Category Archives: web

Flickr Museums

Over the course of the Fall 2010 semester Museum Lab students worked in four teams of three to invent and develop fictional museums using Flickr. This experimental format supplanted the Lab’s more traditional design assignment as the majority of students were non-design grads from Media Studies, History of Decorative Arts and Fine Arts. The aim was to see if we could practice the internal functions of the museum – including collection, conservation, interpretation, education and exhibition – using Flickr’s editorial and content management features.

While Flickr did seem at times to be a bit of an antiquated program, and lacking in participatory features of more popular social networking sites it did provide an environment for discussing a wide range of very general museum issues in an an abstract and easy to manipulate surrogate to a real museum. Questions explored included: What is a mission statement? How does mission relate to a collecting policy? How do you create and manage metadata to sort and access information? What editorial decisions are involved in creating a thematic exhibition? How can we effectively use the tools of social networking including collaborative and participatory modes of interaction, user generated tags and comments? How does the from and functions of a networked media environment influence the reading of the content?

Salon de Refuse: A Trash Museum
A museum of re-purposed objects and materials for the creation of new works of art. The Salon de Refuse derives its name from late 19th Century Parisian Salon Refusés that was founded by artists who were refused by jury of the officially sanctioned Paris Salon.
Students: Michelle Jackson, Ryan Massey, Logan Sibrel.

Gotham City Street Art Museum
This Street Art Museum creates an online site for exploring graffitti, painted murals, paste-ups and other ephemeral urban artistic practices in public space.
Students: Tori Jones, Jayme Elterman, Kadie Yale

The Play and Learn Collection: Toys that Influence
This museum explores the effects of designed objects on early childhood development including gender roles, race, occupation and identity.
Students: Meagan Elevado, Racini Andres, Ruby Hoette.

New Yorker’s Tribute Museum
The Tribute Museum explores the space of memory archives the many often unoticed memorials and monuments in New York, including spontaneous acts of memorialization, tribute tattoos, and municipally sponsored memorial installations.
Students: Sinnead Lawler, Livia Di Mario, Jessica Peterson.

Critics invited to the final review included Shannon Mattern, Professor at the New School Department of Media Studies; Ilona Parkansky, Educational Media and Technology Planner at Ralph Appelbaum Associates and Susan Sellers, Founder and Principal of 2×4 Design.

Tim Ventimiglia

Identity, Self, Networks

A recent essay by author Zadie Smith brought to mind the topic of ‘self’ as we’ve discussed the BBC documentary, The Century of the Self, and the museum’s shifting focus on the complexity and identity of its audience. Smith’s essay, titled “Generation Why?” is largely a critique of The Social Network, a film released earlier this fall about the founding of the online social network, Facebook. Smith’s critique leaps beyond the content of the film to comment on our current society and the increasing importance we place on defining ourselves, as a seemingly increasing portion of this definition comes in the form of the people and things we collect and give preference to in virtual space.

As a class, we have discussed the role of Facebook in our society and our roles as virtual participants, like those discussed by Nina Simon in The Participatory Museum. Simon describes “The network effect,” the underlying concept of social networks, and our various levels of participation, “whether as creators, critics, collectors, joiners or spectators.”

By participating in social networks, in some ways, we are individually creating prescribed-format museums of self. We curate, update, and maintain them. We may create micro-communities with other individuals who share interests and ideas to which we relate, but we increasingly isolate the ‘self’ because we interface with software to a greater extent than the people to whom we are connected in social space.

Connection may be the goal of social networks, but decreased privacy, perhaps an evolved social norm, also affects how the self is virtually portrayed. And one’s expressed likes and dislikes allow for for marketing to be streamlined to his or her self-proclaimed preferences. In this way, we are viewed as individual consumers. Likewise, The Century of the Self reveals the shift from ‘need’ to a ‘desire’ based society.

In her essay, Smith also briefly discusses Jaron Lanier’s book, You Are Not A Gadget. She writes that, “Lanier is interested in the ways in which people, ‘reduce themselves’ in order to make a computer’s description of them appear more accurate.” We are aware that we self-edit for online portrayal and that our number of virtual friends is not an accurate reflection of our actual friends, but it is important to question our awareness of how the software affects us. Software is not neutral, and it is possible to consider that for most of us the lines begin to blur between our reduced, edited selves and our reality.

It is possible to consider that our selves which display our collections of friends and things we like are devoid of the richness of our actual lives and interpersonal connections.

In his publication, Do Museums Still Need Objects, author Stephen Conn wrote about how museums have generally adjusted to changing cultural atmospheres and he concluded that although they may no longer require physical objects to tell their stories, objects endure and offer a rich and unparalleled visual experience all their own.

Likewise, I think that virtual social space cannot offer the same quality of personal connection and reflection found in shared cultural space.

Jayme Elterman

Bill Moggridge wrote a book… and he’s giving it away for free.

A scenario from Dunne and Raby shows children growing meat to provide energy to operate a TV. <em>Photo</em> Jason Evans

A couple weeks ago, I attended  a lecture by Mr. Bill Moggridge, Director of the National Design Museum. It was an interesting albeit short lecture on what he finds interesting about curatorial design, as well as how the Design Museum looks to keep up with the trends of participatory and accessible exhibits. He currently has a new media committee trying to make the museum more available online. He has also written a book titled ” Designing Interactions” which highlights the different ways that artists and designers have been creating interactive and participatory technology. There are interview videos and biographies for each of the interviewed artists  both online and on a DVD included in the book.  Better still, he has offered this book FREE for download, either by chapter or in its entirety.

There’s some pretty great stuff here, and  I thought it would be of some interest to the class. http://www.designinginteractions.com/book

Jess Peterson

Not So Fast

I read this article  – ‘Not So Fast’ by John Freeman a few weeks ago and considering our ongoing discussions about the use of new media and specifically the internet by museums I think it is very relevant. Though it doesn’t discuss the museum context as such it looks at the increasing speed of communication and impersonal nature of social interactions. These two elements, communication and social interaction are vital for any museum so I found it interesting to apply the thought process presented in this article to the discussion around internet use in and beyond the walls of the museum. There is one statement that I found particularly profound: “Attention is one of the most valuable modern resources.” This is surely true if we consider the amount of time and money various businesses and institutions spend on fighting for it! And yes, it does seem to be in short supply as we waste it continually on unimportant information. The little attention we have left is then spread thinly over too many things leading to shallow understanding and a lack of reflection. I believe that museums (and other cultural institutions) are the places where this resource can be cultivated and replenished. Far from needing to keep up with the speed with which we function these days, museums should be places where we can slow down and think.  This is not to say that the internet should not be used at all. I think it has the potential to be used in ways that can encourage reflection and ultimately restore our ability to focus and learn rather than deplete it.

RH

The Met’s Digital Conversion

Midterms have been upon us for the last few weeks, and sometimes you just realize that your head is on backwards during those times. Two days before my 5 page comparison paper between two objects at the Metropolitan Museum, I realized that not only had none of my pictures turned out well enough to find them reliable, but my notes had mysterious vanished into the abyss of my desk.

I freaked out, much to the amusement of my roommate who decided to watch with a grin for a few minutes before asking why I didn’t just look up the objects on the Met website.

As a way of turning their collection “inside out,” the Metropolitan Museum has been working on putting objects on display virtually. Although in this way, you aren’t able to actually pick up the object and view it from all angles, it gives the general public the ability to zoom up as close as they want on the object in dramatic detail.

Although I’m not the biggest advocate of putting technology absolutely everywhere possible, and think that museums need to think long and hard about their collections and audiences before making drastic changes, I think the Met’s digital conversion is an amazing step in the right direction of intertwining the past, present and future museum experiences. Now viewers from around the world are able to connect with art in a way that they were not able to previously, all from the comforts of their own home. The objects do not risk being damaged through being viewed digitally by thousands of people. And honestly, it’s just plain fun. I can just imagine the hours that could be spent by our tech-savvy youth zooming in reallyreallyreally close and then back out again, seeing every detail in the photo.

On top of the photo aspect, each of the objects’ information, provenance and descriptions are available. That way, the viewer is able to get a full museum experience and gain deeper knowledge about the object which may not be made as available in person.

Kadie Yale

Why Design Now? Asks Cooper Hewitt of the Web-World

The National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan has been exhibiting “Why Design Now?,” a look at the most contemporary designs of contemporary culture. With designs ranging from social design to architecture to pop culture to health services, the expanse of objects is staggering.

Supplementing the exhibition was their Why Design Now? conference on October 1st, put on by Cooper Hewitt and GE. During the day-long event, speakers from the vast array of design fields took the stage to present their innovations and interact with the audience in a live forum which encouraged discussion. Although the conference was bounced around through a series of subjects, one aspect was always in focus: the technical applications used to bring the conference to a world-wide audience.

A support team of camera men dashed around the lecture hall, streaming live across the internet to an audience that was boasted at three times the live attendance. Through the simple concept of airing the conference live on the world wide web, Cooper Hewitt’s exhibit passed the realm of only being able to cater to the small community who show up at its doorstep every day to create an international interest, allowing those who would not otherwise be able to make the trip to it’s 5th Avenue location to take a peek at what they have to offer.

This was not without some difficulties, though. As Adam Bly, Founder and CEO of SEED Media Group was at the platform explaining his company’s new online design forum, the server suddenly stalled, attempted to reload, and crashed, prematurely ending his speech for the day and leaving the audience unable to view his work. The reason?-many in the online community watching the feed had, in that moment, opened a new tab to view the page for themselves, causing the webpage to be too overloaded. It was joked that this is what the power of instant information can do, but in the end, I couldn’t help but feel that Mr. Bly had his moment in the sun at the forum taken away too soon.

Another technological detractor from the conference, which was installed for the purpose of better spreading the Why Design Now? message, was the live Twitter wall across the left side of the room. Artistic bouncing speech bubbles flipped and spun around each other, displaying the online public’s reactions to the conference. It was an interesting, yet distracting, forum of public opinion and discussion, ranging from complex questions towards the speakers to simple quotes. A particularly well-spoken thought would, within minutes of being said live, fill the Twitter wall, showing the audience which comments had the most impact on those watching from their own desks.

Although technology has its downsides, in the end, I appreciated the steps that GE and Cooper Hewitt took to create a more open, universal network for their exhibit. It made me feel as if I were a part of something bigger, and that the lines of communication to the outside world had been opened to create the discussion around the globe: “WHY design now??”

Kadie Yale

Brooklyn Gets Participatory

Last night in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, the first ever Nuit Blanche “White Night” was held in New York City. This festival of lights, which has been held in areas around the world such as Atlanta, GA and Paris, France, allows artists and designers to display their light creations on sides of buildings, in warehouses, and throughout sidewalks, playgrounds, and street corners.  The festival combined artistic expression with technological outputs and showed the potential creativity that could be reached with the blending of the two.

The most interesting (and relevant to our class) option they had at the event was a participatory project.  Visitors to the celebration could download an application, similar to most museum styles we see today, and create their own designs that would then be projected onto the buildings.  It was a great way to allow the visitor to feel creative, important, and instrumental in the success of Nuit Blanche.  The picture below shows the steps required for participation.  It was a great event, and an even better way to get people involved in both art and the community!

Ryan Massey

Guggenheim ‘Labs’

I recently found this article about the Guggenheim’s attempts to reach a wider, more diverse audience and I felt it really speaks to the discussions we have been having about museum transparency and community interaction.

YouTube- one of the most visited sites on the Web has joined forces with the Museum to allow participants a chance to be included in an exhibition… “It’s all motivated by the same thing, to make what is on the walls here more compelling,” said Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

The initiative is such a great way to not only reach out to communities, but act as a dialogue-starter to spark change. It’s very refreshing to see an institution as highly regarded and world-renowned as the Guggenheim taking a stance on urban living complications and joining forces with its “audience” to solve the problem.

In regards to the wide-reaching possibilities this represents, imagine if other museums began taking part in Web-based dialogue…  The Brooklyn Museum and others have lead the way in participatory conversation, and their efforts have allowed their collections to be accessed and (most importantly) enjoyed by a much larger audience.  If other museums took the leap and began interacting with their visitors, the exchange of information between visitor and institution would be so rich and culturally important.  Museums would loose the often pompous and stuffy connotations and become true transparent institutions.

Ryan Massey

Esquire’s Augmented Reality

This month was Esquire Magazine’s Augmented Reality Issue. On the cover and throughout the magazine, picture codes known as Augmented Reality software were placed next to the featured articles. For example, Robert Downey Jr. had a code on the cover that he was selling. A male supermodel had a code next to the clothes he was wearing. Readers simply download AR Software to their computers and hold up the AR code to their webcam. Once the webcam registers the code, a video of Robert Downey Jr. in his interview pops up. A video of the Model modeling clothes pops up. These are not short clips. They run for a good three – five minutes. High –tech animations and graphics are of course included and by rotating the magazine at different angles, i.e. facing north instead of south, a different video pops up to talk to, entertain, and educate the reader.

The ease at which Esquire introduced Augmented Reality to the public struck me as something that Museums; particularly Natural History Museums can use to make their visitors more engaged. If they were to place these codes next to their still objects suck as earthen vases, traditional wedding costumes, or even primeval weapons, visitors can beep the codes located next to the objects and immediately watch a video of how they were used. For example, the Natural History Museum in NYC has a traditional Chinese Wedding Costume for a bride along with the Sedan Chair that she sits in. As accurate as those two items are, if I weren’t from Chinese heritage, I wouldn’t know the tradition and importance of the logic behind how the bride gets brought into the carriage. If a video can pop up immediately after scanning the adjacent AR code, visitors can be brought back to ancient China and see that the veiled bride has to be piggy-backed over a brazier on to the carriage by an older woman known as the matron of honor, that the bride was always sheltered with a red parasol and kerchief, and that the door of the Sedan Chair was always kicked open to chase away bad spirits that may have latched on the to bride before.

As these Augmented Reality codes can be beeped on any digital device, the Museum won’t have to worry about introducing a vast amount of technology into their actual exhibits. People can simply view these on their phones. Augmented Reality Codes and software can enhance the experience of viewing still objects!

Kelly Lo

Museums Under New Management. Yours.

Yahoo Ad at Times SquareOver the last decade museums have become increasingly focused on their audience, what it knows and what it desires. While the focus group and formative evaluation has been around for a long time, there is a new trend in museums to solicit and feedback a visitor’s ideas as an integral part of their experience ‘on the floor’ . This is rapidly becoming the most valued mode of interactive engagement. True to the very notion that these experiences are essentially anti-authoritative, there is no agreed upon terminology for what this new activity is. Common terms used are ‘user-generated content’, ‘public-curating’, ‘crowdsourcing’, ‘bottom-up planning’, ‘audience engagement’, ‘user-centered design’, ‘talkback’, among many others.

These ideas follow a general trend in society based on a constant re-definition the self through the objects and ideas we associate ourselves with (see earlier post on this topic). With the notion of personal self-fulfillment at its apex, this new sense of how our identity in constructed also re-defines how we as individuals relate to society on the whole. We no longer expect to identify with overarching ideas and desires of a collective, societal-level experience, unless we select to join that experience. In fact over arching ideas are treated as suspect ideology. For the last 40 years or so the commercial sector has been bolstering this sense of the self determining individual, desire and focus on the self with generations of products designed around an expectation that products and services will be personalized and responsive to individual customers needs and interests. (No matter that we as consumers we eventually become slaves to some company’s idea for who we are).  If museums have traditionally reflected ideas about society and transformed to keep pace with larger shifts and societal identifications than it can be assumed that museums must also necessarily change to reflect this obsession with self-definition.

Last week we began to explore how a range of social-networking technologies have emerged to meet this new desire.  The social network is essentially a device that builds on the processes of self-selection and personalization, placing the user at the center of his web-based world, filtering content and creating associations that reinforce the user’s sense of self. Following the Web 2.0 Summit, Facebook founder, Sean Parker relates his vision of the future of internet commerce and posits that very soon, if not already, information services (like Yahoo, Google, YouTube, MSN) will be outmoded by network services (like Twitter, Facebook, Ebay, Paypal)” as the core value of the internet. Sean says that “Collecting data is less important than connecting people.” and ” New economic value on the internet will not be generated by the search, but by the number of connections it generates”. In other words, it is not the content but the connections that count. Crowdsourcing and auto-generative processes that lend meaning generated by collective actions of individual users over the opinions of experts, has now become a new tool for the production of the museum experience. In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki asserts that a diverse crowd is often wiser at making decisions than expert individuals. The Brooklyn Museum took this idea to heart when they ‘crowdsourced’ their recent exhibition titled Click.

pyramid_n

Illustration by Nina Simon (museumtwo.com)

Nina Simon writes extensively on this topic of museums and how they relate to Web 2.0 technologies and social participatory experiences. In her post titled Hierarchy of Social Participation, she created the above diagram that illustrates five potential levels of a museum’s engagement with visitors. These range from passive receptivity at the bottom (most museum experiences) to collective social engagement in the creation of the museum experience (few but a growing number of museums). You could say that these emergent museums are “under new management”… that of the visitor.

It is interesting to try to imagine a museum that has no authoritative voice, no scholarly enterprise at its core, and perhaps no content of its own. This kind of museum would simply provide the infrastructure and the interface to connect visitors in a creative and generative process that aggregates an ever-changing and collectively produced content. The process itself and the feeling of being connected to other people becomes the experience. One commenter on Nina’s site likened this highest level of creative participation to that of a rave party. The Brooklyn Museum is a rapidly emerging as a pioneer in this area of Museum 2.0 exploration. It is not surprising that they also have regular, late-night, public parties in their exhibition halls after the curators and collections managers go home.

Tim Ventimiglia