What are the challenges of preserving historic sites and attracting visitors? How could disruptive technology protect culture?
My niece has been teaching my little boy to catch Pokémon. In school they have all been talking about it, and he has been desperate to have a try.
But today we have been walking around a UNESCO world heritage site and everywhere there are people ignoring the architecture of the Vauban fortress. Instead they are busy trying to find Pokémon and catch them all!
How could disruptive technology protect culture in organisations like UNESCO?
In a previous article I discussed how nearables and proximity technologies could be used in marketing. Pokémon GO is perhaps an indication of how ready people are for location and proximity technologies. For anyone who doesn’t know yet, the augmented reality game is already available in more than 70 countries. It uses the camera on your smartphone to superimpose Pokémon into real world settings. It has quite literally brought millions of people outside and they are wandering around towns, villages and historic monuments fixated on their screens.
Just like my little boy they are not looking at their surroundings but are on quests to capture all the Pokémon they can. It is causing issues in some places. In Taiwan for example:
More than 1,200 Taiwanese players received traffic fines in the first three days of the game’s launch. Most were caught playing the game while riding their motorcycles.
There have been some issues in historic sites already. In the United States the Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery in Washington are examples. They have been forced to ask players to not go hunting Pokémon at their sites.
In this case there is less risk, no traffic and it is less inappropriate.
Could technology bring people back into the real world to take in the views?
Every couple of months I am lucky enough to teach business digital marketing strategy. One of the delegates at the last course was involved in driving tourism in one of our iconic British towns. The centre of his particular town is full to the brim with incredible examples of Gothic, Georgian, Victorian and other architectures, as well as being a beautiful place.
How can it be that tourism in these locations struggle? Many of these beautiful places would traditionally attract people to stay and retain them in their ecosystems. They would take in sights, use the services and eat in their restaurants. But what has changed? People still come but not for a couple of days as they did before. Instead they visit only for a couple of hours and many miss the history and character of these places in the rush.
Manchester is European City of Science 2016. As part of this, they launched the Beacons for Science project. As explained on the website:
Beacons for Science is an interactive digital project which aims to create a science experience of the city, sharing facts and figures to a wider audience via their favourite accessory, their mobile phone.
What is the core idea? First and foremost, it is to produce an augmented reality experience infusing alternative tourism experiences with new ideas that inspire people to see places differently.
How could this be used elsewhere?
Here in Villefranche-de-Conflent there are problems and it has become obvious. In the height of the season there are shops closed and as I said most people today have stopped to catch Pokémon. How has it become normal for people to be dependent on content served from their phones? Furthermore, could this be to the advantage of a place such as this?
Could the reality of a visit to these ramparts be positively augmented by information and a glimpse at how these places were in the past? The Beacons for Science project, for example, brought people to specific locations where information was served through an app and iBeacons. Then, with Google Cardboard it gave tourists a total immersion option. Without doubt this would change the nature of a visit to this place! Moreover, would having a touch and feel immersive visit to a medieval fortress be something to remember? I certainly believe it would be!
My research of disruptive technologies in business contexts
Tourism is big business, but like many industries it struggles in competitive and crowded markets. Maybe technology could be a bridge back to the real world for the increasingly digital consumer.
I visit places and I see more uses for these new technologies. I am asking how, why and to what advantage these could be introduced. How could you see these ideas in practice and would people accept them? If you have suggestions drop me a line or leave a comment below and start the conversation.