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Inspiration

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).

This week, Desingmusem Danmark (DMD) announced that Realdania will fund a project exploring the potential for developing a museum for fashion and textiles within DMD. From the press release on designmuseum.dk : (See also article on the project on berlingske.dk )

”Vi er meget begejstrede for, at Realdania har muliggjort en grundig og tilbundsgående undersøgelse af mulighederne for at åbne et mode- og tekstilmuseum. Designmuseum Danmark har med sin store tekstilsamling og med sit nyere modefokus – på forsknings- såvel som udstillingsområdet – et virkelig spændende potentiale for at udvikle en helt særlig platform, hvor udstillinger, forskning, events og brancheaktiviteter kan forenes. Et mode- og tekstilmuseum vil også vække stor interesse hos nye museumsbrugere og styrke kendskabet til mode og tekstil som en vigtig del af vores kulturarv”, siger museumsdirektør Anne-Louise Sommer.

“We are very excited that Realdania has made possible a thorough investigation into the possibilities of opening a museum for fashion and textiles. Designmuseum Denmark, with its considerable textile collection and the recent focus on fashion – in research as well as through exhibitions – has an exciting potential for developing a unique platform, where exhibitions, research, events and activities related to the fashion industry can be united. A museum for fashion and textiles would also attract the attention of a new museum audience and strengthen the appreciation of fashion and textiles as an important part of our cultural heritage” says museum director Anne-Louise Sommer.

Yesterday, I met with Marie Riegels Melchior, post doc fashion researcher at Designmuseum Denmark, to exchange updates and discuss the future of fashion at the museum. For her, the prospect of an actual museum for fashion and textiles would be the perfect fruition of the museum’s commitment to fashion as a focus area, securing public visibility and access, but also, and as importantly, making it possible to establish the museum as a hub for fashion research.

This aspect, the museum as a research institution and museum mediation as research communication, is key in Marie’s recommendations for the development of the fashion field within DMD, as based in her study on international fashion museums. (As the recommmendation part of the report is internal, I will have to ask director Anne-Louise Sommer if I can read it, and thus so far I can only refer to the knowledge I have from my meetings with Marie). Her vision is therefore that the museum would be able to attract funding and employ researchers for research projects on fashion.

She described how the rhetorics around the ‘five pillars of museum practice’ – the objective for museums to collect, register, preserve, research and mediate/communicate, as laid down in Museumsloven §2 and in accordance with ICOM’s museum definition, stating that museums acquire, conserve, research, communicate and exhibits natural and cultural heritage – has led to an understanding that this order of listing is also the ‘natural order’ of museum work, following the object from entry into the museum to public display. As she points out, however, this isn’t or shouldn’t necessarily be the way to understand and organize the work carried out by museums. Instead, the starting point should be research based, grounded in the exploration of relevant research questions. These could relate to the existing collection, or could lead to acquisition of new artefacts or data, but should first and foremost be motivated by a desire to better understand and promote the heritage that the institutions represent. (This dissection of the implications of the rhetorics, how a simple list order comes to define an understanding, really struck a note with me – must find out if this is Marie’s own interpretation or if there is another source I should quote on this).

This led to a discussion on the woes and virtues of new museology – again often described or understood (by me, too) as a shift in focus from one end of the spectrum or process, the collection, to the other, the exhibition and its audience, but missing out that crucial middle, the research, reducing exhibitions to popularist consumer events in the experience economy, at worst.

This gave me a chance to vent one of my pet rants of the moment, on a potentially problematic tendency that occured to me as I was preparing an abstract for a seminar and paper on museum research, namely the dominance of social science methodology in current (Danish) museum research (see recent report from Dansk Center for Museumsforskning). In my opinion, this demand for meassurable (also if qualitative) empirical data, and that whole research tradition and way of thinking is both a result of but also a contributor to the heavy focus on user’s experiences and motivations, that sort of becomes a self-feeding mechanism, and fails to adress the humanist questions that should still be at the core of museology. As indicated, this notion is still at rant stage, an irritant, but one I am curious to explore further in the writing of the paper for the seminar. And, of course, my own preference for and grounding in the humanities also affects my thinking on this point.

According to Marie, the tradition for not only research into museums but research in museums is particularly strong in the anglo-saxon world, where especially the large institutions like V&A and the Met are staffed to a large extent by scholars, and thus are able to present exhibitions that represent original research as well as offering sensational aesthetic experiences. Of course, they have the funding to do so, still, the dedication to spend same funding on academic research is essential.

I really like this emphasis on the museum as research institution and mediation as research communication, and I would like to build this into my project. Although in some ways my starting point in the exploration for the use-potential of mobile and social media for museum mediation, the outset in platforms and use, places me way out on the mediation and user focus end of the scale, my research interest, as described in my vlog presentation, is really more about the implications of the user focus and new media for museums and museology. As one of the senior researchers asked me to confirm yesterday after my presentation, I’m sort of aiming for a discourse analysis, albeit in a roundabout way, as I believe that adressing these issues via design will produce a new perspective.
Particularly my inspiration from critical design may help me push this aspect, as it allows me to explore concepts for mediation that are grounded in research or aim to communicate research perspectives.

As it happened, yesterdays lecture at the museum – I currently follow an open university lecture series on fashion at DMD, partly to get an insight into current fashion research, partly to see how the museum, and others, present their field to the general public – was a presentation by Maria McKinney Valentin of her research into trend theory. Using Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome theory as a basis for understanding the nature of trends, she introduced five perspectives on the mechanisms behind the visual manifestations of trends: social mechanisms (trickle up, down and across, social capital and communities of taste); neomania, as described by Barthes, and the postmodern supermarket of style; the market drive; Zeitgeist reflections, and finally seduction in its varying permutations. Choosing ‘homeless chic’ as an example case, she provoked some exasperated responses from the audience (around 20 mainly 50+ women, unsurprisingly), who were clearly basing their criticism (of the look, not the lecture) in personal experience and taste, and not willing or able to take a helicopter perspective on the overall field.

(Whilst this is probably to be expected in an open university course, these ladies are not alone in sticking to the personal perspective, as this brilliant piece by Fiona Duncan How to Write About Dressing Well: The Truth About Fashion Criticism – a call for fashion journalists and -academics to take their field seriously and produce writing on a par with that representing other cultural fields – points out. I digress, but there are some good points in the article that are worth looking into. Note to self).

Finishing up, Maria McKinney-Valentin said that her ambition for the lecture was that it might enable us to see the trends that we encounter on the street in a new light, to use the tools and perspectives she presented us with to dissect the visual manifestations of trends and understand the underlying mechanisms that drive them.

Now, I don’t know how to turn this into a mobile mediation concept. Yet. But it is exactly this kind of thing that I was/am hoping to find a way of doing – providing a lens (or prism, the image that Maria used in her presentation) for seeing fashion in a new light, or x-rayed, in context. And so the link to or outset in research is suddenly the obvious starting point.

Rock on \\m// (> . <) \\m// ! Listening to Metallica’s Enter Sandman – one of the tracks on the fashion exhibition mixtapes I asked my informants to make as part of the cultural probes, which I’ve now turned into one long playlist on YouTube. Sure woke me up. And this music business really is a great way to get transported into the mood or mindset set by my informants. Yay! There’s quite a lot of dark and moody stuff on the playlist (and a few off-beat ones, like Metallica, Verdi and Doris Day. Plus the quirky, dancy, electronica numbers, but still often with a sombre twist). Interesting that this is the sort of connotation fashion has, or the mood that my informants would like to set for a fashion exhibition – very similar to the kind of soundtrack you would find in a lot of fashion shows. It would seem that in a fashion context, dark and moody translates as cool and sexy.

I’m using the playlist as background music as I’m sorting through the images I’ve been sent and trawling instagram for additional imagery (pictures uploaded by my informants).With all the weird and wonderful photos, links, cards, maps and comments that have been trickling in over summer, I now have a whole wall full of material. I mean, get a load of this:

The amount and quality of the returns is pretty much as I hoped and expected – including a nice selection of surprises. As described in an earlier post, I will not attempt to analyze this material, but use it for inspiration. Still, there are a couple of things that call for a comment.

Like the woman who sent a picture of her son in response to the #Copenhagen Style-theme. Bang on the money; kids surely are the must-have accessory around these parts, and the whole toddler-hipster (tipster? toddster?) things is huge too. Fashion is many things. Or the one budding designer, who sent a picture of a drawing she made in response to #My media. (Her list of bookmarks for where she finds her inspiration online, which she also sent, is a mile long, and she runs a blog and uses her phone to share images on Instagram; still it’s the pen and paper that is closest to her heart). The media-category also included pictures of newspapers, magazines and a website, but no mobiles, tablets or laptops (is this because the mobile was used for taking the photo, or because the informants didn’t consider it a medium?). And then there’s the nail varnish collection inpspired by baroque with names like Johan Sebastian Bach, Peter Paul Rubens and Ludvig XIV (an all male cast, as was the order of the day) – again, i didn’t see that one coming, but it’s a great reminder that inspiration has no limits, and fashion goes all over the shop when it comes to finding it.

Interestingly, I have had only one response to my call for Polyvore sets (+ one in paper form, i.e. a response to the restyling of New Look, but shying away from using the social media platform). Similarly, I have had only one Pinterest board, even though most repondents have a profile (but seem to use it irregularly). So even though these social media platforms may hold an interesting potential seen from a museum mediation point of view, getting people to use them to participate – or at all – could prove a challenge. Which is pretty much the experience in the museum community anyway. And only one person opted to visit the Rokoko-mania exhibition, even though all had been issued with two free tickets. She also tried the (in beta) accompanying app, but found that it didn’t really add much to the experience, although she thought it useful that she could use the app to read the texts in preparation for the visit.

The workshop is scheduled in a couple of weeks. Only four of the original eight informants will participate (one withdrew from the whole project; another has sent in a good lot of photos but couldn’t make the date; one contributed a map and other paper-tasks, but has now moved elsewhere, and one I just never heard back from (all the more puzzling as she was the one who posted on her own blog how interesting and relevant the project was for her). But then they are all really creative and engaged in each their particular way, so I’m sure some interesting things will come out of the workshop. Now it’s up to me to plan it well!

‘Mode er mange ting, mest af alt når folk tør!’ (Fashion is many things, most of all when people dare!) Quote Ditte Andersen, in H&M’s current Trendscout competition on Facebook.

The prize is a ticket to the Roskilde music festival, where the lucky winners will be assigned to document festival trends and eye-catching styles, (brilliant bit of social media marketing cum trend research there, H&M!), and the contestors are now presenting themselves, their style and their thoughts on fashion on the FB event page in the hope to get picked for a spot in the Reboot Camp.

With statements like the one above, this makes for a very fine source of inspiration on how people view fashion, so here’s a couple more:

I guess these are some of the thoughts that I would like to hear from my informants; in fact, people like these could be my informants, people who will define themselves as having a passion for fashion (even if in this case the real driving force may be the hope of a cheap festival) What is interesting to me is that this take on fashion is very different from the museums’ understanding, where the thinking behind the former focus on the curation of costume or dress still seems to dominate even if the focus is now on fashion, i.e. it is centered around artifacts, artistry & artisanship and not on cultures of use.


I guess I need to qualify that a bit, but feel that it makes more sense to do that in yet another post.

Getting all tangled up in the social web today. Planning a course on social media strategies led me to succumb to getting a profile on Foursquare (now the proud owner of the newbie badge, but suspecting I’ll never make it to a mayorial position); checking out Twitter had me taking part in the National Musuems twitpic quiz and retweeting the internship I wish I’d had, and so, spamming my Facebook network as I’ve allowed for crossposting. For someone who has not been in the habit of regular postings, I almost feel like telling myself to shush.

But mucking around with Pinterest was really interesting. Attempting to ‘curate’ an online exhibition to explore the potential for this kind of activity, I lost myself in sculptural knitwear, and had a great time with it! Plus, I’ve already had a couple of ‘likes’ on some cool pics of guerilla knitting – images, that is, that I can take no credit for, I just found them online and pinned them, and yet through this social sharing tool I get a head up for my troubles and a connection point to likeminded people.

Scraping the surface of what this sort of online forum, based on visuals and shared interests, can do, makes me want to dig deeper, as I believe there’s a potential in this kind of activity and interaction for museum mediation. Perhaps I should revisit my Tumblrblog too, to compare. Also, I need to find the references to properly describe what’s going on.

And really, it’s all coming together: teaching social media, using them as tools as I go, and doing theoretical research and hands-on explorations makes for great synergy.

Follow-up notes on Pinterest January 11th 2012:
This Pinterest thing could get out of hand. Already, my fingers are itching to create more boards, the possibilities are endless, and there are so many great images out there – it’s like that napkin collection you had as a child, and the erasers, and the stickers; like the decoupage I’ll never get round to and less messy and more cool. But I have constrained myself (for now), I’m in in for the research!

So that’s what I did, a bit more research, and came up with a blog post that gives you a good low-down of what Pinterest is all about, aptly named Everything You Need to Know About Pinterest, and another from the Read Write Web putting it bluntly: If You’ve Never Heard of Pinterest, You’re a Big Dork (one point made here is that perhaps the reason why Pinterest has not yet cassed a stir in tech world is that alledgedly the majority of users of women. Hmmm…)

I also found that ofcourse a few museums have already found their way to Pinterest. Like Chicago History Museum SFMOMA and IMA. Be interesting to see if Peter Samis or Rob Stein has something to say on their experience and incentives, must check on that… However, it’s not easy to find their profiles by search. Also, users have found and pinned a lot of content from museum sights, meaning that there is a strong representation of museums like Designmuseum of London and Brooklyn Museum. Perhaps this post on how Pinterest could be used strategically by libraries could be inspiring for museums who want to join in but don’t know where to start.

And, of course, users also use ‘museum’ as titles for teir personal collections of art.

Charlotte S.H. Jensen, webeditor at the National Museum, front runner in the Danish museum world when it comes to digitization of cultural heritage and exploring the potential of new media for museum mediation, and generously sharing her insights on her blog, is always a great source of inspiration (and surely deserves a trackback!). Like this post Digital kulturarv – hvad sker der i 2012, in which she points to possible upcoming trends for digital cultural mediation.

Her point about how cultural institutions should or will shift their focus from simply having a visible presence as institutions on social media platforms to engaging in interactions around themes and topics of interest where they occur resonates very well with my own outset. Perhaps my project could even nudge this development along?

Similaly, I agree that it would be great to see a ‘native’ mobile network for sharing and collaborating around cultural heritage. Which again reminded me to start using some of the tools that are already around; I’m now awaiting an invitation to the online pinboard Pinterest, which I’d been checking out before. Charlotte also shares links to Oink (couldn’t get my head around how that works), Miso (but it would seem that only makes sence if you have a telly, which I don’t)and Path (which presents itself maily as a tool forn sharing everyday life with your social network, but perhaps I’m just not seeing the potential for museums?), but I’ll focus on Pinterest at this point.

Charlotte goes on to cover objectification, cultural heritage in public spaces, crowdsourcing and Second Life (not sure about that, I have to say, but maybe it’s just because I had to leave my avatar stranded in a pool years ago when I couldn’t work out how to fly…) amongst other things – well worth a read!

Emerging from the slump, its time to get all fired up again; its time for a declaration of intent, a creed, a manifesto (or something) (trumpets, cheerleaders, confetti, the works)!

Setting out on this project, I had the naïve idea that the concept of doing web exhibitions was a newly found and yet unexploited territory, and that I would be able to shine some light on the potentials for developing this rich seam of digital delights. This, of course, turned out not to be the case. The reality is that web exhibitions emerged with the dawn of the world wide web, and since then, pretty much every avenue of www development has also been exploited in an exhibition context. Accordingly, today’s museum audience can visit virtual reality exhibitions in Second Life; revisit augmented physical exhibitions online; remix digitalized cultural heritage to their hearts’ content (licenses allowing); download podcasts and print out personalised plans pre-visit; rummage through endless ressources; engage in online museum communities; contribute content and explore 1001 storylines; vlog, tag, digg, zoom, tweet, share and more. And everybody’s at it, in Denmark and abroad.

So what’s the point? What’s the problem? Luckily, I still have one. My problem is, that for all the weird and wonderful web exhibitions I have been exploring in the last few months, I still haven’t found one that really, truly did it for me. I can think of quite a few that I liked, there’s lots of great stuff out there. But none of them really stuck with me, I was never truly engaged, and trying to recall them I end up with a blurred mish mash.

Now, I don’t expect to find the holy grail of web-exhibitions; I don’t believe that I will come up with a concept so brilliant that it will give others the experience I wish I had found. (I still wish I could, and I will give it my best shot). But I think my frustration pinpoints the problem of web exhibitions: they just add to the online noise, when what we crave is music.

My lack of engagement, no doubt, has a lot to do with the superficial mental browser mode I was in whilst surfing the net for great examples, and less to do with the actual content or format of the exhibitions. Still, isn’t this what museums are up against? Isn’t this the reality of life on the net, just as the reality of the physical museum is that visitors spend an average of just 3 seconds on a piece of art?

The modern day wealth of information and entertainment, available at a click, has made us rather blasé. Yet all this relentless surfing, all this killing time online is perhaps fuelled by a hope or desire to find something worthwhile. Something that slows us down, stops the browsing. Perhaps the creed of web designers – and museums – shouldn’t be ‘Don’t make me think!’ but rather ‘Do make me think!’. Make me feel, make me wonder or marvel, provoke me. Don’t just inform me.

Sometimes, of course, we are looking for specific information, and need this information and relevant ressources to be as readily available and easy to find as possible. To this end, advanced search tools, functional meta-data, accessible taxonomies and a focus on usability is the key to making digitalized cultural heritage a usable ressource for the public. But this functional approach to online museum content is only valuable if we already have a quest, if we know what we are searching for. In order to engage us, to sow that seed of interest, the web exhibition must go further than to just present us with representations of objects and related facts.

Original objects and works of art are powerful things. Taking my son to see Solvognen for the first time actually brought tears to my eyes; seeing Van Gogh’s paintings live made me realise what the fuss was all about. Here was something that even the best coffee-table reproduction could not capture. In this light, the online iteration is no match for the real thing, the physical exhibition.

But instead of lamenting the loss of aura, the lameness of the reproduction, maybe we could see it as a liberation? Perhaps the physical museum is too bound to the objects themselves (not to mention restricted by how these precious objects must be treated in order to survive being on display). Perhaps online instead we can put a microphone to the stories they hold, and turn up the volume, free from the hushed reverence of the museum halls?

It’s all been done before. But it’s still worth doing again and again until we begin to get it just right.

crossposted på Formidlingsnettet

Museums and the web er en helt elektrisk forsamling af hele spektret af museumsfolk – teknikere, akademikere, administratorer og designere; studerende og professionelle som var med til at etablere koblingen mellem web og museum. Selvom vi hver især har vore kæpheste og særlige interesseområder kommer vi først og fremmest for at lære af hinanden, og snakken går livligt mellem sessionerne. Det er en helt utrolig ressource af praktiske erfaringer, visioner og reflektioner, som heldigvis også er åben for andre i kraft af at hele kataloget af papers ligger frit tilgængeligt på nettet. Men online findes ikke den meningsudveksling og sparring som sker på konferencen.

Amerikanerne er naturligvis i overtal, mens også Canada, Australien og New Zealand er godt repræsenteret. Fra Europa kommer især mange englændere, men i år var der også hele 29 repræsentanter fra en lang række institutioner i Holland.
Gang på gang blev jeg spurgt, hvorfor der ikke var andre danskere, og jeg vil gerne stille spørgsmålet videre. Er det (pludselige?) besparelser som gør, at de danske museer ikke har råd til, eller ikke prioriterer, at sende repæsentanter? Er det mangel på innovation der gør at vi ikke har noget at præsentere? Har tidligere års deltagelse ikke levet op til forventningerne? Eller mener vi at have nok i os selv og vore nationale og nordiske netværk?

Mens jeg sad på konferencen kunne jeg læse at Politiken – og Det Kongelige Bibliotek selv – præsenterede den nysåbnede portal ‘Kulturperler’ som intet mindre end en verdensnyhed. Jeg må indrømme, at mit hjerte sank. Her havde jeg netop hørt om det fantastiske og ambitiøse finske forskningsprojekt ‘CultureSampo’ som gør kulturarven tilgængelig gennem det semantiske web – om hollandske ‘Images for the Future’ som inviterer offentligheden til at annotere og skabe metadata i et fælles multimedialt arkiv gennem spil og leg – om ‘Digital NZ’ som ikke alene samler den digitaliserede new zealandske kulturarv men også giver råd og reskaber til hvordan man kan bruge materialet gennem widgets, remixing og skræddersyede søgemaskiner der kan embeddes i egne webapplikationer.

Jeg synes også, at det er skønt, at vi i Danmark får digitaliseret kulturarven og samler og gør den tilgængelig online. Jeg må indrømme, at jeg har svært ved at forstå hvorfor man har valgt en lineær ‘web 1.0′ model for portalen, der end ikke tilbyder et søgefelt (er det brugervenligt? er det inspirerende?) men jeg kender ikke til baggrunden og mit ærinde her er ikke at nedgøre det store arbejde, KB har gjort. Men når portalen præsenteres som enestående i verden synes jeg det lyder som om vi trænger til at få skyklapperne af og komme længere frem i skoene. Vi kan nu hiige og søge i gamle bøger – men vi er ikke ene om at dyrke kulturperler. Der er masser af inspiration at hente og erfaringer at trække på ude i verden, ikke bare på MW men på hele WWW. Så hvem skal med til Denver i 2010?

crossposted på Formidlingsnettet

Fredagen bød på en hel række af ‘Interactions’; et mix af præsentationer og mini’workshops. Her kunne man vælge mellem en introduktion til det sociale tagging projekt steve.museum og indføring i iTunes U potentiale som distributionskanal for webcasts; instruktioner i hvordan man bygger en API til sit museum (og hvorfor det er en ide at gøre det!) eller deltagelse i ideudvikling af forretningsmodeller for åbne mediearkiver.

Gail Durbin fra V&A fortalte underholdende om hvordan sociale medier og aktiviteter kan skabe engagement med kollektionerne og værdifulde brugeroplevelser, for eksempel ved at hjælpe folk til at producere egne bøger og objekter gennem eksisterende nerservices som Blurp og Qoop, eller ved at opfordre de besøgende til selv at bidrage til museets indsamling som det for eksempel sker i V&As kommende brudekjoleudstilling.

I Handheld Handbook sessionen splittede tilhørerne op i en række diskussionsgupper omkring både praktiske spørgsmål og ideer for vejen frem – hænger vi for fast i traditionenen for audioguides; hvor meget eller hvor lidt – og hvis, hvordan – skal vi guide de besøgende; hvorfor ikke lade mobile applikationer gå ud i det offentlige rum eller på tværs af insitutioner; kunne vi udnytte smartphones potentiale ikke alene som multimedial informationskanal men også som redskab og et legetøj? Hvis du eller din institution har palner om at udvikle dette område er der inspiration at hente i Koven Smith fra The Metroplolitan Museums’ paper, eller på thehandheldconference-wikien.

Brooklyn Museum vandt den overordnede ‘Best of the Web Award’ for deres innovative brug af sociale medier; se også de øvrige vindere og nominerede; der er masser af inspiration at hente.

Lørdagen startede med demonstrationer fra både ‘Best of the Web’ vindere og en række andre interessante projekter.

I sessionerne kunne man blandt andet høre om strategier for og erfaringer med opbygning og brug af online kollektioner, med interessante projekter fra både Finland, New Zealand og Canada.

Vincent Puig fra Centre Pompidou præsenterede en case study rapport om brugerrespons og -bidrag i den – for nogen provokerende – udstilling Traces du sacré og kom blandt andet ind på synliggørelsen af forskellige polemiske positioner i forhold til værkerne.
Darren Peacock præsenterede sit og Andelina Russos akademiske studie af hvad det indebærer for institutionerne at søge at engagere publikum gennem brug af sociale medier. Meget spændende læsning for de, der er interesserede i den problematik.