Category Archives: economics

Virtual Worlds

Virtual WorldVirtual worlds are becoming a major topic when it comes to participating on a local or global scale. There are many programs that are being developed to navigate through ancient architectural civilizations and even in the present, traveling around urban cities. These programs enable people to explore a vast amount of information, as well as pilot through artificial realms to meet people and view objects.

I am currently on a team to redefine how we experience New York City during the day versus the night. This involves a lot of data collection and understanding how these spaces feel in the daylight environment versus the night environment from a lighting stand point. One popular web program that has taken the first steps to this experiential experience is Second Life. They advertise this space as a place to connect, to shop, to work, to explore, to be different and free yourself and mind, and be who you want to be. This is definitely taking this idea of the iPhone as your museum guide to a much different and extreme limit, but this is a potential program that will be developed by many museums in the coming years and the beginning of this investigation have already begun.

The New York Hall of Science has partnered with the Greater Southern Tier BOCES SciCentr program on a project to engage an ethnically and economically diverse group of young people in creating a Virtual Hall of Science (VHOS). This entails designing, building and staffing the virtual science center while working and interacting with science and education professionals throughout the process. VHOS is seen as a long term program that will encourage students to develop and plan the future of their museum as they see fit. This program will further enhance the already strong connects NYSCI has with its community and student science education program.

In either case, the idea of a virtual world that enables people to experience a museum or, for that matter, many different cities from the comfort of their homes is a great start to spark interest, but the fact of the matter is that this will never change how we truly experience something that is tangible.

Stephen Kaye

Bilbao’s Epitaph

Frank Gehry's Performance Pavillion at Millenium Park

Frank Gehry's Performing Arts Pavillion at Millenium Park

We knew it was coming. Today New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff officially declared the end to an epoch of iconic cultural architecture in America. I suppose this is also the end of the Bilbao Effect. His article surveys history of American cultural identity as expressed through architecture beginning with the City Beautiful Movement in the late 19th Century. I found this statement rather interesting: “The problem with freedom, after all, is that it allows for horrifying imaginative failures as well as works of stunning genius.” This reminded me of a quote from Goethe ” There is nothing worst than an active imagination, a lot of money and no taste”. It makes you wonder how many bad ideas we may have been saved from. What will all of this mean for the next generation of museum building? What forms will museums of the new epoch take in response to this new found modesty? Perhaps what is happening inside the museum will finally become as important than what is happening on the outside.

Tim Ventimiglia

The Self

Many of our conversations in class today concerned the museum visitor historically, a changing sense of “the self”, how this contributes to identity and the ways in which museums engage their audience. Our conversation widened to explore the role of social networking technologies and the issues associated with self-selection and collaborative filtering and how that relates to a museum’s function, its authority and the role of the curator.

It is interesting to imagine that today people generally interact with a greater number of other people than at any other time in history. However these people are also far less likely to encounter someone who does not already share similar interests. One obvious conclusion is that we are in danger of losing the ability to be critical thinkers, to debate issues, and engage in rational conversations with consenting adults who disagree with each other.

You can see evidence of this in our political news media. There is a great deal of emotion, no shared language, and next to nothing that opposing parties can agree upon. As CFM’s “Museums & Society: 2034” study discusses, self-selection has led to a polarized society where constituencies gather in safe clusters of like-minded peers, institutions and their content. Technology plays a role in this but it may be more of a symptom of something deeper than technology as an instigator. It is always easiest to blame the tool. This does not mean that social networking technologies are inherently bad. But they do reveal a tendency that is growing stronger and should be better understood in the context of museums.

The idea of self-selection and the shaping of identity has a long history that predates Facebook and other applications by decades. In fact the shaping of identity in our political and commercial world  is largely informed by psychoanalysis and its contributions to commercial marketing and public relations beginning in the late 1930s. At this time analysts began seeking a practical means of applying their science to the public at large. I recently saw a recent BBC production titled “The Century of the Self “which explores this history in four chapters.  Its one of the most powerful and timely documentaries that I have seen. It is a must for anyone thinking about these issues. It is available as streaming media on

Tim Ventimiglia

The Future Museum

Following a rough history of the museum in the posts above, what shall we say about the future of the museum? Hopefully the rest of this semester will cast some light on this and put forth some informed speculations. When imagining the future one can really only talk about current trends and, if they show signs of continuing, to project how they might shape our world. Throughout history museums have followed changes in society and evolved to suit its needs. It is safe to guess that the increasingly rapid changes in society (technology, energy, education, economy, etc) will precipitate a need for museums to adapt sooner than later. In fact the existing museum models do seem a bit tired and are hard-pressed to keep up with and address a range of social and technological issues that are already in play. Thanks to a wide variety of thinkers in the museum community, some initial ideas are emerging.

Museum Stages.xlsx

We know that the museum of the future will have to recognize a world that is connected by a complex and constantly shifting network of influences, a disappearance of temporality and a sense of self that is shaped more by the social networks we inhabit moment to moment than by any singular defining experiences. Through collaborative filtering, users of Web 2.0 applications talk to more people than any generation before them but are less and less likely to meet someone who does not already share similar interests. We are by default all members of special interest groups. In fact each of us likely has multiple identities that inform our sense of self. Some of these may even conflict with one another. Museums already find themselves no longer serving categorizable audiences but micro-constituencies which take form and disappear with a speed that is impossible to respond to in traditional mediums. We are all simultaneously curators and consumers.  Content is generated by the user on-demand and the proliferation of free content via the internet has changed they way a younger audience perceives cultural value in a museum. Thinking about a new model for the future of the museum does not suggest we abandon the object or “the real” and supplant these critical assets with technology. But it does suggest that the new mediums and experiences of a generation who know the world through social networks and new tools must come into play. However to understand these new “Networked Publics” [ed. Varnelis] we should not look at the technologies but look more carefully at the desires of the society that gave shape to and created these technologies to serve its needs.

Some major influences on my thinking here include the recent work of historian and cultural theorist Kazys Varnelis, who is the director of Columbia University’s Netlab, Nina Simon who perhaps coined the term “Museum 2.0” with her notable weblog dedicated to the subject, and Dr Angelina Russo who presides over a weblog titled Museum 3.0 (perhaps trumping Nina, or maybe just because Museum 2.0 was taken). All three are amazing thinkers and far more qualified scholars than I am. I have also been reading AAM’s Center For the Future of  Museums’ recently commissioned study “Museums & Society: 2034” and The New Media Consortium’s “2009 Horizon Report” which forecasts the adoption of emergent technologies in public space. I will summarize those in a future post.

Tim Ventimiglia

Reading Response: Museum and Map; the Interpretation of Visual Culture

If Museums back in the 19th century were regarded as educational institutions with a great social role, then today they are considered as more of tourist attraction or money generating tool for the local government. Fast forward to today and take a look at a museum and its audience’s relationship. The museum’s “role of being educational had always been well established as a concept” (Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. p.1) and because this relationship is changing in times of advanced technology and with changing culture, museum will also need to change its way of doing things.

The concept of education had been changing throughout the centuries, “they’re not limited to formal institutions but taken place throughout life” (Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. p.2 ).  The old concept of education are limited to specific times and places and with museum, it is limited to a certain location at the interior space. Yet, the museum should have the potential as a lifelong learning tool.

Most people would define visual display as the experience of a museum. Since each individual object in a museum cannot speak a story by itself, “An exhibition is a group of objects combined with words and images – are more complex still” (Hooper Greenhill, Eilean. p.3)  and from Victoria Newhouse’s book  “ placement can change the meaning of the artwork” (Newhouse, Victora. p.10)  All objects have to be placed together in a museum, and depending on the visual arrangement, viewers have a 50/50 chance of perceiving the intended meaning, even after they perceived them, they might not agree with them. With different cultures, come different values, so interpretation does not come with a singular meaning but multiple when viewed by many different audiences.

“Museum have changed radically in style” Hooper Greenhill, Eilean. (p.6) – where formal museum galleries have changed and replaced by informal style where it communicates with visitors in a more lively and more physical interaction. That is because “learners need to interact in meaningful ways with new information before it can become part of their repertoire of knowledge,”( Hooper Greenhill, Eilean. p.7)

Museum are trying to incorporate audience and visitor’s info and research into their process of exhibition, and by looking at the internet like Wikipedia which incorporate user’s knowledge into their database and website. Wikipedia has become more successful in that respect. That is not to say that museums cannot do better. Museums have the advantage of showcasing an actual object, “Although paintings might have to fight for their life, they look better in a home than in a museum because they’re alive, you feel them…” (Newhouse, Victora. p.13) because of this factor, many museums had considered showing certain artwork without any separation between viewers and the object itself these days.

Philip Kwok

The Public Art Centre

Public Art Centre in Bromwich UK

Public Art Centre in Bromwich UK

The Public Art Centre in West Bromwich UK recently opened, and is already demounting many of its exhibits which have failed to perform. The Art Newspaper has been tracking this project June 08 and Feb 09. Their recent piece on the opening is only in print and not yet online.

I have not been there but from what I can tell The Public is a peculiar hybrid of museum types with the aim of being all inclusive, community-oriented, friendly and accessible in posture and yet holding it self up as a premier international art museum housed in an iconic architecture. They have no collection of their own. Instead it is filled with loaned exhibitions, and site-specific installations. For the opening at least there seems to be an emphasis on digital and interactive art. As they state in their own words “The Public has something for everyone, putting amateur work beside professional, young next to old and setting local projects right alongside digital exhibits and contemporary sculpture by top international artists.”

Apparently the building was design by Wil Alsop but design was at some point taken over by another firm. It shows. This procees seems as indecisive as the museum’s program. I suspect this is the echo of the Bilbao Effect, discussed on a previous post, but it took too long to realize this one (it began in 1993, opened in 2009) that the mission and architecture had to be hastily revised to address the changed climate since the crash of Sept 2008. By the time it opened the world has changed and the original vision looks quite outdated. Its kind of like a guest arriving late to a party dressed to the nines and full of enthusiasm only to discover that everyone who is still there is busy cleaning up the mess. It does question whether iconic museum architecture can be sustained, or even if it should be. Is it a good idea to have something for everyone? Can you really make a successful museum out of nothing? Does anyone know more about this strange and elusive project?


Exhibiting Architecture or Promoting Tourism?

"Chile: Territory For Architcture" Exhibition

"Chile: Territory For Architecture" Exhibition at Pure Chile Gallery

“Chile: Territory for Architecture” is a temporary exhibition showed during the month of September in the Pure Chile Gallery in SOHO to celebrate Chilean Architecture. This small exhibition was curetted by Alberto Sato and presented a selection of works by 12 Chilean architects developed through all the Chilean territory from the northern desert to the South Pole. As Sato himself wrote, these architectural works represent “a new alliance between what is native and what is exotic; between the planetary dimension and the domestic dimension; between eternalness and ephemeralness; between fashion and the sense of cultural transcendence”.

The exhibition displayed important Chilean works such as: the Elemental Iquique by Alejandro Aravena, the Museo del Desierto de Atacama by Ramon Coz and others, the Edificio BIP Computers by Alberto Mozo and the “Termas Geotermicas” by German del Sol. Once you entered to the cozy gallery there was a beautiful image of the Chilean map (the same one on this blog) shining on the left wall of the room, I could notice it was backlit with three fluorescent tubes and it was the main character in this mini-exhibition.   The exhibition based its show on digital media, displaying the works of architecture on three big screens located under the image of the Chilean map. Images of the different pieces of architecture, actual photos and renderings appeared in the screens; each of them showing a different project. It was a little bit annoying having to stand in there in front of these three screens waiting to see all of the 12 architectural works. The wall on the back was used to project some drawings of the works. White drawings projected on a black surface. The experience was very similar to the one with the screens; if there was an special work that I wanted to see I had to stand in there and wait for the other 11 works to show up.

It was a completely directed exhibition. It was impossible to create your own experience, to look at it in your own way. I understand the dimensions of the space were limiting but I was expecting to have a little bit more options to experience it. The lack of real objects was its biggest weakness. Me and my friends were expecting to see real drawings, sketches, actual models, real objects that could give us a better understanding of the process behind these 12 architectural works and create a stronger connection with them but it didn’t happen. Moreover the gallery looked more like a travel agency; it was full of catalogs promoting Chile and typical Chilean products for sell. The exhibition itself was so weak that I am still wondering, was this exhibition really about Chilean architecture or was it just an excuse to promote this gallery and tourism in Chile?

Ma. Antonia Villegas