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.
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.
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.
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’.
There are a few things you can do to maximise the effectiveness of a link to your audio tour so that it helps bring in search traffic from Google. Think of this post as a very brief beginners guide to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Keywords are key
The text that you use to link to your audio tour in an article, blog post, or press release influences how easily people find your tour in a Google search. Using a plain URL (www.voicemap.me, for instance) or the word “here” does very little to help people find your tour using Google. Instead, try and identify the most effective link text.
There are plenty of different types of promotional content that will help you boost your audio tour’s sales. Read on for four that are effective and easy to create.
Q&As are a great way to communicate a bit about who you are, why you created your audio tour, and what people will get out of the experience. They’re also quick to put together, and often easier to get published elsewhere than press releases.
We’ve come up with a handful of questions to save you time (and spare you the awkwardness of having a Q&A session with yourself!) Answer the questions that appeal most, add an introductory sentence or two, and you’re ready to send the finished product to blogs or publications that may like to publish it. Don’t forget to add a link to your tour on appropriate keywords.
In Cape Town, the locations along several of our city centre routes are intriguingly marked with geotag-shaped stickers, and it really gets people talking. The stickers invite passers-by to “listen to stories from the District Six Museum” – or The Book Lounge, or Mogalakwena Gallery – and list a couple of the audio walks that feature this particular location, with instructions for downloading them.
The businesses and organisations we approach are generally thrilled to hear that they are already included (at no cost) in the commentary of a walk that passes right by their door. In those cases, placing a custom-made sticker in their window is a win-win situation – assuming that the commentary is flattering, of course.
Location-aware audio connects a voice to a place. The real trick is finding ways to inform people that the voice – and the story – exists. Stickers, posters and signage are among the most effective ways of doing that.
Audio tour apps are exciting and new, so getting websites and other publications to run a press release or article about yours shouldn’t be difficult. Press releases are a great way of communicating to specific audiences, and editors are often happy to have the work taken out of writing something themselves.
We’ve done our best to take some of the work out of the process for you, too. Read on to find plenty of examples from press releases – which you can reword to reflect your own personality – along with the four essential questions that a press release promoting your audio tour should answer.
If you’ve ever shared something you created online, you’ll probably have experienced the positive network effects for yourself. But how do you go beyond your personal sphere of influence, and into the world? VoiceMap’s major sources of both visitors and customers are Facebook and Twitter, and here we give you a few tips on how to optimize your interactions on social media.
It was gambling that built the Sunset Strip, Aric says, and in this short video, he zooms in on a central character, the Los Angeles gangster Mickey Cohen, who ruled the Sunset Strip in the post-war era.
Aric also highlights the role that water may have played in the lifespans of both the man and the Strip itself.
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.”
Conventional audio tours tell a city’s story with only one or two voices, which doesn’t allow for diversity or individual perspectives. You can’t capture the essence of a place like Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap in the same way as the colonial Company’s Gardens or the Grand Parade, where Mandela addressed 200,000 ecstatic people after his release from prison. What brings these spaces to life, and connects you to them, is the personal opinions, anecdotes and sense of ownership reflected in the words, ‘I love’, ‘I remember’, and ‘I hope’.
The best travel experiences normally begin with a local showing you their city. It cuts through all the abstraction of being an outsider, making you a participant, with a point of reference that helps you identify with a place. You get to share somebody else’s feelings for their home – and that’s exactly what VoiceMap aims to do, with the help of our storytellers.
We’re launching VoiceMap in Cape Town throughout the month of September, and we’re looking for stories that make our map of Cape Town more complete. We’ve lined up significant media coverage from some of the city’s biggest broadcasters and publications, and Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Partnership are lending a hand.
We’re always on the lookout for your stories, and anything is welcome, but we’re prioritising the following places and themes in particular: