Contextual inquiry

Background:

The project idea came from a personal experience. When someone is traveling and moving from place to place it’s hard to carry around lot of objects, that don’t have a utility, but they have a nice story behind connected with a personal experience. On the other hand, being new in a country/town, the feeling of loneliness and fear of exploration can be easily overcome when you find out that you are part of an online community and more then that if you discover that you can be part of the history of that place by uploading the pictures of your objects and their stories. Other extension of the project refers to integration of these objects in the script of an alternate reality game. The personal connection with this field is the passion for stories and  crossmedia approach. In the last months, together with other team members we worked on developing this project. We have already contacted the Minister of Culture and informed them that we will develop this project. After the project has a working prototype we will have another presentation.

Literature:

There are a lot of articles and  books that focus on the participatory experience of users, mainly about their attitude in the museums. Everyone agrees that museums should develop more participative systems. There are articles that focus also on the changes in audience behaviour and how they consume culture and history. The participation is divided between online and offline experiences. Authors agree that social media should be used for promoting museums, but there are other forms of online participation not so well explored. The term “crossmedia” is mainly connected with the way content is distributed on different platforms, but only few references are made in connection with the transmedia part – expanding stories (content) on multiple platforms and not only copying or adapting it. The idea that museums are “media producers” is largely presented by Dr Jenny Kidd  in the book: “Museums in the New Mediascape: Transmedia, Participation, Ethics”. Museums in the present mediascape deal with lots of challenges from 3D technologies to new way of storytelling and sharing information over social media networks. And over all these challenges comes preservation of old artefact versus contemporary items, and keeping the professional ethics.  One solution offered connected with user-created content is that an open creative model should be developed, with benefits both for the creator as for the institution.

Museums are tend to be and look “old fashioned” that sometimes reflects on their events as well. Lot of people have lot of bad or boring experiences related to museums and the problem do not lie on the fact that “museums are boring”. Very interesting reading (http://www.participatorymuseum.org) brings out the problem and sees that in many cases, the idea is not bad at all, rather the design where all of it happens, is.  Very strong focus is to have a nice design where people can send their creations – this is one way how to more or less ensure the attractiveness of the project. Also, using new media technologies and being out of old fashion will attract younger audience abroad, because they can be a part by their own means.

At the same time, we must keep in our minds that kind of an audience, who like stationary exhibitions and do not want to share their stories. Giving people the change to be a part of the exhibition is just one way how to enrich their experience, not the ultimate must when thinking about museums. But there is no need to limit that, since it engage more people who are more socially active and for return it can create a hole new target group where to share the culture that museums holds.

As mentioned before, participation culture is not accepted in every museum and often they have a strong reason why is it so. Many claim that traditional values are thrown outside of the window (http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2013/11/participation-contemplation-and.html) and talks about creating new values do not silent the tradition damage. Museums ought to seek many outcomes to reach to their potential goal, what they want to say with their institution. If it is creating more values and keeping up with the time and how it changes (and also sees how people changes within it) then the more close it will be with the audience. Of course there are some kind of limits what to add to spark up your museum life – it all have to base on the goals that your museum have.

Competitive review

  • http://www.muis.ee/ MuIS is the database managed by the Minister of Culture. The main page has a selection of objects and the user can browse trough the entire collection by clicking on one of the objects and continuing his search from there. The MUIS website gathers objects from Estonian museums and presents information that are tightly coupled with the idea of classic museum presentation. Our project wants to cross that boundary and  show personal stories written by people in their own style so that the user can relate better and be more engaged in the experience. MuIS has a very large database that is continuously expanded by Estonian museums and it also allows other platforms to use the databases in new and original ways trough it’s Open Data policy. Our project casts another perspective on day to day objects making the user more interested in searching and sharing stories – this being paramount for any website in the web 2.0 era. In it’s beginning our project won’t have the benefit of a big database that’s extended by a large base of users so spreading the word and motivating people to share and ad new stories is very important to the overall health of the project. The MUIS website has a very big amount of information, but the data is not presented using stories so the number of users that will want to be engaged is very low. Mostly the website is targeted towards other professionals that work in a museum environment.
  • http://europeana.eu/  is similar with MuIS; uses social media: Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, attached blog; The design and all the information make it a close system, not available for large audience; first feeling that I got was that it’s designed mainly for professionals; museums for all around Europe upload different collections;
  • http://objectstories.org/stories/ Portland Art Museum developed this project in collaboration with  Northwest Film Center in collaboration with Write Around Portland and the Miracle Theatre Group. Stories were recorded in an interactive booth located inside the Portland Art Museum. The stories had to follow a specific script. The “audio story” is presented together with a photo gallery of that object and it’s owner. The project is currently closed. The site is simple and offers very useful information for making the experience as accessible as possible. Beside the pleasure of sharing the story and posting photos of the object, becoming part of a community of storytellers the user doesn’t have so many advantages.
  • https://open.abc.net.au/explore?projectId=73&page=2 Project developed by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) – big budget; The project has the same theme, gathering objects and their stories. What’s interesting about this project is that “producers” came up with sub-projects ideas, offering workshops for people who wanted to get involved (video producing, storytelling, photography etc.) This sub-projects are categories for this website that allow better interaction. Workshops are “awards” for the audience, offering them a new skill.  They also get the opportunity to be featured on ABC TV or platforms. From copyright point of view, ABC doesn’t own the produced content. It’s not a project with a commercial value. Although if the content is broadcasted on ABC this statement could be debated. The project lasted for one year only 2013-2014.
  • http://significantobjects.com/  The project focuses towards personal objects and their stories. The main difference is that in the significantobjects.com case the objects are associated with a value in money and they’re auctioned on ebay. Money are being donated for different causes. The main strength of significantobjects.com comes from the object auctions – people become more engaged when money is involved and the viral spreading factor kicks in much more easily.

PRESENTATION

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