3rd August 2012

An app to tell the world about your place

Viv Alexander

Interested in an app that allows you to tell the world about your place?  Placebooks is an innovative, bi-lingual, online toolkit that allows anyone to create, publish and share digital “books” on the places they care about, and make these available to all online, or via a smartphone app designed to work even in areas with no mobile phone coverage. In the guest post below, Dr Alan Chamberlain, from the Mixed Reality Lab at Nottingham University, tells us more about it.

I’m interested in how communities engage in the design of IT-based technologies in real-world settings. I’m also a co-investigator on the Scaling the Rural Enterprise Project, researching IT and rural business.

For some time now I’ve been involved with the development and design of IT-based systems in rural settings, working Image of Placebooks webpage - Click to open websitewith a range of rural communities. Placebooks, a freely available online system, developed as part of the Bridging the Rural Divide project with input from communities in rural Wales. The system allows anyone to pull together a wide range of content (maps, routes, images, video, audio, photographs and text) to quickly and easily create digital books (a Placebook). Each media item used in the book can then be located on mapswithin the Placebook. A Placebook can also have multiple authors, and be shared through Facebook/G+.  Really there’s no limit to what people can create, and in our initial trials we found people making Placebooks based around their interests, local wildlife, local organisations, heritage and tourism. Focused on the UK at the moment, we hope to create a Europe-wide Placebooks service, incorporating many other languages.

The website and app are being developed with funding from the Research Councils UK, the Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute (Nottingham) and support from Ordnance Survey in terms of map provision and researcher input.

There’s also a Placebooks app, which was developed in Android, allowing anyone to download content from the site and use it in locations where there is no 3G coverage. A ‘You are here’ marker shows your location in relation to the contents of the book. A key problem facing many mobile designers today is the lack of 3G coverage in rural areas (another being the lack of downloadable maps for mobile use).

Placebooks is currently being used as part of the People’s Collection of Wales https://placebooks.peoplescollectionwales.com and a Placebooks app is available on the Android app store https://bit.ly/QsXmks. Placebooks is a bilingual Welsh/English system.

It was recently launched at the Royal Geographical Society in London, and there will be a workshop at the Eisteddfod on August the 6th.

Dr Alan Chamberlain, Senior Research Fellow in the Mixed Reality Lab, University of Nottingham.

Email: Alan.Chamberlain@Nottingham.ac.uk