Henry V, the Southampton Plot, geolocation and open source (oh, and punk)

Last Tuesday I’d booked a day’s leave from work so that I could attend the SXSC3 digifest. But 15 minutes in, after the introductions, I had to duck out to hot-foot it back to the university to meet with the Dean and others,to discuss a possible project for the 2015 anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. Now, I know my St Crispin’s day but what I wasn’t aware of is that Shakespeare mentions a plot against Henry V’s life that actually took place around Southampton. We discussed a geolocative game, targeted at 15-25 year olds that might explore the historic plot and tie in with planned performances of the play. It’s very early days yet, but everybody there seemed enthused, and we’ve agreed to meet up again to hammer out a proposal.

So I missed the “Dragon’s Den” presentations that were the centrepiece of the SXSC3 Digifest, but I got back in time to see Ben Mawson win the first prize. Well done to him. Its exciting because the prize money might be just what he needs to get get his 3dBARE technology onto mobile devices. And once its on mobile devices, I’m sure we can find a use for it at a few of the historic sites I work with.

He and I also caught up on the noTours technology that he’s used for outdoor geolocative music. He told me that the people behind it have now made it open source. Which is good news. As I’ve been researching, I’ve become more and more convinced that Open Source is the way to go for heritage applications. Lots of companies try to sell you their own proprietary technology for tours and apps, and you can understand why they put a value on it. after all they’ve paid programmers etc a lot of money to create the software, and  solved some problems that other engineers hadn’t managed to solve.

But the market for this apps is actually pretty tiny, and the institutions that can afford to pay enough for programmers to live on are few and far between. Most sites can’t afford it. So companies selling proprietary solutions a scrabbling over a tiny pie and no-one ever going to get rich in the way that Antenna Audio did with solid state audioguide technology. But if they open sourced their software, they could create a framework for mobile heritage applications that even the poorest heritage sites could use, then then there would be a potentially massive market for content production.

Hmmm I wonder if I can persuade our technology partners on this nascent Agincourt/HenryV/2015 app to opensource their work?

Open source offers the same opportunity for creativity that cheap photocopying did in the 70′s. But the punk fanzine hasn’t been superseded by the digital world. At SXSC3 The Ladies of The Press were on hand to create an instant fanzine: the events of the day recorded, written up, photographed and drawn, printed and distributed to attendees by three in the after noon. Kudos to them. It was especially good for me, who’d missed the events of morning to have this fun record of the day.