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Louisiana
Note #1
Yoko Ono’s Half a Wind show, currently at Louisiana Museum of Art north of Copenhagen is a real treat. Knowing little about her art prior to my visit, I was smitten by her combination of hippie ethics, humour and poetic sensitivity, and explored her instructions, interactives and installations with a smile on my face. But one thing bugged me – the exhibition of the renowned Ceiling Painting (Yes painting) piece, the one with the ladder which you would climb to use a looking glass to read the tinniest ’yes’ hung on the ceiling, which, legend has it, brought her and Lennon together (or something like that). The thing was, it was the original ladder, and therefore you were not allowed to climb it. So was it the original art piece? Or some representation of the the original, even if the objects were authentic, auratic? And is this what happens to objects when they enter into the museum? At least for me, this experience was emblematic of that process.

Note #2
Also on display at Louisiana, from the permanent collection, was an Yves Klein triptych: magenta, gold and International Klein Blue. It’s the most amazing blue, and in order to be able to savour it for longer, or as an act of appreciation or of taking ownership or something, I tried to take a photo. What is this urge, this reflex to capture our experiences, the things we encounter, in a photo, that is the million dollar question here. But I will go for a slightly cheaper point this time, namely the observation of how the colour was completely transformed by the camera.

IMG_1568

I remember reading an astute blogpost or article about how the colour qualities, the tones, the contrast etc. of digital reproductions ultimately affects our reception and thus understanding of the artwork (unfortunately I cannot remember the source, but the point was beautifully illustrated by a google image search of a piece of gothic americana, which in some renditions took a sentimental, romantic hue, thus rewriting the unsettling ambience and story in the original). Then again, our perception of colour in a work of art is also affected by the colours on the gallery walls.

Anyway, with a nod to Benjamin, in this case it is not only the aura that is lost in the reproduction, but sort of the whole point of that blue. And isn’t that often the case, when looking through the snapshots intended to capture a moment, an experience, a piece of art? That the joy or wonder that prompted us to take that photo is not really there in the image. But perhaps it can still be triggered in our minds.

Note #3
Finally, still at Louisiana, I got the chance to try the mobile guide to the sculpture garden. Or to try to try it at least. When logging on to the free wifi, you’re can opt for guide, which gives you a menu of tracks for the individual sculptures. You then select a track, which starts to download. And continues to download for minutes on end until I lost patience, tried another track instead, same storry. I then decided perhaps the whole application or site needed to refresh, so went to my main screen and… couldn’t find the guide again. At all. Not as a bookmark, not in the browser history, not going via the wifi settings – when it recognised that I had already been logged in once I wasn’t offered the guide again.

I’m sure there’s a way, but the point is I got so annoyed that I gave up. Really, I shouldn’t need to ask for assistance, I shouldn’t need to waste my time and get confused and feel stupid. This wasn’t a cutting edge format, it was a bog standard mediatour, on my mobile, via wifi. How long can we stay in the pilot stage for this?

Perhaps the server was having a bad day, perhaps reception was poor (but this was a tour for the grounds), perhaps I didn’t have enough storagespace (but I wasn’t informed of such a problem). A pamphlet wouldn’t have given me this kind of trouble. So there I was, right next to world class sculpture, overlooking the Sound on a beautiful summer day, and staring at my screen. And that is just another example of many where technological glibs gets in the way of the experience the technology was supposed to serve. Damn IT.

Den Moderne By
Note #4
Visiting ’The Modern Town’, the newly opened 1974 section of open air museum ’Den Gamle By’ (The Old Town) and thus seeing a past I can actually (partly) recall in a museum was an interesting experience, and an ideal outing for three generations together. Little details, like the fag buts in the ashtray of the gynocologist’s waiting room, the list of phone numbers next to the dial phones which you could actually operate, the books and the record collections in the commune, the food in the new clear family’s larder etc. all made for good memory triggers and conversation pieces. Many things you were allowed to touch, and on top of that the exhibitions included video footage old and new, clever projections of live action and a number of digital interactives.

The magic mirror in the commune, allowing you to dress in seventies socialist garb, was perhaps a bit gimmicky, but good fun, and again, clothes speak volumes about the ideals and changing gender roles of the age. As these clothes are still in plenty supply from any second hand shop, however, perhaps a hands on dress up box could have done the trick.

The interactive polls, however, were more hit and miss. In the flat of the head mistress, her father, a former politician,’s desk had been turned into a touch table, and invited you to ponder tricky questions like whether a small country should always take up arms to defend itself from alien aggressors. In the gynocologist’s office, however, the poll seemed to have inspired digital dissent rather than contemplation. Asked if you were pro or against free abortion, apparently 66% of participants had voted against. Surely that cannot be a reflection of the visitors’ honest opinion if they even remotely ressemble the general public, I mean, this is Denmark, we’ve had free abortion for 40 years, and it’s not even really up for debate. Even considering a number of international and devout Danish visitors, these figures must be misleading, and although there is a clear markation that this is user generated content, it still makes for a strange message in a cultural museum.

Aros
Note #5
At Aros Museum of Art, apart from enjoying Elliasson’s glorious Rainbow, we had a great time with Jeppe Hein’s Distance installation. Although it wasn’t really an interactive (albeit triggered by people entering the room (and children working out where the sensors were)) the artwork itself inspired people to interact, running around the follow ’their’ balls, positioning themselves so that they would be ’playing’ with the balls whilst respecting that they could not touch, discussing and explaining to their children the physics of weight and speed etc. Completely unmediated, prompted only by the installation mechanics itself, and making for a wonderful art/science center/social museum experience.

New York Fashion Week, just ended, saw a merge of fashion and technology with models sporting Google Glass eyewear on the runway for Diane von Furstenberg. The #DVFthroughGlass project/stunt caught the attention of both tech community and the fashion world, and will result in a short film of the runway show as captured by the model’s augmented reality glasses.

Is this the must have accesssory for SS13, or at least the near future, and how will that affect museums and mediation?

Social media was also playing a central part during NYFW, with Fashion’s Night Out (a night of ‘shopping and celebration’) offering lots of ways to take part via Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr etc., in order to win prizes (and create hype and spend money, of course).

Yesterday, I took my family to visit the brand new Europe meets the World exhibition at the National Museum. Actually, we’d hoped to join the childrens workshop, and was all set for a virtual trip to Italy, Germany or another exciting destination, when we realised that this was only possible on Sundays, so we’ll have to come back for that. Finding that the exhibition, although beautifully excecuted with a combination of objects and video projections, was a bit too abstract for our 4 and 7 year old’s, we ended up opting for the excellent children’s section of the museum instead (a family favourite and perfect weekend hangout in the winter months, inspiring hours of play and perfect in combination with visits to the museum collections).

As a consequence, I couldn’t give the exhibition the time and attention that it deserved, and will also have to come back for a proper visit to that (sans kids). Still, the use of QR codes was too much of a temptation for my geeky curiosity, and I couldn’t resist getting my scanner out. Unfortunately, this turned out to be an illustration of the challenges of utilizing this type of technology in an exhibition.

Now, motivations and obstacles for using your mobile in the museum for streaming/downloading museum content or sharing your opinions, and how this fits into and affects the museum experience overall is a (million dollar) question in its own right, which I won’t go into at this point (but which I will definitely explore in my project). Suffice to say that as many museum visits are social in nature, one person’s desire to explore in depth may not be compatible with the shared objective of the visit, as in our case.

Lights, camera…
But let’s just focus on technology for now. A lot has happened since I first wrote a post on QR codes back in 2009. I believe that a large part of today’s audience will now recognise and understand the use of the 2D barcodes as well as having the smartphone complete with scanner app ready for using the codes when desired, and still the novelty hasn’t quite worn off yet. In other words, time is ripe for putting this technology to good use in the museums – it’s cheap and simple to add a sticker to the exhibition display and doesn’t take a lot of technical savvy to set up the backend mobile friendly websites, allowing the museums to focus in stead on producing top quality content to augment the experience, supplementing the objects with audio, video or text, inviting participation in polls etc.

Still, in the case of this exhibition, the decision to offer content via QR codes clashes with the general design and ambience of the displays, created with subdued lighting and animated projections. As Seb Chan of the Australian Powerhouse Museum points out (or is ‘pointed’ more correct, given that the post I’m referencing (again) is also from 2009) in a brilliant post on the problems with, and solutions to, using QR codes in an exhibition, the shadows you cast when leaning in to use your scanner can steal the light needed for your camera to work.

This was the case at the National Museum, and it took dedication and some interesting body shapes to get some of the codes to work. Similarly, other visitors who noticed my attempts commented that they had found reflections problematic in other parts of the exhibition. And whereas I managed to succesfully connect to some of the educational material, I had no luck trying to take part in the polls asking my opinion on democracy or religion in Europe. Even if I managed to capture these images with my phone camera, the images where too dark for the scanner (Scanlife on an iPhone 3GS):

Early days
Visiting on the first day of the exhibition, one of course has to allow for adjustments to come, especially when the display includes new technologies that still take a bit of getting used to. Indeed, the reception staff welcomed my comments on the light and lack of open wifi (the wifi was meant to be open access in this part of the museum, but I was continously asked for a guest login, which you can get at reception on request, I later found out). Also, as I was clearly rushing along as well as being distracted by trying to keep track of my family, my exploration of the exhibition was in no way exhaustive, I may well have missed helpful pointers or even missed the point – my objective here is not to critizise or review the exhibition as such but only to discuss the challenges of using new technologies for mediation purposes, and if this comes across as some sour remark, I deeply apologize! I only hope that next time I visit, the museum has come up with a solution for securing sufficient lighting for the codes without spoiling the ambience of the exhibition. Looking forward to exploring the themes undisturbed!

It will be interesting to learn about the uptake of these QR codes once the exhibition is evaluated.

A couple of additional notes:
All QR labels offered a short explanation of what material you could find when scanning the code, including information on the format, i.e. video or audio. Written content, howeveer, was labeled ‘Undervisning’. In English, you would call this ‘Education’, hence previous discussions on the term mediation, but the Danish term ‘Undervisning’ has a strong classroom connotation. So much so that I was unsure if this was indeed part of some educational programme aimed at visiting school classes and not really targeted at visitors like me. If I was meant to be included in the target group, I’m not sure if the term appealed to me. I may want to learn, but am I interested in being taught?

Back home, and trying to find an explanation for why these labels offered content in Danish only, I’ve come to the conclusion, that this was probably part of an educational programme. But that doesn’t change that whilst at the exhibition I believed and wished the labels to be aimed at me too. Why has ‘my target group’ not been considered as potentially attracted to these labels, and subsequently baffled or left with a feeling of being excluded?

Finally, checking out the teaser video for the exhibition hosted on YouTube, it turned out to be an example of the challenges of entering into social media, as the only comment on the video was a stupid racist blurb. Wisely, the museum has simply chosen to ignore it, rather than enter into an impossible dialogue. Despite all the effort going into making the users engage and amplifying the vox pop, sometimes you wish they’d just shut up!

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!

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?


This is the QR code, a two-dimensional barcode readable by camera phones, for this very blog’s URL. Simply typing the URL into a free online service created the image; now I could go and print this out and paste it in a public space, and let people retrieve my postings to their mobile phones by simply photographing the code. In a museum context, codes like this could be integrated into the onsite information, allowing visitors to retrieve additional information about the exhibited objects etc. and thereby costumize their visit as well as establish a connection to the museum’s online ressources for subsequent follow ups.

Still , visitors would need to recognize this graphic image as a QR code and understand how to interact with it. Now this could prove a bit of a challenge. And what’s the point in introducing more gimmicks for the technologically enlightened few?

True, using QR codes as part of the exhibition information system would not work as a standalone at the moment, as the service would simply not register with most visitors. But as the technology holds a lot of advantages when it comes to on demand information and bridging the gap between the onsite and online iterations of an exhibition (this of course requires that there is an online version of or supplement to the exhibition; and that content is produced which is suited to this media format), it could be well worth it for museums to start experimenting with the possibilities. More and more people own phones that could read the code and display the information, and already they are using them in innovative ways to access all sorts of information and entertainment. Why not harness their technophilia by letting them play with their favourite toys in your exhibition?

As part of the iTunes Store, Apple has now introduced the iTunes U section, where you can browse for, download and subscribe to free mobile learning content. Content is provided by universities and, tada!, musems. Basically, it’s just an aggregation of (video) podcasts of lectures on various topics, which could be either stand-alone or part of a course. The downloaded content could be viewed or heard on your computer or on mobile devices like the iPhone or iTouch. Not sure how they would work on non-Apple products.
Of course, institutions can already make such podcasts or other multimedia content available on their own sites, and they do. Still, using iTunes as a platform for webcasting the material surrounding an exhibition could prove useful, since a great part of the (especially younger) audience that the museums wish to reach already use the service to browse for other music and media content. Making yourself visible and your content available here could attract an audience that may not know about or visit your site. And, importantly, reaching people at a point where they are already actively searching for stuff to download, may make them more inclined to actually select your offerings for later consumption, whereas on the museum site people may not seriously consider the option as they could be in a different kind of browsing mode.