New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: 3 Social Interpretation and QRator

3rd  post of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.

My Notes on both Jeremy’s and Jack’s presentations are brief as I know both projects pretty much inside out.

Jeremy Ottenvanger – Inbound Communications as a catalyst for organisational change

  • A tale of two fiefdoms- who is responsible for responding to VGC
  • Characterising online contributions:
  • personal: emotional, opinion, personal information, anecdotes, family history
  • requests and queries: object info, valuation, family history, digitisation and licencing, offering material, access, history, general/website
  • informational: new information, corrections
  • online comments tend to be more thoughtful than in-gallery comments online commenters have sought out the content, so already have a deeper engagement with those specific items, rather than just coming across them while moving through the physical gallery.
  • important issue of sustainability of VGC. How do museums resource it in the long term?
  • IWM trying to find an internal workflow that was appropriately responsive to online comments
  • A gap between two departments – collections access and digital media
  • Sources of value:
  • External mission value- giving people what they want
  • Engagement through UGC contribution
  • Internal mission value- strengthening the missions values
  • Shaping future services
  • IWM don’t have a plan. Yet.

Jack Ashby: The Grant Museum and QRator

  • A turtle is a turtle. That’s a fact. How can visitors participate in Natural History Museums
  • For the Grant Museum the act of participation isn’t enough. It has to have a more in depth levels.
  • Are museum visitors unwitting guinea pigs?
  • allowing content to go live post-moderated
  • Both Areti and Jack raised issues about the subjective nature of moderating VGC.

Joy of Text and Digital Labels?

It’s often the case at conferences that I feel like I’m preaching to the converted.  I’m always surrounded by like minded people, who are enthusiastic and ‘get’ digital technology and what it can do to transform experiences.  But then you start to think, what if I’m only really talking to a bubble, a cool exciting bubble, but a bubble nevertheless.  So it was fantastic to be asked to speak at the Museum Association Joy of Text Event.  The audience all had notebooks, not the Mac kind, you know those paper and pen thingies? At most conferences I go to, notepads and pens are non existent. This was a very different crowd.  In fact, it is probably the crowd that we really need to be talking to in order to highlight how and where and why digital tech in museums can and should be used.
Jane and I were there to wax lyrical about the potential of digital labels.  We ended up playing good cop bad cop about digital interactives in gallery spaces.  Using Social Interpretation and QRator as examples.  Jane and I had different ideas about slides, she cringes at mine, and I cringe at hers. So our slides are a bit higgledy piggledy, but we managed to get our point across.  It’s not about the technology, it’s about the experience.  Focus on content, your visitors and the experiences you want them to have.

It was an interesting conference, and I was really pleased to hear that the speakers all agreed that there has been a culture in museums of writing text, for text sake. Text is not always the most appropriate form of Interpretation.  Lucy Harland made a fantastic point right at the beginning of the day, stating that text should earn its place in the social dynamic of a museum gallery space. Museums should think seriously about how they choose to communicate with words and whether this is always the best way to convey meaning.  It’s quite interesting that you can swap out the word ‘museum’ in that sentence an replace it with ‘academics’ and the same thing applies. Choose what to say and say it well. These were the two key messages from the day.  It’s a nice mantra for all public engagement really. Digital or not.

For a nice concise round up of the rest of the day check out Ellie Miles Blog

QRator and Museums and the Web

I am in recovery from conference fatigue, mixed with a head cold and jet lag from the Museums and the Web Conference in San Diego last week. It was a brilliant conference that brought together some fabulous museumaholics working on some really interesting projects.  Despite suffering from a rather bad dose of cold, turning my voice into that of a duck’s and a fever that struck me out for the middle day of the conference, there was still a lot of interesting projects to be seen, heard and discussed. I’ll be posting my notes from the conference over the next couple of days.

But first, Steve and I presented some of our work on QRator in the Next Gen Mobile Applied session our slides are below.

It was really nice to get some feedback about our work, and to see what people thought.  One point that I hammered home was the success of QRator is down to the Grant Museum staff, trusting their visitors.  I’m getting more and more passionate about this point.  Every museum related meeting I go into, I have the same conversation again and again, it has to do with museum authority, visitors lacking in that same authority, and giving visitors tools to write what they like, means that they will abuse that trust.  Just because they can doesn’t mean they will.  QRator is a fantastic project that encourages a positive relationship between museums and visitors, where visitors are actively involved in creating the museum displays.  For me the best museum experiences, are ones which not only make you think, but inspire you to want to engage in the topic, QRator does exactly that.  Yes I might be bias.  But the visitor contributions speak for themselves. Visitors are actively choosing to engage with the questions posed on the QRator iPads.  Being able to stand up in front of a conference load of museum people and talk about this, made me really happy.

Podcastic: The Global Lab (featuring me!)

I’ve been gibbering on about digital humanities, museums and digital technology on the brilliant Global Lab podcast.  You can donwload it via RSS, iTunes or download the .mp3.  You can almost hear my over enthusiastic hand gestures!  I even managed to nearly knock over the microphone, but thankfully that has been edited out.  So if you want to hear what I sound like, rather than read me, there you go. I mostly spoke about the QRator project which is a collaboration between CASA and UCLDH.

The Global Lab podcast is about cities, spatial analysis, global connectivity and the impact of technology on society produced by two brilliant chaps from CASA; Steve and Martin.  Its very good listening for train journy’s and to whip out anecdotes in dinner party conversations. Check it out

QRator installation day timelapse

Saturday 12th March saw the installation of loads of iPads into the Grant Museum.  Interestingly we had to do it in partial darkness as the electricity to the building was out. But regardless things went relatively smoothly.  It also gave me the opportunity to make my very first timelapse video! I am very excited about this.  I followed a couple of tutorials from Digital Urban and I managed to turn my iPhone into a timelapse camera using  a free ‘Gorillacam’camera app.  Set to take snaps every 10 seconds.  I set the application running at different locations, because I couldnt actually find a brilliant spot to film from. The output of 1600×1200 jpgs added to Microsfort movie maker and the movie was made really simply, getting it on You Tube was a faff, but here it is.  The Music comes from KtA over on unsigned mp3.

its a bit wonky, but I enjoyed giving it a go… I can see a lot more timelapses appearing on here.