On last Friday, June 28th , I finished the first set of workshop sessions about locative media, in partnership with the non-profit organization Latinitas. Throughout four days, we discussed basic concepts about smartphones, maps, GPS and stories about places with nine girls ranging from 10 to 14 years-old.The classes were held at El Buen Samaritano, an institution that provides assistance to Latin@s families in Austin, Texas.
The workshop was challenging for many reasons: the complexity of the subject versus the short time to convey it for the girls, taking into account their age. Moreover, we did not have smartphones neither tablets for the participants to use, which is crucial for the goals of my research project. The original idea for the workshop was to ask the participants to produce a local story about a place in Austin and take a picture of the respective place. However, I understood in the first day that that would not be possible, because of their limitations regarding their age and the short time we had.
With this is mind, after explaining the concept of place-based stories, I asked them to bring in the next day pictures that they already had. Those pictures had to represent a story that they would have to write down, and upload to Historypin, the website and mobile application we were exploring over the four days. Many of them did their homework and were proud of that. By looking at the pictures, I understood that a few students had actually understood the concept of telling a story about a place and attaching it to a location.
Although we did not have digital mobile devices for each participant, I took my personal iPad for the class and each student spent some time exploring Historypin mobile app on it. I asked them to look for and write down the differences between the website and the app.
Based on their notes, I concluded that they did not notice that the mobile device recognizes your location through GPS and gives information about your surroundings on the map. Just one participant realized that. She wrote: “The computer History Pin doesn’t show you where you are, and the Ipad one does. The ipad was easier to move than the computer. I think the ipad is better because you can take it wherever you go.”I assume that this participant concluded this because she was already familiar with iPad, since her parents have one at home. When she was using the iPad, in class, I also chatted with her about the location aspect of the mobile application. She was astonished by realizing it. For sure, the small talk helped her to understand the application fully. Unlike her, most of the participants preferred the website to the app. This observation is not a finished one, because the girls spent much more time using the website. In this sense, I have to say that the use of mobile devices in these workshops is essential to come up with reliable results.
Despite all the challenges, I am glad to say that five girls were able to write stories about places and pin the content to Historypin by themselves. Some of them created an account on the website, because they saw a value on it. If you want to see what those girls produced, visit my research project channel on historypin.com. But remember that was a sort of pilot study, of which I learned a lot. Please, I would love to know your thoughts about that. Feel free to comment this post and start a conversation.