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:
- Be a filter, a trusted expert (very much needed in the age of abundant information)
- Be a curator, a one-stop-shop and an aggregator
- Be a node in a network (your audience have audiences)
- Be a community builder, create new networks, share and respond
- Be a lifesaver, provide timely information
- 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.