I would like to thank the Pratt Institute Faculty Development Fund for funding this project. I would like to thank former graduate assistant Rafael Baylor for help planning and implementing the focus groups.
ABSTRACT The National September 11 Memorial is notable in that it has designed a mobile application in unification with its physical space in Lower Manhattan. Despite the potential of such an arrangement, no research has been conducted that demonstrates the efficacy of mobile technology in augmenting the memory and remembrance functions of the built environment. Using the memorial as a site of inquiry, this project will address the following research questions: How are remembrance and memory impacted by use of mobile technology at a site of memorialization? And, what factors mediate engagement with mobile technology for the purposes of remembrance? Nineteen diverse New York City area residents visited the memorial while using the app, and then participated in a mixed-method study (in-depth focus group and survey). The results reveal that participants—if they experienced no significant technical troubles—found the app as significantly enhancing the memory and remembrance functions of the memorial. For developers of mobile technology for cultural heritage contexts, the use of curated oral histories available on a mobile phone is highly effective.
Below you will find a pre-print for the forthcoming article in the Journal of Documentation: Does Place Affect User Engagement and Understanding? Mobile Learner Perceptions on the Streets of New York (co-authored with Debbie Rabina).
Purpose: The aim of this research project is to uncover if place-based learning can increase learner engagement and understanding of historical topics.
Design/methodology/approach: To study this, learners will use GeoStoryteller to learn about a historical topic on the places where significant events occurred, and then be interviewed by the researchers. GeoStoryteller is a tool developed by the researchers that runs on smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone. It provides the user multimedia stories about the historical sites, delivered via the mobile web or through Layar, an augmented reality web browser. The initial application of this technology focuses on German immigration to New York City between 1840 and 1945 through a partnership with the Goethe-Institut, the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institution, which operates worldwide. After using GeoStoryteller to learn about this content, N=31 participants were interviewed by the researchers, and transcripts were subjected to a quantitative content analysis.
Findings: Results indicate that the use of place increases learner perceptions of their engagement and understanding of historical topics; however, novel user interfaces like augmented reality impose significant usability issues, and more standard interfaces are preferred by users.
Originality/value: The use of place in mobile learning environments provides a meaningful entry point into historical content. Teachers of history and social students, as well as those working in memory institutions (museum, libraries, and archives) should be encouraged in using place in their teaching and mobile education initiatives.
My colleague Debbie Rabina and I received funding from the Goethe-Institut—the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institution operated worldwide—to complete research and development on the GeoStoryteller project. GeoStoryteller is a mobile, augmented reality application that brings library and archival collections to the streets to enhance student learning and promote historical understanding. The first application of this platform will be German Traces NYC, a learning experience that focuses on German cultural heritage in New York City, particularly with respect to immigration through the eyes of German immigrants (1840-1945). The application will be used with high school students, particularly German language students, in effort to use the city as classroom and connect everyday places with historical and cultural contexts.