Citizen Journalism: Walking the City of Firsts

At last year’s Manchester Christmas Market’s, the Buzzin app provided fun and games alongside information for visitors to the markets about key locations such as toilets, public transport and cash machines.

The latest feature on Buzzin is its City of Firsts walking tour. It focuses on showcasing the innovative history of Manchester, and the tour has a virtual map that boasts animated plaques that represent key locations on the tour and create an interactive way of learning.

The map shows your current location so you know if you’re approaching one of the points of interest. Once you get closer to the plaque you see yourself moving on the map towards your desired plaque, and then when you click on the numbered icon it will open your camera – allowing you to scan the plaque and summon what I can only describe as a lovely virtual tour guide!

Even the City of First plaques on the buildings are a direct representation of the mission to turn Manchester into a smarter city. These plaques are made up purely of recycled materials. And it doesn’t stop there: even the recycled materials were chosen with purpose, using recycled CDs and DVDs to make up the hexagonal plaques – a nod to Manchester’s famous music scene.

Walking through history

I began the tour at Manchester’s Central Library.  As an English graduate, to say I love books would be an understatement: I love borrowing books from local libraries and seeing who previously had the book before me, feeling wowed when I see dates going back to the 1950s and ’60s. Upon scanning the plaque at the Central Library, my virtual tour guide taught me that the first book loaned out here was in fact in 1852. Incredible!

The majority of the points of interests come in clusters and are within close proximity of one another, so your curiosity isn’t swapped for boredom when seeking the next plaque.

The route took me down Oxford Road, where several of the interactive CityVerve ‘plinths’ can also be found scattered around city. These plinths use augmented reality to display animated visuals and info cards on your smartphone screen and provide a mini learning lesson.

A detour to visit The Manchester Plinth

Before continuing with the City of Firsts tour I stopped off one of the plinths in All Saints Park, where I used my smartphone to display one of the ‘hidden artefacts’ from MMU’s Special Collections.

The integration of the plinth in All Saints Park is a great starting point for those who maybe aren’t familiar with the City of Firsts tour, or who perhaps just want to find out a little snippet about Manchester whilst strolling past. The All Saints plinth proved to be of great interest as there were a few students scanning it whilst I was there too!

Soon enough, though, I was back on track with the City of Firsts tour and hunting down the bright green plaques.

I ventured further down Oxford Road, following the app’s directions, and saw there were a cluster of plaques located within the University of Manchester campus The buildings in this area were home to some incredible ‘firsts’.

The Buzzin app educated me on Alan Turing (who wrote the first academic paper in which he developed the idea of artificial intelligence) and led me just down the road where I was told via my augmented reality tour guide of Ernest Rutherford’s first splitting of the atom at The University of Manchester in 1917.

Being stood in this innovation district and finding out more about the individuals who contributed so greatly to the progression and development of science and technology intensified my excitement for the CityVerve project as it’s making history itself!

Women’s health and women’s votes

From here, I moved on in the direction towards Manchester’s Royal Infirmary. The plaques on the map turn from their green and blue colour to a dull grey as you reach them, so that you can keep track of progress. The Pankhurst Centre is just off Oxford Road and was the next stop on my City of Firsts tour (you can visit the plaques in any order, as you wish).

At the Royal Infirmary I learned of a couple of big firsts related to our National Health Service. Not only was Manchester the birthplace of the cherished NHS, but it was home to the first ever test tube baby and the development of the first contraceptive pill – playing a vital role in shaping modern attitudes to healthcare.

Pankhurst House is located right next to Manchester Royal Infirmary, and this is where the Buzzin app took me to next.

This year marks exactly one hundred years since the beginning of female suffrage in the UK. Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Suffragette movement, held the first meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union in Manchester – at 62 Nelson Street, the exact location this meeting took place, and more commonly referred to as the birthplace of the Suffragette movement.

One of the final markers on my tour was Citylabs 1.0. This is the first smart building in Manchester and my virtual tour guide informed me that everything in the building is connected, and that the building can adapt its own environment based on factors such as the current temperature and how many occupants are in the building at that time.

The sensors in Citylabs 1.0 were deployed when CityVerve’s smart city initiative came into action and although a more recent ‘first’, it holds great importance enabling a more sustainable and greener city for Manchester.

Lots to learn

I haven’t mentioned every plaque I visited here, as that would have taken far too long (there is so much to learn!) -but some of them include the world’s first stored-program computer, smart street lamps and the pioneering work of Marie Stopes.

Buzzin has a way of encouraging the user to learn through its augmented reality interface. Its a versatile app which is consistently considering the needs of the people of Manchester.

The City of Firsts tour demonstrates all the innovation that has emerged from Manchester, the ‘firsts’ that are featured show a great variation from science and technology to women’s rights and libraries.

Buzzin holds an integral role in CityVerve’s mission to transform Manchester into a smart city. History is the making of us, and getting a taste of history in such a new and innovative way makes it fun to learn. Buzzin is making history itself by providing such a revolutionary learning platform.

The app is extremely accessible and can be downloaded from both the App Store and the Google Play store.

June 15, 2018 in Citizen Journalism

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