Take, for example, some of our free audio tours, sponsored by tourism boards, attractions, community organisations, and others – along with one exception, which is also free, but was published privately by design.
VoiceMap: Do you see potential for apps and other new technology to engage new audiences in Singapore’s street art?
Jaclynn: Singapore’s street art scene is relatively small and unknown – it’s not what you think of at all when you think about visiting Singapore! But visitors are starting to look beyond our typical tourist attractions, and for the independent traveller who likes discovering new things, apps and new technology like VoiceMap are a perfect fit as they allow users the freedom of choice and self discovery in their travels. This is especially important around the arts, which is a pretty subjective topic and different people engage with it in such varied ways.
VoiceMap: Do you see potential for apps and other new technology to engage new audiences in aspects of New Orleans’ culture and history?
Denise: Without a doubt, I see where recent and emerging technologies are truly offering opportunities to explore New Orleans culture and history in novel ways. I’m a traveler and a writer. For me, nothing beats meeting locals on their own turf when I travel. Their voices, their accents, their stories become part of my travel experience. So, on one hand, I would hope that audio tourists drop those earbuds whenever they have the good fortune to interact with real, in-the-flesh characters; on the other hand, I love wandering around new places on my own, soaking in the sights, sounds and smells. That’s where audio touring is such a boon. The voice of a local whispering in my ear and guiding me along a path is pretty darned enticing.
VoiceMap: Do you see potential for apps and other new technology to engage new audiences in aspects of Portugal’s culture and history?
Julie: Absolutely! I am very excited about this location-aware technology and think it adds a whole new dimension to tours. People who would never take the time to read lengthy descriptions in guide books or brochures can effortlessly learn about the place they are visiting simply by listening to stories in context.
For school teacher and itinerant Third Culture Kid Eleanor Nicolás, creating an audio tour of The Hague helped her reclaim her fragmented childhood. The picture above is of a map at Paris’ Gare du Nord train station, taken before Eleanor relocated to her current home in the Netherlands. The airplane from Schiphol is taking off in the direction of the UK, where her family will settle permanently within a year or so.
When I was a girl, especially when very young, I didn’t think much about where I was. Everything was about the now. That changed as I got older, though I was largely focused on my education at school and university. I gave birth to my daughter when I was 33 in France. It was my 12th international relocation. It was then that a huge wave of unresolved and delayed grief hit me.
This grief is characteristic of high mobility third culture kids, who don’t have the time to process the erasure of their worlds and the disruption of a developing identity. I can only describe it as having long carried a broken heart, and finally letting it break. I heard all these bygone radios from my past. I held my daughter and asked myself if I would give her the same upbringing as I had. When the answer was no, I had to ask myself hard questions about what it was that I hadn’t had. One way I did that was to write down what was coming to me in a personal blog and in my first novel. I’ve just finished the first draft.
I love London. I’ve loved London ever since the first time I visited. I don’t remember exactly when or why that was, but my earliest memory of London was a trip around Buckingham Palace. As someone who lives in a town that isn’t the most exciting place on Earth, London managed to offer me a place where everything was happening. I’m a child of the internet generation and I can remember using dial-up when I was as young as 5, so I’ve always had the ability to access more than I lived with, which drove me to want even more.
I think that day at Buckingham Palace has stuck with me all this time because it was a clear reminder that there is life outside the small circle of my hometown, and London is the hub of a lot of it. Inside, Buckingham Palace really is as stunning as people say it is, and it was like nothing I had ever seen before. I can vividly remember listening to the audio walking tour my Grandma bought me, getting to learn even more details about the ornate carvings and beautiful paintings I was looking at. Social history has fascinated me from a very young age – it comes hand in hand with a love of everything that the Arts has to offer – and getting to explore it in such an aural and practical way amazed me. I didn’t have all too many other memorable trips to London though, until I saw my first West End show, Hairspray, about 8 years ago.
Cities are forever changing and shifting, reflecting new trends in the global village. In most modern cities, the word ‘gentrification’ is either bandied about with a smile or spat out with vehemence, depending on whether you’re moving in or being pushed out. But however you see it, gentrification seems an unavoidable force of modern city living. Traditionally industrial or low-income areas segue into trendy up-and-coming locales, bringing an influx of developers and young residents, eager to find new spaces to fill with organic coffee shops and artisanal bakeries.
Holešovice, Prague, is a prime example of a neighbourhood in the infancy of such a transformation, slowly being reinvented piece by piece. Historically, this was an area of heavy industrial activity, with warehouses, low-cost housing and even a sewage treatment plant. Globalisation and the decentralisation of industry from the city have led to many factories falling into disuse, and a new breed of residents and businesses are moving in.
Audio Producer, Geolocation Enthusiast and VoiceMap Storyteller, Miranda Diboll, provides some insight into her BritPop audio tour of Camden. For her, creating a VoiceMap was a way of reliving an exciting past with an “older pair of eyes”.
VoiceMap: Do you see potential for apps and other new technology to engage new audiences in music from the past?
Miranda: There’s a lot of interest in music from previous decades. Anyone who loves music will tend to look back at the influences of their favourite bands and listen to those influences. Britpop is a case in point — it was very much influenced by the 60s, Northern Soul and Mod. Some people wrongly labelled it as a mod revival which it wasn’t, it was much more diverse than that.
Now people are seeing Britpop as much more than just a music craze or some kind of revival. Twenty years have passed and the music stands the test of time. The 90s was an interesting decade, it was a time of hope and celebration of British culture. For young people at the time, like myself, it was the first time we could see the end of years of Tory government. The internet was just round the corner and so was a Labour government that promised us so much. We had so much hope for music and politics! It didn’t last.
So yes, I think people are keen to engage with the past and a VoiceMap tour is an incredibly immersive way to do that.
Location-aware audio has an endless list of applications, but self-guided photography tours often seem like they were made for the medium. Having your hands free when a professional photographer suggests you pause in that exact spot to best capture a vista, getting advice on which settings to adjust, and then being led to another seemingly secret – and oh so photogenic – spot takes location-aware audio tours to a whole new level.
London is the first city where we’ve seen real demand for self-guided photography tours, and so far five have been released on VoiceMap’s walking tour app by two London-based photographers.
Kate Gorman is a storyteller with a background in theatre, film, and writing novels. She’s passionate about sci-fi, virtual realities and, naturally, Star Trek. To her, getting her own holodeck – a virtual reality facility from the Star Trek Universe, often used for participating in interactive stories or recreating familiar environments – would be a dream come true. But sadly, we don’t live in the future yet and creating such a device would cost a lot of money, so instead she used what is available to her : location-aware, GPS storytelling. Making use of a real-world environment, she produced a four-episode audio walk series in Washington D.C. using VoiceMap’s storytelling platform, creating a sensory experience that is similar to what someone in a virtual, interactive reality might have.
The devil lives here. Or at least that is what people believed, when the district was nothing more than fields, woods and the odd farm building – all to the west of the Gesundbrunnen district, where a spa existed in 1760. But once Berliners left the safe area of pools and beer gardens behind, they felt they were out in the wild. Since the Middle Ages, Wedding had been referred to as a ‘desert’, a wild place for demons. And there were witnesses (or accomplices). Dorothea Steffin, a miller’s daughter who had been imprisoned for her ‘negligent moral conduct’ in 1728 confessed to having met Satan in Wedding, looking like a ‘well-shaped gentleman’.
Shereen Habib was born in 1952 in a house at the top of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town’s “Malay Quarter”. The predominantly Muslim neighbourhood’s population is mostly descended from convicts, political exiles and slaves from the former Dutch East Indies.
Shereen’s family has lived in Bo-Kaap for almost a century. During apartheid’s darkest days when most non-white people were banished to designated neighbourhoods and townships on the outskirts of the city, including Shereen and her husband, her parents remained in the house on the hill.
She returned to Bo-Kaap after a decade with her husband in a formerly “coloured” area. It was home, she says. “After so much anger and so much death and so much shooting down, with my children witnessing it all, we were traumatised. I wanted to get back to where I knew best – where there was love and laughter – and so I came back here. And that’s when I knew that this is where I wanted to start telling my story.”
The latest weekly podcast by our friends Matthew and Robert at Yap Audio Production explores why audio is a particularly powerful medium for fantasy. One of the guests on the show is Domien De Groot – “the Tolkien of audio drama” – who shares the story of how his career began.
“Fantasy is really what got me in to doing audio drama in the first place. I discovered it because of the BBC dramatisations of the Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit. That’s when I fell in love with the medium. I thought ‘what is so wonderful about this is you can create this whole world, and you can see things, without actually having to film them, or create them.’
“Location-aware audio walk” doesn’t trip off the tongue, does it? It’s a phrase for a technical medium, with lots of moving parts, and sometimes VoiceMap’s storytellers get bogged down by all of our publishing tool’s many mechanics.
The result is a list of facts instead of stories, with the things that are physically most obvious at the forefront – the monuments, buildings, and landmarks that get mapped out right at the beginning of the process – instead of the stories that made the walk compelling in the first place.