Many cultures regard community traditions, oral storytelling and art styles as knowledge passed down from one generation of relatives to the next. But a new app aims to virtualize some of that education.
Users can use OurWorlds to explore culturally significant locations around the world. Listen to Native American languages, hear creation stories and experience Indigenous culture through augmented reality.
In one experience, users can point their phone at the ocean and see Kumeyaay people paddling tule boats amid the waves. But Kumeyaay Community College director and professor Stan Rodriguez speaks about the tribe’s maritime culture. First they speak in Kumeyaay and then in English.
In another, artist Johnny Bear Contreras of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians speaks about the importance of La Jolla Shores to the Kumeyaay while short clips of him working on sculptures fade on and off the screen.
Kilma Lattin, a member of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, founded OurWorlds with the intention of creating a platform for Indigenous communities to claim technological sovereignty and digital space to share their cultural histories.
The new app was released in November as a continuation of an idea he started with its predecessor Peon Bones. Peon Bones is a mobile version of a traditional game played by Southern Californian tribes with bones, sticks and blankets.
Although the Peon Bones app was not widely used. Lattin said it was significant among community members because they were able to “see their culture brought to life digitally.” Because Peon is mostly played at traditional gatherings. And there haven’t been many opportunities for young people to practise it on their own.
Ourworld, according to the 44-year-old, is a way to share cultural knowledge with Indigenous community members, students, and others looking for an educational experience.
Working with tribal elders, artists, and community leaders such as Rodriguez and Contreras to create the experiences with which users interact is important to Lattin.
Rodriguez believes that using a digital education platform as a storytelling tool will help more people understand that Indigenous people are a part of the present. She teaches Kumeyaay culture, history and language at Kumeyaay Community College and Cuyamaca College.
Eventually, Lattin hopes to see more augmented reality experiences added to the app. Users may one day be able to virtually travel to Hawaii to experience a luau or watch someone cook traditional Irish foods in Dublin.