This week I had the pleasure of being back up in my home town for the Bits 2 Blogs conference. Bits2Blogs is an annual event for anyone working in the North East cultural heritage sector, it was great to see and hear a regional spin on new ideas and new technologies to engage audiences. Particularly in a region which is dealing with horrible governmental cuts to arts and culture. The focus on best practice on innovative digital projects saw topics range from some pretty nifty mobile apps, through to vanishing soundscapes and creating meaning from archives processes. And to add some extra sparkle there was the addition of Flip-Flopping and Crapjects. What more could you want in a conference!? Here’s the condensed version of my notes.
Leave the Phone at Home!
Jason daPonte is a brilliantly inspiring speaker. Fact. He’s very good at highlighting the point that staring at a mobile phone screen instead of the surrounding environment is unnatural. You should always use the device that comes most naturally to the interaction. This is not mobile phones. We all seem to be obsessed with mobile applications, mobile web experiences. But really what is awesome is standing in front of the object in the gallery. Jason’s talk really reminded me of something Bruce Wyman said at MW2012 “Design for verbs” design experiences for specific interactions you want people to have. Because the value of the interaction is critically important. Jason talked about
Jason discussed the ways museums need to consider the futures relating to mobile media. Or lack of future , instead focusing on subphones where he underlying phone functionality is embedded in other things, and the silent conversations of the Internet of Things. So forget unnatural interactions on your phone, and start thinking about playing tag with hoodies (check out Neighbourhoodie);or embedding the ability for the oyster card to refund you if you are more than 15minutes late on the tube; or even Clothes hangers in C&A which tells shoppers how many people have liked the item of clothing on Facebook.
Jason hit home that working across platforms won’t be about web, mobile and tv. It will be about delivering contextual content and services in the most relevant places for users. Competition for attention will be via ambient media.
Three key points:
- Designing visibility
- Make things simple and just work
- Gather data and create meaning out of it.
Representing Sound Visually
Ian Rawes from London Sound Survey talked about vanished soundscapes and the importance of presented sound data well. Just because you’ve got good sound recordings on your website doesn’t mean your site visitors will necessarily listen to them. While a good content description is essential for sound archivists (check out the fab Content summaries BL sound and moving image catalogue) they’re not particularly attractive to the casual listener so how about creating some sound maps (look at BL UK sound map) and invest time in getting people browsing sounds, something like how BBC Radio provides journalistic teasers, photos and other extras on their pages.
Starting Somewhere and making smaller, faster changes
Andrew Lewis, from the V&A reflected on the development of the V&A’s digital strategy over the last 18 months and the realities of implementing change. I really enjoyed Andrew’s talk, I do love me a bit of institutional change chat. the V&A has attempted to not be a ‘giant ship that’s hard to turn’ and adapt to the changing needs relating to digital. Andrew talked about how the V&A doesn’t want to be a giant ship with lots of little (organisational) silos that’s hard to turn but an institution which can adapt to the changing needs relating to digital. He presented a list of key themes to think about when working with digital strategy’s and making change happen:
- Be audience focused
- Use open data driven as default
- Mobile first
- Use shot planning cycles and defined product lifespans
- Make faster, smaller changes
- Be prepared for some Tough Love: Change requires hard decisions and effort
What on earth is Flip-Flopping?
The flip-flop is a term from the writer Robin Sloan and defined as: ” the flip-flop (n.) the process of pushing a work of art or craft from the physical world to the digital world and back again—maybe more than once.”
Dominic used the example of 3D printing to get his point across. Museum have been digitising physical objects for some time both in 2d and 3d. But now that 3D printing is becoming more accessible museums have the potential to re-materialise these digital objects in interesting ways, and avoid creating ‘crapjects’ (rejects and misprints from 3D printing). Greg Petchovsky’s work focusing on mixing digital sculptures with real objects is a great example (see cracking video above).
But what does this mean for authenticity, value and Walter Benjamin’s aura? As media becomes increasingly transient from physical to digital and back again does its meaning change? Is the meaning lost?
Dominic then went on to discuss starting to see a marketplace for 3D objects, but if there is a market there’s a potential for pirating. Is this a bad thing? Really? Museums have a tendency to turn a bit Gollum like and not let go of the ‘precious’ objects with a fear of something like fake Disneyland. What does it really mean when visitors can scan a perfect copy of your objects on their phone? How can museums make this work in their favour?
Rachel Clarke from Culture lab talked about exploring the qualities of digital representation through sensory & aesthetic experiences of objects. Two of the projects Rachel discussed really stood out for me:
- The Whispering Table, a gorgeous installation where the technology wasn’t retrofitted onto the objects, instead the objects were carefully designed around the technology.
- and a project dealing with Personhood and dementia- reminiscence, reflection and celebration by Jayne Wallace
Ultimately Rachel hit home that Digital processes change how we engage with objects and we need to think a bit more about what this means and the impact this has on our relationship to/with objects.
Ben Templeton, from Thought Den talked about the creative process and the practicalities of three pretty awesome digital projects which all focus on playful learning: Wildscreen Arkive’s Survival app, Tate’s Magic Tate Ball, and Bristol Zoo’s Zoom.
Some key points in my scribbly notes:
- Content is king: Think long an hard about what the stories are. If you are asking visitors to unlock content its important to unlock good content. Unlocking needs to have an adequate reward. Magic Tate Ball is brilliant because it focuses on stories, the contextual awareness. The human angle of interpretation is key, but this can take time and effort. Be prepared.
- Test everything with users! User Testing is always talked about and advocated for but actually rarely done in practice. Why? It can be done cheaply and quickly, and even a little bit of testing is better than none at all.
- Simplicity is the way forward.
- Design in order to take the visitor/user on a journey
- Making a fuss come launch day is a really good idea. And Launch isn’t just the day it goes live, it has a long tail. It is worth the effort.