Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication


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Thoughts on museums and digital in 2016

Selfie. By Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC-BY-SA https://flic.kr/p/nk9b1w

Selfie. By Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC-BY-SA

Instead of wrapping up 2015 I decided to make a list of topics that will get special attention from me in 2016. I don’t mention specific methods or technologies like AR, VR, Big Data, mobile solutions, Makerspaces, 3D-printing, etc. Instead I look at a few areas that are essential for digital transformation. To merge analogue and digital work practice presents the biggest challenge for museums in 2016, and if done successfully will enable the transition towards the postdigital museum.

(Ed. Jan. 12, extending section on ecosystem, Jan. 15 adding to last section The Big Challenge, Jan. 19 link to HBR).

Mapping the visitor ecosystem – and walking the last mile

Illustration: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY.

Illustration: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY.

Where physical meets digital and paying attention to the last mile: Mapping (and understanding) the visitor experience, and the ecosystem in which the visitor encounters the museum, will move museums one step towards the postdigital realm. As the visitor experience now has to be delivered through multiple channels in a coherent and relevant way, digital and physical must be considered as one:

”Understanding visitor journey also means understanding that a visitor’s experience doesn’t start and end with a physical visit to the Museum. The visitor’s experience starts before they arrive, exists during the visit and extends after they leave. It starts with anticipating, planning and discovering. The experience doesn’t end when the visitor leaves.Thinking about extending the visitor journey with digital channels also requires understanding where your visitors physically are at various stages of the journey, and the digital channels and content types that make the most sense at each stage. A journey may comprise many digital channels, designed to fit specific stages and information needs and types and contexts. They do not expect multiple digital experiences, but one seamless experience with information that hands off from one channel to another and that makes sense for what they need at each stage. Visitors expect information when they want it, how they want it, and specific to the purpose.”
Catherine Devine, The Museum Digital Experience: Considering the Visitor Journey

In this effort to embrace and to deliver the omni-channel experience, an experience that might not ever involve a visit to the gallery space, museums will need to re-think organizational structures and competences. They will have to move towards multi competence teams that master digital as well as physical spaces as well as social media, storytelling and extraordinary user experience design. In this team educators have to be involved.

And most important, mapping the ecosystem will identify the last mile, the end of the museum supply chain, where the visitor (or user) experiences the museum. ”While systems of records are key as they form the backbone of information and data activation, systems of engagement and the last mile of the information process are critical.” This is also where disruptive innovation needs to take place.

Challenge: Museums will have to think carefully about who will lead the omni-channel experience productions.

Rethinking photograph collections

Analogue and digital work practices collide: Photography today is conversation. In the age of social media it has become distanced from its predecessors, the material objects closely associated with memories, as it has spread across different platforms with complementary functions. As Professor Daniel Miller states it:

”Snapchat is the culmination of a movement more generally in photography from memorialization to communication.”
Daniel Miller, Photography in the Age of Snapchat, Anthropology & Photography No. 1. 2015.

When these conversations, public or private, make their way into museums there are several challenges arising. One is to preserve the character of the photographs in the new context, the formal social memory as it is created by the museum. A museum that strives to preserve the cultural objects in fixed forms ”as a way of maintaining its historical accuracy and authorial integrity…” (Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito in Re-Collection, 2014).

And given that ”Records and archives are devices used in the process of transforming individual memories into collective remembering” (professor Laura Miller in Rinehart & Ippolito, 2014) the problem becomes clear. The digital infrastructures of the museum, the databases harbouring our collective social memory and preserving digitized physical objects, are constructed to maintain fixity, ”the world in a bottle, separated from mundane worldly time, in which philosophical objects hand like stars in suspended eternity.” (Rinehart & Ippolito, 2014).

Preserving the social media photographs requires museums to revisit their collection policies, extending documentation and preserving this information in the collection databases, and understanding what needs to be preserved (and how) to accurately present photographs in the future (and then I haven’t even adressed, technological, legal and ethical issues, that will be for upcoming blog posts).

Here are some of my previous blog posts on photography, digital and museums:

It’s a visual world (2014): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/its-a-visual-world-blogg100/

Remixed photography awarded and on display (2011): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/remixed-photography-awarded-and-on-display/

Photography matters! (2011): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/photography-matters/

Challenge: Museums will have to re-think collecting, as well as preserving and disseminating photograph collections, an effort that will inform other fields within the museum. Please read more about topic at the website of Nordic project Collecting the Digital: From a Photographic Perspective.

Content

Prepare for omni-channel: Take content strategy seriously. When approaching the omni-channel world of museums, that require content adapted for physical, print and digital to be presented as a seamless experience, there is a strong need to prepare for new editorial efforts and skills. This area is important when moving towards the post-digital museum, as it requires skills that span across digital (social, mobile, web), print and physical spaces indoors and outdoors.

Challenge: As more content and skillful multimedia storytelling is required for omni-channel experiences, museums need to scale and coordinate their editorial efforts.

Organizational change

Moving towards a postdigital museum inevitably brings us to the topic of organizational change. Only by looking at the three areas mentioned above, user experience, collecting/disseminating photograph collections and content production we see several challenges, the need for new skills and competences when bridging physical and digital, the need to create and distribute content more efficiently etc. To withstand increased competition and to become a more flexible and responsive museum, adressing organizational change is a must in 2016.

Challenge: Identifying which parts of the organization that need restructuring, and implementing the changes.

The Big Challenge

For the past few years I have paid extra attention to the need for digital transformation in museums, and the rigid structures that prevent this change. Sensing that museums in many ways still are far from a strategic and sustainable response to technological changes, as Simon J. Knell concludes in Museums in a Digital Age (Ed. Ross Parry), 2010, the need to identify the road to success becomes even more important.

Spending the Christmas weekend reading Re-collecting by Rinehart & Ippolito I got more confident in my opinion that the challenges for achieving the postdigital museum lie not so much in the lack of catalysts, or competence or even strategy as in the built-in fear of change:

”…an institution’s plasticity is measured not by the sweeping innovations promised in its mission statement, but by the habits o fits everyday operations staffed by ordinary people.”

It’s about organizational culture, and acquiring a strong digital mindset. Rinehart & Ippolito come down quite harshly on organizational cultures that punish any missteps contradicting the museum’s often ad hoc rules, rules that prevail professional standards.

They even go as far as saying that the employees striving to ”climb up the ladder of their institution’s organizational chart…tend to reinforce the most conservative interpretation of their jobs.”

Supporting this theory are Harvard Business Review who in a recent post state that: ”The very best strategic leadership helps the entire organization understand that all of its choices result in the strategy that customers experience, creating a framework by which every person in organization makes the choices he or she needs to make.” Again, choice is here referring to the individual choices, among staff.

There is a point worth considering here. Many brilliant digital efforts have come from bottom up rather than top down, by individuals who have done outstanding work for their museums in terms of embracing digital. Indeed it has been in many ways, and still is, a path of ”…creativity, diversity, individualism and opportunism.” (Knell, 2010).

Which means that even though many museum leaders today do understand the importance and complexity of digital, truly moving towards the post-digital museum requires moving away from individual efforts (that can be supportive or not to the digital transformation), challenging rigid structures, changing work culture and embracing a digital mindset, perhaps some of the biggest challenges ahead in 2016.

Predictions for 2015

Last year I wrote this short blog post to highlight a few important areas for museums. They are still highly relevant.

 

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Rijksmuseum campaign on No Photography Allowed – some thoughts

Photo: Rijksmuseum.

Photo: Rijksmuseum.

The ongoing campaign at Rijksmuseum, banning photography (in a humorous way) and encouraging visitors to draw art, has caught the attention of media:

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam wants visitors to enjoy its collection of artwork the way it was appreciated in a pre-cellphone era, by leaving their devices and cameras at home. Through their #Startdrawing initiative, they’ve “banned” technology, encouraging people to bring their sketchbooks and draw the beautiful paintings, prints, and sculptures in front of them—as opposed to quickly recording it all on their phones.
My Modern Met

Rijksmuseum believes that media has devolved a visit to a museum into “a passive and superficial experience,” according to its website. “Visitors are easily distracted and do not truly experience beauty, magic and wonder. This is why the Rijksmuseum wants to help visitors discover and appreciate the beauty of art and history through drawing, so #startdrawing!
Huffington Post

An argument could be made supporting the claim that the curse of this generation is that in an effort to stay more connected, we are actually less connected than ever. As we busily doodle on our phones, we are missing the world around us and the present moment. Being so focused on our phones means we are distracted by our surrounds, by life as it passes us by.
SLR Lounge

So does this campaign achieve it’s goal? To encourage people to truly look at art? I am sure this will be a great success, by drawing attention to the art and the interaction with art. It’s a brilliant idea, in several ways. By adressing a much discussed topic of mobile phones, selfies, photography and museums, and by showing a different way of interacting with art.

However it is at the same time unfortunate to actually target people’s desire to take pictures in museums, a desire that obviously is very strong considering the amount of photos taken in museums every day. I am also afraid this will give support to anti-photography opinions.

To take pictures in museums, to walk around using the mobile phone, is one very important way of interacting with the museum. As I have looked into the Instagram photos taken by visitors at Nordiska museet it is clear that these photos are just one part of the personal Instagram feed. A feed that is in itself a narrative, the story of me. 

Depending on what kind of story the visitor wants to share with his or her audience, the photographic trail from the museum visit will look very different. Some take many pictures, some take one. Some put great attention to details, tell a story with the photos and sometimes include themselves through selfies, and others just take a picture of the building.

For museums it should be of great interest to further look into the Instagram feeds of their visitors, and into the photos taken and tagged at the museum. Which objects or exhibitions catch most attention of the visitors? How does the visitor include him or herself into the narrative? For the visitor’s own narrative is perhaps the most important aspect of the museum visit. So ask yourself: How does the museum fit into it?

The only story I am consistently interested in is the story of me, the one that I am “constantly writing, rewriting, editing and conspiring about.” It’s the one story that I am constantly tuned into all the time.
Sapient Nitro, India 

I think offering opportunities to interact with the museum in several different ways, like drawing the museum art, is a necessity. But don’t confuse visitors by removing their own tools for creating the story of me.

 

 


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Keep calm and write 100 blog posts – again #Blogg100

keep_calm_blog

So tonight I just will not have time to write a decent blog post. And I’m not even inspired to write a simple post, or to share other people’s content. My thoughts on the blog challenge so far this year:

  1. Yes i DO need a content calendar, as I have for accounts that I manage for others, and it’s not that time consuming to create one. No 1 on my to do-list.
  2. It’s certainly tempting to work more with other people’s content. Curating, commenting and re-blogging. And why shouldn’t I? There are so many brilliant people out there already producing great content.
  3. I should spend time planning, when I have time, not when I am too busy to even think about content.
  4. Writing intensely each day is a valuable lesson and it is a boost to develop thoughts on social media and museums.

 

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Blog post 11/100 #Blogg100-challenge


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Content and storytelling – are museums ready for it? #Blogg100

I think we all agree that museums are made for storytelling. The endless first hand sources of passionate, tragic, engaging and joyful stories cannot be found outside the heritage sector. Objects, documents and images are there to authenticate and enhance the stories. And digital isn’t new to museums, on the contrary. Today there are museums in the front line of digital innovation, and there are museums that aren’t quite yet there.

Regardless, the path to successful cross media storytelling is more challenging than anticipated. It’s about a number of things:

  • Digital and visual literacy
  • Communication skills across the organization
  • Social media skills
  • Storytelling skills
  • Knowledge-making – producing new knowledge from original sources
  • A clear overall communications strategy
  • Transparency and honesty
  • Regular and timely posting

And a few more things. Then it is also about:

  • Image editing and visual communications skills
  • Knowledge of copyright and Creative Commons
  • Long term planing for campaigning
  • Re allocating resources within the museum for content production and communication
  • Experts – whose expertise is communicated
  • Reallocating money for sponsored posts and premium services
  • Evaluation

But the most disruptive changes are probably:

  • Rethinking exhibition processes – to tie the stories across media together
  • Knowing the audiences – I mean really knowing (embrace Post Demographic mapping of audiences)
  • Mapping and mastering the public facing echo systems
  • Transforming the organization to better face the challenges of outreach in a social digital world
  • Working in cross departmental groups with many different skills
  • Real time communication – dialogue and responsiveness, not just scheduled content
  • Creating seamless experiences between online and onsite
  • Staying ahead – to be prepared for changes

Museums are storytellers, but in a traditional sense, primarily through exhibitions and printed books. The step towards truly mastering digital within the organization seems always almost out of reach, though tremendous progress is being made. What will it take to adapt to social digital? And is it an ongoing process that will never end, only evolve?

These are some first thoughts on the subject, that I will return to in some up coming blog posts.

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Blog post 9/100 #Blogg100-challenge


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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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Storytelling on Facebook #Blogg100

Märta Helena Reenstjerna.

Märta Helena Reenstjerna.

February 17, 1827: Saturday. A pig was slaughtered – the pots in the windows were frozen – I wrote, read the daily, unraveled some yarn and took a nap, then I was told we had visitors it was gentlemen Norlander, Salén and Norberg. The latter told me that my Cousin Cavalry Captain Sven Kafle had long been ill with nerve stroke and that he is weak and confused that he did not know to name some things right but with strange and incomprehensible words – His wretched wife is so foolish that she rarely thrives at his home and also their assets are fairly scarce.
//My translation from Swedish//

One of the accounts I follow on Facebook is publishing posts from a 16th century Swedish diary. The diary was originally written by Årstafrun, or Märta Helena Reenstjärna. It tells a moving life story about a woman living on a small estate just outside Stockholm, Sweden. Her life was certainly better than the ones of most people in Stockholm at the time, she was wealthy and has a beautiful home and gardens. She had a large staff taking care of her estate.

The diary reveals both happy and sad times. Happy when enjoying the company of her and her husband’s friends, happy when making small trips having picnics. And sad, or in fact deeply tragic times, when her children, one after the other die at young age from illnesses. Her only son reaching adulthood is struggling with alcohol abuse and is constantly in trouble. Finally he drowns on the lake a cold winter night.

The diary gives a unique insight in the life of a 16th century woman. The Facebook account was launched in January 2009, not by Nordiska museet where the diary is kept, but by someone else (I still don’t know who).

Musuems all over the world keep treasures like this, content that is perfectly suitable to be mediated through Facebook or other social media channels. Still we see very little of this kind of mediation.

I think it’s essential not to just give a voice to objects but to carefully plan and mediate stories like the way an exhibition would be planned. I do believe we will see much more of this kind of mediation – and would even online and social media perhaps be the prime channel for some museums in a not so distant future?

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