So ein Ding müssen wir auch haben

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I bit my tongue on #museumcats day. But this time I’m gonna have to have just a bit of a rant.

So the Apple presentation was, what, yesterday? (Didn’t care enough to check it out, which could either mean that I’m a laggard, or putting myself on a high horse, or that I’m not alone and the days of Apple-mania are coming to an end). And the new gadgets will be out sometime next year. And then how long before you have a critical mass of users? But still, apparently, we have to know, definitely and asap, WHAT DOES APPLE WATCH MEAN FOR MUSEUMS?

My guess is, not much, for the time being. Plenty of time to wait and find out what Apple Watch will mean (I mean, mean? isn’t that elevating it a bit? at a glance it doesn’t look like much of a technological revolution, but I could be wrong) elsewhere, how use patterns may evolve, where the potential for appropriation for museums lies etc. Plenty of time to chew the cud and consider whether it really is necessary to find a way to design specifically for wearable technology. And plenty of other tasks to get on with in the meantime.

To me, this kind of overexcitement reeks of technology in search of a problem. Of businesses drumming up business (conferences, like MuseumNext, are businesses, big business even in some cases (I imagine, although actually I’m not speaking from a position of knowledge here), and digital developers/consultancies (like Sumo, for instance, who, as it happens, are behind MuseumNext. Small world) will also know to hype the hype and sell needs and problems to solve). But at least that’s kind of a comfort. Because the saddest thing is when it’s museum folk who get so bored with their own institutions that they are ready to jump on any digital bandwagon in the hope that it will take them to a brighter, cooler future.

I may be a laggard, but I’m not a luddite. I believe digital/online/social/mobile media can have a great many uses in museums. Some of them to great effect. And some attempts turn out not so great. That’s OK. As long as we don’t waste energy and ressources on simply following the temptation to play with the latest toys. As Nancy Proctor says, ‘It’s not about the technology’. I’ll leave it at that.

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