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

Check out the Squander Bug oh and the #SocialInterp blog!

squander is something we're not doing over at SI! (Image IWM EPH 4611: Squander Bug (a cartoon character to persuade people to avoid waste) air rifle target, 1940s)

A while back I announced that we had been awarded part of the NESTA R&D fund for a joint project with the Imperial War Museum(IWM), Knowledge Integration and our friends over at UCL CASA well we have well and truly started and are knee deep in agile project management, user centered design and puppy dog enthusiasm. So much so we have started a blog over at IWM Blogs, so all the project comings and goings whether they are good, bad or downright ugly will be posted in one spot from all of the project partners.  It should make a good read, and if not there are lots of pretty pictures, like the Squander bug!

I’ll post on here when there are updates, and will put a more personal spin on some of the posts.

For the past couple of days, I have been down on the gallery floor, hiding behind tanks and rockets whilst observing visitor behaviour, to get an idea of what type of behaviours we need to design for in the social interpretation applications.  What I really liked was that my feet, back and brain were sore by the end of each day, not because it was difficult, but because all the visitors were really engaged and did their best to fully explore the gallery space.  It was hard to keep up with them sometimes.  I can’t begin to imagine what I would have been like if I followed the visitor through their entire visit rather than just one gallery!

I’m in the process of writing up the findings from the observation sessions, which I will then post on the Social Interpretation blog, already there are some brilliant themes emerging.

Bring on the focus groups next week!