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Design research

Last week, I ran the final workshop with paticipants from Designmuseum Danmark, thus completing my empirical research. Once again, I used my ’concept dominos’ to illustrate the themes in the discussion, but this time the session worked more like a focus group or group interview than an ideation workshop. Still, the workshop produced some interesting ideas as well as some great discussions, answering most, but not all of my questions, as the debate followed other paths worth pursuing instead.

I had transcribed the recordings of the last workshop almost verbatim (however only noting intonations, pregnant pauses, background affirmations etc where significant); a lengthy process but a very informative one, as it forced me to listen closely. I noted, for instance, how digital media was at times discussed in specific terms referencing technologies and services, but also often referenced with vague notions such as ’the digital’, or with the ubiquitous ’app’ standing in for any kind of mobile service. Hardly a revelation, but still it was interesting to capture how open ended our wordings and how fuzzy our concepts of media and technology often are. This is not to imply that the museum communicators did not know what they were talking about, they surely did, but only that it is hard for anyone to navigate this wide, multi-facetted, ever-changing jungle of new media, let alone to ask that museums can leverage its potential for mediation meaningfully and succesfully.

Having reproduced the whole workshop in written form also allowed me to do a first rough ’coding’, identifying some of the themes and ideas, in preparation for the final workshop. While the questions opened were manifold, still I only made minor changes to my original plans, as I mainly wanted to stick to the issues that we had not had the time to address in our first meeting.

Some of the points made inspired me however to extend my deck of dominos with new perpectives such as ’the curator’s glasses’ and the notion of fashion as the ’little sister’ within the fields of design and cultural studies. However, only a few of these came into use in the final workshop, and I actually found that as the deck had grown, I sometimes struggled to find the appropriate cards to support the discussion. Therefore, during the workshop, the tool sometimes became a distraction for me as a facilitator, and perhaps also for the participants at times when the presented images where not quite right for the questions I raised. In this way, I would say that the dominos still served their function, but functioned less well in this second iteration, perhaps surprisingly, as I had already tried them out once before. Still, as I am experimenting with methodology in this project, falibility is part of that package.

And in terms of outcome, the workshop was a success. Even though there were more topics I would ideally have liked to address, still I got what I came for and more. And although at the end of the workshop I could sense that my participants’ engagement was starting to wane, my clear impression was that they too have found our conversations useful and inspiring. Yet as was also a topic in the discussion, turning ideas and ambitions into practice is not easily done, when the day to day workload is already stretching ressources.

Half way status

With the completion of my empirical research process, I am halfway through my project. 19 months in, to be exact. I can say that now, almost without twitching, although it took me a while to embrace the fact that I am no longer ’in the beginning’ or ’a little over one year into’ my project. Half way. And the good news is that I am realising that it is not only in terms of time spent, but also that even if my research so far has been very divergent, and although I still haven’t started writing my thesis proper, I have in fact done and thought and learned a lot.

To get started on the thesis, I have gathered my writing to date into a very raw script, structured around my draft disposition. Actually I started by simply collating all my blogposts and papers into a document, and although it may sound silly, it was really encouraging to realise that in fact it added up to a whooping 70.000+ words. (And that’s not counting all my notes, 50-odd pages of transcription, abtracts submitted to PhD courses and conferences, lecture notes and slideshows, status reports and supervision updates, applications for funding, admin blah blah and all the other stuff I’ve been writing over the past 18 month). I’m making a note of it here to remind myself that I have in fact been productive, something I have a tendency to forget when in bouts of panick induced procrastination.

Of course, only a fragment of all this text might actually be usable in the final thesis, the rest is really just an extended note system, and quantity is no measure for quality of content. But still I have that, rather than 200 blank pages. What’s more, there are actually some interesting thoughts in there, which I look forward to exploring further when transforming sketch ideas into academic arguments. Which of course is where the real hard work lies.

Reading through a recently defended (but not as yet publicised, hence the omitted reference) PhD thesis within my field has also been very informative. Even though I plan to write a monographic thesis rather than an anthology, as this was, it has given me a clearer idea of the scope and level of the genre, and to my great comfort, it seems within reach, provided said hard work.

The theoretical framework used and the insights presented in the thesis and comprised articles were all familiar to me; in fact I found myself worrying whilst reading that the points I was hoping to make were all being made here, making my own contribution obsolete. Most notably, the call for a greater level of technology criticism, or questioning of the default association of digital technology with democratic museological advancements, is also a driving force in my own research. Then again, my project is also so very different in so many ways, that it shouldn’t be a problem; I trust that I can add ye another perspective to this  debate.

And actually, the fact that this thesis so clearly demonstrates the effects of (Danish) cultural policies on (national) digital museology, perhaps means that I can skip lightly over making this connection in my own thesis, referring to this research (and its sources) instead, and moving on to the problem areas that are of special interest to me.

On Tuesday, the Nordes13 conference was dedicated to workshops, taking place at STPLN in Malmö. I had opted for the Experimenting with Design Experiments workshop, focused on ‘understanding of the underpinning mindsets, epistemological assumptions [of design experiments] and their implications as well as possibilities within the context of academic research.’ The workshop format revolved around the discussion of a series of dimensions, suggested by the organizers, related to the overarching concepts of involvement, control and purpose.

Nordes13 worskhop Anna Rylander, Dagny Stuedahl, Ramia Mazé and Timo Rissanen in conversation

Nordes13 worskhop
Anna Rylander, Dagny Stuedahl, Ramia Mazé, Dagmar Steffen and Timo Rissanen in conversation

Although some of the dimensions (e.g. artifact vs experience, lab/studio vs. field) were a little stiff  to work with, they still offered a framework for exchange, and especially the plenary discussion led to some very interesting shared insights. Notions about expertise, and how to understand and work with the expertise of participants was one such topic, another interesting conversation addressed the roles, types and involvement of stakeholders, and the respective problems in having many stakeholders vs. working solo. The suggested dimensions also gave us a chance to reflect on the dimensions that were missing, such as the relation between subjectivity (so strongly present in design research) and objectivity (held up as the ideal in other traditions), and on given vs. emergent evaluation criteria.

photo

For me, the most inspiring part was the discussion around our apparatus; the methods, theories, motors and representations etc that we use to investigate our field. It was Dagny Stuedahl who introduced the notion of apparatus, but unfortunately I did not catch the reference. Her emphasis on the processual qualities of the apparatus however made me think of the difference between a hammer and hammering (my mental image being the tool of the silversmith, not the carpenter) – that it is not just the tool, but how you use it, and that the affordance of the tool therefore also depends on the user.

Speaking to my colleague Sara today, I also realised how this again relates to Latour’s notion of the shared agency / the network of man-and-machine, and there is of course also the common saying that when you hold a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

The metaphor of the hammer is however quite different from the looking glass suggested by the representation in the photo, where the relation is between lens and sight, and lens and looking (and of course the subject matter is also part of the relation). The hammer much more strongly suggests that we make something or change our subject matter, whereas the looking glass helps us reflect on the bias and partiality of what we see, the perspective we get of our field.

A very interesting paper presented by Jung-Joo Lee on Wednesday also reflected on the use and understanding of methods, suggesting that more analytic attention should be directed to the making phase of methods, rather than simply reporting on the name and template of the method and the data generated. (Lee, Jung-Joo ‘Method Making as a Method of Designing’ in the online proceedings: http://www.nordes.org/nordes2013/pictures/Nordes2013Proceedings.pdf) I look forward to reading the paper in full, as I am very keen to get down to describing and reflecting on my own methodology developed in this project.

Jung-Joo Lee presenting at Nordes13

Jung-Joo Lee presenting at Nordes13 – summary slide

My final take away was another great paper by Dagny Stuedahl and Sarah Lowe, relating ‘Design Experiments with Social Media and Museum Content in the Context of the Distributed Museum’ (also in the proceedings).

Dagny Stuedahl presenting

Dagny Stuedahl presenting – introductory slide

Their small-scale experiments with mediating museum matter via Instagram, their theoretical framework of the distributed museum (referencing Bautista and Balsamo 2011 (MW paper), but also reminding me of Proctor 2011 (also MW)) and not least their understandings around the notions of translation, alignment, enrolment and circulation of references, moving from the museum domain into the public domain of Instagram were super interesting and very relevant for my own research. However, despite valuable insights derided from the experiments, Stuedahl could report that museum practice had not changed, and that the output was still an app, not at continous engament on Instagram. Too bad.

At last, its time for the Nordes13 conference, starting yesterday with a very stimulating doctoral consortium. I have been looking forward to this opportunity to meet with peers and learn from seniors doing design research for a long time, as I do feel very out of the loop, being the only one to take this approach at my institution.

It was therefore very inspiring and informative to hear about the other doctoral participants’ projects, and of course also very useful to get some critical, constructive feedback on my own paper and presentation. But to be honest, it also made me panic a bit.

My concerns about being an outlier, and not really grounded in design research, were not put to rest, rather I was reminded of all the things I don’t know. The ongoing discussions in the field, the assumptions behind the different approaches, the programs, tools and methods. I mean, I know the basics, but really I have just been building my own method from the ideas that inspired me. And although experimentation is welcome in this field, I suddenly felt that I lack the understanding and the guidance to be able to explain what it is that I have been doing, and criticizing and situating my own research within the design field, let alone transfering it to the field of museology.

So even though I had a general thumbs up to my approach, for instance in using a visual journal as a tool for research, I still find it hard to answer to/ specify exactly what I have done with it that makes it designerly, or research quality, and not simply a few pretty pages in a notebook. (I’ve started a draft for another post about the journal, because I’ve put off trying to explain it for so long, and I really need to start reflecting on it properly, so I won’t go into that here.)

No to self (from Joachim Halse)

No to self (from Joachim Halse)

As for the other comments, I really wish I had recorded the response I had, because I was too busy engaging in the conversation to take down  notes, and so I might lose some of the good points that were made.

One significant overall comment, from Lasse Hallnäs, was the assertion that my project/scope was very broad. I’m still trying to work out what to make of it, as it is not a criticism I’ve had before (when discussing my project with my supervisors or presenting in other settings). I actually thought that I had managed to narrow it down quite nicely (in general) as well as pitching this short paper and presentation to this particular context. Either way, I will have to consider whether my project really is to ambitious or unfocused, or whether it is my presentation of it that is too unclear, leading to misreadings of my actual intentions- or perhaps a combination of the two.

One contributory factor is perhaps that researchers in this field might place a greater emphasis on the design research aspects of the project, thus also expecting it to make up a more substantial part of the project than I envisage, seeing the design process mainly as a tool for thinking, a methodological approach, whilst the main interest of and contribution of the project lies in the field of museology. And yet, I have spent a significant part of my project this far trying to grasp and develop this methodology, so really maybe something else has to give if I am to ground this properly.

Another interesting comment related to my explanation of the process by way of the ‘hermeneutic spirograph’. Henrik Svarrer Larsen (himself using a super interesting figure of the interelation between space and matter to consider the dialectic of part and whole) thus pointed to the problem in placing theories, methods and actions, which are very diverse categories, on the same level, and suggested reworking the model to suggest concentric levels, seperating motors from matter. He also inquired about what was at the center – my model described a neat circle in the middle, making me aware that the spirograph design I had picked as a rough appropriation of my idea, was far to orderly and complete, and did not truly reflect the more erratic, irregular process that is really taking place. A handdrawn spirograph would be a better representation of this. Which helped me see, that although the object of study is not given as an entity at the outset, it is brought into being as well as explored by the process, in the juxtaposition and exploration of the various aspects.

Still, even with this kind of constructive and insightful response, I got this feeling of having set out to sea in a homemade dinghy, and now it was starting to leak… I also realized that I had to be proactive and do something to amend the situation (as well as snapping out of my misery). And fortunately, today gave me the opportunity to do just that.

For starters, learning from today’s paper presentations and project exhibition that this field is tremendously diverse, bringing together researchers from multiple traditions, and that my experimentations are extremely conservative when compared to, say, fungi prototyping or the provocative ‘Abort’n’Go’ device, gave me some peace of mind. Surely I too can situate my research in this field. And I won’t be alone in finding it hard to pin down what I’ve done and what it all means -it seems to be par for the course.

And then I had a good chat with Tau, my former lecturer from ITU, who is working to complete his own PhD research into design as a critical practice. As i relayed my concerns, he suggested that I spend a period as a visiting researcher at the school of design, and introduced me to Troels Degn, head of research at the school of design. He seemed positive to the idea, and saw various possibilities for connecting with both design researchers, fashion researchers and other research groups within their faculty. I will of course need to discuss this with my supervisors, but to me this seems like a very constructive prospect in terms of both mentorship and networking.

Workshop with Designmuseum Danmark
This Tuesday, the day had finally arrived for my final workshop, with participants from Designmuseum Danmark. The workshop was designed to complete my three stage research process, but as it turned out, we got so engaged in the discussion that we ended up scheduling yet another workshop in a month’s time in order to be able to continue the debate. I am really happy with this outcome, not only because it means that will get a richer/fuller material for my continued research (and will still be able to complete my research this side of summer), but also because it reflects that the discussion was valuable for the participants too.

The purpose of the workshop was to uncover the museum professionals’ view on the possibilites for and problems in framing fashion outside the museum with mobile media, as their perspectives will inform my continued research into the museological matters of concern related to this issue. (The intentions behind and design of my three stage research design is described in further detail in an earlier vlog post and in this short paper for the upcoming Nordes13 doctoral consortiumResearching museum matters through design).

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Workshop II at Designmuseum Danmark with (clockwise from left) Marie Riegels Melchior, Laura Liv Weikop, Nikolina Olsen Rule and Kirsten Toftegaard

I had therefore invited a group of people who all have a stake in the museum’s strategies for mediation of fashion: Kirsten Toftegaard, chief curator of fashion and textiles; Nikolina Olsen Rule, head of communications; Laura Liv Weikop, PhD student researching the multisensory museum, and Marie Riegels Melchior, fashion researcher and curator. Apart from drawing on their professional insights, I asked that they would also speak from their personal experience and preferences, partly because the personal perspective relates more closely to the user experience and objectives, and partly because I believe that the two can never be separated anyway, that as professionals we will always have a personal bias. Thankfully, if unsurprising given their passionate professionalism, the participants engaged wholeheartedly in the discussions, and I am really grateful for the thoughts, ideas and insights that they shared in the workshop. However, I have yet to transcribe the recordings and start my analysis, so I will not be sharing the outcome in this post.

Personas
In the workshop, I also shared some of my insights obtained in the first stage of the research process, involving prospective users via interviews, cultural probes and a workshop. In order to operationalise the user perspectives for this second workshop, I had generated personas from the four participants in Workshop I, distilling their (obviously more complex) viewpoints  into key objectives and interests. Their views, ideas and reservations were further represented in probe materials and quotes, which triggered some interesting questions and reflections from the professionals.

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Personas for workshop II, based on particpants in workshop I

Concept ‘dominos’
As for the concept sketches, devised to evoke a meaty debate, they took on a different form from what I had initially envisioned.

Having explored and considered a vast range of options for and implications of alternative forms of mediation, I found it hard to narrow down the ideas I wanted to discuss to a few completed concepts, as had been my plan. Furthermore, I was aiming to strike a balance between the need for open-endedness – heeding both the ethos of critical design and a general rule of thumb for participatory design processes stating that the rough sketch is a better starting point for criticism and co-creation than the polished prototype – and the allure and rhetorical strength of aesthetics (see Lenskjold 2009‘s descriptions of Dunne & Raby’s use of ‘visually stunning representations’ of noir designs); that is, a balance between retaining and relinquishing control over the discussion I wanted to stage. And finally, following an inspiring meeting a few months back with Isabel Froes, interaction designer and design researcher at ITU, who had also co-supervised my master thesis, I kept thinking about how the workshop design itself was also a crucial aspect of the process.

In the end, I came up with a solution which I believe served my purpose really well. Rather than designing two or three final concepts, I broke down the multiple solutions into concept elements, each represented by an image and printed onto card, which could be combined and interchanged in order to form a variety of scenarios.

As I started to work deeper into this concept, elaborating on potential scenarios and designing the cards, it suddenly struck me that what I making was maybe some sort of design game, an approach explored by Eva Brandt, amongst others. Getting very close to the workshop, I only read a single article on design games by Brandt (2006), confirming the kinship but not having the time to really let these new perspectives inform my design, but I will definitely look further into this field, to see if that may be a relevant way to contextualise and explain my concept.

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‘Concept dominos’

An example scenario could be fashion item/icon (subject for mediation) + shop (purchase as trigger situation) + QR code (as placed on sales tag) >> content of QR code? (question).

The scenario as a whole can then be used as a starting point for debate (e.g. discussing the possibility and relevance of leveraging a fashion purchase situation for museum mediation). But also the individual elements can be scrutinised or substitued, sparking new questions related to the same issue (e.g. does it matter which item or brand would the subject; what other trigger situations could be envisaged; what are the pros and cons of and alternatives for the QR code etc).

For the workshop, I had collated a series af scenarios, each exploring different situations or paradigms, but was also able to change and elaborate on them to follow the flow of the conversation. As mentioned above, this format worked well for this workshop, and I look forward to taking the discussion further in the next workshop.

Today, I lost my way in a dark and gloomy forest and suddenly found myself in a gingerbread house… This was the experience staged in a theatrical production of ‘Hansel & Gretchen’; a performance in which you make your way – alone – through an installation of scenarios, equipped with a torch and an audioguide, guided along by a narrative voice and an evocative soundscape. Rather than simply telling you a story, it required you to move through the story, allowed you to feel unsettled, not knowing what came next, what might be waiting for you in the dark, how to get out.

A play without actors, where you perform every action. Is it theatre, performance, installation? Does it matter? Does cultural mediation need to follow conventions? Does museal mediation need things, or a museum space?

Take for instance the current exhibition of Tutankhamon’s grave in Malmö, a complete remake of the burial chambers as they were discovered in 1922 – not an authentic object in sight but perhaps offering a more authentic experience of their splendor than a traditional display would? According to this review, at least, despite the heavy use of dramatic effects, the overall experience is one of enlightenment, not just light entertainment.

I’m pondering these things now as I am trying to get back into my project and enter design mode, in order to sketch concepts for mobile mediation of fashion. One concept (which I came across researching for a short paper for a doctoral consortium on design research which I also need to write) that intrigues me is ‘The Dark Room Fashion Show’ (no, not what you think, and to be honest I’m not sure if the sexual connotations are not somewhat misleading in this case); a fashion show focusing on the sounds of garments conceptualised by researchers in fashion and interaction design at Textilhögskolan in Borås:

Visual expressions are dominant in fashion aesthetics. The fashion show is visual, we show fashion in magazines, we show our new garment, we see the beautiful clothes of others etc. The basic design aesthetics we learn within the regular fashion design curriculum is all about spatial form and visual expression. It seems somehow natural to train our perception of forgotten aesthetical issues by bracketing these dominant perspectives. Garment sounds in use, this is not a focal issue but nevertheless basic to the way in which garment present themselves in use. The Dark Room Fashion Shows is a program for fashion shows presenting fashion with a total focus on the sounds of garment in use; expose the sound of fashion in use, show nothing, let a cat-speaker, in some way or another, substitute the catwalk. (from the research website)

I reminds me of an idea I had back when I was a fashion student, of devising a collection of words, of poetry – all the rich and vivid words we associate with fashion and textiles, textures, cuts and colours. Now, it would take a greater poet than me to get it right, but I might explore the idea of developing a concept for a fashion soundscape, perhaps something along the line of a Thirdear-style montage or Scenatet’s Kære Fisk (for sounds of fashion, also check out the drama of clicking heels in Fish & Fowl).

Tuesday was the day for the workshop with my four informants and new-found favourite ladies: Cecilie (budding designer and fashion blogger), Stine (digital strategist for Burson-Marsteller), Judi (stylist and former art educator at SMK) and Nanna (media researcher at DR with a past in the fashion industry), not to forget Line, a fellow PhD-student (Dream/Rockens Danmarkskort) who generously offered to observe and document the session. It was perfect. I’ll elaborate in a minute, but first of all I really want to express my excitement about and gratitude for their engagement and contribution, for the insights, ideas and opinions they shared and for the discussions we had. I left feeling high as a kite, truly inspired and completely spent.

My objective for the workshop was not so much data collection as generation of inspiration for my upcoming design process, and I expected to come away with a stack of post it-notes full of random ideas and a bundle of notes, viewing the video- and voice recordings merely as a backup. However, as the session progressed, and evolved more strongly as a discussive focus group than as an ideation workshop (I had prepared a guideline schedule, of course, but played it by ear, to allow for the session to flow and for the most fruitful discussions to flourish), it became clear to me that the discussions we had were so rich, that it would be a shame not to include them as data.

Of course, I am well aware that I will not be able to generalize anything from the views expressed by such a small selection of people, who furthermore cannot be seen to be representative of a wider user group. Indeed, as I discussed with Line afterwards, they were more like experts, having either professional insights into and experience with social media, fashion and museum work or educational backgrounds that informed their perspectives. On top of that, they were also all passionate about the topic as well as demonstrating high levels of reflection. So no, they weren’t your average user, but then their expertise allowed for the conversations to reach a different level, leading to exchanges that may not serve as proof, but which perfectly illustrates some of the challenges in this field. And then again, they were also ‘just’ prospective users with personal – and sometimes self-contradictory – views, preferences, habits and experiences.

So now I have a task of transcribing the entire 3 hours! Still, with the help of Line’s excellent and elaborate notes, I can sum up the session for now:

Evaluation of probes and digital participation
First up, the informants were asked to evaluate their experience with the probes. They all agreed that the presentation of the probe package was appealing and that the tasks were fun. And that what they really enjoyed was the analogue-ness and tactile quality of the tasks (the use of the term ‘analogue’ is an example of how this group had not only personal experience with, but also a detached perspective on and vocabulary for discussing new media). As so many other things in their professional and personal activities involved the use of a computer, the probe represented a nice change from that. Also the analogue tasks were easier to dip into, whereas the digital tasks – that most participants had avoided – felt cumbersome, timeconsuming and somewhat forced. Asked if they saw this as a general /potential barrier for participation in museum set tasks on social media platforms (e.g. collective Pinterest boards) they concurred. As Nanna pointed out, rather than trying to design for interaction on their own platforms or even their own domains within existing social media platforms, museums should try to engage in the conversations and streams already in flow.

As for the museum visit, only Stine had gone (Cecile had already been before the interview took place), whilst Nanna and Judi explained that they had not been able to fit it into their schedules, as a museum visit is a considerable activity. As Stine had downloaded and brought along the Designmuseum mobile app, this lead to a discussion about the need for any mediation tool to truly add value to the visit, and the often misguided predeliction for developing apps, when a mobile optimated website would have been a better option.

Following on from this evaluation, the informants were asked to spend five minutes noting down their immediate thoughts on and ideas for the the topic individually. After this, I did a brief presentation of my project (field, questions and research design), and an introduction to some of the perspectives that could inform one’s thinking about the field accompanied by visuals.

The participants asked good questions into my research interests and hypothesis, however, as the concepts introduced in the presentation were not taken up later in the discussion (one of the reasons for presenting my project was to establish a shared understanding and some communal references, as well as clarifying what project they were part of and how) perhaps this presentation was too long.

Museum types
Next came a discussion of the potential users and their context dependent motivations for visiting museums or pursuing their interest through other means, exemplified by the five museum types suggested by John Falk (in Drotner et al 2011: Det Interaktive Museum): The enthusiast, driven by a specialist and perhaps professional knowledge and interest; the experience hunter, seeking out the ‘big game’ cultural hotspots; the explorer, searching for delightful discoveries; the facilitator, focusing on making the visit a succesful social event; and the escapist, using the museum to recharge or find spiritual meaning. My intention with this excercise was to inform my future development of personas to design for, but the discussion led to little tangible information about the specific types. I even tried provoking the issue a little by asking what these types would be like as superheroes, but that didn’t turn out super useful. Instead, the participants’ sentiment echoed the point made by Falk; that these are more like roles than types, ones you dip into and out of or find yourself in, depending on your life situation and the context, company and topic exhibited. Overall, however, they would rather design for the enthusiast and the explorer than for the other types of motivation (as would probably most museum educators).

What do we want to be social about?
When I interviewed Stine before the summer, she told me that one of her key points when advising about the development of social business models was to ask yourself the question ‘What do we want to be social about’? (unfortunately I can only come up with this poor translation, that is a lot clunkier than the Danish ‘Hvad vil vi være sociale omkring?’. ‘What is our social object?‘ sounds better, but I’m not sure if that is quite right either. Thoughts, Stine?). This question has lingered with me since, and inspired the next exercise on the potential for and value of social interaction between Designmuseum Denmark and its users.

Again, the consensus was that the museum should try to socialize where the social interaction is already happening. Aggregation of content, via algorithms trawling for #tags for instance, was deemed a viable approach, if only you could get people to agree on which tags to use [this idea is reminiscent of the Twitter concept being developed by SMK, see presentation by Merete Sanderhoff at MuseumNext ] Another suggestion was some sort of personalization, turning yourself into an exhibtion (like the FB timeline precursor ‘Exhibition of me’), and playing to the narcissist in us all by displaying the feed of ‘#todays outfit’ etc in the museum. The concept of ‘second screen’ (and how the  second screen sometimes became the first, as the online conversations around a given program were what pulled you in, rather than the program content itself) was discussed (again a professional terminology). Other inspiration sources included GetGlue, iPhotoCap and #fredagsbog.

Asked what the museum could contribute to the conversations, both Judith and Cecilie agreed that they could show another side to the fashion story than what is usually presented in fashion media. Judith brought up a great example in the subversive photographs by artist Jens Haaning, with captions describing the outfits mirroring those of fashion shots.

Another wish was to be able to access and play with a digitized version of the museum collection, mixing new looks etc. This idea somewhat contradicted the agreement earlier on that the museum should join the conversation rather than try to set new tasks. A suggested solution for merging the two, i.e. to attract users to a new ‘service’ was to learn from the way Spotify entered the Danish market by way of Facebook.

Social platforms
I took this as a cue to introduce an excercise I had been a little uncertain about, knowing that focusing on the platforms can detract from the question of content and motivation. However, as it turned out, the conversations prompted by the social media symbol cards were very interesting.

The key, of course, is deciding what you want to achieve, understanding – asking? – your users and then choose the appropriate platform. The participants did however gravitate towards Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, again arguing that this is where the users already are. Whilst some enjoyed using Path, it was still a small community of private parties, and Flickr is loosing ground with the growing popularity of Instagram. As for YouTube, the group seemed to agree that perhaps a private channel would be preferable.

As I was keen not to forget the non-sociable aspects of mobile media, and tried asking if perhaps a podwalk or similar would be an interesting way to go. The idea was quickly rejected however, as Judi pointed out that musical soundtracks for exhibitions were rarely adapted. Perhaps all the talk about social interactionn also made it hard to forget that focus during this workshop. Gamification, as examplified by Foursquare, was also debated, yet, as fashion has no geolocation, it was hard to see how this concept would apply to this field.

Ideation
After a short break, in which the conversations continued, we moved on to the ideas-generation part of the workshop. The initial thoughts, written down in the beginning of the workshop included questions on how to bring the ephemeral into the museum, how the museum can share its treasures without needing you to come to the museum, and how everyday fashion and not least the personal relationship with fashion can be brought into or exposed through the museum.

Cecilie came up with an idea for displaying honour plaques around town to commemorate significant fashion events (think ‘Here, in 1964, a Mary Quant costumer first wore the mini-skirt’), which was well received and elaborated on by the group, and also suggested a public photo booth where people could have their outfit photographed for the museum collection (if people were willing to have their photos taken in ‘Kussomaten‘, it is likely that you could get them to contribute street style shots for a historical collection as Stine commented). However, as Judi pointed out, such contributions would also require a lot of editing on the part of the museum, to ensure quality, which again would raise the question of who has the authority to select, and what happens to the multiplicity of voices when they are censored. Still, the museum should have an expertise that is different from that of the magazines or the bloggers.

Another important contribution from the museum, as defined by the group, is the great narrative – tying information together to form a story, an argument, a unison – something that you won’t necessarily be able to piece together yourself out there on the internet. And overall, they were more interested in the material culture in the museum, the chance to experience e.g. a variety of fabrics or building materrials, than in a digital overlay.

DAC and the Danish Designcenter where brought forward as examples of this type of exhibtion, whereas Designmuseum Danmark (which holds a substantial textile collection, that was originally collected with that kind of use in mind) was perceived as being a bit old fashioned. Even the prospect of the development of a museum for fashion within DMD was regarded with some scepticism. Louisiana, on the other hand, seemed to be everyone’s favourite museum, and was mentioned on numerous occasions.

And so, after three hours of passionate banter, the workshop came to a close, and with the help of these great characters, I had collected a rich material to inform my continued investigations. 

Feedback
As Stine pointed out, it would have been interesting to have been able to see what the other participants had contributed via the probes (and so we ended the evening with a visit to my office to marvel at the wall). I had not fascilitated this knowledgesharing, and not even invited by participants to respond to the blogpost I made about the returns. Good point, and I do apologize! And please, Stine, Judi, Cecilie, Nanna and Line – if you can spare a moment and have a comment on how you experienced the workshop or have had other thoughts on the topic since then, do drop me a comment here. It would be great to hear from you! And be warned that I will probably contact you again when I’ve come up with concepts that need scrutinizing by you expert minds (but don’t worry, I won’t hold you to your declaration of interest, feel free to turn me down if it’s no longer relevant for you).

Just presented my project to my institute. In preparation, I decided to do a video of the presentation rather than try to write about it, as it is centered around this diagram of my research field and research design, and therefore works better in visual form. Capturing how I see and present my project at this stage will also be useful later on, as I can compare the future development and findings to my preconceptions and outset.