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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ICA presentation on FVM project

I just returned from an exciting International Communication Association conference in Phoenix, Ariz., which featured a two-day preconference focused specifically on Mobile Communication, Community, and Locative Media. 
At that preconference, which had representatives from 16 different countries in attendance, I had the honor of presenting a talk titled "Looking into the Past to See Our Future: Mobile Devices as Dynamic Historical Interpretation Tools." My goal was to express the idea that mobile communication does not have to carry the bags of old media with it. We can look at the mobile medium with fresh eyes and see it as something with new affordances and new possibilities, including its potential for historical interpretation and journalism (the second part being my emphasis for a project this summer). The talk went well. Many people expressed interest in those ideas and the Fort Vancouver project. The momentum continues to build!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fort Vancouver Mobile's public launch coming up: June 9

WSU Vancouver's version ...

Here's the press release:


Brett Oppegaard, project coordinator
360-521-8150 (c)
Behind-the-scenes blog:

May 18, 2012

            Want to learn about history at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in a new way? There’s an app for that, as the Fort Vancouver Mobile app will make its public debut on June 9, in conjunction with a Brigade Encampment as well as National Get Outdoors Day.
            The free app -- funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Clark County Commissioners, and Washington State University Vancouver – is the first interpretation-oriented app in the National Park Service system. This research project has been developed by a core of about 20 scholars, many in The Creative Media and Digital Culture program at WSU Vancouver, with the support of students as well as new media professionals in the region and bolstered by the volunteer efforts of more than 100 people throughout the community. WSU Vancouver faculty member Brett Oppegaard is coordinating the project, and fellow faculty members Dene Grigar, John Barber, Will Luers, Michael Rabby, Sola Adesope, and Steve Fountain all have contributed to the project. 
            While many apps provide textbook-like information about people or places in history, or connect users to wayfinding tools, the Fort Vancouver Mobile app distinctly is designed as an interface for narrative immersion into a historical place. Those who download the app (through the Android or Apple markets) will have access to interactive stories connected to physical landmarks, which help to create a synthesis of the digital and the physical at Fort Vancouver.
            On June 9, the focus of the festivities will be on the debut of the first two modules created for the app:
·       “Kanaka” – About the native Hawaiians, or “kanakas,” who began coming to Fort Vancouver in the 1820s to serve as laborers. Many toiled in the sawmill, but others, such as the protagonists of this story, pastor William Kaulehlehe and wife, Mary Kaai, were drawn to this place for other reasons. Created in partnership with the Ke Kukui Foundation.
·       “Kane’s Wanderings,” about Irish-born painter Paul Kane, who stopped at Fort Vancouver in the winter of 1846-1847, in the midst of traveling and documenting the people and places of the Pacific Northwest. Created as part of a WSU Vancouver class on Digital Storytelling.
Other modules, such as a story focused on gender and women’s issues, will be released at later special events. A behind-the-scenes blog on the project is being kept at:
The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, which attracts more than 1 million annual visitors to its Vancouver, Wash., campus, has been seeking out younger patrons through various pioneering approaches to historical interpretation, including podcasting, digital archiving and social media feeds. The Fort Vancouver Mobile team, including Chief Ranger Greg Shine, was assembled in response to the potential offered by mobile devices, such as iPhones and Droids. Through investigations into the affordances of these integrated media devices, clips of audio, video, animation, and text, have been mixed to be delivered to visitors at the most ideal times in the most ideal places at the site to generate a sense of Fort Vancouver’s story.
The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 1001 E. Fifth St., Vancouver, Wash., will offer the Brigade Encampment and related activities, including the app launch, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 9. Admission to the event is free, and download cost of the app is free.
For more information about the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, please contact: Brett Oppegaard, 360-521-8150,

Fort Vancouver Mobile project earns a Research Mini-Grant from WSU Vancouver

WSU Vancouver announced this week that the Fort Vancouver Mobile project has earned a $4,000 Research Mini-Grant to extend its investigations of place-based media into journalistic realms. This grant primarily will be used to buy equipment for producing new media and conducting research on the site, while a new accompanying app will be built to look at labor issues over the past 200 years at the old sawmill site near Fort Vancouver. More details about this effort will be posted later in the summer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Redesign: News of the Era

The primary protagonist of the Kanaka module, William Kaulehelehe, wrote a letter to his hometown newspaper, The Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, in the 1860s, basically complaining that he wasn't receiving the copies he had paid for, and he wanted those. As a former newspaper writer, I found that complaint to transcend time, and I looked closer at when those letters were being sent. One of them was dated April 1865, the same month that General Lee surrendered at Appomattox, the Civil War ended, Lincoln was assassinated, Booth was on the loose, and the S.S. Sultana sunk, which is the worst marine disaster in U.S. history. No wonder William wanted to know what was going on! ... In that time period, the newspaper was print, television, radio, and Internet bundled into a single and slow analog delivery system. Without a newspaper, everything was word of mouth, and news could take months to travel across the country. So we decided to make an alternate reality game of sorts out of this, by embedding summaries of period newspapers in the landscape at Fort Vancouver and asking visitors to walk around the site to find different issues (or the lost Kaulehelehe newspapers, as we dubbed them).

Here is the version of this newspaper imagery we will launch with on June 9, showing an account of the first "base ball" game happening in the 1840s; Fort Vancouver took up the craze soon thereafter:

We also created newspapers for other major national events, such as Lincoln's assassination (with text placed on those images within the app):

And the interesting moment in time in which literature arose through newspaper printings, such as Poe's The Raven, which first was produced in a newspaper:

At the end of each newspaper sequence, users get to take a quiz, to test either explicit knowledge transfer or to find out what users found most interesting about the newspaper summary. These newspaper sequences did begin as digital collages, but gradually grew into the more even and sophisticated designs above. Here are a couple of examples of the starting points:

Redesign: Twitta-graphs, or whatever they are ...

Letters, journal entries, and other historical documents from the mid-1800s have been converted through this app into timely dispatches, like social media streams, to represent the words as well as the spirit of period communication. While the idea seems simple, the creation of such a stream has been challenging in many ways. Here is the look of the Twitta-graph (a Twitter-Telegraph combo) at the end of the development cycle, with designer Marsha Matta's vision applied:

The previous version was more colorful, but we were trying to create a thematic look that could be carried throughout the app. This version was primarily designed by me (Brett Oppegaard), with help from Kapuanani Antonio. Part of the skimming of the colors was part of the evening out of the overall app design. Also, of course, we transformed the app from a horizontal view to a vertical view, to match the look of other National Park Service apps. Here was the previous version:

The version before that:

The version before that:

As you can see, at the beginning, I didn't even know the right size to make the box or how to format the text (forget about higher-end aesthetics). But each design has to start somewhere, and this image is the first of the slides created:

So the essence of the idea was to create Twitter handles for historical characters (and there really are these handles on Twitter; although we haven't done anything else with them yet). And to give them a profile, per the text underneath the handle, and then, to let them speak, pretty much as they did in the historical documents, but using hashtags and @handles and other contemporary conventions through that specific social media stream. We had hoped to give them a modern voice, but, as our research turned up, combining old English and Twitter-jargon does not necessarily generate clarity. In fact, it created a double-whammy of confusion for many of our test subjects, either thrown off by one or the other. The newest design, we hope, will help to address such confusion. ... We will be testing that more this summer.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Redesign: The launcher icon ... launched

We recently wrapped up the redesign of the launcher icon. From the start, we wanted to match the style and look of the National Park Service's Capitol Mall app. We also wanted to, in the spirit of the interpretive nature of the app, to have a metaphorical layer to the image. The gate of the palisade, elaborated upon in earlier discussions on this blog, ended up becoming our symbol. Designer Marsha Matta created the work and then had to size it for the various devices that could access it (that's a much longer story). But, in the end, I think you can see the continuity of the look, with this Fort Vancouver version comparing well to the original:
One note about the text underneath the launcher icon; on the Android home screen, the text is abbreviated, but on the interior screens, at least on Android, the text is presented in full as "Fort Vancouver." Another interesting quirk here. Android devices for some reason do not allow screenshots (or at least not without a lot of external work), so I shot this image with my iPhone, then cropped it with Photoshop.