IST researchers use mobile technology to enhance Arts Fest community experience

IST researchers use mobile technology to enhance Arts Fest community experience

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Each year, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts attracts more than 125,000 visitors to State College and Penn State’s University Park campus to enjoy fun, food and art. And for the 11th consecutive year, researchers from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology are assisting to enrich the community experience for Arts Fest attendees through technology.

This year, the researchers hope to facilitate a connection between the festival and community that evokes emotion in festivalgoers through a mobile scavenger hunt game. Tiffany Knearem, a doctoral candidate in Penn State’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction (CHCI), oversaw the development of the 2019 festival app.

“I wanted to create something that was fun and engaging and that sparked people’s creativity while also getting at community identity and attachment,” Knearem said.

Knearem said the CHCI lab approaches the style and purpose of the app differently each year so people can experience the festival in new ways. She believes the scavenger hunt game will create a more engaging event for users.

“It’s a more interactive approach,” Knearem said. “We’re interested in finding ways to make the festival more fun and engaging for people; we’re doing this by encouraging people to interact with their surroundings through the festival activities and within the town itself.”

John M. Carroll, distinguished professor of information sciences and technology and director of CHCI, is excited about this year’s unique approach and its potential for success.

“We are exploring the information needs and possibilities of the community, ways to simultaneously amplify engagement and fun, and going where no app has gone before,” he said.

Carroll and his CHCI team’s research focuses on how people can express themselves creatively while connecting with their community through technology.

In 2008, just a year after the first iPhone was released, Carroll designed a mobile app that allowed guests to see locations of booths and event schedules. It has evolved every year since.

In the past, CHCI researchers designed the app. This year, however, festivalgoers will download the GooseChase app and select the Arts Fest Stories game based on their geolocation. Users will then respond to a series of nine prompts in the app, such as “Your favorite banner on Allen Street,” using a photo and caption.

Knearem envisions the game as a way to strengthen town and gown relations and integrate Penn State students into the local community.

“I think it will help them to learn something about themselves, to experience something new, to look at it a new way, to maybe look at the festival and community in a new light,” she said.

The lab will use the app’s analytics to understand how technology strengthens people’s connections to their community, but Knearem said it’s not just about collecting data. It means something to the researchers to be able to foster engagement.

“We’re looking at what people are doing, how they are using the app, how it is augmenting their experience,” she added. “Is it enhancing their experience? What specifically about the app is supporting this experience?”

Some prompts are specific to the University or town, but Knearem hopes that all attendees will participate and enjoy the experience, regardless of their connections to the community.

“I hope that it will help people think about the festival in a different way and engage on a deeper level with the festival and town,” Knearem said. “We’re supporting people to make memories, to think in new ways, and [encourage] new experiences, which will strengthen the attachment to the community while they’re at the festival.”

The GooseChase app is available to Arts Fest visitors 18 years or older on iOS and Android devices. Users attending Arts Fest can join the Arts Fest Stories game to complete the various activities and share their responses to the prompts on their social media social media accounts. The game will be active throughout the duration of the Central Pennsylvania Festival for the Arts from July 10-14.

Nine prompts for the Arts Fest Stories game:

— Most memorable meal with friends downtown

— Take a photo at your favorite activity at the festival

— Your favorite banner on Allen Street

— Place that reminds you of beating Ohio State

— Take a photo of your favorite festival food

— Take a photo of you and your friends enjoying a performance

— Arts fest installation that you wish was in State College year-round

— Where you took your graduation photos

— Take a photo of a person making art at the festival

Editor’s note: This story is informational in nature and should not be considered an endorsement of any product or application.

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