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, April 30, 2012

Redesign: Making our own menu bar

One of the most fun parts of creating a new kind of app is to imagine from scratch the different ways people might use the program, and, therefore, what virtual tools they might need. During this process, we quickly discovered that a standardized menu bar would not work, so we created our own, including icons for our various paths (a footstep theme that leads users from story to story), a map (that helps users geolocate), and the Haversack (the backpack-like item in which visitors use to gather their media goods).

You might notice that five buttons were not enough for what we wanted to do, so we made a More and a Less button, to allow users to open up the different tool bar belts. ... Also, parts of the app have different buttons that appear in different places, depending on the needs of the moment, which is another way to customize the interface for the user.

Redesign: Pushing videos through YouTube / Vimeo

Instead of hosting videos directly on our servers, and then processing those in various ways, depending on the device, as we have been doing, we thought it would be more efficient and more effective to put those videos on YouTube and Vimeo and let them do that part of the work. Amazingly enough, though, YouTube and Android, both of which Google owns, have some compatibility issues. We are not sure if those will be resolved before the June 9 launch. So we might be back to the original plan of hosting the videos ourselves, at least with the Android version of the app (the Apple iPhone version seems to work fine). Regardless, the video content of the Kanaka, Kane and Village Opening modules now are posted on both YouTube and Vimeo, in case you want to take a look at examples of that part of the app design.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Redesign: Pick your path screen

One more segment of the redesign to post about today: After pressing the "pick your path" text or menu button, app users will be directed to the following screen, which has a bar of buttons on the right-hand side that scrolls up and down, allowing users to pick various interactive stories:

Only our historical review of the background image above (led by Chief Ranger Greg Shine) turned up some concerns. The scene does show a representation of Fort Vancouver, and is meant to be a historic Fort Vancouver scene, but the Native Americans in the foreground of the image are Plains Indians, not Coastal Indians, which raised red flags with the historians about the integrity of the image. In addition, the encroaching of the forest on the fort also is historically inaccurate. So we changed the background to the following, listed by the Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, as by "Lieutenant Warre. Paintings described by Mr. C. P. Wilson in an article “Early Western Paintings” which appeared in The Beaver, June 1949 (no. 280)."

The fort's Chief Ranger Greg Shine said that painting's authorship also is in question (another long post could be made about that discussion), but the public domain image itself passes the visual standards we needed to meet. So it will be used instead.

Redesign: Opening screen

One really interesting quirk in this kind of app design, which we only discovered through building and testing, was that users of the FVM app onsite were looking for a much different experience than users of the app offsite, and, surprisingly, a large number of our users were offsite when they accessed this app. This could be people trying out the app at home, before coming to the park, or it could be people looking for historical resources, or it could be people interested in National Park Service apps, or who knows what. ... As designers interested in knowing more about place-based media, we always just envisioned the app as an onsite resource. But the user patterns indicated secondary and tertiary uses as well, which we felt we needed to address somehow. We did not want to try to make a Swiss Army knife of apps, trying to please everybody, all of the time (and in the process pleasing no one). This FVM app is a research tool for learning more about net locality, or place-based media, but for offsite users, that approach would not mean anything to them. So we decided to use GPS triggering to determine where users were, in relation to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and, if they were not in the near vicinity, we made an animated sequence that encouraged visitors to come to the site by hyperlinking the fort's address (to Google maps), the fort's web site, and even activating the phone number, so if an offsite user touched the number, that person would be put in contact directly with a park ranger. The final screen of the animation looks like this (for the rest of it, you'll have to download the app after June 9, 2012):

Those who are onsite when they open the app (or move onsite with the app open) are welcomed with a much more complicated animation, that you just have to see in motion to appreciate. It starts with the gate opening and ends with the following screen, encouraging users to select one of the various interactive stories to experience (through the menu bar below this image, or by pressing the path text):

Redesign: Launcher icon

Of all the redesign issues we faced during the past several months, the launcher icon, in hindsight, seemed to be the lynchpin decision. I don't know if that is because the icon is the first image that users of the app see, or if that icon is the toughest to design, because of its small size, or if we focused all of our design reservations, frustrations and concerns onto that thumbprint-sized scapegoat. Whatever the deeper meanings might be, we had to have a launcher icon, for people to press and open the app. So, after various prototypes and discussions, lead designer Marsha Matta eventually developed the image of the Fort Vancouver palisade as a metaphorical barrier between the physical world and the digital world, with the gate of Fort Vancouver, represented in the gate image of the app, opening up exciting new worlds to visitors, if the just press this (the text on the mobile device, underneath this icon, will read: Fort Vancouver):

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Fort Vancouver: A National Treasure" editorial by Tracy Fortmann

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site's superintendent Tracy Fortmann wrote an editorial in The Columbian this weekend that mentioned our work on mobile historical interpretation, as part of what makes the place special on a national scale.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A bit of added media ...

In setting up the FVM YouTube channel, I ran across a couple of pieces of media on the FVM project that I don't think I've posted before. So here those are, too:

Brady Berkenmeier's senior seminar presentation on his FVM module, Kane's Wanderings, in 2011

WSU News coverage of the app (notice the classic G1 phone in use at the time of filming)

And a couple of Hastac posts:

About the iDMAa presentation

And about Dr. Dene Grigar's NEH presentation

YouTube and Vimeo channels are up

We have decided to post some of the videos from the Fort Vancouver Mobile app online at YouTube and Vimeo, in case anyone wants to look at some samples of the video work. If you do, and have comments, please post feedback here, too.

This blog now featured on the official Fort Vancouver web site

When the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site updated its social media links recently, this Fort Vancouver Mobile blog was added to the list, which also includes the site's newsletter and its channels on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. ... Thanks again for the support, Fort Vancouver!