A Travel Guide
March 24, 2015 10:18 AM   Subscribe

A Travel Guide
A Travel Guide generates random travel guides for all points on the globe using sentences wrenched from Wikivoyage. Its goal to give its visitors an alternate reading of place, through the serendipitous juxtaposition of their current location with evocative procedural text.

How it works: Using HTML5 geolocation, the web application determines and displays the visitor's latitude and longitude. This information is then sent to the server, which generates and returns a brief "travel guide" for that location. Any subsequent visitors from the same location (or anywhere else in an 8km × 8km area) will receive the same travel guide.

As more people visit the site, more travel guides will be generated, until eventually the surface of the planet has been blanketed with travel guides. The guides, of course, are not traditionally "accurate." You may need to try harder than usual to apply the information contained in these guides to the locations in question.

The travel guides are generated from a large corpus of text taken from Wikivoyage ("the free worldwide travel guide that anyone can edit"), the text of which is available under a creative commons license. The text generation algorithm takes randomly selected sentences from similarly-named sections across all WikiVoyage guides, rejecting any sentences that contain proper nouns. The texts created by this procedure have the familiar language and cadence of travel guides, but describe no place—or every place—in particular.

I also made a companion Twitter bot, @a_travel_bot, which tweets randomly generated miniature travel guides (using sentences from the Wikivoyage corpus) that are pinned using Twitter's geolocation feature to randomly selected locations around the globe.

A Travel Guide is a 2014 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. for its Turbulence.org website. It was made possible with funding from the Jerome Foundation, now celebrating 50 years of the creative spirit of emerging artists.
Role: programmer
posted by aparrish (2 comments total)

I like how users "settle territory" by generating something that becomes the permanent guide for a location. With most of these things, you reload and get something different every time. Mmm, persistent state.

Now I'm gonna walk outside and get some gudeg!
posted by ignignokt at 1:02 PM on March 24, 2015

This is neat! I've been doodling around with the guides for my (landlocked, desert) state and a lot of it seems to think it is an island, which is kind of hilarious. I was guessing that it was grabbing stuff from entries about the general area-- I hadn't read your post in full yet-- and googled some of what it came up for when I put in Jemez Springs; it was grabbing warnings for LGBT travelers in Sudan.
posted by NoraReed at 5:04 AM on March 25, 2015

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