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Virtuous Circle

Page history last edited by matthewcock 14 years, 9 months ago

Some thoughts to start the conversation:


Most museums now get more visitors online than in person. (And if we think in terms of per capita return on investment alone, our directors should realize what a bargain their web teams are!)


What are we doing to maximize that online encounter in terms of:

  • Encouraging visitors to prepare for their visit by downloading our podcasts & audio tours prior to coming to the museum - and thereby saving us money and resources in terms of on-site support for hardware distribution and management, while building a longer-lasting relationship with the visitor, e.g. through podcast subscriptions?
  • Building interactive experiences such as bookmarking (through handhelds, cellphones or kiosks) into our visitors' on-site experiences, to bring them back to the website after their on-site visit and thereby prolonging and deepening the relationship between visitor and museum?
  • Publishing our digital content more widely to extend our online presence beyond the 'walled gardens' that are our websites?
  • Similarly, dissolving the walls of the museum itself through using mobile interpretation to link the on-site experience with externally-held content (e.g. related artworks in another museum's collection) and applications (e.g. Twitter)?




Some thoughts about post-visit / use of handheld follow through on website:


At the Tate conference there was a really useful point (made by Silvia, I believe) that we need to be careful and realistic  about the targets we set for how many people will use advanced features such as bookmarking and following through and deeper engagement through the website. The question was raised: how do we benchmark this?


I would reccomend anyone interested in this reads a book by Clay Shirkey "Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations"



Apart from being a generally fascinating and inspiring book, it also has a useful section on the "power law curve", which is to web 2.0 what the "bell curve" is to web 1.0.

This should help set quantitative targets for things like this.... if not qualitative!


Matthew Cock


Comments (3)

Claire Henry said

at 9:56 am on Sep 9, 2008

I’d also recommend Clay Shirkey’s book. The chapter on Wikipedia and the power of a wiki community to protect content from vandalism is fascinating. In short, he explains that if someone deliberately damages an entry, it will be repaired by other users so quickly that the act of vandalism is no longer any fun.

We talked a bit on Friday about using handhelds to allow users to contribute to interpretation – opening a true two way dialogue between the museum and the visitors. Encouraging our visitors to interpret collections in the galleries is something we’ve been looking at a lot at my museum (Natural History Museum). There has been some resistance in the past because of a fear that visitors will leave obscene or offensive messages, and we don’t have the resources in-house to edit them. Perhaps we could learn something from the wiki model and empower our visitors to edit and self-censor?

In addition to Matthew’s list of questions above:
• Does anyone have experience of using a wiki in a museum, perhaps with a handheld as the interface, to allow visitors to contribute to interpretation of objects on display?

Ben Bedwell said

at 6:35 pm on Sep 11, 2008

I find it hard to imagine the handheld as a mechanism for contributing to insightful content in a museum. Wikipedia is successful in part due to the affordances of the desktop computer which allows an author to efficiently contribute: given time at your desk with a cup of coffee, a big screen (or multiple screens) to view and manage reference material, a big QWERTY keyboard and a mouse to allow reams of text to be generated rapidly, images to be manipulated easily, the rewards for dedicating time to contribution are substantial. Try to contribute the same depth of insight via a handheld and I think anyone would give up - the trade-off between time spent authoring with a handheld and the outcome is just not worth it. The handheld encourages creation of throwaway content. It is debatable whether owners have pride in these throwaway creations, but there is no debate as to whether the contributors of Wikipedia have more. This pride, and respect amongst authors, underpins Wikipedia's ability to defend itself. Maybe I am too cynical, but I think the affordances of the handheld, with regards to content creation, inherently prevent it from being a means of providing and maintaining insightful comments. There is also the fact that visitors tend to have too little time during a visit to even experience the content, let alone settle down and moderate and contribute meaningful insight to it.

If we accept this, and embrace the handheld's natural affordance for light comments and ad-hoc media generation censorship becomes a much simpler task. There are no longer 'good' media that we want to preserve and protect, simply the occasional 'bad' media that we might want to get rid of, and visitors can handle this task themselves. One common method of self-moderation in public photo-displays is to simply display only the last x photos contributed - if someone adds an offensive photo, all the other visitors need to do is add another x photos and the offender is pushed off forever.

Bruce Falk said

at 10:03 pm on Sep 16, 2008

Two thoughts on Ben's comment. First, while text submission is no doubt clumsy, I would think cell-phones now afford at least 3 distinct means of legitimate commentary for visitors: visual (low-res photo), as Ben notes; an audio comment (which can be of any duration, and later edited for manageable length by staff); and post-it style commentary (intended to draw others' attention to object features or collections in a room, which other visitors may not have otherwise noticed... something which I think the Cornell Computer-Human Interaction group has studied and with which they have experimented, at least I remember Kiyo Kubo of Spotlight Mobile telling me about it).

Second, it seems to me that handhelds present tremendous opportunity to museums for passive, aggregate data, which can be returned to visitors in much the same way that post-its do (namely, by looking for where visitor attention appears most focused as opposed to the various attributes of the common-interest-object that moves individual posters). I have often heard discomfort among museum staff regarding collection of passive data (Big Brother), but it seems foolish not to take advantage of the same tools in a handheld context that are already so rife (and useful) on the web. Dashboarding a la Indianapolis Museum of Art's site might itself serve as a legitimately informative feature that complements works on or around a tour.

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