New Places, New Sto­ries

Con­tent-driven travel ad­ven­tures are born when tech­nol­ogy links up with the age-old art of the sto­ry­teller

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Dave Fal­ter

Con­tent-driven travel ad­ven­tures are born when tech­nol­ogy links up with the age-old art of the sto­ry­teller

If you’re a fre­quent busi­ness trav­eler, you prob­a­bly know what it’s like to fly to a city, to walk the streets, eat at a pop­u­lar res­tau­rant, sleep at a fa­mous ho­tel, and still feel like you’ve never truly vis­ited the city at all. With very lit­tle idle time in a full work sched­ule, it can of­ten be dif­fi­cult to soak up the cul­ture of a city, or to have an ex­pe­ri­ence that will give you some­thing au­then­tic to take home.

For busi­ness trav­el­ers seek­ing these in­tel­lec­tual sou­venirs, it can be in­cred­i­bly frus­trat­ing. There’s just not enough time to im­merse your­self in any mean­ing­ful way.

While there are a num­ber of ter­rific apps that will help you nav­i­gate the best ho­tel, the best res­tau­rant, and so on, there are very few for the ac­ci­den­tal busi­ness-tourist to quickly cap­ture some per­spec­tive. From sim­ple walk­ing guides to de­tailed maps and in­ter­est­ing factoids, there’s still an un­der­ly­ing di­men­sion – a“vibe”– of ev­ery city that’s hard to dis­cern for the short-time visi­tor. It’s the stuff that only lo­cals come to know about their en­vi­rons: the sto­ries, lore, the history, and the con­text of a neigh­bor­hood that some­times takes years to un­der­stand.

This type of ex­pe­ri­en­tial and in­tel­lec­tual trea­sure is locked up in ev­ery city, but it hasn’t been un­til re­cently, with ad­vances in tech­nolo­gies like Blue­tooth, iBea­con, and the on­set of the wearable revo­lu­tion, that such con­tent has been lib­er­ated from the walls of mu­se­ums, li­braries, his­toric sites, places of in­ter­est, gal­leries and stu­dios – and pushed out into the neigh­bor­ing parks and streets. There it’s been brought to life for a new and some­times un­sus­pect­ing au­di­ence of the pro­fes­sional busi­ness trav­eler turned am­a­teur cul­tural an­thro­pol­o­gist.

The arts and cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties in many large metropoli­tan ar­eas are em­brac­ing these tech­nolo­gies and are now us­ing them to an­i­mate their ex­hibits, ush­er­ing in a new gen­er­a­tion of con­tent­driven travel ex­pe­ri­ences for ev­ery­day trav­el­ers.

Di­dac­tic to So­cratic

No, this is noth­ing like your fa­ther’s travel con­tent, not even close. This is more sto­ry­telling wrapped up in tech­nol­ogy, us­ing a va­ri­ety of new tech­niques to con­struct an en­riched ex­pe­ri­ence that’s in­tended to leave a more serendip­i­tous and in­deli­ble im­pres­sion.

What was once a sim­ple black-and­white, Di­dac­tic ex­pe­ri­ence has gone So­cratic, and is now be­ing of­fered in ul­tra high-def­i­ni­tion.Your nav­i­ga­tion prompts the ques­tions and tech­nol­ogy de­liv­ers the an­swers. Trav­el­ers are brought much closer to the peo­ple, places, and things which sur­round them – and they’re able to see them from an en­tirely new and en­gag­ing per­spec­tive.

Take for ex­am­ple an ex­hibit that launched ear­lier this year, in April (through Sept. 15), by the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art (MoMA) in NewYork that spot­lights the work of Ja­cob Lawrence, one of the most im­por­tant artists of the 20th cen­tury – and a Har­lem na­tive.

As a com­pan­ion to its ex­hibit, MoMA launched a self-guided au­dio tour of Har­lem which chap­er­ones smart­phone users through key Har­lem land­marks and in­sti­tu­tions from the 1930’s and 40’s, the pe­riod dur­ing which Lawrence be­gan his ca­reer as an artist. The sto­ry­tellers be­hind the tour stitched to­gether ac­tual au­dio of Ja­cob Lawrence, in­ter­views with key cul­tural lead­ers who con­trib­ute to Har­lem’s cul­tural vi­brancy to­day, and on-lo­ca­tion record­ing and writ­ing to of­fer a site-spe­cific nar­ra­tive that cap­tures Lawrence’s story.

And late last year, at the Fine Arts Mu­seum of San Fran­cisco, a sto­ry­telling ex­pe­ri­ence un­like any other was un­veiled. Here the mu­seum in­tro­duced the first-ever in­te­gra­tion of Google Glass tech­nol­ogy into a ma­jor art mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion. The tour pro­vided mu­seum go­ers with aux­il­iary im­ages, au­dio and video rel­e­vant to se­lect works of art.

Walk­ing through the ex­hibit, as you look at the work of NewYork ac­tivist-artist Keith

Har­ing, you hear the sounds of sub­way trains, blended with eye­wit­ness ac­counts of those who saw the artist work in the sub­way. Fur­ther into the tour, you can watch a clip from a CBS news­reel show­ing transit po­lice ar­riv­ing and ar­rest­ing the artist. Imag­ine walk­ing right out the door of FAMSF into the streets, only to con­tinue the tour and the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Weav­ing the Ta­pes­try

All of these ad­vance­ments in sto­ry­telling are also im­por­tant to the busi­ness of travel. As des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing be­comes more and more com­pet­i­tive, good sto­ries – and good sto­ry­telling – can help trav­el­ers to build deeper con­nec­tions with places and the peo­ple that live there. And that can be a valu­able driver of re­peat tourism.

Hur­ried, har­ried busi­ness trav­el­ers aren’t the only ones who ap­pre­ci­ate a good story, well told, about lo­cal cul­ture. The story will res­onate with any visi­tor, or even long-time res­i­dents, es­pe­cially when it’s au­then­tic, as seen through the eyes of the ac­tual char­ac­ters that have lived the ex­pe­ri­ence, or that con­tinue to do so to­day. From the per­spec­tive of“brag­ging rights,”it’s fair to say that a great, unique and per­sonal tour­ing ex­pe­ri­ence has equal, if not bet­ter sta­tus than se­cur­ing a ta­ble at one of those you-have-to-know-some­body restau­rants you can never get into.

Bryan Smith, an award-win­ning film­maker from Bri­tish Columbia re­cently told Des­ti­na­tion Mar­ket­ing As­so­ci­a­tion In­ter­na­tional in an in­ter­view that,“Ex­plo­ration is about un­cov­er­ing some­thing new, so a des­ti­na­tion look­ing to ap­peal to the sense of ex­plo­ration is sim­ply look­ing at ways to cre­atively present the unique­ness of a place. But the catch is that it has to be pre­sented in a way that sparks cu­rios­ity. Peo­ple have to be lured into a place to feel a sense of ex­plo­ration. If they think they know what it is all about, then it does not feel ex­otic or new.”

While user gen­er­ated con­tent is ev­ery­where in travel to­day – and it serves as an im­por­tant re­source for the no­madic types – it rarely tells us a story. Ev­ery­one has a cell phone and can shoot video footage. Ev­ery­one has a Face­book ac­count and can post im­ages and com­ment about their ex­pe­ri­ence.

But there’s a cre­ative art in sto­ry­telling – the au­dio, the vi­su­als, the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, the nar­ra­tive – that weaves these el­e­ments to­gether to pro­vide that sense of ex­plo­ration, and that spark, that can im­merse some­one in their travel ex­pe­ri­ence.

A num­ber of to­day’s trav­el­ers rely heav­ily on the rec­om­men­da­tions, rat­ings, and opin­ions from peers and like-minded trav­el­ers. In fact, a num­ber of them won’t even com­mit to a ho­tel, res­tau­rant or an at­trac­tion with­out con­sult­ing a re­source like Tri­pAd­vi­sor first.

How­ever, there is no Tri­pAd­vi­sor for cul­ture – at least not yet.You can’t re­view a con­ver­sa­tion with a char­ac­ter from the neigh­bor­hood. There’s no guide­line for find­ing some­one to share some lo­cal fla­vor with you.You’ll have to rely on a great sto­ry­teller to bring that to you and ex­pe­ri­ence it for your­self.

Per­haps you are that sto­ry­teller. Have you heard any good sto­ries lately? BT

Dave Fal­ter is the pres­i­dent and CEO of An­tenna In­ter­na­tional, a provider of tech­nol­ogy, con­tent and man­aged ser­vices to the world’s artis­tic, his­toric and cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions.

Right: Google Glass tech­nol­ogy be­ing used to look at the work of New York ac­tivist-artist Keith Har­ing,

Be­low: Self-guided au­dio tour at the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art

(MoMA) in New York City

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