RegionRadio and Related Works

This is a post by Emily Markert. See her bio at the bottom of this post.

Many of us have experienced car rides, both short and long, filled with small-talk, music played from a radio, or even podcasts. Although these media seem to do well enough at keeping us entertained, they often contribute little to any higher purpose. The vast amount of time people spend in transit has great potential to provide a meaningful experience, yet typically goes unutilized. Thus, we introduce RegionRadio, a spatially-aware storytelling tool aimed at supporting sustainability efforts through place-based education. The theory behind place-based education argues that immersing people in the history of a place can increase the connection they feel to it, and therefore increase the likelihood that they would act to protect it. In this way, RegionRadio exhibits place-based education by presenting stories to a user as they travel along a route; these stories are mandated to be relevant to the user’s current geospatial location, to contain topics related to environmental concepts, and eventually, to be customized to specific users’ preferences and histories. These stories are analyzed and filtered based on their topic, perceived interestingness, and continuity of the ‘playlist’ presented to the user throughout their journey. Use of RegionRadio is intended to be as simple as turning on the radio, but aims to develop ordinary citizens as environmental advocates by heightening appreciation of their surroundings through the telling of stories.

Although this project is unique in its sourcing and presentation of environmentally-focused place-based education,  we take inspiration from other work in spatially-based education, to include SCRABS and DETOUR.

The SCRABS system was designed by a group of researchers from the Cultural Heritage Information Systems national project, and is intended to increase cultural appreciation by presenting users with personalized, context-based information as they explore historic sites. The system has not yet been fully developed, but presents an ambitious design that can be further reviewed in this publication. This context-dependent recommendation of information aimed at increasing cultural appreciation is highly relevant to our own task, but applied to a different domain.

We consider another tool that is fully-developed, and has potential to convey place-based education. Detour is a growing platform offering the creation and taking of a novel type of audio tour. Taken on the user’s own smartphone, Detours can be taken in both indoor and outdoor spaces, and progress as the user moves through space, triggering narrations and other media along the way. While most existing tours published with Detour focus on urban areas, there is great potential in creating Detours for more natural settings. Allowing users to download tours that might lead them on a hike, through a National Park, or on a scenic drive would make place-based education easily accessible for Detour’s thousands of users.

To keep up with RegionRadio, stay tuned to this blog.

Region Radio a collaboration between the CompSustNet  lab at Vanderbilt University and the Space, Learnng, and Mobility lab at Vanderbilt University.  Research and development of Region Radio is supported by NSF Award #1521672 “Collaborative Research: CompSustNet: Expanding the Horizons of Computational Sustainability” and NSF Award #1623690 “EXP: Bridging Learning in Urban Extended Spaces (BLUES) 2.0

Emily Markert is a Computer Science undergraduate at Vanderbilt University. The opinions expressed herein are Emily’s and not necessarily those of Cornell University. You can reach Emily at