War of 1812 iPhone App

10 01 2011


Kevin Kee, a history professor at Brock University has developed a GPS-guided interactive tour of War of 1812 sites in Ontario, including Niagara-on-the-Lake and Queenston Heights, available as an iPhone app. (see here).

Kee is the Canada Research Chair of Humanities Computing, and an Associate Professor in the Department of History and the Centre for Digital Humanities, at Brock University. Before arriving to Brock in 2005, he was a Director and Project Director at the National Film Board of Canada (1999-2002), and an Assistant Professor in the Departments of History, and Integrated Studies in Education (D.I.S.E.) (2002-2005), as well as the Director of Undergraduate Programs in D.I.S.E (2004-05), at McGill University.

Kee’s research is focused on best practices for the design, development and use of computer simulations and serious games for history. This research has been funded by the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Heritage Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, and Brock University. He directs the Simulating History Research Lab at Brock University, and lead the “Simulating History” and Playing with Technology in History projects.

I’ve had a look at the App. It is  a great project for which Dr Kee should be commended!   However, I have a few criticisms.

First, why is this app only available on iTunes? As an Android user, I would like to be able to use it.


Map of the Niagara Frontier, 1869 Benson J. Lossing in The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812, page 382

Second, fighting along the Niagara River took place on either side of the Canada-US border, which runs down the middle of the river. For some reason, this app only gives us information about battles on the Canadian side of the border and totally ignores battles fought a few miles away on US soil.  I think that this odd, especially since Canadian iPhones will work if taken across the border, albeit with roaming charges. The decision to entrench the Canada-US border, which is a completely arbitrary line, into the very structure of the app seems unduly parochial.

Third, wouldn’t this app be more useful if it included information on battles in other regions of the Great Lakes? Detroit, Toronto, and other places that are now major urban centres saw fighting during the war.