Tag Archives: Koven Smith

Things I loved about MCN 2013

Montreal Panorama Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Nov 24th, YUL-> BOS

I am strangely energized and exhausted, yawning and unable to stop writing. I’ve got just enough money left to get home and hopefully enough juice in the iPad and phone to keep writing this. It seems my resources and energy were just enough to get me through five incredibly fruitful days. Such are the perils of attending the Museum Computer Network conference. If you’re looking for the place where museums, innovation and creativity collide, it seems to be the place to go.

I have been trying to tie up the third part of a series of posts on “issues” that are not the real issue. Part One dealt with “immersion” and Part Two with “experience” and “participation”. The last part of Tilting at Windmills is gonig to deal with picture taking in museums, selfies as likes, and photos as signs of affection and affiliation. But I’m all MCN right now, and there’s a lot to digest and share, so the selfies will have to wait.

The coming year
My first order of business was the annual meeting of the MCN Board of Dircetors, which welcomed aboard a crop of new faces that’s a veritable Who’s Who of digital museum pros. Heady company to keep and a dynamite group of thinkers and doers. Generally I think it’s next to impossible to get anything creative done in groups of more than six, but this bunch of seventeen is an exception. The strategy for the coming year was laid out, issues identified, and volunteers recruited to tackle them with remarkable ease and real thoughtful debate. It was grueling work, but boy was I proud to see how much we got done in our half day together.

MCN's 2014 strategy appears, one Post-It at a time...

MCN’s 2014 strategy appears, one Post-It at a time…

Stay tuned for details in the next few months of MCN’s plans for the year, like the next incarnation of our MCNPro professional development series. Also, I seem to have volunteered to become the conference co-chair for next year in Dallas, with Morgan Holzer. Eep!

Having overcomitted myself (again), I didn’t attend any of the workshops and spent the day polishing my talks, and having long, intense conversations. My first conference event was getting to the Ignite talks, an innovation introudced last year which has quickly become an anchor of the whole conference. If you’re not familiar with the format, look here. It’s short, it requires precision, and you can’t screw up and go back – in short you’re presenting without a net. It’s a sign of how supportive the community is that this kind of event would

Not taking yourself too seriously
One thing I love about the MCN community and the museum digital tribe in general is their ability to ability to take the work seriously without taking themselves seriously. It’s a subtle, but crucial distinction to maintaining a positive, creative output, and it’s often easy to confuse the two. Not here, though. The opening night of Ignite talks, The Herbie Hancock Layer of Chaos, and the official MCN Karaoke night all contribute to a loose, irreverent vibe that makes MCN unlike other conferences.

Don Undeen introduces Suse Cairns to the Digital Humanities Unicorn, official meme of MCN 2013.

Don Undeen introduces Suse Cairns to the Digital Humanities Unicorn, official meme of MCN 2013. Yes, DH Unicorn is wearing Google Glass. Duh…

Ignite talks
Once again, the conference got off to roaring start, thanks to Koven Smith’s work assembling a disparate group of Ignite talks that ranged from farcical to poignant. Watch them all, but particularly Tim Svenonius’s “Hunting, Gathering and Recollecting”, Douglas Hegley’s “Technology: WTF!” and Simone Wicha’s “Does Performance Matter?”. I’m particularly glad to see more senior museum leaders like Simone attending MCN and sharing their insights on our shared endeavor. It gives me hope for our future as a profession. The rock and roll atmosphere, the performative aspect of watching your colleagues, and obvious passion and hard work that speakers put into their presentations is a perfect appetizer for the coming days.

Keynote
Tina Roth Eisenberg, graphic designer and the person behind the Swiss Miss design blog, delivered an amazingly inspiring, funny keynote that was a great opening paean to the power of not being stuck doing one thing. The noted graphic designer spent no time talking about her “main” business, instead telling us about the co-working space she started, her designer temporary tattoo shop, and the importance of having confetti drawers and dress up clothes at work. I totally wanted to quit my job, move to New York and work for Tina by the time she was done.

Video, video, video
After the experience of videoing select sessions last year, we decided to record every session this year, and the results are impressive, I think. MCN’s YouTube video channel is turning into a meaty repository of good thinking. Another great addition to the archive was addition of Museopunks to the mix.  This podcast series, started by Suse Cairns and Jeffrey Inscho, has quickly become a great place to eavesdrop on fascinating discussions about current issues in museums. Check it out. They ran a series of special episodes throughout the conference and these were videoed as well.

Inclusion, engagement, openness
The Board has spent a lot of time over the past year talking about inclusion, and broadening participation in the organization. It was gratifying to see all the ways that played out at the conference.  We were able to offer more scholarships than ever, thanks to sponsorship from Google. Twelve professionals who wouldn’t have made it otherwise were able to attend and that’s worth celebrating. The speed networking event, sort like of like speed dating for professionals, was great fun and a chance to meet people you might not otherwise talk to. Next year, I think it should move to earlier in the conference so you can benefit more from it. I also spent some great time with the chairs of the Special Interest Groups (SIGs), who for years have quietly nurtured their own smaller MCN communities. The Board and the SIG chairs have been working more closely together and the fruits of that could be seen in the creation of three new SIGs right there at the conference.

The power of asking people
Last year I convened a Directors’ Roundtable at MCN as a way to bring new voices into our conversations.  When I proposed it, I was fearful of how much work it was going to be to get busy museum directors to come. It was a bit of shock to find out that it wasn’t really all that hard.  Most of the directors I asked, said either, “I can’t make it at that time, but thanks!” or “Hmm, sounds interesting! OK.” The reason they weren’t at the conference was that they’d never been asked and nobody had ever explained the value proposition to them.  This year, one of the sessions I organized was on immersion, and Robin White Owen and I tried the same tack.  We asked filmmakers, game designers, theatre people, and curators to come talk about what they thought of immersion in their medium.  And again, most of the people we talked to said yes, or no because they couldn’t afford the trip. Despite a couple of last-minute surprises with people not being able to come, it was a great session and a fascinating discussion I wouldn’t get to have at work.  Here’s the video. 

Conferences as classrooms
One practice I’ve developed over the years is to treat conference sessions like classes I want to take that don’t (yet) exist. I identify the topic I’m interested in, and the people I’d like to learn from, and try to figure out how to get them to teach me about their subject.  This year, I was particularly interested in issues of openness and authority around museum digital content, so I put together a session with people who’d already been through successful open projects. I got to take advantage of the combined wisdom of Ryan Dodge, Heidi Quicksilver, and Merete Sanderhoff in one fell swoop. And, as so often happens, Merete taught me a lesson in being the kind of professional I aspire to be. After tentatively agreeing to come, she realized she couldn’t make it. Too many deadlines, too little money. So, she offered to record a video presentation of what she would’ve talked about, and even agreed to be available via Skype during the session if I wanted. In other words, all of the work of presenting, and almost none of the benefit of being at the conference. And her presentation was a high-quality, real video production, not just her sitting at her computer. Generosity is a hallmark of this community , but even for us, this was humbling. Thanks, Merete!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wHPtamoTOc

Being present at the birth of something good
Keeping with the “open” theme, I also emceed a session on “Defining Open Authority” put together by the inimitable Lori Phillips. It was a great of theory and practice, both big picture and very detailed. Lori continues to refine her ideas around “Open Authority” and has put enough of a framework around it to make it a useful tool for anyone considering issues around intellectual access to museum content. Porchia Moore problematized the very definition of authority as it pertains to minorities, and Elizabeth Bollwerk and Jeffrey Inscho added a pile of great case studies of how these concepts actually play out in real museums with real people. It felt a lot like the beginning of something bigger than a conference presentation, and judging from the Q&A afterwards, the audience felt similarly.  I look froward to seeing what happens next. Here’s Lori’s slides. When I find the video, I’ll post that, too.

The sign of a good session: the speakers table is rockin' with folks asking more questions.

The end of a good session: the speakers table is rockin’ with folks asking more questions.

Looking forward:
Dallas 2014 is going to have it’s work cut out for it, and Morgan and I already started the discussions about the program before the conference even ended.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on how we might improve the conference next year!

See you at next year's MCN mega metaselfie?

See you at next year’s MCN mega metaselfie?

BTW, that’s Jeffry Inscho behind me.  Have you read his reflection on MCN2013? “On Professional Spirit Animals” speaks my mind when it comes to how MCN feels to me.

Tilting at Windmills, Part Two

Experience and Participation 

CC BY-NC-SA image by Flickr user barnoid

In Part One of this series, I tried to unpack my visceral reaction to people focusing on immersion as a good or bad thing. My reaction stems from immersion being used as a stalking horse for the real issue, which I think is that kind of optimal experience Csíkszentmihályi called “flow.” Getting hung up on the the delivery system rather than the actual meat of the matter made me think about August and all the steam vented by critics like Judith Dobrzynski about “participation” and “experience” and how they’re responsible for ruining everything.  I ranted about it at some length. I won’t get into how completely off-base she is when she blames museums for displaying the kinds of contemporary art she doesn’t like, and instead focus on trends in museum practice, like participatory design and an emphasis on “experience.” Like the talks I’ve had about immersion, this was clearly another case of people attacking manifestations of deeper issues that are harder to talk about. When Dobrzynski bemoans the plague of participatory design in museums, she gets at the heart of the matter – the place (or lack thereof) for authority to manifest itself.

When interpretation feels like interference

Nothing to see here! CC-BY NC 2.0 image by Flickr user Jeremy Brooks

My understanding of this was greatly aided by Regan Forrest’s latest post called “Mediation or interference.” Read her whole post. It’s short and good. Read the comments, too. Regan and I both come from science backgrounds and have the inherent bias to be explicit which can be challenging in an art museum where interpretation and education tread very carefully around the galleries. We both have had experiences of interpretations we thought effective being deemed intrusive or pandering by others because they were perceived as interfering with their experience of the art. And there was that word interfering again, one of the factors Bitgood listed as inhibiting a sense of flow. Could it be that this emphasis on active participation was standing in the way of some visitors having their optimal experiences? I think Regan’s use of the word “mediation” was very apt. It literally means “to be in the middle of.” Successful mediations can be like having a trusted guide at your side whereas a less successful one can feel like someone’s literally getting in your way.

For those who prefer a passive approach to their museum-going, museums’ attempts to provide more mediation for the active learners will probably always come across as intrusive. So, it becomes a question of balance, how much of each kind of experience is the right amount for your content and your audiences? Dobrzynski herself is clear that it’s not an either/or situation, as much as a question of degrees. She and I doubtless draw the line in different places, but that’s life.

What does authority look like nowadays? 

Who gets to step up to the podium? CC-BY 2.0 image by Flickr user karindalziel

Upon reflection, the most intriguing part of her opinion piece was how much she dwelt on issues of authority. Part of the problem for art museums (and I think this is one way in which they diverge from other kinds of museums) is the way that they have had aspects of religious institutions placed on them by Western secularizing culture. Pulling out the descriptors used in Dobrzynski’s article associated with good old-fashioned art museums and you get “treasure houses, masterpieces, the universal, cultural treasuries , beauty, inspiration, uplift, spiritual, thrill, contemplation, solace,  inspiration.” This is the language of the art museum as secular temple to Culture as popularized by writers like Alain de Botton, who famously said in yet another opinion piece beating up art museums, “You often hear it said that ‘musems of art are our new churches’: in other words, in a secularising world, art has replaced religion as a touchstone of our reverence and devotion. It’s an intriguing idea, part of the broader ambition that culture should replace scripture…”

There is also a reverence for authority among the critics most aghast at anything experiential or participatory. After listing the usual punching bags of participatory or crowdsourced projects, Dobrzynski laments, “Shouldn’t those decisions be left to the experts? If not, what do they do? Why study art history?” In a further foray into the participatory wars, she reprints verbatim a nasty accusation-laden opinion piece from a Santa Cruz website, beating up museum director Nina Simon for allegedly driving off professionals with art and history expertise. Another opinion piece by Stephen Kessler in the Santa Cruz Sentinel laments that

“Hands-on self-expression, the “interaction” of scribbling something on a piece of paper and sticking it on a wall in response to an exhibit do not really advance a creative agenda. They indulge a collective narcissism that might be better embodied in a bring-your-own-mirror show where everyone would be given a space on the wall to hang their looking glass for a long feel-good gaze at themselves. It could be called “Reflections in Interactivity,” and I’m sure it would be very successful.”

Suffice it to say that this view of the equation is,

visitor participation = the complete overthrow of traditional authority. 

In another manifestation of this phenomenon, Suse Cairns provides a thoughtful recap of a recent Twitter dustup about 3D mashups of art objects that wound up involving art blogger and critic Lee Rosenbaum, Don Undeen from the Met, and Koven Smith from Denver Art Museum. In the midst of badmouthing Undeen’s work at the Met as “hokey” and “counterproductive” to deeper understanding of the art, she says “I’m fine with bringing digital experts into the museum, but close oversight must come from the knowledgeable art experts.” She assumes, and perhaps correctly, that there was no curatorial involvement in the Met project’s Undeen is working on. The apparent absence of authoritative voices is a constant refrain, and I think the important issue underneath all the handwringing about “participation”.

This notion that these kinds of participatory projects are the equivalent of letting the inmates run the asylum echoes a concern widely held in the art historical community, not just by critics and curmudgeons.  Dallas Museum of Art’s director Max Anderson’s “The Crisis in Art History: Ten Problems, Ten Solutions” goes so far as to list crowdsourcing’s threat to authority as Problem #6.

“Museum curators, once guardians of the unassailable fortress of institutional authority, were never infallible, but they are now, often as not, simply one voice of many. Their saturation in the physical properties of an object may not entitle them to insulation from criticism or rejoinders, but they are being increasingly sidelined as debates of an interpretive sort enjoy as much currency as the lifetime study of objects in close proximity. One solution is for art historians and curators to devote more pages and column inches to explaining why art matters and why it should move us, and to be less patronizing about the relevance of our discipline just because the public does not see the point.”

Unlike some of the other writers I’ve mentioned, Anderson actually is interested in solutions that are more nuanced than just “Get rid of all this newfangled crap and put things back the way they were.” Anderson, in one sentence, provides a way forward. More engagement, less patronization of the people upon whom we depend for our livelihood and institutional raisons d’etre. Among his ten solutions, Anderson lists “Curators should be less fearful of academic reprisal if they talk to visitors like human beings rather than writing labels for their peers.” Too often, I’ve been in museums and had that feeling the audience for a particular label or exhibition wasn’t the public, but rather the peers of the creators. The result of that kind willful neglect of the audience is manifested in things that childish CNN “Why I Hate Museums” piece by James Durston. The tone of the piece really grates on me, but under the bile the author makes some valid points. Visitors, like everybody else, don’t like being ignored and/or patronized.

Ignore it and maybe it’ll go away. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 image by Flickr user Lulu Vision

In many ways, this conversation has tremendous parallels to one from my grad school days in historical archaeology. I still recall having a heated debate with an emeritus history professor about the seeming disparity in how much archaeologists cite historians versus how much historians cite archaeologists when they’re writing about the same subject. Without batting an eyelash, he said “The day an archaeologist writes something that’s readable by anybody other than archaeologists, I’ll read it.” Well, that certainly shut me up, because it was (and remains) a valid criticism of that field, and, to a lesser degree, of museums.

The way forward is not to cede the field to the crowd, but rather to meet them, bringing along all the authority and expertise that draws visitors to museums in the first place. It is starting to happen. A prime example is Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gallery One. I have some issues with it, but one place it succeeds beautifully is that uses the whole museum’s expertise to make a new kind of visitor experience. Not just educational, or technological, but those plus substantial curatorial support.

There are other examples out there. Who else is doing great work marrying authority and participation to make memorable museum experiences?

In the third and final installation of this series, I’d like to look at the “issue” of visitors taking photographs in museums.

[UPDATE 11/4/13: I replaced one quote in the MAH paragraph after finding a more grown-up example of the dissenting view on participatory design.] 

Further Reading:

Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention
New York: Harper Perennial, ISBN 0-06-092820-4

Judith Dobrzynski
“High Culture Goes Hands-On”
The Sunday New York Times, August 10, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/opinion/sunday/high-culture-goes-hands-on.html

Regan Forrest
“Mediation or interference.”
Interactivate
http://reganforrest.com/2013/10/mediation-or-interference/

Alain de Botton
“Why Our Museums Of Art Have Failed Us And What They Might Learn From Religions”
The Huffington Post, March 14, 2012
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alain-de-botton/why-our-museums-of-art-ha_b_1327694.html

Suse Cairns
“I like your old stuff better than your new stuff.” On 3D mashups, appropriation, and irreverence”
museum geek
http://museumgeek.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/i-like-your-old-stuff-better-than-your-new-stuff-on-3d-mashups-appropriation-and-irreverence/

Max Anderson,
“The Crisis in Art History: Ten Problems, Ten Solutions”
Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation, 16 Dec 2011
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/01973762.2011.622238

Tales from the Blog @ MCN 2012

  1. My bit

  2. As the organizer of this little carnival I went first and for the first time ever told the story in public of how and why I started blogging, which was something I’d avoided for some time, and later told people in small groups, over drinks, and informally. Doing it in front of an audience while being filmed was a bit more nerve wracking than I let on, but boy am I glad to have come out! “Hi! My name is Ed, and I blog.”
  3. cshteynberg
    The blog post that started it all for #erodley: seeing two amazing exhibits and writing down observations #mcn2012tales http://ow.ly/f8lQ7

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:19
  4. adriannerussell
    Tales from the blog! I’ve found my museum blogging tribe. :) #mcn2012tale #MCN2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:19
  5. shineslike
    @erodley’s post that he’s referring to is the first post I remember reading of his. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:19
  6. 5easypieces
    Shoutout for Halsey Burgund’s “Scapes” Roundware app at #mcn2012tale Evolver article here: http://bit.ly/RlWbQW

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:19
  7. 5easypieces
    @erodley sez: “We’re a niche community; it’s not like we’ll ever rise to the top of Reddit.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:20
  8. adriannerussell
    “Blogging is way to explore ideas that are interesting to you & your colleagues.” via @erodley #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:20
  9. adriannerussell
    Blogging is fast, responsive & a vehicle for engagement and immediate conversation. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:25
  10. DWCabinet
    When thinking about blogging – “Feel the fear and do it anyway” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:21
  11. cshteynberg
    @erodley: “If I had to describe blogging in one word, I’d say ‘terrifying’” But there’s no substitute for it. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:21
  12. 5easypieces
    @erodley made a conscious choice to separate his blogging persona from his work persona. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:22
  13. forwardretreat
    “Tales from the Blog”: Confession: I was busted for blogging in 2001, as a curatorial assistant. http://bit.ly/PH9aOY #MCN2012tale #MCN2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:22
  14. cshteynberg
    .@forwardretreat What happened as a result? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:22
  15. forwardretreat
    I never stopped, & the folks who were upset now get it (and me!). Moral of the story: Blog carefully, but blog no matter what. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:22
  16. forwardretreat
    @cshteynberg In 2001? Not much—Internet was a smaller place; no FB, no Twitter though I would re-pub anything from then, now. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:23
  17. cshteynberg
    @forwardretreat Glad you were brave enough to do so! #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:23
  18. cshteynberg
    No surprises here: content is king, traffic comes from search engines, and it’s not all the same people talking to one another #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:23
  19. 5easypieces
    @erodley sez: “Blogging makes me do my thinking properly.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:24
  20. Mike Murawski, Portland Art Museum

  21. When I was putting the panel together, I looked for someone who ran a collaborative blog as a way to round out the kinds of blogging represented. I had just started reading Mike’s fabulous “Art Museum Teaching” blog, and I am so glad he agreed to join us. His presentation was great and the discussion it triggered was fascinating, both in the room and in the Twitter backchannel. And I’ve made another professional contact.  I may have moaned about how oversubscribed I was at MCN2012, but getting to really connect with the people who I served with on panels was a highlight of the event. I recommend it. If you’ve got people you’d like to meet, then coming up with a conference session that you can invite them to is a pretty neat way to meet and work together.
  22. cshteynberg
    Blogs as way to continue awesome conversations that start at places like #mcn2012 #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:24
  23. cshteynberg
    @murawski27: How we should blog: less about “look at how awesome I am” and more about testing ideas/experiments #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:24
  24. 5easypieces
    Wow–@murawski27 says that http://artmuseumteaching.com is 25% posting and 75% commenting. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:24
  25. DWCabinet
    Clickership = understanding your audience. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:25
  26. 5easypieces
    @murawsi27 estimates that museum blogs reach several million people a year. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:25
  27. cshteynberg
    @murawski27 Sometimes museums do suck, so need space to talk that through (for example, teen engagement: http://ow.ly/f8o2O ) #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:25
  28. cshteynberg
    @murawski27: instead of waiting three years to publish article in journal, start conversation now with colleagues by blogging #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:26
  29. forwardretreat
    “How well do we, as bloggers/digital authors play across national, global boundaries, fields, networks?” Excellent question. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:26
  30. erob1
    @5easypieces Wow, looks like some good convos happening at #MCN2012tale. Think I might have to make the trip next year

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:26
  31. DWCabinet
    How do we connect cross disciplines and professionals in the blog sphere? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:27
  32. adriannerussell
    @shineslike “kamikazed” her way into blogging. Nice! #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:27
  33. 5easypieces
    @shineslike sez: “My blogging persona defines my professional persona.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:28
  34. Suse Cairns, University of Newcastle

  35. Suse is a dear friend and her blog “MuseumGeek” has really blown up over the past year. It’s a delightful blend of deep thought rooted in theory (PhD programs can do that you, I’m told) and soul-searching questions about the profession that hooked me and loads of other people almost immediately. Her experience of blogging really being her persona, as opposed to the rest of the panel, made for some lively back and forth.
  36. forwardretreat
    @shineslike: “My blogging persona defines my professional persona.” But ideas aren’t smart just because they’re spoken loudly. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:28
  37. cshteynberg
    @shineslike: no institutional affiliation can be freeing for blogging, but sometimes cowgirl approach can get you in trouble #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:28
  38. DWCabinet
    Many different approaches to blogging – cowboy and kamikaze #mcn2012tale can be scary and risky

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:28
  39. 5easypieces
    @shineslike sez: “Hitting ‘post’ right before you go to bed is a really bad idea.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:29
  40. cshteynberg
    @shineslike conflict is worth it if your blog creates genuine, thought-provoking conversation! #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:30
  41. Eric Siegel, New York Hall of Science

  42. I’ve known Eric longer than anybody else on the panel and his work at NYSci and now online is amazing. While we slave away in our cubicles, he’s working with MakerFaire, Björk, TMGB, and loads of other interesting folks.  And blogging as a senior manager carries even more burdens than other kinds of blogging.
  43. innova2
    Blogging allows you to share the behind-the-scenes of your museum and richly interact w/ ur users/readers #MCN2012tale #mcn2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:30
  44. Jennifer_Dick
    #mcn2012tale Speaking truth to power is important! Marketing voice v. authentic voice in museum blogs; there’s a way to balance I hope

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:30
  45. 5easypieces
    Eric Seigel sez: “In order to keep a listserv healthy, people need to meet in person at least once a year.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:30
  46. 5easypieces
    NY Hall of science encourages staff to blog within an “ecology” of blogs. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:31
  47. cshteynberg
    Listservs don’t always make people think long and carefully before talking, plus the convo is clunky = why I like blogs better #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:31
  48. nealstimler
    @5easypieces ? utility & real connective power of listservs. Can they be reformatted for social media environment? #mcn2012tale #MCNbuzz

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  49. shineslike
    @nealstimler @5easypieces Or do you think their power is the fact that they aren’t visible? A safe space. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  50. nealstimler
    @shineslike @5easypieces if we support openness & transparency as #musetech values – why hide ideas in listserv silo? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  51. cshteynberg
    Plus, if search is king, than as @nealstimler says: transparency and searchability is important #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  52. shineslike
    @nealstimler @5easypieces Because not everyone is comfortable in public. Different affordances. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:32
  53. forwardretreat
    @shineslike Yet, that is precisely what subject-specific blogging does: establishes authority by creating a public record. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:33
  54. forwardretreat
    @shineslike The professionalization of blogging has reified this authority. See also: blogger payment models (i.e. Gawker). #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:33
  55. forwardretreat
    @shineslike So, subject-specific blogging is an ongoing public job interview, in essence. Establish authority –> hired. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:34
  56. Question and Answer

  57. adriannerussell
    Museums can use blogs to share information, archive work, & encourage conversation. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:34
  58. cshteynberg
    With professional writing, you what kinds of people are going to read a piece of writing, with a blog, that’s up for grabs #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:34
  59. DWCabinet
    How far is too far and how do you know when to filter yourself when blogging? Do you ask colleagues? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:34
  60. forwardretreat
    @5easypieces @erodley Let’s discuss separation of personal/professional personas online. Functionally impossible, I suspect. #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:35
  61. cshteynberg
    Many props to those bloggers in #mcn2012tale who risk job security and put the risky ideas out there to have the meaty, difficult convos.

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:35
  62. shineslike
    @erodley “Blogging is a place to ask questions.” Yes, I think so. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:35
  63. Decipher_FP7
    Completely agree we need to focus on discussing process not product. But it can be scary! #mcn2012tale #MACDecipher

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:36
  64. DWCabinet
    Blogging about process- just as important as end product &excellent way for us to learn from each other during building stages. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:36
  65. forwardretreat
    @thisisaaronland Re: Blogging: “We are terrified of being wrong in public.” This is radically, palpably true. #MCN2012tale #MCN2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:37
  66. cshteynberg
    @5easypieces: on an individual level we’re able to go out on a limb, but institutionally we’re not–why? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:37
  67. innova2
    The most succesful posts when I blogged at the Museu Picasso where always those abt processes not results #MCN2012tale #mcn2012

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:37
  68. cshteynberg
    Part of problem: until blogging is part of job description, people won’t be able to have convos online. Must be sanctioned! #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  69. nikhiltri
    Is remaining anonymous the only way to separate your personal and professional personas? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  70. forwardretreat
    @thisisaaronland #MCN2012tale #MCN2012 What is your most favorite mistake on the Internet? When were you *most* wrong in public?

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  71. DWCabinet
    “Send us your resume and link to your blog” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  72. cshteynberg
    What role does individual “brand identity” play in professional blogging? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:38
  73. Polackio
    @cshteynberg Individuals face smaller risks. Individuals also have less robust mechanisms for assessing risk so cognitive bias. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:24
  74. adriannerussell
    Blogging definitely = branding. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:39
  75. dustinkyle
    Is it a “build it and they will come” type of thing? How do you build an audience? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:24
  76. shineslike
    The best thing aout my blog is the community around it. It’s the people who respond so thoughtfully that define it to/for me. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:24
  77. Jennifer_Dick
    #mcn2012tale attendee: “Blog is for process. You can put results at the website.” Awesome distinction.

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:25
  78. shineslike
    If you want to get comments, you need to ask for them. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:25
  79. 5easypieces
    @DWCabinet Anonymity consistency is authoritative. Lack of either of those is somewhat problematic. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  80. shineslike
    I want to know who in this room either blogs, or has thought about it. Why, why not? #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 07:47:36
  81. 5easypieces
    “Hello, my name is Judy and I’m a lurker.” “Hi, Judy.” #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  82. innova2
    Blogging is about storytelling & offering a personal approach. For the neutral, institutional communication there’s the web #MCN2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  83. micahwalter
    Internal blogs are called meetings #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  84. 5easypieces
    Great point. RT @ChristineHealey: @shineslikeconcerned about the IP issues around it. Personal vs Professional boundaries… #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  85. cshteynberg
    Key to increasing blogging audience/convo: Identifying key people in field and directly contacting them by email to weigh in #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:26
  86. shineslike
    The Q about time is interesting. How long does everyone spend on the blog a week? For me, it definitely eats up hours. #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:27
  87. 5easypieces
    @shineslike I try to keep up with a demanding 2-posts-per-year schedule at http://kovenjsmith.com #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:27
  88. erodley
    @shineslike How do you manage to live-blog *and* present? #mcn2012tale #overachiever

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:27
  89. rosemarybeetle
    @5easypieces: List of museum blogs http://bit.ly/XnNXNa from #mcn2012tale updated

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:28
  90. cshteynberg
    @shineslike: Even though it’s slightly corporate, this WSJ article made me think of #mcn2012tale discussion re: brand http://ow.ly/fbsqR

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:28
  91. The Aftermath

  92. And now, the processing begins. Mike was first out of the gate with a great recap. This counts as my recap. Soon the actual video will up, courtesy of MCN and your registration fees. I’ll add that link when I get it.
  93. murawski27
    @shineslike @erodley @erictsiegel @5easypieces let the post-MCN blogging begin – “When Bloggers Collide” http://wp.me/p1V79B-ix #mcn2012tale

    Mon, Nov 12 2012 09:18:28

Australia: MONA’s “The O” post-visit website

The “O” Part Two
This is the last post on my recent visit to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Tasmania. The first post dealt with my overall impressions of this groundbreaking private museum. The second post covered the “O”, the customized iPod Touch-based guide given to each visitor to MONA. This post will specifically address the post-visit experience – what happens when you get home to find an email from MONA.

Logging in

What you see when you go to the MONA site.

MONA’s website is a bit of a tease. You can’t really get much about the MONA experience from looking at the site. They taken Koven Smith’s advice to heart and haven’t made another Conestoga Wagon for the 21st century. Their site has a very unusual purpose and audience. It exists to allow you to recall your visit to MONA in great detail. If you haven’t been, the site will be of little use to you. And the looping soundtrack might make you cranky. The merits and problems associated with this exclusivity are certainly worthy of discussion, but I found it a bit refreshing that they had chosen their audience, and it wasn’t the usual “everyone who might be interested in our collecting area, plus more people every year”  audience. Their website is not an analogue to the physical structure – it is something completely different. It’s a record of your relationship with MONA.

Visualizing a visit

Your visit presented to you in map form.

When you input the email address you entered when you got the device, you are confronted with this screen (as long as you’re not looking at it on an iDevice, hence the delay in me getting round to it) which presents you with a wireframe map of MONA, a list of the visits you’ve made, and the ability to toggle between looking at the works you saw on that visit, and those you didn’t.

The map
After reading Seb’s review, I was really keen to see the map. From a content creator’s standpoint, the ability to know what objects people were looking at, and to aggregate those data to make real heatmaps of where people were going in the museum sounded like Nirvana. From a visitor standpoint, I wanted to see how well it recalled my visit to me, after a period of weeks.  When we were at MONA, I was a bit taken aback to find they weren’t using the data they were collecting much. It’s still early days for them I suppose, but if I were there, I’d be crawling all over those data, just to see what I could learn from them.

From a visitor standpoint, I found it worked really well. The map is rotatable (though not zoomable) and the dots each represent an artwork you called up on the O. They are timestamped, so you can playback your visit and watch how you moved through the space. Given how lost I felt in MONA, it was a surprise to see how regular the floorplan is. Clicking on any dot, brings up the icon of the artwork and title, plus all it’s O content. I like the way you can build a mental model of your visit with pretty high fidelity. The use of images was helpful, since I seem to have trouble recalling titles from this visit. It might have something to do with there being no label in my visual memory of the artworks. I dunno… Always good to have pictures. I wish they led to bigger ones. One of my biggest disappointments in using the site was not being able to see big, clear images of the art. But more on that later.

 

Selecting an artwork you studied.

The promise of more
I loved the “Filters” and “Your tours” features of the site, because they both encourage you to think about having a relationship with MONA that lasts longer than one visit. The Filters buttons, presents you with either the list of everything you accessed during your visit (the default) or the list of everything you didn’t access. After reliving my tour in some depth, I found myself going back to see the things I didn’t look at, and thinking “Next time I’m at MONA, I want to…” The same with “Your tours”. It’s not “Your tour”. That use of the plural is the best invitation I’ve seen in a museum webiste. It invites without asking. I could easily imagine a long list of dates I’d been to MONA and imagine comparing my visits over time, what objects I kept going back to, and so on.

Brilliant thus far. But what about the content? What goodies are waiting for me?

Drilling down

I had no idea what kind of content awaited me when I clicked on an object. When I selected one, I got familiar text, and the same choices I’d had on my O. In the case of Candle Describing a Sphere, a piece that had Jen and me riveted, there was an Art Wank, and Audio. No larger image, no different content. Just what was on the O, without even the voting results to tell me how many other visitors loved or hated this piece. I tried a few other pieces and sure enough, all you can get is what you get in the museum.

The content from the O on that object.

The lack of unique content on the website is the O’s greatest lack as far as I’m concerned. Decent images is a close second. At first I was taken aback, but I understand the realities of trying to get something done in time for opening and the need to scope a project appropriately, even if it means launching without all the bells and whistles it might have. And when I look at what MONA have done with the app and the website, they’ve done a lot. I hope they do more in the next version, but what’s there is pretty impressive when you step back and compare it with what a visitor to any other museum on Earth will get at the end of their visit.

I can tell you a lot about what I looked at while in MONA, and I already feel like I need to go back. Those reasons are enough to win them some praise from the rest of us. I can’t wait to see what improvements they make on the system.

Making a museum from scratch: Part Two – inspirational readings

The comments on Part Two have been really fascinating to read and take in.  Addressing your feedback has been very important to me, so Part Three is still cooking. And a core part of that practice is finding other information in the world to help make a point, provide examples, or provoke assumptions. Seemingly everything coming onto my screen this week has had relevance to this exercise, so I thought I’d pass along some of the background reading I’d been doing while writing the next post.

New models
1) Nina Simon’s latest book club subject on her Museum 2.0 blog  is “Blueprint” the fascinating chronicle of the abortive attempt to create a Dutch Museum of National History.  It’s a great read, and I’m looking forward to the discussion.

2) In the same vein, Science Gallery, Dublin has posted an open call for “GAME” their new exhibition on the future of play. I haven’t been (yet) but I’m intrigued by Science Gallery’s  vision, to be “a dynamic new model for public engagement at the interface between science and the arts.” Among the differences, they tout five factors:

  1. Our flexibility – five dynamic, changing programmes per year, with no permanent exhibition;
  2. Our focus on 15 – 25 year olds as our core target audience bridging high school, university and early stage career;
  3. Our open call process – Science Gallery crowd-sources its installations and events on broad themes linking science, technology and the arts;
  4. Our fresh approach to connecting the university and the city –  bringing university research groups, staff and students into dialogue with the arts and creative community and the public; and
  5. Our Leonardo Group – 50 inspirational individuals drawn from the local creative community of scientists, artists, engineers and entrepreneurs who feed ideas into the development of Science Gallery exhibitions and events.

No permanent exhibition? The whole place becomes whatever the current exhibition is? Very interesting…

New ways of being
3) Rich Cherry tweeted a great nugget from Seth Godin called, . “The quickest way to get things done and make change”  that also bears on our discussions

“Not the easiest, but the quickest:
Don’t demand authority.
Eagerly take responsibility.
Relentlessly give credit.”

Easy to write. Much harder to live, but if they could baked into the DNA of a new organization, how might those sentiments express themselves?

4) Following on the call to eschew demanding authority, Maria Popova posted a short review of a book on on storytelling and the search for meaning. “The Spirituality of Imperfection” The title alone was enough to interest me, but what caught my eye and made me add it to this list was Popova’s assertion that the book “is really about cultivating our capacity for uncertainty, for mystery, for having the right questions rather than the right answers.”

Living and working in an institution that is very concerned with both “being right” and getting visitors to ask the right questions, this book seems like it’ll be getting added to my list at the bookstore soon. So many modern museuological concerns, like the authority crisis, the (mis)appropriation of curation, participatory culture, and more, all relate to this need to both know, and be “right.”

5) This notion of being in the storytelling business amplifies something Seb Chan has posted on Fresh and New(er). We’ve been talking for some time about the lack of magic in museum exhibitions, particularly science museums. Go read “On Sleep No More, magic and immersive storytelling” and read it all the way through, because Seb’s saves his best questions for the very end.

6) Turning data into information is one way museums tell their stories. Mia Ridge tweeted this little gem that goes right to the heart of so much of what being an institution with a collection is like nowadays.

We can propagate huge data sets, but can we contextualize them so that anybody else who’s not already an expert might find value in them?

7) Both Janet Carding and Mia Ridge forwarded along this provocation by Hadrian Ellory van Dekker, Head of Collections at the Science Museum, called ‘What are Science Museums for’  where he takes apart a dominant paradigm in my part of the field about how “problematic” collections are. What is interesting is that he doesn’t bemoan interactive exhibits as usurpers. Instead, he problematizes the whole perceived dichotomy and ends up saying, “Science centre or science museum? Why should we have to choose? Any science museum, fortunate enough to possess a collection of significant and historic objects, quite simply has to be both.” Collections-based or interactive doesn’t need to be an either-or proposition.

Truth.

7) Lastly, I can’t point to it yet, but talking with Koven Smith about his upcoming MuseumNext talk on “the Kinetic Museum” has been enormously helpful to me.  Hopefully it will appear in some form online so I can link to it.

Part Three is coming soon!

next Boston Museum Tech Meetup, 2/2 7PM at CBC

Happy New Year folks! 2012 is upon us, so let’s celebrate with drinks and good cheer!

Drinks by Flickr user The Vault DFW

Our next meetup will be on Thursday, February 2nd, at 7PM.  As we have for the past few months, the meetup will be at the  Cambridge Brewing Company in Kendall Square, Cambridge.  I’ll be there a bit before 7PM. If enough people commit, I think I’ll even reserve a big table, so check your calendars and let me know!

The topic is “digital interactives”
This month, I also have an ulterior motive. I want your brains. And the brains of anybody else from your institutions you want to bring along. Seb Chan from the Cooper-Hewitt and I have been talking about new rationales for digital interactives and I’m interested in exploring why people do computer interactives.  We’d like to come up with a definition for digital interactivity that isn’t stuck in the 1990s, as I admit my default model is… We are hoping to do something at Museums and the Web akin to Koven Smith’s awesome “What’s the point of museum websites?” unconference session, and then present at MCN on the topic, so this would foundational research for us. What do you say? Wanna drink and discuss and make kiosk jokes?

Directions:

What are the big trends in interactive exhibits for 2012?

Journal entry by Flickr user JoelMontes

Since it’s the end of the year, I’ve been staring at my list of “things I’d like to do in 2012” and trying to turn them into a workable personal professional development plan.  In looking at all the events and places I’ve highlighted, it turns out an emergent theme in 2011 has been looking for/at trends in museums and trying to be more proactive than reactive. Between Museums and the Webthe Horizon Report and the Salzburg Global Seminar, MCN, and the daily drip of inspiration coming in from Twitter, it’s been a heady Fall.

At the same time, I ranted a very little bit about computers in museums. The upshot of this was starting to talk to Seb Chan about putting together some kind of conference presentation on new justifications for computer interactives. I had one of those flow moments, where a bunch of seemingly disparate elements all suddenly snap into alignment and seem like a coherent whole.  Maybe this could be my theme for the coming year! Studying new approaches to interactivity in museums!

Now I’m wondering if I can turn an unwieldy pile of people, places and events into a course of sorts that would push me to learn more about new ways you and your friends are using interactivity in museums.  There’s lots to learn!

Here’s my admittedly incomplete list of things that I want to know more about and incorporate into my practice. Can you add other trends or examples to the list?

What else have I left out?