Visualise the Future — Jonny Harris’ Vision

Check out Jonny’s piece, process, artist statement, and our reactions

On Tuesday March 30th, Traveltech for Scotland launched their ‘Visualise the Future’ project, in which they commissioned four Scottish-based artists the create a visualisation of the future of tech-enabled tourism in the next 20 years.

About Jonny Harris

Jonny Harris is a visual artist based in Forres, Moray. His creative practice blurs the lines between art and design and digital and analogue. Bringing together motion graphics, animation & woodblock printmaking to create often deeply textural multi-media work. A lifelong environmentalist, Jonny’s creativity is often inspired by the natural world. When not in the studio, he can often be found with a map in hand & a flask of strong coffee, exploring the nearby beaches, mountains and forests. Check out his work here.

Jonny’s Vision — ‘What Connects You To This Place?’

This is a 360 degree video, so remember to scroll around. The technology works best with Chrome or Safari.

Artist statement:

“‘What connects you to this place?’ is a multi-media artwork. The 360 degree visual storymap integrates real life photographic environments with motion graphics & woodblock printmaking techniques.

The concept behind the work is to create a playful visual representation of how technology & augmented reality could shape our future experience of a place. Taking mapmaking as a starting point & adding layers of information that can be accessed site-specifically through our mobile devices.

A key theme of the artwork is the idea of ‘curation’. If there are going to be layers of information & stories associated with a specific place then who gets to choose these? How do we make them authentic & meaningful? Do we actually want to know everything about a place, or do the hidden, unknown things create the magic?

The aesthetic of the artwork also explores the idea of ‘a real experience’. The fragmented motion graphic elements are interweaved with analogue woodblock prints as a visual metaphor. The handmade scratches & carvings are unique, human & tactile & the layers of information feel slick & glossy & yet somehow detached from reality.

If technology is to be used to enhance the experience of a place, how is this done in a way that truly connects?

As well as reflecting on the inner personal experience of a place. The artwork also touches upon bigger more outward looking ideas & issues such as ecological restoration & environmental sustainability.

The 360 degree design of the digital artwork invites the viewer to explore the virtual space in their own way. Going on a unique mini journey that is built by a series of choices. The text that appears throughout doesn’t seek to answer questions, but to provide a space to ask them & to spark further debate.”

The process

Watch Jonny’s project go from initial images to a 360 degree technology video

Josh’s Response (Director of Traveltech)

Jonny’s immersive artwork raises more questions than answers. That’s a good thing; the future isn’t something we can predict. Instead it is something we should do our best to shape in our image. Jonny is asking us the right questions. These are the questions we need to answer for a sustainable, responsible, and locally-grounded tourism industry.

I’ve considered a few of these below:

The Green Choice — As a visitor you are often overwhelmed by choices. It’s tough to make the green choice. We just don’t have that info at our fingertips. Skyscanner have started providing information on the ‘greener choice’ for their flights. Can better data on hotel energy be used for greener choices when booking accommodation? Can and should the greener choice become the default choice on platforms?

Transport The greener choice may not even be an option considering in-situ transport. Many of Scotland’s rural destinations aren’t well connected using public transport. There isn’t the demand to justify routine services. Understanding the data around tourist demands and tastes and when places are likely to be quiet or busy, could help us consider demand-responsive transportation options. Fuse Mobility and Urban Foresight are already making strides in shaping mobility-as-a-service applications for tourism.

Signage — When chatting to Jonny, before he created the work, he mentioned ways that digital signs could be a way of clearing the physical clutter at a destination. This is an example where the future is now. Augmented reality applications are doing this now.

Visitor management — The summer of 2020 led to a surge in tourism-associated anti-social behavior in our rural destinations. One of Jonny’s interfaces marks a location where there is a ‘discarded tent and smashed glass.’ Unlike cities, where the streets (in theory at least) can be monitored and regularly cleaned, the great outdoors is too large and too hidden to monitor in this way. How can technology be used to monitor rural conditions or stimulate positive people-powered action?

Community-owned platforms — Jonny raises critical questions around local stories and local products. Over the last ten years travel technology trends have been focused on achieving scale through consolidation on international platforms. I’m really interested in how community-owned technology (like Smart Rural) or cooperative platforms (check out UnFound) can re-connect the benefits of the tourism economy to citizens.

Engaging with our historyOn a trip to Hadrian’s wall a few years back, I constantly wondered how the Roman remains would have looked and felt back at the time it was built. Digital models of historical sites are being created and utilised for more immersive historical interpretation. I’d recommend checking out the great research led by Dr James Cook that used gaming technologies recreated the choral sounds of the now-ruined remains of Linlithgow Palace.

Digital detox — An interesting paradox. How do we use technology to use less technology? We’ve seen greater considerations by the big tech firms to the strains of the attention economy. Google’s Digital wellness is the example I’m most familiar with. I think there is an opportunity for new tech solutions develop technologies for the travel marketplace that aren’t about the next dopamine hit. Instead, technologies that provide, just (and only just) what’s needed to make the experience a real detox.

Finally, I love that Jonny used this commission as an opportunity to experiment with digital methods. Learning about technology is a journey that will never end and all of us involved with tourism and hospitality need to perpetually carve out moments to try new tools and tricks.

If you missed the event, check out a full video of it here. Otherwise, read the recap and find the other artists’ work here.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in this project, and to Jonny Harris for his contribution.

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