User trends and mobile app ideas: What are people already doing?

I’m going to stop writing about Kristen Purcell’s MW2011 keynote… right after this. In our discussions of mobiles and visitors, we tend to go straight to our comfort zones and strengths – content and controlled delivery thereof in highly scripted, well-designed chunks, assuming that’s what people want to do.

One of the most useful bits of Kristen’s presentation were findings about how US teens are using mobile technologies. Between 206 and 2009, texting had grown by 27%. More than half of teens use mobiles to text. Landline usage is dropping, and SNS use, IM, and talking are slowly increasing.  I was a little surprised to see that emailing is on the decline.  I never thought  it’d turn into a geezer technology, but it certainly seems to be something only us old folks use now. If you have something to say to teens , it seems that texting is the communication channel they are using more than ay other.

Pew’s research indicates that a typical U.S. teen sends about 50 texts per day. Girls tend to text in more conversational ways, and boys tend to text in instrumental ways. Girls have more fully embraced mobile phones for social communication and are more likely to… text friends daily, call friends daily on cell, and have long text exchanges about personal matters.

What I found intriguing were the findings about adult cell phone trends. U.S. adults (led by the 18-29 year-olds in every category) use their mobiles to:

  • Send a photo or video (54%)
  • Access a SNS (23%)
  • Watch video (20%)
  • Post a photo or video online (15%)
  • Purchase a product (11%)
  • Make a charitable donation (11%)

What ways could we get visitors to take and send photos and videos that were based in museum activities? Are any of you aware of museums that are already using picture taking and sharing successfully?

NOTE: I take this as validation of the feasibility of my idea for a “Spot the broken thing” app where visitors could take pictures of things that they thought were out of order send them to the museum. We’ll see if that idea ever gains any traction. 😉


  1. I agree with you that exhibits will evolve to embrace mobile technology as part of the exhibit experience. It’s happening at various nibbling levels at many museums; however, I’ve seen many times more grand mobile device concepts get scrapped than implemented. Essentially there is fear relative to maintenance and costs of the underlying broadcast systems and/or apps, not to mention trepidation toward creating a continuously updated and relevant stream of content for such devices. In collaboration with the Colorado Historical Society and Richard Lewis Media Group, my office, Andrew Merriell & Associates, are currently planning a large, terrazzo, Colorado floor map in the lobby of the History Colorado Center. Visitors will be able to use their own mobile devices to explore different Colorado communities relative to that visitor’s physical location on the map. As the visitor travels, the content and options will change. At the outset of the concept, we thought the same app could be tied to GPS and used around the state at large; we’ve scrapped this level of complexity but are still moving forward. I read an article about the Reagan Presidential library that distributes ipod touch devices for visitors to use as part of their experience in the exhibits. Visitors can create video and photo streams that the museum later emails to them. It seems that the concept they are using requires a lot more museum oversight than necessary, but the article describes it as being fun (I have not visited):


  2. Thanks for the links, Rebecca! I agree with you about the general fear level. I’m with Yoda in this regard, “Fear is the path to the dark side.” Give in to it, you should not!!


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