Tag Archives: MW2011

What are the big trends in interactive exhibits for 2012?

Journal entry by Flickr user JoelMontes

Since it’s the end of the year, I’ve been staring at my list of “things I’d like to do in 2012” and trying to turn them into a workable personal professional development plan.  In looking at all the events and places I’ve highlighted, it turns out an emergent theme in 2011 has been looking for/at trends in museums and trying to be more proactive than reactive. Between Museums and the Webthe Horizon Report and the Salzburg Global Seminar, MCN, and the daily drip of inspiration coming in from Twitter, it’s been a heady Fall.

At the same time, I ranted a very little bit about computers in museums. The upshot of this was starting to talk to Seb Chan about putting together some kind of conference presentation on new justifications for computer interactives. I had one of those flow moments, where a bunch of seemingly disparate elements all suddenly snap into alignment and seem like a coherent whole.  Maybe this could be my theme for the coming year! Studying new approaches to interactivity in museums!

Now I’m wondering if I can turn an unwieldy pile of people, places and events into a course of sorts that would push me to learn more about new ways you and your friends are using interactivity in museums.  There’s lots to learn!

Here’s my admittedly incomplete list of things that I want to know more about and incorporate into my practice. Can you add other trends or examples to the list?

What else have I left out?

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. 😉

MW 2011 themes for the coming year

It seems to be shaping up to be the kind of year where I keep making myself promises to be a more deliberate learner. So, in addition to soaking up all the smartness I could from all the smart people at Museums and the Web, I thought it’d be good practice to try to distill ideas to carry ahead in 2011.

Figure out who the audience is. Hint: “New” is not an adequate descriptor.
Jasper Visser put his finger on a pet peeve of mine that was a constant undercurrent at the conference. We still don’t have a firm enough picture of who our mobile audiences are, and too many projects are going ahead that have “attract new audiences” as a goal, as if “there is a remote and undiscovered country full of people with nothing to do. We only have to give them the right media and technology and they’ll come running to our museums and archives and heritage sites.” Certainly in my own work, the kinds of projects we’re planning all envision people who are in the Museum or planning to come to the Museum as the audience. They’re not new. We already know them. We’re just meeting them in a new space, and (hopefully) delivering on our mission in new ways.

Find ways to let visitors make a meaningful contribution. And keep it focused.
Molly Hanse over at the Technology in the Arts website echoed Jasper’s point about visitors and also highlighted the prevalence of participatory experiences among the most talked-about things at the conference. I would totally second that and add to that the idea of simplicity. Many of the crowd favorites, like Old Weather, do one thing, and do it really well. Finding that one thing should take serious consideration and research. And judging by the current crop of participatory apps, finding that one thing should pay off in visitor engagement.

The other undercurrent that I hope will become a full-blown theme in the coming year is sharing content across institutions. It’s been bubbling around for awhile, and I think it’s only a matter of time until somebody launches a successful effort that draws content from multiple institutions.

Find ways to tell stories with your stuff.
Another theme that I kept hearing was one that Suse Cairns also noted – narrative. My interest in narrative is both professional and personal. As an exhibit developer, any technique or tool that might increase my ability to communicate to visitors is interesting. As a writer, creating stories resonates deeply with me. As a learner, I know narrative works for me. I turn everything into stories, maybe even when I shouldn’t. What is interesting about Suse’s post to me is that she connects the use of personalized narratives to the issue of how people do (or don’t) interact with our websites, harking back to Koven Smith’s provocation about how outdated our design philosophy is. I’ll just quote her here, but the whole post is worth reading,

“Museums might make beautiful looking and functional websites, but unless visitors have reason to personally engage with the site and to connect its contents with their own lives, then surely the relationship will be superficial at best. Engagement will come when visitors have an emotional connection to the site and a reason to invest further in it – like when the experience is emotionally rewarding (and maybe even fun!). Personalised narratives can provide a vehicle to get people in, and lowered barriers of engagement can give them a reason to broadcast and share those stories with others. Therefore, when designing museum websites – or apps – maybe we need to consider why someone would personally engage with the site, and how to ensure they broadcast their engagement to get others involved too.”

Find out what data exist (or don’t) to support your desires.
I happened to be in San Francisco this week at the same time as Kate Haley-Goldman from the National Center for Interactive Learning. We met up, had #tweers, and plunged into discussing issues. She works with lots of different museums who are trying many different ways to connect with their audiences, and she expressed reservations about the benefits of narratives outweighing the limitations they saddle developers with when it comes to educating people.  This debate about storytelling also segued back and forth into talking about gamification, which lots of people seemed to playing around with (pun intended) this year. We only scratched the surface of the topic and I look forward to carrying on the discussion in the coming months. There’s a lot of energy around both topics, and lots of projects being undertaken, but I’m not up to speed on what the research says about the efficacy of either in museum contexts. Maybe it warrants somebody convening a gathering similar to the Tate Handheld conferences. “Storytelling, Games, and the Museum” anyone?

Opening up to new ideas

We’re in an interesting place in mobile media design for museums.  Technological issues and market penetration are finally getting to the point where we can design experiences that will reach broad segments of our audiences and deliver experiences and foster interactions that would be unthinkable in any other medium. Over the past year, tremendous efforts have been made to establish a level playing field in terms of open standards, led by Rob Stein (another person you should follow @rjstein) at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and others.  The TourML standard currently being developed offers us the promise of not only being able to get out from under the old model of designing content for specific platforms or proprietary systems, but of being able to share open content across applications and even across institutions. Heady stuff!

To generate some thinking around this, a group of us will be running a workshop at Museums and the Web 2011 in Philadelphia, called More Than Tours: radical opportunities in mobile content design and social media.  You should totally sign up! It’ll be great.  Our current lineup includes Nancy Proctor, Sandy Goldberg, Koven Smith, Halsey Burgund, Dave Schaller, and Kate Haley Goldman. If I weren’t going to be helping run it, I’d certainly attend! Here’s the blurb:


New mobile and social media platforms have hugely expanded the ways in which museums can interact with their audiences – and even with each other! Nonetheless, museum mobile experiences still tend not to stray far from the traditional audio tour in experience and content design. This workshop is designed to get us thinking “outside the audio tour box” to devise radical new approaches to mobile experiences for museum audiences.

Led by innovative mobile practitioners and museum experience designers, the workshop will challenge us to transform the relationship with museum audiences by engaging them in doing meaningful, mission-focused work, and being true co-creators of our cultural institutions. We’ll ask how content creation might be shared with audiences and among museums; how new tools like augmented reality and location-based gaming and social media apps can expand the mobile experience beyond the museum’s walls; and what research exists and is still needed to help inform our next generation mobile decisions. Outcomes will include both new paradigms for museum mobile experiences, and concrete solutions for building them.

So here’s my question. When you hear “radical opportunities in mobile content design and social media” what springs to mind?