IST researchers use mobile technology to enhance Arts Festival experience

Emma Riglin
July 03, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Each year, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts attracts more than 125,000 visitors to State College and Penn State's University Park campus to enjoy fun, food and art. And for the 11th consecutive year, researchers from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology are assisting to enrich the community experience for Arts Festival attendees through technology.

This year, the researchers hope to facilitate a connection between the festival and community that evokes emotion in festivalgoers through a mobile scavenger hunt game. Tiffany Knearem, a doctoral candidate in Penn State’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction (CHCI), oversaw the development of the 2019 festival app.

“I wanted to create something that was fun and engaging and that sparked people’s creativity while also getting at community identity and attachment,” Knearem said.

Knearem said the CHCI lab approaches the style and purpose of the app differently each year so people can experience the festival in new ways. She believes the scavenger hunt game will create a more engaging event for users.

“It’s a more interactive approach,” Knearem said. “We're interested in finding ways to make the festival more fun and engaging for people; we’re doing this by encouraging people to interact with their surroundings through the festival activities and within the town itself.”

John M. Carroll, distinguished professor of information sciences and technology and director of CHCI, is excited about this year’s unique approach and its potential for success.

"We are exploring the information needs and possibilities of the community, ways to simultaneously amplify engagement and fun, and going where no app has gone before," he said.

Carroll and his CHCI team’s research focuses on how people can express themselves creatively while connecting with their community through technology.

In 2008, just a year after the first iPhone was released, Carroll designed a mobile app that allowed guests to see locations of booths and event schedules. It has evolved every year since.

In the past, CHCI researchers designed the app. This year, however, festivalgoers will download the GooseChase app and select the Arts Festival Stories game based on their geolocation. Users will then respond to a series of nine ‘missions’ in the app, such as ‘Favorite Festival Food,’ using a photo and short caption.

Knearem envisions the game as a way to strengthen town and gown relations and integrate Penn State students into the local community.

“I think it will help them to learn something about themselves, to experience something new, to look at it a new way, and to maybe look at the festival and community in a new light,” she said.

The lab will use the app’s analytics to understand how technology strengthens people’s connections to their community, but Knearem said it’s not just about collecting data. It means something to the researchers to be able to foster engagement.

“We’re looking at what people are doing, how they are using the app, how it is augmenting their experience,” she added. “Is it enhancing their experience? What specifically about the app is supporting this experience?”

Some missions are specific to the University or town, but Knearem hopes that all attendees will participate and enjoy the experience regardless of their connections to the community.

"I hope that it will help people think about the festival in a different way and engage on a deeper level with the festival and town," Knearem said. “We’re supporting people to make memories, to think in new ways, and [encourage] new experiences which will strengthen the attachment to the community while they’re at the festival.”

The GooseChase app is available on iOS and Android. The Arts Festival Stories mobile game will be available exclusively during the festival from Wednesday, July 10, through Sunday, July 14. Participants must be within the State College area for the game to appear on GooseChase. Users attending the festival can join the Arts Festival Stories game to complete the various activities and share their responses to the missions on their social media accounts using the #ArtsFestivalGame2019 hashtag. While the game and content are appropriate for all ages, due to the research focus of the game, players must be adult attendees age 18 or over.

Nine missions for the Arts Festival Stories game:

  • Favorite festival food
  • Favorite banner
  • Arts Festival installation
  • Most memorable meal
  • Great campus photo opportunity
  • Favorite festival activity
  • Victory against Ohio State! (place that reminds you of a Penn State win)
  • Person making art
  • Live performance

Editor's note: This story is informational in nature and should not be considered an endorsement of any product or application.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 09, 2019