Blogs Media Lab

Libraries ahead of museums in Web 2.0?

This idea came up during the Radical Trust session at MW07 – Seb pointed out that libraries already radically trust their users by essentially giving them their collection and trusting it will be returned. It’s further reinforced by this article in Wired discussing a program started at a North Carolina public library: using the lure […]

137506981_35f7507229.jpgThis idea came up during the Radical Trust session at MW07 – Seb pointed out that libraries already radically trust their users by essentially giving them their collection and trusting it will be returned. It’s further reinforced by this article in Wired discussing a program started at a North Carolina public library: using the lure of a free mp3 player or the chance the win a laptop, they were able to guide their staff through a comprehensive Web 2.0 learning experience. It actually sounds pretty remarkable – if you’ve been flirting at the edge of Web 2.0, this is a great step by step introduction to some of the bigger and better ideas out there.

Should museums be doing more to help their staff embrace Web 2.0 ideas and technology? Or is it enough to have departments like ours blogging and call it good?

[via Museum Journal]

Audio of chat with teens about social networking

Prior to heading to MW2007, I sat down with some of the WACTAC teens to discuss Myspace, Facebook and social networking in general. I thought I had a good handle on things (since I have, in fact, used Myspace). I figured a talk with the experts would fill in any gaps I was missing. Download […]

The Walker on Myspace

Prior to heading to MW2007, I sat down with some of the WACTAC teens to discuss Myspace, Facebook and social networking in general. I thought I had a good handle on things (since I have, in fact, used Myspace). I figured a talk with the experts would fill in any gaps I was missing.

Download Social Networking Discussion MP3

Much of what I learned is interwoven in the notes I prepared for our workshop at MW2007. Here are some of the highlights, according to WACTAC:

  • Myspace is old news
  • Facebook is where all the cool kids are
  • Some kids don’t even use email these days, sticking to myspace or facebook
  • Kids consume a lot of media, therefore use a lot of media
  • When multiple people add content to social accounts for institutions, let people know who’s doing the update
  • Don’t use a different account for different departments
  • Make groups and encourage people to join
  • Make use of bulletins and notes
  • Keep things up to date, nothing is worse than an out of date profile or events

The big thing that I took away from our chat was that it seems that Facebook is becoming the favorite among more technically savvy users. It seems due to the more refined design and permissions system that it enforces. So all the web designers who hate myspace because it is ugly can rejoice; smart users are shying away. Facebook is also more strict about who can create and hold an account. I heard from some people at MW2007 that their attempts to create a “person” for their institution were rebuffed, and they were forced to create a group instead. While that doesn’t fit with the paradigm that has happened within other social Web 2.0 applications, it does seem to be one that is more sustainable for users in the long run.

I just created a Walker Art Center group on Facebook. The acebook APIs seem interesting, and something Myspace does not offer to my knowledge. It is something I might play around with in the future.

Please note that this is a rough cut and basically unedited. I am adhering to the “quick and dirty” principles we discussed in our workshop. A big thanks to the teens that participated in the discussion:

  • Willy Schwartz
  • Basanti Miller
  • Mark Severson
  • Ricardo Ortiz-Vasquez

Also thanks to Witt Siasoco and Megan Leafblad for setting the discussion up.

Flickr says: Sawubona Walker Art Center!

The Walker has had a flickr account for several months, but we have only been using it to hosting photos from Party People. That is changing. We’ve created two additional groups: Walker Art Center For photos of and around the Walker building. Minneapolis Sculpture Garden For photos in and around the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The […]

The Walker has had a flickr account for several months, but we have only been using it to hosting photos from Party People. That is changing. We’ve created two additional groups:

The groups are something we’ve been meaning to create for a while, but seeing the Shelley Bernstein and Nicole Caruth present about the Brooklyn Museum’s use of flickr at MW2007 threw another dash of gasoline on our fire. During their presentation, Shelley told us to steal her idea. This is our start.

So if you have photos from your last visit to the Walker or the Sculpture Garden, and are a flickr user, please add them to our group. Not a flickr user? You can still browse as the groups grow. As of this post, there are already 117 photos in the Sculpture Garden Pool, but only 10 in the Walker Art Center Pool.

Some things many museums are concerned about with regard to user created photos on Flickr are photo policies and copyright. As moderator of these groups, we do need to watch out for photos that don’t fit within the photography policy of the Institution. The Walker does not allow photography in the galleries or of artwork. Photography of the building and architecture is allowed. The Sculpture Garden does allow photography, but it needs to be non-commercial in nature. The reasons for these policies are two-fold. First, while the Walker may own the art in the galleries, we don’t always own the copyright. Many of the artists in our collections are alive and still hold the copyright on their work. The Sculpture Garden is a public space so the same rules can’t apply. However, many of the works in the sculpture garden are still copyrighted by the artists. Fair use allows non-commercial use, but commercial use must be licensed by the copyright holder. Wedding photos and that sort of thing need to get a permit from the City of Minneapolis.

Legalities aside, I think our policy makes sense for a few other reasons. We’re more interested in the community aspects of seeing and attending the Walker. I don’t think taking a photo of work hanging on a wall documents that. We already have many of those in our collections database. Secondly, if we did allow photography in our galleries, it can be distracting to visitors and potentially damaging to the artwork. Robin told us that on her recent visit to MOMA, guards were constantly having to deal with visitors who used their flash while photographing artwork. The concentrated light in flashes can be damaging to some types of paint, not to mention distracting to other visitors. Thirdly, as much as I would love to take some macro shots of Charles Ray’s Unpainted Sculpture or Robert Smithson’s Leaning Strata, I would have to get too close to the work and probably would end up touching the work, which can also be damaging to the artwork. As a museum, we have an imparative to preserve the work for everyone to view.

At the same time, we know photos that don’t fit within our guidelines exist. It is possible to snap a photo when a guard walks out of the gallery, the same way it’s possible for someone to put their fist through a painting. We just can’t condone them and ask that people don’t submit them to our pools.

This Weekend: Bentfest MN & MinneBar

There are two great events happening this weekend in the Twin Cities if you’re a hardware hacking or development geek. The first is Bentfest MN. The three day festival (starting tonight) consists of demos, workshops and concerts all centered around circuit bending, happening right down the street at Intermedia Arts. What is circuit bending? This […]

Circuit Bending MinneDemo 2006

There are two great events happening this weekend in the Twin Cities if you’re a hardware hacking or development geek. The first is Bentfest MN. The three day festival (starting tonight) consists of demos, workshops and concerts all centered around circuit bending, happening right down the street at Intermedia Arts. What is circuit bending? This youtube video describes better than I ever could:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Pbyg_kcEk[/youtube]

The second thing to check out this weekend is MinneBar. What is MinneBar?

minnēbar is an ad-hoc gathering of technology enthusiasts born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. Participants work together and try to create something exciting by being in close proximity to lots of smart people. Each person contributes in some way by leading discussions, demos, asking questions, or volunteering.

The conference/gathering is going on in St. Paul tomorrow, is totally free, and will feature many sweet demos, workshops and networking opportunities. Brent and I are both planning on attending.

Photo Credits:

Circuit Bending Photo from salimfadhley.

Minnebar Photo from alt text.

This Weekend: Bentfest MN & MinneBar

There are two great events happening this weekend in the Twin Cities if you’re a hardware hacking or development geek. The first is Bentfest MN. The three day festival (starting tonight) consists of demos, workshops and concerts all centered around circuit bending, happening right down the street at Intermedia Arts. What is circuit bending? This […]

Circuit Bending MinneDemo 2006

There are two great events happening this weekend in the Twin Cities if you’re a hardware hacking or development geek. The first is Bentfest MN. The three day festival (starting tonight) consists of demos, workshops and concerts all centered around circuit bending, happening right down the street at Intermedia Arts. What is circuit bending? This youtube video describes better than I ever could:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Pbyg_kcEk[/youtube]

The second thing to check out this weekend is MinneBar. What is MinneBar?

minnēbar is an ad-hoc gathering of technology enthusiasts born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. Participants work together and try to create something exciting by being in close proximity to lots of smart people. Each person contributes in some way by leading discussions, demos, asking questions, or volunteering.

The conference/gathering is going on in St. Paul tomorrow, is totally free, and will feature many sweet demos, workshops and networking opportunities. Brent and I are both planning on attending.

Photo Credits:

Circuit Bending Photo from salimfadhley.

Minnebar Photo from alt text.

This Weekend: Bentfest MN & MinneBar

There are two great events happening this weekend in the Twin Cities if you’re a hardware hacking or development geek. The first is Bentfest MN. The three day festival (starting tonight) consists of demos, workshops and concerts all centered around circuit bending, happening right down the street at Intermedia Arts. What is circuit bending? This […]

Circuit Bending MinneDemo 2006

There are two great events happening this weekend in the Twin Cities if you’re a hardware hacking or development geek. The first is Bentfest MN. The three day festival (starting tonight) consists of demos, workshops and concerts all centered around circuit bending, happening right down the street at Intermedia Arts. What is circuit bending? This youtube video describes better than I ever could:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6Pbyg_kcEk[/youtube]

The second thing to check out this weekend is MinneBar. What is MinneBar?

minnēbar is an ad-hoc gathering of technology enthusiasts born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. Participants work together and try to create something exciting by being in close proximity to lots of smart people. Each person contributes in some way by leading discussions, demos, asking questions, or volunteering.

The conference/gathering is going on in St. Paul tomorrow, is totally free, and will feature many sweet demos, workshops and networking opportunities. Brent and I are both planning on attending.

Photo Credits:

Circuit Bending Photo from salimfadhley.

Minnebar Photo from alt text.

Being there (M&W07)

We’re all back from Museums and the Web 2007, catching our collective breath while trying to maintain the enthusiasm the conference generated. I last attended M&W in 2003, and a quick glance back at that program immediately suggests how much has changed in four years. In 2003, I presented mnartists.org’s 10 Tips for Building Online […]

We’re all back from Museums and the Web 2007, catching our collective breath while trying to maintain the enthusiasm the conference generated. I last attended M&W in 2003, and a quick glance back at that program immediately suggests how much has changed in four years. In 2003, I presented mnartists.org’s 10 Tips for Building Online Communities. No where in my paper, or any other that I can find, does one find references to tagging, blogging, or social media. There are some overlapping themes (like Susan Hazan on virtual worlds and the Dead Sea Scrolls: 3D was huge in 03) but the specifics have changed as have many of the people.

For me, the big take away from this year’s conference was rethinking the Walker’s online identity as a web presence instead of a website. If our missions include public outreach (or audience engagement in Walker parlance), isn’t presence more important than place? It’s about being “ there” with the “ there” emphasizing the place where the public is. To some extent we’re doing this already but not as consciously as I’m thinking about it now.

Brewster KahleThe Photographs of John Collier Jr.Liberty Science CenterE-Culture Project

Robin’s conference highlights

Opening Plenary, Brewster Kahle

Colleague Paul Schmelzer posted a great recap of this session. I was familiar with the Internet Archive for its Wayback Machine. Now I’m determined “ to send Brewster our stuff,” beginning with the Walker Channel archives.

Jim Spadaccini’s workshop “ Museum Mashups”

Mashups–web applications creating something new by drawing on content from multiple sources–have many benefits (e.g., “ free” services, dynamic content, development time savings) and drawbacks (commercial nature of open APIs, potential performance issues). Jim did a great job characterizing the landscape, using some of Ideum’s work to illustrate the possibilities. Maxwell Museum of Anthropology’s The American Image: The Photographs of John Collier Jr. did it for me. The site uses Flickr for content management under an account created for the deceased photographer (advantage to this approach: the photos are identified as Collier’s; disadvantage: one-way conversation since the Maxwell isn’t posting fictitious Collier comments on Flickr). On the website, image requests use Flickr’s open API to retrieve particular photographs or groups of photos. In one of the classroom activities, they use Flickr to compare Collier’s work with contemporary photos categorized with similar tags like architecture, defense, family, and school. As noted on the site “ the connections between the photos may be unusual,” although I’ve been nothing but amazed and inspired by the comparisons in the limited time I’ve spent browsing. The goal of the project is to build visual literacy skills. Jim noted that they weren’t necessarily satisfying that objective on Flickr but then again 10% of the site visitors are coming from Flickr. Not bad.

More on mashups: workshop slides and bookmarks are available on the Ideum blog.

LaBar, Liberty Science Center, Times Square of Science and Technology (T2ST)

We’ve been talking about bringing Walker-related/contemporary art news via RSS into the Walker (both online and onsite) so I was really interested in the Liberty Science Center project. T2ST pairs the Times Square model with interactive surfaces in the atrium of the new Science Center to display science and technology news retrieved through RSS feeds. Visitors interact with the installation via kiosks and research stations, cell phones and PDAs (the cell phone component is part of the Science Now Science Everywhere project). The SNSE system allows visitors to take away custom RSS feeds and news reports on their phones. “ This extends visitors’ engagement with the installation and sets the stage for the development of more elaborate participation in citizen science projects.’” Wayne noted a number of challenges including resolving the relationships between various pieces (e.g., visitor input with a scavenger operator that searches for news and stores data feeds in the database scheduling the actual displays); content policies (content is provided by automatic aggregators but staff must approve all sources); rights management (e.g., CNN’s RSS policy requires direct links back to the source); and providing context for images/media removed from original content. The new Science Center opens in July: can’t wait to see.

Schreiber, Semantic-Web Techniques

Advocating vocabulary alignment instead of unification, Schreiber’s presentation demonstrated the power and potential of the semantic-web. “ The main objective of this work, which is performed in the context of the MultimediaN E-Culture project, is to demonstrate how novel semantic-web and presentation technologies can be deployed to provide better indexing and search support within large virtual collections of cultural-heritage resources.” This is good stuff, and I hope we can incorporate many of the search strategies in the redesign of ArtsConnectEd. The online version of the demonstrator can be found at http://e-culture.multimedian.nl/demo/search. I really like the grouping of results by type of semantic link. A plea to the Getty voiced during the discussion: please make your vocabularies available as open APIs.

Presentations I wish I’d heard

One of the great things about M&W is David and Jennifer’s insistence on papers. I’ll be reading these:

Caruth and Bernstein, Brooklyn Museum

I’ve heard several rave reviews of the Brooklyn presentation. They’re making friends in MySpace and Flickr, building on existing audiences, and really taking the museum program to where the audience is.

OpenCollection Web-based Collection Cataloguing, Goodman, Museum of the Moving Image, and Kaufman, Whirl-i-Gig

The presenters were taking questions when I walked in but the idea of an open source collections management system seems almost too good to be true. We use a homegrown FileMaker application for managing collections information; it has served Registration well but is less than ideal as a foundation for other applications feeding off the data. I spoke to Carl Goodman at the Exploratorium reception and was convinced there’s something here worth pursuing.

So much more but the job beckons. Thanks M&W for staging a great conference.

Preservation of Digital Art

Ken Goldberg, Ouija 2000, 2000 Nice piece on NPR about preservation of digital art including interviews with artist Ken Goldberg and Digital Media Director & Curator Richard Rinehart of the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM). Rick discusses working with artists to create a script for variable media, a preservation strategy that emerged from the Guggenheim’s Variable […]

Ken Goldberg, Ouija 2000, 2000

Ken Goldberg, Ouija 2000, 2000

Nice piece on NPR about preservation of digital art including interviews with artist Ken Goldberg and Digital Media Director & Curator Richard Rinehart of the Berkeley Art Museum (BAM). Rick discusses working with artists to create a script for variable media, a preservation strategy that emerged from the Guggenheim’s Variable Media Initiative. On the BAM site, Archiving the Avant-Garde is a great resource and includes a link to Rick’s paper A System of Formal Notation for Scoring Works of Digital and Variable Media Art.

Fine-tuning blogs

After our workshop and listening to Seb and Jim I came home with a Must-Do list of changes for our blogs. During the research on these changes I stumbled across a recent post by Tom Johnson on his blog “I’d Rather Be Writing”: Twenty Usability Tips for Your Blog — Condensed from Dozens of Bloggers’ […]

After our workshop and listening to Seb and Jim I came home with a Must-Do list of changes for our blogs. During the research on these changes I stumbled across a recent post by Tom Johnson on his blog “I’d Rather Be Writing”: Twenty Usability Tips for Your Blog — Condensed from Dozens of Bloggers’ Experiences. This is incredibly good information that every blogger — and especially museum bloggers — should take to heart. And then I found this post – also a great read. In fact, I just spent about 20 minutes on his site: I think everyone should go read and subscribe to his blog right now. :)

MW2007 – Cell Phone Tours

I attened this session and took some notes and added some commentary. Robin was the chair of the discussion, but let the authors/presenters do nearly all the talking. The first presentation was by Kate Haley, an associate at the Institute for Learning Innovation. Her paper is Cell phones and Exhibitions 2.0: Moving beyond the Pilot […]

I attened this session and took some notes and added some commentary. Robin was the chair of the discussion, but let the authors/presenters do nearly all the talking.

The first presentation was by Kate Haley, an associate at the Institute for Learning Innovation. Her paper is Cell phones and Exhibitions 2.0: Moving beyond the Pilot State which goes over some findings from a study of Art on Call. In her talk, Haley outlined some of the reasons for choosing phones in museums:

  • Removes the cost of infrastructure
  • Multi-functional
  • Pervasiveness

And some of the things we use phones for:

  • Information seeking
  • social utility
  • affection
  • fashion and status
  • mobility and accessibility

Haley talked a lot about the barriers to cell phone use in museums. Some of those barriers include:

  • Unaware the service was offered
  • aware of the service, but unaware of how to use it
  • Thought it was pre-paid or cost money
  • Assumed cell phone use was prohibited
  • Wondered if there was a fee
  • not interested in learning more at the moment
  • Didn’t find it appealing in a museum context

She also discussed the stages of adoption and how they relate to cell phone use in museums: innovators, early adopters, late adopters, laggards, etc. Haley discussed how this relates to the stages of technological adoption that typically apply to consumer based products, also apply to cell phone use in museums.

The more interesting barrier, Haley says, is the dichotomy of public and private space and cell phone use. People feel like a conversation on a phone is a private thing, yet mobile phones are often used in public spaces. To rectify this, people often change their body language and behavior to stake out public space. They’ll do the following things:

  • Close their body position
  • Turn their back on others
  • Lean forward
  • Duck their head
  • Staking out space

We’ve seen a similar disconnect in the Walker with Art on Call. While participation by listening to artist and curator commentary is good, visitor participation by leaving comments is low. A gallery is a very public space: it’s open, usually with minimal sound deadening, normally quiet, and lots of other people and security around. Certainly not the intimate space that people typically look for when having a private conversation.

In order to increase usage of cell phone audio tours Haley suggests:

  • We need better signage
  • We need to acknowledge how people traditionally use their phones and what stage of adoption they’re in. Not everyone is an early adopter
  • Acknowledge cultural and contextual differences
  • Understand cultural norms on phones and public spaces

The next speaker was Nancy Proctor, from Antenna Audio, presented When In Roam: Visitor Response To Phone Tour Pilots In The US And Europe.

Phone tours are more common in the US than Europe for some of the following reasons:

  • Poor reception in many older historic buildings in Europe
  • Higher percentages of foreign visitors in Europe
  • Higher cost for cell phone usage in museums, many Europeans have pay as you go plans and many Americans have unlimited minutes
  • Concern about camera phones in museums
  • Concern about social use of phones in museum

Antenna Audio did a comparison of cell phone tours vs. podcasts vs. “traditional audio” tours during the Drawing Restraint show at SFMOMA last fall. For comparison, Proctor showed the podcast version of the tour, which featured background music, high quality audio and an image stream that went along with the presentation. It was presented on her computer through iTunes and sounded and looked pretty good. Then she presented the same tour using the cell phone tour, which didn’t feature the background music or the image stream. Of course, it wasn’t as immersive, but the main kernel of content was still there.

Some conclusions Proctor drew was that the more media the visitor consumes, the more they enjoy the exhibition. The immersive “traditional audio tour” provides this. Cell phone users on the other hand, use a more à la carte approach, consequentially not consuming as much media. The implication is that due to the less immersive experience, visitors do not learn as much. Proctor called the a la carte approach “the google” way of finding out more. The insight seems valuable, but I think we must also consider that not every visitor wants to have everything dictated to them. Art should still leave room for interpretation, after all. Some traditional audio tours can contribute to the herd mentality, where you’re lead on a strict path through an exhibition and can be far from enjoyable.

To Consider: One must be aware of possible bias in Proctor’s study. Proctor works for Antenna Audio, who happens to be a purveyor of “traditional audio tours”. Cell phone audio tours, to a certain extent, threaten Antenna’s business model. Antenna has an interest in limiting the growth of cell phone audio tours. Nancy’s findings seem to have a slant towards showing traditional audio tours as more beneficial to visitor learning. Then again, we at the Walker are prime purveyors of cell phone audio tours and have an interest in encouraging other museums to use cell phone tours.

Q&A

  • One commenter noted that the phone is not an interface device, people plan on using a phone for having a conversation, not using it as an interface device. People aren’t prepared to use their phone as an interface device. Haley responded that this is changing. We need to prepare people to use their phone as an interface device, and the social context for this may change over time. Haley also noted that Americans perceive a phone as a tool to make a call whereas much of the rest of the world uses phones primarily as a txt-ing device.
  • One commenter suggested that cell phones can’t reach children, as they do not have cell phones. Traditional audio tour devices can be used by the family at the same time. So it can foster family learning.
  • Another person questioned the relationship of google-style a la carte learning to the story-telling traditional audio tour approach. Proctor suggests that the more media that we consume, the more we will learn. The comprehensive approach from the traditional tour is more immersive. Haley and Proctor both agreed that there isn’t much data here, though, so it’s hard to know, and learning is hard very hard to measure.
  • Another commenter suggested the while cell phone tours aren’t high on audio quality, they can be much more responsive to visitor needs. Cell phone content can be updated very easily. Proctor suggested that audio tours can be updated just as easily (but every device has to be reloaded!).
  • Another question was about the subject matter of the exhibition and how it related to take-up of audio tours and cell phone tours. Proctor responded that audio tours tend to be used by frequent visitors, and people who know enough to know they want to learn more.
  • The next commenter suggested an that comparing cell phone audio tours to traditional audio tours is an unfair comparison. Cell phone tour content needs to be edited differently, developed differently for each platform model.

I posed the final comment, regarding Near Field Communication, which is the phone technology that may some day allow us to buy a coke from a vending machine with a mobile phone. Yesterday Arstechnica commented on a report by ABI Research about this technology:

NFC technology is what is used to make “contactless payment” for a variety of different services. “Making payments, unlocking doors, downloading content, even setting up wireless networks and many other applications, can all be enabled from an NFC handset,” said ABI analyst Jonathan Collins. “NFC in mobile phones promises a quicker and easier way to execute a host of key tasks by just waving the phone.”

Clearly, there are some possibilities for cell phone tours in museums as well. The ability to simply wave a phone in front of a piece of work and get audio, possibly other types of media, about the work would be extremely valuable as a learning tool. Could museums develop this technology as it emerges, it has the possibility to further evolve the usefulness and accessibility of cell phone audio tours.

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