Immersive Storytelling to promote Ecotourism in Emilia-Romagna Region

FullSizeRenderLast summer students from the Department of Digital Communication at Georgian Court University spent three weeks exploring Italy.  The purpose of the trip was to “live like an Italian” and raise awareness of the Emilia- Romagna region.

This area of northern Italy offers beautiful landscapes, delicious locally grown foods, and many outdoor activities. Bedonia, a small hamlet located at the base of beautiful Apennine Mountains, is where the GCU group spent the majority of their time exploring and eating.

Towns like Bedonia are places where family, friends, and good food are at the heart of daily life. Residents are deeply concerned this way of life will become extinct if steps are not taken to bring visitors back to the region. “We are in a situation where the town is decreasing. Many members of the community are going away for work. We are looking for ways to keep them here”, stated Marco Mariani, a local resident and grocery story owner.

Active members of the community continue to explore ways to revitalize the economy.  A group of local business owners have unified their resources. Claudio Agazzi, President of the newly formed consortium states, “Love Taro & Ceno was created to improve this area of Italy. We have over 130 small companies participating to promote the valley and increase tourism.”

The region has so much to offer visitors. Travel to places like Bedonia typically do not make the list of places to seeGina Marcello, a Spring Lake resident, is trying to change this perception.  “I think tourists travel Italy and never really get to experience what being Italian is all about.  When you visit Bedonia, you meet the local residents, visit local shops, and experience what it is actually like to live in Italy. I want to be able to share this experience”.

13838330_10206590442895626_666489823_oDr. Marcello is returning to Bedonia this summer with former student Denielle Balint to continue the work started more than two years ago. This time will be different, however. Dr. Marcello is exploring how to use 360 degree video to create digital stories about life in the small northern town.

“When people are able to immerse themselves in a location using VR, I think it will inspire them to want to go there. Eco-tourism can greatly benefit from the new VR and augmented technologies. I hope to show through my storytelling why a 360 view can promote travel to a location you might otherwise never have considered”.

The pair will also shoot and edit video highlighting the region’s beauty using more traditional forms of storytelling. A multimedia exhibit is planned for the fall.


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Dr. Gina Marcello is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, Graphic Design & Multimedia at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ.