Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication


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Immersive theatre, cinema dell’arte and museums #MW2013 #Blogg100

A short video of Punchdrunk Enrichment’s flagship Primary school project ‘Under The Eiderdown’.

The closing plenary that yesterday ended the Museums and the Web 2013 conference in Portland, Oregon, efficiently summed up the exciting future ahead for museums. A future that literally requires removing boundaries between not only digital and physical, but between museums and other cultural and non cultural sectors. Also most likely redefining what a museum is, or should be.

The title of the presentation was What can museums learn from immersive theatre? and adressed the need to rethink and renew the core of the museum experience, exhibitions, by looking at immersive theatre for new ideas. Participating online was Diane Borger. Diane Borger is the producer who brought the theatre company Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More to the US in 2009 (http://www.americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/sleep-no-more). Sleep no more continues to play in New York today (http://sleepnomorenyc.com).

So what is Sleep no more all about?

Sleep No More is a theatrical experience (not a play, per se) that combines elements of Macbeth, film noir, and uses an abandoned hotel as the setting. The audience are all given white masks and instructed to remain completely silent throughotut the performance. Actors move about the hotel, up and down stairs, and scenes take place throughout the builidng over the course of a night. The performances build to a climax, but aside from that, you don’t really get any guidance on how to experience the night. Some people follow actors, some camp out in a space, all of which are extensively decorated and full of objects that reflect something about the plot. You can rummage around in desk drawers, open doors and wander as the events play out around you. Parties are encouraged to split up, and while I was there, I saw a couple actively separated by ushers and deposited on different floors as we rode the elevator up. Definitely not your typical night at the theatre.
Ed Rodley, Thinking about Museums

Sleep no more is an experience that puts the visitor out of his/her comfort zone, removes him/her of naturally safe surroundings such as other participants, includes more than two senses into the experience – the participants are encouraged to touch and interact with the settings. There are one on one encounters with the actors and there is a large portion of participation.

The idea of, by actually placing the participant in an environment that triggers emotions, fear, joy, surprise etc, is something that museums definitely should take a closer look at. To achieve this experience participation is central. For the visitor to be exposed and to loose control, but at the same time to be able to change the experience by reacting and in fact perhaps also acting.

Another very interesting project, similar in many ways to Sleep no more, is Cinema dell’arte in Denmark. It merges theatre with cinema and gaming! Take a look at this video and imagine the possibilities of merging digital with the physical experience and to put participation in focus: In museums.

Presentation video – Cinema dell’Arte from Cinema dell'Arte on Vimeo.

Cinema dell’Arte – Presentation for indiegogo from Cinema dell’Arte on Vimeo.

More reading on immersion and museums

Worlds within worlds: Immersion and museums, by Suse Cairns (2013-03-07)

On Sleep No More, magic and immersive storytelling,  by Seb Chan (2012-03-23)

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Blog post 032/100 #Blogg100 challenge


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Best of the Web Awards – nominations are open #Blogg100

Walker Arts Center

Walker Arts Center, Awarded Best of the Web 2012.

Best of the Web is an annual contest to recognize the best museum work on the web. The contest is organized by the annual Museums and the Web conference, that takes place in North America.

Sites are nominated to the Best of the Web by museum professionals from around the world and reviewed by a committee of peers.

Nominations are now open and last day to nominate is February 21 2013.

The categories where nominations can be made are:

Rich Media (audio/film/interactive)

These sites or applications make extensive use of narrative, animation, audio and/or video and complex interaction with content to move museum experiences out of the institution, into the realm of the user. Rich media content may be delivered as websites, immersive experiences, applications or downloadable content from an app store, streaming video-based sites or other website to computers, mobile devices, tablets, or some other digital platform. (NB some applications may be more suited to the mobile category below.)

Quality characteristics include:

  • Strong, original and appropriate content
  • Evocative and interesting use of rich media
  • Effective use of user interactivity
  • Links between online and on-site activities where appropriate
Beyond the Chalkboard, awarded in the category Education in 2012.

Beyond the Chalkboard, awarded in the category Education in 2012.

Education

These sites or apps teach a specific audience about a particular subject. They present material in an effective and relevant manner for engaging learning experiences, and provide depth of content. Educational sites may be sites designed by and for children. (This category does not include search engines and online databases: see Research/Collections Online for these).

Quality characteristics include:

  • Content for schools and teachers, and support for collaborative spaces for teachers to work together
  • Content for students of any age, and provision of collaborative work spaces for students
  • Interaction between museum staff and students, teachers, or educational groups of any level
  • Integration of experiences of ‘real’ visits to museum and the educational website
  • Provision of non-curriculum-based learning experiences and support of lifelong learning activities
  • Easily identifiable target audience and clear pedagogical strategy

Digital Exhibition

These sites or apps excel in presenting, interpreting, supplementing, and/or being important components of museums, providing rich and meaningful digital experiences. They may be a section of a larger museum website or be a collaborative project among institutions and/or individuals and communities associated with museums, based on exhibitions.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Effective use of multiple media formats
  • Innovative ways of complementing physical exhibitions or providing surrogates for physical experiences in online only exhibitions
  • New ways of representing museum processes and structures
  • Imaginative audience participation and engagement of different categories of ‘visitors’

Innovative / Experimental

These sites or apps make use of new digital publishing and presentation methodologies and emerging technology to provide innovative experiences based upon creative content and/or services. These projects are assessed less on the overall intended project success and more on their innovative objectives, originality and potential for development.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Creative, new, innovative uses of the web and digital media
  • Application of new web concepts, methodologies, and technological application to museum goals
  • Introduction of new/emerging technology to museum digital products
  • Experimental and creative uses of emerging technology
  • Uses of technology that offer new possibilities for further development

Long-lived

Some projects stand the test of time, well. This category rewards a museum (or museum organization) that has shown a long-term commitment to an excellent online presence, of any kind. It’s not a popularity contest, but a chance to celebrate sites or web services that have been reinvented and evolved with their audiences and with new technologies. Their longevity embodies the power and effectiveness of sustained and innovative online engagement.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Adapted to current user behaviours, technologies, platforms and channels
  • Creative reuse of content, contributing to museums’ understanding of how to cross-purpose and repurpose assets to attain greater longevity
  • Sustained use by and engagement with site visitors
  • Reliable and consistent quality
  • Continued growth in available resources over time
  • Ongoing organizational commitment to long-term site development and use
  • Alignment with the vision and long-term strategy of the sponsoring institution

Mobile

Sites or apps designed and developed in a truly novel and experiential way for the mobile device, such as a media player, gaming device, smart phone or tablet, e.g. iPhone, Android, iPad, etc. They may be stand-alone Apps, web-based sites, or downloadable tours and could integrate other technologies that enhance the mobile experience, such as GPS, Augmented Reality, computer vision or QR codes.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Efficient and effective use of mobile formats and interaction possibilities
  • Accessibility of content on multiple platforms
  • Current / updated content
  • Creative ways of presenting content and navigation interfaces
  • Integration with social media and on-site experiences where appropriate
  • Ease of use for experienced and novice users

Museum Professional

Sites developed to serve museum professionals and meet their specific requirements, such as administration, exhibitions, education, public relations, registration, collections management, communities of practice, knowledge exchange, and/or standards and resources bank.

These sites may be reference resources, products, program or educational resources that are used in professional work and study, such as reports of conferences, pre-publications, reviews or technical literature. They may also be multi-site indexes and finding aids that collocate resources critical to the professional community. (This category does not include search engines and online databases intended for research; see Research / Collections Online for these).

Quality characteristics include:

  • Contribution to the museum profession as a whole
  • Support for the distributed activity of a consortium or group of museum partners in ongoing collaborations
  • Fostering innovative projects that help in the development of technology and media in museums
  • Valuable online forums and discussions that engage museum professionals
  • Software, guidelines, templates and packages tailored for museum professional needs
  • Fostering discussion, discourse, and debate among museum professionals

Research / Collections Online

Sites that support or present research about or using museum collections and/or that provide excellent resources for researchers in any discipline. They may be online databases, search engines or APIs that provide detailed museum information for individuals and/or groups.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Ease of use for both experienced and novice researchers
  • Accuracy and depth of content
  • Consistency of material
  • Currency of links and updates
  • Extensive links and references to other related resources and sites
  • Creative use of APIs
  • Mashups/integration of multiple data sources
  • Openness of licensing and availability of content for reuse
Kermadec, Best of the Web 2012.

Kermadec, Awarded Best of the Web 2012 in category Social media.

Social Media

Successful museums use social media to engage with their communities as part of their digital presence, both embedded in and reaching beyond each museum’s own website. The best uses of social media reflect a co-ordinated strategy of continuous user involvement and response, and maintain the museum’s diversified voice and identity across multiple platforms, including third-party sites and interactions, dedicated sections of a museum’s own online spaces, or social media embedded throughout a site.

Quality characteristics include:

  • Exploring user contribution, user created content, dialogue, and real interactivity (reciprocity) in formats such as user discussions, crowdsourcing, contributed and collaborative content, personalization, location-based application, big data, shared data, or online communities
  • Robust ongoing participation and dialogue and/or active creation of user-contributed content
  • Engaging use of web and other digital platforms for collective activities
  • Evidence of a long-term coordinated strategy that responds and evolves based on user needs and input
  • Integration of social media in other products, for both onsite and remote visitors

Best Small Museum Project

The panel may make a separate award in any category for small museums/budgets, to explicitly recognise work from smaller institutions. These are digital projects that have been:

  • Created in-house or with volunteer effort
  • Mounted by small institutions (with 20 or fewer professional staff)
  • Created with very limited budgets (sometimes no budget)

If you feel a project merits consideration as being from a small museum, please explain why in your nomination. Small sites should be nominated in the appropriate category.

People’s Choice

During a pre-defined period, each user registered at mw2013.museumsandtheweb.com may cast one vote for a site to be recognized as the People’s Choice. The site with the most votes will be awarded the People’s Choice.

Best Overall Museum Project

Together, the Committee picks their “Best of the Web”. This award recognizes the outstanding nature of a digital project and its overall contribution to the institution, museum profession, and museum and archives informatics community. Quality of content, ease of use, accessibility and stability are all considered.

Learn from the best

One great benefit with Best of the Web is of course to reward great work within the museum sector. Another, perhaps even more important benefit from this contest is that peer reviewed digital excellence is available to anyone interested in developing great online presence in museums. By studying these awarded websites lessons can be learned and innovation can be taken several steps further.

Let the best websites and apps be nominated!

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Previous winners are listed on Wikipedia.


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Opening Plenary at MW2011

Opening Plenary at MW2011, by Kristen Purcell, Pew Research Center

Opening Plenary at MW2011, by Kristen Purcell, Pew Research Center

While attending the conference Museums and the Web, in Philadelphia, I try to take some time to reflect on the presentations.

My impressions are so far that I enjoy the conference just as much as previous years, and that it has taken us participants again one step further in the development of museums and the web.

I truly appriciated the Opening Plenary by Kristen Purcell, from the Pew Research Center in Washington DC. The title was Grounding Internet Information Trends, and was based on research in the project Pew Internet.

Kristen Purcell presented a few groundbreaking changes in the evolution of internet:

  • access to broadband
  • development of mobile devices
  • wireless internet
  • the evolution of social networking

Kristen Purcell also sees a growing use of geo-location services even if there are still only 17% of all adult internet users in the US who claim they use such services.

Another big step is the evolution of apps for mobile devices, according to the Pew Reaserach Center study. They are especially useful when they bypass search, answer questions, solve problems and help accomplish tasks. However, as Kristen Purcell pointed out, it’s difficult to ask these questions in the research study, since many people don’t even know if they own a smart phone or if it has apps installed.

Not knowing what an app is, or not having access to internet, is a sign of The digital divide, a topic that was constantly recurring in the Opening Plenary. At the same time information today is – as Kristen Purcell put it – portable, participatory and personalized. Both of these aspects of the internet and the way people recieve information, affect the way museums need to adress their audiences.

Kristen Purcell finished the Opening Plenary by giving some very good (and to some extent challenging) advice on how to keep up with the evolving internet and the changing demands of the audiences:

  1. Be a filter, a trusted expert (very much needed in the age of abundant information)
  2. Be a curator, a one-stop-shop and an aggregator
  3. Be a node in a network (your audience have audiences)
  4. Be a community builder, create new networks, share and respond
  5. Be a lifesaver, provide timely information
  6. Provide tour guides, use geo-location services to connect your content with real world locations

Perhaps the most challenging, as I see it, would be the one-stop-shop approach. I believe this will set museums off in a new direction. The audience expectations are already constantly changing, but this will demand for more creative and innovative strategies by museums. Being a one-stop-shop is also connected to being a lifesaver, that is – as I see it – being relevant to the audience to a much greater extent than we are today.

The advice for museums presented by Kristen Purcell is one of the things I will bring back home from MW2011. I am also looking forward to see how other will respond to the challenges in the year to come.


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Opening plenary

The opening plenary at MW2010 was presented by Brad Feld, Managing Director of Foundry group. It was a most inspiring presentation, focusing on how to boost creativity through moving outside the regular comfort zone to learn and get inspiration, and through putting creativity first and not let budget restraints suppress great ideas.

Plan ahead for new technologies
Brad Feld encouraged the MW2010 participants was to ”think in 20 year acts”. Take a long view when planning for technology. To many this might seem a little difficult, what do we know of new technologies even five years down the road? The point is that if we just sit and wait for a new technology to arrive innovation and creativity will slow down significantly. We all need to contribute to the development of new technologies, if only with ideas.

Don’t let budget constraints suppress creativity
Resources and budgets is another area to keep in mind when developing and mediating digital assets. Resource constraints exist. However, Brad Feld reminded us, many innovative companies have started off with no resources but a bunch of creative people, In projects its easy to feel constrained by limited resources, however low budget does not constrain creativity as long as you set up goals.

Get outside the comfort zone
Another important advice from Brad Feld was to get outside the personal comfort zone. To attend conferences like Musems and the Web is a great way to improve your knowledge, make new connections and to get inspired. Other ways of moving outside the comfort zone is to actually have an internship at another institution. be the artist in residence, or just a volunteer. Expose yourself to new stuff.

Break some glass
To move further ahead in our work at cultural heritage institutions we also need to more actively make choices. Don’t be afraid to throw away stuff that doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid to break glass. If something doesn’t work, even though it’s been granted a fair budget, it will always be more expensive to maintain it. Throw away and start over.

Know your customer
Last but not least, Brad Feld reminded us: Be your own customer. As he asked the audience what do we call our visitors, several people answered guests. With a quick response he then put us back on track again: Do you actually make your guests pay? Customer or client is therefore a more apropriate term. And so we also must achieve a full understanding of what makes the customer actually buy. If we haven’t got a clue, we’ll be likely to loose them in the long run.


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Observation I

ipad at MW2010So the iPad was hot news for the MW2010. Surprisingly only a handful of participants, out of more than 600, had one.  Many companies in the Exhibition hall had one, and two were even raffled to the joy of all participants (not that I did win any of them, but anyway).

But having had a close encounter with an iPad I must say I am very eager to get hold of one myself. It is handy in size, a little heavy but the screen is just excellent for displaying books, or interfaces mediating cultural heritage. The possibilities are endless.

As only a few participants had an iPad that was also an indication that it is still quite difficult to get hold of it in the US. The 3G version is not out yet. Rumours were that the Apple stores in Denver had sold out. It will be very interesting the see how the iPad makes its way to the next year’s conference, MW2011 in Philadelphia.


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Summarizing MW2010

The international conference Museums and the Web 2010 just finished and it is time to start summarizing the experience. Three important aspects of the conference makes it the no 1 in the world on cultural heritage and internet/digital publication:

1. Organization: The conference is extremely well organized and carried out smoothly

2. Speakers and content: The most up to date and ground breaking projects are presented by professional and competent speakers and usability labs, workshops etc. complement regular sessions.

3. Community: The conference has a growing community that, thanks to social media, is allowed to grow and flourish during the year to come.

Participants come from all over the world, though since the conference takes place in North America it is slightly anglified. It lasts five days, including conference tours and workshops. So starting with the opening plenary in my next post, I will try to cover the parts of the conference that I enjoyed the most.

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