Woodstock Festival Showcases Vt.’s Growing Digital Sector

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Vermont is becoming an increasingly fertile place for digital design.

Over the weekend, more than two dozen interactive media designers showed off their wares in Woodstock.

Under a bright sun and occasional cloudbursts, vendors and visitors explored cyberspace all over town–at the library, a gallery, the historical society, on a farm, and under a white canvas tent on the green.

David McGowan, who was the principal organizer of the Woodstock Digital Media Festival, is a media executive who divides his time between Woodstock and England. He says he and the other organizers wanted to promote Vermont’s growing digital economy.

"The other part is really devoted to bringing people of national and international interest to a wonderful place and having them experience each other’s work and also very much opening that to the public, which is what you see in front of you," he said.

For example, James Currie, a TV show host and birder, urged his audience to use technology to get outdoors.

"There’s a great app called the Audubon guides app and they’ve got birds," Currie said. "They’ve got regional apps for different areas. They’ve got for bears, wildlife, butterflies, lizards, snakes, flowers, fish. You name it."

Using an app designed for Audubon by the Vermont-based Green Mountain Digital, he typed in "Vermont" and "woodland" and got 160 bird hits, with pictures, habitat maps, and other key facts.

"And the great thing about this is that unlike book guides, the apps have sound, too," Currie said. "So you can hear exactly the kinds of calls birds make. This is the American crow and it gives you a whole variety of calls."

At other places around town, visitors sampled, among many other exhibits, an online storytelling site called Cowbird, internet comics devoted to human rights, and a handicapped accessibility crowd-sourcing site. But not every demo was high tech.

"What this is, is it’s a game made out of wood," said Tim Clark, a Bennington College digital arts technician. "It’s kind of like a slot car racer and all you do is put your phone it and put it on vibrate and have someone call it and it vibrates down the track."

Tim Clark put his phone on the table top track and took a call.

"There it goes," he said, as his phone began moving around the track. "It’s kind of a like a slug race, you know. It’s not always the fastest, but when you’re racing multiple phones it gets kind of exciting. It hits pockets of flatter woods and slides right on down."

The day’s track record was held by Oliver Goodenough, a Vermont Law School professor, and proud owner of one of the oldest cell phones at the festival.

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