Arts Fest app connects artists, festivalgoers through Twitter

Arts Fest app bridges artists, attendees through Twitter.
Arts Fest app bridges artists, attendees through Twitter. Photo provided

Since 2008, a year after the first iPhone was released, a team at Penn State has been creating an Arts Fest app for the mobile world.

This year, the group has put the app through its paces once again, building a version that features greater interactivity between artists and attendees at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

“Because we’re not a company, we’re a research group, we try to do things differently,” said Jack Carroll, who co-led the team with Ben Hanrahan. “We try to learn something every year.”

Carroll, the director of Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Penn State, has seen every iteration of the app, which has enhanced the Arts Fest experience for festival goers in different ways over the years. Three years ago, the app allowed users to post photos, while a more recent version incorporated a selfie-taking game.

This year’s version collects Twitter posts from artists and attendees, allowing both parties to connect through the app. Users can view where artists’ booths are located, the schedule of performances and a social tab showing Arts Fest-related tweets.

Richard Wirth, a member of the research team, interacted with artists throughout the process. Connecting groups of people was the end goal, he said. The app, which was partially funded by Arts Fest, was just the means.

“It’s been sort of interesting to have technology as a medium for crossing these boundaries between people,” he said. “Most of the people attending Arts Fest, a lot of them are younger or Penn State students who are very familiar with technology, and a lot of these artists are people who don’t even have smartphones. So interfacing with them and talking to them about this potential is one of the most interesting things for me.”

The update took about six weeks to complete. The team credited Hanrahan for building the app.

According to the group, there were about 1,500 downloads last year.

This year’s version is available for iPhone only. Last year, the team released apps for both Android and iPhone, an experience that led them to streamline the process.

“It stimulates us to think about things differently,” Carroll said.

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy