I must admit that I am very much behind the times when it comes to phone technology. I have a cell phone, but all it does is make calls. (OK–it can also “text” and I believe it has an alarm clock). I have thus never used an “app” before. Maybe some day…
Over at The New York Times, Virginia Heffernan informs us about the History Channel’s “Civil War Today” app and in the process reflects more generally about attempts to make the Civil War entertaining for a larger public. Here is a taste:
Civil War Today is the brainchild of Tina Prause, the head of product development at A&E Television Networks. She’s the daughter of Revolutionary War re-enactors, she told me. She grew up loading black-powder rifles at restaged battles in Connecticut. Critics and users alike have praised the Civil War Today app, and Apple has knighted it an App of the Week. With the help of Bottle Rocket, the superstar Dallas-based developer that has created apps for PBS and NPR, Prause and A&E have managed with little fanfare to make from scratch a new approach to history, museology and pedagogy. When Burns did this with “The Civil War,” he was hailed as a national treasure.
But Burns, an establishment figure who cast academic historians in starring roles, was easy for historians to like. By contrast, the Civil War Today app may remind historians not of Burns but of Disney’s America, the proposed theme park from the 1990s that historians deplored — and managed to boo out of existence.
The app costs $8 and it “expires” in 2015.
I'm thinking that people could make some money with apps for Civil War battlefields and other historic sites. Using a smartphone's GPS, it could tell you what happened near here, guide you on a walk (complete with audio), etc. I looked to see what they had for Gettysburg last fall/winter and found one that was similar. I'm not necessarily on the forefront of technology by any means, but I'm always intrigued to see how we can use it to make people more interested in history since everyone is so plugged in all the time. I guess that's the public historian in me. 🙂