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Course plan

Page history last edited by Nancy Proctor 15 years, 6 months ago

Mobile Interpretation for Museums: From Web 2.0-3.0


Course Plan


  1. Week 1: Course introduction and overview

    1. Review of course materials:

                                               i.     ‘Socratic dialogues’: audio and video recordings of discussions with leading practitioners in the field, to be viewed online. Up to 1 hr each in length.

                                             ii.     ‘Vox Ops’: ‘vox optimi’ – short audio or video statements, blog posts or other short texts, on key issues in mobile interpretation from museum professionals. 2-15 minutes each.

                                            iii.     Readings: In addition to the online articles linked to from the course materials, students should subscribe to and read a number of these major museum publications regularly to inform their course work and professional development:

Museum 2.0


Museum Computer Network Listserv



                                            iv.     Forum & Wiki: Both the course Forum and the Handheld Wiki.


  1. Review of the course’s assignments: 

  • Case study (20% of final grade): Your analysis of an audio tour at a museum or cultural site of your choosing should be recorded in the ‘Case studies’ section of the Handheld Wiki in week 2 of the course.

  •  Position Paper (20% of final grade): Your ‘position paper’ on a critical aspect of cultural interpretation of interest to you is due in week 4. Choose a ‘Vox Op’ from those available on the Wiki and respond to it in your paper, which should include an abstract (up to 250 words), keywords, your written text (about 750-1250 words in English) and bibliography. You are encouraged to bring in other references and your experiences of cultural interpretation. Please publish your position paper and bibliography on the course Wiki. You can find guidelines and tips for producing your paper here.

  • Group project (50% of final grade): Project groups select an existing cultural site and design a mobile interpretation program for it in the ‘web 3.0’ world. I suggest you form your groups this week to begin work immediately. Together the group members must address each of these aspects of the project design: 

  1. User experience

  2. Content design, including sustainability and expandability in future

  3. Technology, including sustainability (maintenance) and expandability in future

  4. Business model

  5. Marketing

  6. Operations, including distribution and signage, if applicable

  7. Extra credit: describe how the program can exist on or operate across multiple platforms, with attendant economies of scale in technology, content repurposing, and marketing/outreach effect


I recommend that each group member take on the design of one aspect of the project. The Wiki will be a good place to share your individual plans and check that they are supporting and responding to the other group members' contributions. The group’s presentation of the project plan is due in week 7 as a powerpoint with audio accompaniment in English.


  • 10% of the final mark is derived from participation in the other weekly class activities and discussion, including communication in the class forum, especially for discussions and activities in weeks 1, 3, 4 and 5. Extra credit will be awarded for contributions to the Handheld Wiki that go beyond what is required in the course syllabus, e.g. creating additional case studies of audio tours, podcasts, multimedia tours, cellphone or smartphones tours in the Case Studies section, or adding links to online articles and other resources to the Resources page.


  1. This week’s topics:

                                               i.     The value and role of museum interpretation

                                             ii.     What is a museum?

                                            iii.     What is interpretation?

                                            iv.     Why mobile?

                                             v.     Transforming the Museum from Acropolis into Agora

  1. This week’s focus activities:

                                               i.     Watch Nancy Proctor’s presentation, ‘Outside in the Agora: Mobile Interpretation and Socratic Dialogue in the Networked Museum’ (video) for the DEN Conference, Rotterdam, Dec 9, 2008. The presentation's slides can be found on Slideshare:


                                             ii.     In the Course Forum, discuss an activity or interpretation program in a cultural site that demonstrates at least one of the principles of ‘Museum as Agora’ as decribed in Nancy Proctor's paper. (N.B. ‘cultural site’ includes all platforms in which the site exists: in the real world, online, or in community forums such as iTunes U, YouTube, Flickr, etc.).  

1.    Site of community engagement or exchange

2.    Mash-up or the visitor’s own ‘museum shuffle’

3.    Enabler of Socratic dialogue

4.    Fun!

5.    Bonus activity: extra credit if you can identify a new principle or category of ‘Museum as Agora’ in addition to the four notes above


Use links, images and other media where possible to illustrate your description. Ask your classmates about the programs they have described to help everyone in the course understand better how these cultural sites are transforming themselves into sites of community, dialogue and exchange.


  1. Week 2: Mobile interpretation 1.0: ‘Narrowcast’ museum audio tours

    1. This week’s topics:

                                               i.     Multi-tasking with audio

                                             ii.     What is content, what is technology?

                                            iii.     Who’s the most interesting person to take this tour with? Favorite voices in audio tours

  1. This week’s focus activities:

                                               i.     Watch this week’s ‘Socratic dialogue’

                                             ii.     Read the Getty’s 2007 evaluation of their audio tour program: http://www.getty.edu/about/institutional_research/audio_player_evaluation_2007.html

                                            iii.     Create a case study on the Handheld Wiki describing an audio tour you have taken using a dedicated museum audio tour player. You'll find some tours listed here; please feel free to add to this page by including links to or information about tours you recommend.  This case study may focus on the same cultural site that was the focus of your first week's analysis, or it can be a new cultural site of your choice. Your case study will contribute 20% to your final course mark. You will need to create a new Wiki page for your case study; contact the Instructor if you need help with this. Ideally, you should take an audio tour for this assignment, in order to write about the experience with fresh ears and eyes. Include images and/or video or audio where possible.

1.    What device was used? Did it use headphones? If so, mono or stereo?

2.    How was the device distributed? What did it cost? Were you required to leave a deposit or other security for the device?

3.    How many devices were available to visitors? What percentage of visitors were taking the tour? What percentage of devices were in-use?

4.    How was the tour marketed/advertised within the museum and beyond? What signage was available at individual ‘stops’? Was it visible and helpful?

5.    Describe your experience of the technology: what worked well, not so well? Was the device easy to carry and handle? Was the audio quality good? Overall did the device serve as an ‘invisible’ platform for the content?

6.    Describe your experience of the content: what was the tone/voice? How long were the messages? Were there multiple layers of messages at some exhibits? How many messages in the whole tour? Did the tour and the messages seem too long, too short, or just right?

7.    Evaluate your overall experience: was your visit enhanced by the audio tour and interactions with tour staff? Do you think other visitors enjoyed the tour? Was there crowding around exhibits on the tour, or other issues that clouded your experience?


  1. Week 3: Mobile interpretation 1.5:  Multimedia tours from PDAs to museum-specific media players

    1. This week’s topics:

                                               i.     The lure of the cutting edge vs the KISS principle

                                             ii.     Wireless content delivery vs locally-stored content

                                            iii.     Automatic triggering: when is it helpful? When a distraction?

                                            iv.     The screen as eyetrap: when do visuals add to audio?

                                             v.     What is the future of the museum-specific multimedia tour technologies?

  1. This week’s focus activities:

                                               i.     Watch this week’s ‘Socratic dialogue’

                                             ii.     Read Proctor, N. (2005), Off Base or On Target? Pros and Cons of Wireless and Location-Aware Applications in the Museum in Xavier Perrot, ed., Cultural Heritage Informatics 2005: selected papers from ichim05, Paris, published 2005 at http://www.archimuse.com/publishing/ichim05/Proctor.pdf

                                            iii.     Read The Getty’s evaluation of their Rembrandt exhibition multimedia tour: http://www.getty.edu/museum/research/metrics_evaluations/rembrandt.html

                                            iv.     Read the assessment of the Blanton Museum’s iTour by Anne Manning and Glenda Sims from the University of Texas at Austin, and discuss these questions in the Forum:

1. What was the multimedia tour able to do that a traditional audio tour could not?

2. Where might a traditional audio tour have done the same job?

3. What is the ‘conversational role’ of multimedia tours in the gallery?


Add your comments to the Forum on where you see the value of the multimedia tour over the traditional audio tour – or not!


  1. Mobile interpretation 1.75: Museum podcasts and downloadable tours

    1. This week’s topics:

                                               i.     Using the visitor’s own device: pros & cons

                                             ii.     Distributing, securing, and adapting popular consumer devices

                                            iii.     Image rights

                                            iv.     Renting, selling, and giving content away

                                             v.     The business model and relationships with distributors

                                            vi.     iTunes & iTunesU

  1. This week’s focus activities:

                                               i.     Watch this week’s ‘Socratic dialogue’

                                             ii.     Read Samis P. and Pau S. (2006) ‘Artcasting’ at SFMOMA: First-Year Lessons, Future Challenges for Museum Podcasters. Museums and the Web. http://www.archimuse.com/mw2006/papers/samis/samis.html

                                            iii.     Select a favorite cultural podcast and post a link to it in the Forum, as well as on the Handheld Wiki. In the Forum, describe what you think is successful or less successful about this podcast, and what it has taught you. In your discussion of the podcast, refer to at least one of the questions posed in Samis and Pau’s paper on Voice, Production Values, Sustainability, Innovation, and Impact on Paid Audiotours. 

Be sure to avoid the ‘5 podcasting myths’ described in the paper when formulating your answer!

Ask your classmates what they have learned; can you collectively elucidate some 'best practice' tips (dos and don'ts) for museum podcasting? 


                                            iv.     Submit your position paper. Guidelines for producing your paper are here.


  1. Mobile interpretation 2.0: Cellphone and smartphone tours

    1. This week’s topics:

                                               i.     The pros & cons of mobile phones in cultural sites for domestic and foreign audiences

                                             ii.     The pros & cons of smartphones for cultural interpretation:

1.    Using the visitor’s own device

2.    Network connectivity

3.    Proprietary commercial platforms – cp. Multimedia tours

                                            iii.     Distinguishing between content, experience, and technology in assessing visitor reactions

  1. This week’s focus activities:

                                               i.     Watch this week’s ‘Socratic dialogue’

                                             ii.     Read Bressler, D. Mobile Phones: A New Way To Engage Teenagers In Informal Science Learning http://www.archimuse.com/mw2006/papers/bressler/bressler.html

                                            iii.     Read Haley Goldman, K. (2007) Cell phones and exhibitions 2.0: Moving beyond the pilot stage. http://www.archimuse.com/mw2007/papers/haleyGoldman/haleyGoldman.html

                                            iv.     Download, watch online or take in person a smartphone tour (see Tate, MOMA Wifi, and San Jose Museum of Art, among others here) and post a link to it in the Forum.

                                             v.     Drawing on what you have learned in earlier weeks, discuss and evaluate the interface of the smartphone tour you have studied in the Forum. What will visitors find easy or difficult to use about this tour? Is the content of the right length and voice? Does it work on this platform? Could this tour work as effectively on another platform that we have discussed in this course? Ask your classmates about the tours they describe in the Forum to help all understand the strengths and weaknesses of each solution.


  1. Mobile interpretation 2+: User-generated content and playing cross-platform

    1. This week’s topics:

                                               i.     UGC: friend or foe?

                                             ii.     Choosing the right platforms

                                            iii.     Economies of scale in content, technology & outreach effect

  1. This week’s focus activities: 

                                             i.     Listen to Jane Burton and Allegra Burnette’s papers from the Tate Handheld Conference Sept 2008 downloadable at: http://tatehandheldconference.pbwiki.com/Resources

                                            ii.     Read Nina Simon’s blog post, 'The Future of Authority: Platform Power'.

                                            iii.     Read Puig, V. and Sirven, X. Lignes De Temps : Involving cinema exhibition visitors in mobile and on-line film annotation.  Museums and the Web 2007 http://www.archimuse.com/mw2007/papers/puig/puig.html

                                             iv.     Alternatively, read Georgina Bath Goodlander’s summary and analysis of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Alternate Reality Game, Ghosts of a Chance: http://tatehandheldconference.pbwiki.com/SAAM%27s+ARG+-+Detailed+Info

                                            vi.     Work on your final group projects.


  1. Mobile interpretation 3.0: Student project presentations

    1. This week’s topic: What’s next?

    2. This week’s focus activities:

                                               i.     Listen to presentations by Makoto Manabe and Chris Alexander from the Tate Handheld Conference Sept 2008 downloadable at: http://tatehandheldconference.pbwiki.com/Resources

                                             ii.     Finalize and upload your Mobile Interpretation 3.0 project plan to the Course website. In the Forum, introduce your project and include a link to your presentation.




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