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Interactive Totem Pole Uses QR Codes to Rebuild Sense of Community


Totem poles are ancient communication tools used by various tribes many years ago. These totem poles represent their ancestry, people, histories and events.

Now, the Arts and Humanities Research Council is funding an £80,000 interactive arts project that gives a modern twist to totem poles. This project incorporates the totem pole and interactive, cutting-edge technology. More specifically, it involves a 15-foot totem pole with quick response codes.

The interactive totem pole is the product of collective work by local groups and academics in their efforts to rebuild a sense of community in Wester Hailes, which is one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas.

The pole has a series of QR codes that walkers on a network of trails can scan using their mobile devices with a QR code scanner app. The codes will lead them to information about the social history of Wester Hailes. These information, including pictures, maps and memories, can be seen in plaques put together by the residents for the walks.

According to Dr. Chris Speed, who heads the Edinburgh College of Art’s part of the project, the pole is a piece of social architecture. He says that a lot of the residents there have fond memories of how the place used to be, especially those who really grew up there. So by uncovering the residents’ memories, you can recover a community spirit.

The totem pole was designed and was carved by artist Robin Wood, who also worked with people from the community in some workshops that were organised by community arts group Whale Arts. The pole was just recently installed by Morrisons Construction and unveiled by the Lord Provost, Donald Wilson, who is optimistic that the pole will soon become a notable and famous local landmark and attraction, as well as a great source of community information.

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