Attending the Arts Festival in State College? There's an app for that!

The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts will mark its 45th anniversary on July 11-15 by bringing more 125,000 people to downtown State College and the University Park campus of Penn State. With an event of this size, it can be difficult for festival attendees to recall the location of a particular booth, or decide what musical acts they want to see. Fortunately, a free Android app developed by researchers at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology is now available to provide real-time guidance and online interaction to festival goers.

“Technology changes things,” said Dr. Jack Carroll, Edward M. Frymoyer Professor of Information Sciences and Technology, who is leading the initiative. “Moving around in the world now can give us access to place-based digital information and interactions.”

The app provides access to the official database of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, which includes descriptions of all 300 artists who will be selling their works at the festival; and schedules of various musical, dance and theatrical performances, and other festival activities. The app can display the locations of artist booths and performance venues, and app users can determine the artists and performances that are in close proximity to their current location.

In addition, users of the app can share their experiences through social media, bookmark events they want to attend, upload and share photos to the site, and post comments about the festivities. When a user bookmarks an event, Carroll said, he or she will get a reminder an hour before the event starts. In addition, the official blog of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts can be accessed through the app.

The app can be downloaded for free and is available through the Google Play Store (search on “CiVicinity”). Users will need an Android smartphone to utilize the interactive features of the app (download at http://bit.ly/civicinity). However, the website, http://civicinity.org/ (choose the “Arts Festival” tab), can be accessed on an iPhone or personal computer.

During the festival, Carroll and his colleagues will be at a tent at the corner of Pollock Avenue and Burrowes Street, where they will help individuals download the app. They will also walk around the festival to provide support to the artists and staff who are using the app.

Earlier versions of the software were available for the past four arts festivals, Carroll said. However, in the past, when smartphones weren’t as widespread as they are today, the researchers had to loan devices to visitors in order to gather data. In addition, the system has gone through a number of changes since it was first developed.

“Over the years, our skills, ambitions and infrastructure have all grown,” he said.

The app was developed as part of CiVicinity, a community portal designed to take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies to support local communities. The site is managed by Carroll; Mary Beth Rosson, professor and associate dean for undergraduate studies at the College of IST; and four IST graduate students: Kyungsik (Keith) Han, Dan Guzek, Blaine Hoffman and Harry Robinson.

The site is also designed to leverage the potential of location-based mobile computing available using devices such as iPhones, Android phones, laptops and other WiFi capable devices in the context of local community. By using web tools, including RSS and iCal, to reuse website or public calendar content, as well as making use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, community groups can use the site to share their news and events with the community.

Carroll, co-director of the College of IST's Laboratory for Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning with Rosson, and director of Penn State's Center for Human-Computer Interaction, is an expert in community informatics, an area of research and practice concerned with enabling and empowering communities through the use of information and communications technology. His research interests include methods and theory in human-computer interaction, particularly as applied to networking tools for collaborative learning and problem solving, and the design of interactive information systems.

According to Carroll, the CiVicinity app has the potential to change the way that the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts is organized. The current model divides the festival booths into six regions. As mobile technology is further developed and more widely adopted, he added, the geographic coordinates of specific booths and other locations will become part of how we talk about and think about where booths are.

“Locations and spaces are becoming more articulated in human thinking through this technology,” Carroll said.

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Last Updated July 16, 2012