University of Georgia Pushes ‘Stranger Technology’To Attract New Breed of Tourists
ATHENS, Ga. The old Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, where thousands of slaves, sharecroppers and other Black residents were buried, hasn’t had many visitors lately, save for the nests of birds warbling in the treetops overhead.
That could change soon, though, thanks to “mobile media tours” designed by students from the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute.
Visitors to the cemetery can already dial a local number to hear rich descriptions of the 8-acre plot’s history and a detailed interview with the Rev. Archibald Killian, the local authority on the city’s Black history. Someday, the students hope visitors will download multimedia programs to their iPods so they can watch video and listen to slideshows while exploring the plot.
It’s one more step forward in the institute’s goal of promoting “stranger technology” as a way to encourage a new type of tourism — microtourism.
“We’re helping strangers learn about the place so they can better understand it,” says Scott Shamp, the institute’s director, who has unleashed the students on a half-dozen microtourism projects.One, called podThology, recreates certain days in history on iPods so visitors can relive critical moments in a town’s history. Kevin Planovsky, a recent graduate, crafted a stirring audio tour that takes visitors through Jan. 9, 1961, the day when the University of Georgia was desegregated.
Similar contactless technology is already being tested at a few spots around the United States. In Atlanta’s Philips Arena, 250 season ticketholders of the city’s pro hockey and basketball teams used their phones as “cell wallets” at concession stands during the past season.
Organizers hope the advances will help lure folks to virtually unknown sites like the Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, which sits just outside one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
“It could really be a catalyst,” says Catherine Hogue, a coordinator with the Athens-Clarke County’s economic development office. “The potential is unlimited.”
— Associated Press
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