Get the 'insider experience' with Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts app

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Thanks to a smartphone app developed by researchers at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology, this year’s Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts promises to be more interactive than ever before.

Using the Arts Fest app, festival goers can access 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; schedules of various music, 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. When a user bookmarks an event, he or she will get a reminder an hour before the event starts.

“The idea is to intensify the experience of the Arts Festival,” said Jack Carroll, Distinguished Professor at the College of IST and director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), which developed the app and also is organizing an “icebreaker” activity at the festival.

Users of the app can share their experiences through social media, bookmark events they want to attend, upload and share photos to the site, post comments about the festivities and access the official blog of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

The app also includes a feature in which the photos that people take of the festival are integrated with the app to produce a heat map -- a graphical representation of data where the individual values contained in a matrix are represented as colors. Those who view the heat map will be able to “drill down” with “push pins” to see photos taken at a particular point on the map.

Developed for both iPhone and Android, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts app can be accessed through the Google Play Store here or with the search string “arts festival state college," and through the iOS App Store here or by using the same search criteria. In addition, festival goers can get assistance in downloading the app at the Center for HCI’s booth, which will be located next to the Berkey Creamery on the corner of Bigler and Curtin roads on the University Park Campus. People who come to the booth can get an identifying tag, worn as a lanyard around the neck, which indicates their personal interests at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, for example, food, musical acts and art exhibits. Those who participate in the activity will have an opportunity to connect with people who indicate that they have similar interests.

“We want to get people to socialize and communicate with each other at Arts Fest,” said Patrick Shih, a research associate at the College of IST and a member of the Center for HCI.

The icebreaker activity was conceived by Jessica Kropczynski, a post-doctoral scholar who is working with Carroll. Kropczynski is an expert in social network analysis, Carroll said. Studies have shown that the basis for connection between individuals is similarity in areas such as culture, education and leisure pursuits.

“It’s common ground that a person can use to initiate a relationship,” Carroll said.

Carroll 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 Internet tools for collaborative learning and problem solving, and the design of interactive information systems.

The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts app, Carroll said, along with other projects at the Center for HCI, is part of a movement towards “hyperlocality" -- information oriented around a well-defined community with its primary focus directed toward the concerns of its residents. In addition to heightening the arts festival experience and promoting interaction among festival goers, Carroll and Shih said, their app will also enable users to see the history of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts online. Users will be able to access photos from past festivals, Carroll said, and can “drill” into a location or landmark to view photos of the place throughout the festival’s history.

“It’s all about promoting a sense of community through this digital curation effort,” Shih said.

Last Updated July 15, 2014