month per unit, meaning for $50 a month, $600 a year, if any of these "walked away," Clear would replace them for free. Also can download tracking software on them, in case they are "lost." Wi-Max Internet access would cost an additional $25 per unit, per month, meaning $3,000 a year in service costs. So for the first year, with 10 units, the total commitment would be about $4,100.

Positives: Having 10 devices on hand would probably meet initial demand, except during special events. By leasing, technological upgrades would be absorbed by Clear, not us; these devices would have cameras and Internet access, meaning user-generated content could be collected on site and live; knowing the precise device and being able to preload some content on those would make design and implementation (and accessibility) much easier.

Negatives: These devices are not GPS enabled, meaning location-awareness would have to come through such site-specific techniques as QR codes. The cost of two years of leasing roughly would equal the costs of setting up a permanent Wi-Max system. These devices can't easily receive text messages or voice mails, which cuts out two key delivery methods.

* Boost the current Wi-Fi system in the area. The costs to boost the current intermittent Wi-Fi system in the National Historic Reserve would be relatively minimal, if we can find who exactly owns and operates it, and if we could create such a partnership. There still might be territorial issues, in terms of where repeaters are placed, and if the National Park Service will allow that. Forrest Burger already has made a couple of attempts to track down this information on the Wi-Fi system that occasionally floats into the Reserve, with little success. Would need more leg work, but considering the other costs this project is facing, that might be worth a few more calls.

* Use Wi-Max plug-ins -- We didn't spend too much time talking about this option, because the plug-in Wi-Max devices (basically USB sticks) would be unwieldy, easy to misplace, and they wouldn't be compatible with a high percentage of devices currently in circulation.

So, from here, we need to determine how much we can spend on bringing Internet access to the area, and what kind of flexibility the National Park Service offers in terms of placing equipment on the site. Then, we need to think through the first year or two of the project, its needs and goals. Which would be the better alternative? Or are there other options? What do you think?

Of course, there is always the 3G network and creating content for now that simply can be accessed by that. 

- Brett

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Getting Internet access to The Village

The first obstacle for Fort Vancouver Mobile to overcome: Getting strong Internet access to the area in which we plan to embed content (The Village). The Village is in an urban setting, adjacent to I-5 and state Highway 14,  but surprisingly not covered by any source of WiFi. There is a weak open signal that intermittently appears in The Village, but there is no way we could rely on that for content delivery. So one of our first tasks is to set up the infrastructure with the goal in mind of being able to deliver high-quality video to anywhere in that area. Forrest Burger of RiverBend Productions has been leading that effort and has identified ClearWire, a WiMax-like carrier service, as a possible solution. We'll meet with them soon while exploring other options. This is not an optional step. So the sooner we can get this resolved, the better.

Resource needs for 2010?

After many months of planning and groundwork, the Fort Vancouver Mobile project I'm coordinating at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is starting to emerge into public view. That's because the first of what I hope to be many financial backers, the Clark County Historical Promotions committee and Clark County Commissioners, recently awarded the project a $8,900 grant. This in turn triggered the project's official sponsor, Washington State University Vancouver, to link a fall 2010 class in the Digital Technology and Culture program to this project. I also have been surprised at the volume of interest generated just from the grant announcement in the local newspaper and various WSU publications. It's clear that people are highly intrigued by the idea of offering engaging mobile content at the site to share historical information and stories through devices, such as the iPhone or Android phones. What other resources do we need to gather in 2010? Definitely more grant money to support the project team. We need a few more pieces of equipment, too. But at this point, I think, we're ready to at least make the proof of concept.