Jake Barton, “Collaborative Storytelling and the Dissolution of Technology”

Last night I attended the School of Visual Arts Design Criticism lecture series featuring Jake Barton, the founder of Local Projects. The lecture was on “Collaborative Storytelling and the Dissolution of Technology” and focus largely on the Local Projects process of storytelling and use of technology through their project.

A common theme throughout his lecture was the humanness that connects people, thus the question of how to engage people in a museum. A recent study that he addressed concluded that the average person spend eight and a half hours looking at screens, therefore his studio has the difficult task of keeping peoples attention to more screen (which they commonly use in their designs). Some of the ways in which Local Projects addresses these issues is using seamlessness in their design, humanness to connect people, and simplicity in the technology. Barton states that they did not want the technology they used to be overly complicated, because they are not focusing their designs on a tech-savvy group, it must be generally accessible.

I found this issue of the use of technology in the museum space very interesting and the discussion after the lecture brought up many questions about its present and future placement within our society that I found relevant to the class. There will be many technology advancements within the future, which will directly affect the museum, but I think that in many ways the function of technology in museums will stay very similar to today use of them. I thought that Barton’s idea that technology should be seamlessly woven into the museum so that one forgets about it even being there very important. People do not want technology thrown in their faces, technology should be used to enhance the experience not distract from it.  In addition, the technology should be simplicity in its nature, this way it can be accessed by a wide ranged audience without difficulty. Finally, museums are about human experiences and learning and the technology should reflect that in its design and function. An example of that humanness is in Local Projects’ exhibition in China with the theme of caring. There are screens with people discussing their views and ideas about what it means to care, but the people are full sized looking the viewer straight in the eye as if the viewer was talking to a real person.

Technology is consistently around us and has the potential to engage the museum visitor in new ways. Yet, the goal should promote human interaction and discussion about the topics it raised in the museum space. I think that the idea that technology needs to be seamlessly integrated into the museum (so that the visitor forgets about it) and uncomplicated would greatly benefit museums in the future. In addition, that the first goal of the museums in its use of technology should be to create better human interaction and discussion in the museum space, not to isolate people even more. Technology has great potential in the museum if it is used correctly and effectively.

Miranda Elston

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