Landscape, Mobile Response

Public history tied to a place makes more sense than ever, given the ubiquity of apps and Google Maps. It’s a great way to engage a visitor with a space: the best example is apps tied to museums. Especially if there’s an audio component, it’s easier than ever to plug in your earbuds and take a solo tour of a museum.

However, mobile websites about places encourage a visitor to look down at her phone more than at the surroundings. I find that distressing, since part of the beauty of visiting a location is exploring the space organically. I find this less problematic with the museum apps because there are usually markers indicating where you are supposed to read/listen. With an open space and a mobile website not explicitly affiliated with the location, there is no guide. And if you’re a tourist, you don’t know when to read/listen, so you’re stuck on your phone. This could easily be taken care of if there were signs or plaques encouraging you.

Digital public history can easily be overwhelmed with ambition. Given that the vast digital world is at your fingertips, you can easily say you want to tackle ALL OF HISTORY. In fact, it’s always better to narrow your scope. Location-based public history forces a creator to do that, and I appreciate it for its limitations. But the limitations also mean that there is little interest unless you are visiting/have visited that site, which drastically limits the audience.

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