Visit here to visit the prototype for my IAT888 Final Project:
Visit here to visit the prototype for my IAT888 Final Project:
For my museum performance in Second Life, my avatar has been composed entirely out of neon signs. These pics illustrate the signs with animations advertising the Museum of Vancouver’s “UGLY VANCOUVER NEON VANCOUVER” show and the IAT 888 class…
The neon words on the custom signs get scrambled before spelling out the full words…UPDATE: This avatar now has the Pepsi head aligned with the Coors Lite bikini body…I have taken some video footage and hope to upload them to youtube, with the Prof’s permission 🙂 I plan to perform at Gallery Xue’s various museum franchises within Second Life and may also set up an installation there (time permitting)…
In this article, I would like to explore the social media space in the context of Museums, and investigate different critical challenges in bringing museums experiences to social media space exposed through the body of related literature.
Recently, there has been a popular trend to introduce museum institutions and their digital contents in social media space in order to reach more audiences and build an online social community which better establishes the relationship between people and museums.
However, emerging museums experience and contents in social media space has created several challenges such as privacy issues, cultural ethics, authority management, tailored experience issues, educational role preservation, and so forth.
Meanwhile different aspects of social media exposition needs to be addressed, such as using this medium for marketing (effective ways Vs branding techniques), building social communities, Creating active collaborative environment for creation, and socio-cultural exchange, and finally collective intelligence computation power.
First, I will introduce the main perspectives and challenges, and then I will summarize this week papers while trying to connect their perspectives with introduced subjects and challenges in former section.
Social Media and new Challenges for museums
Social media is playing an over growing role in humans’ everyday life, while trying to address different needs such as social awareness in social networks, and promoting new dimensions in human life, by providing a set of tools for collective creation, socio-cultural exchange, media sharing, online community management and etc. It will be beyond of this article to explore these different dimensions, meanwhile it worth to investigate how museums benefits from this medium to increase their accessibility, and addressing their audience needs through social contents, and building an active collaborative environments while addressing issues such as user privacies, cultural ethics and authority management.
Museums as institutions which tries to preserves history, tangible and tacit cultural heritages, are trying to be responsive to social media phenomenon and connect its content and educational plans with this over growing medium. One of major goals in using social media space is to benefit from its accessibility power to outreach a larger number of audience and communities. Mediums like Facebook, and Twitters can be very effective is this domain, meanwhile Twitter is getting used mainly for marketing’s paradigms which might makes museums promotions as brands rather than symbols of cultural and historical centers. This can make the museums sort of distant from its audience, meanwhile a good social media strategy can better initiate connections which are more reliable and trustful, This can be reach either through community ambassadors or tailored invitations sent from existing trusted social groups.
Furthermore building online social communities is quite a challenging problem, which does not necessarily can be reached only by increasing the number of followers or friends, and it demands a good level of trust for bringing people in and keep them motivated and engaged with interesting contents. Using social ambassadors and active group of content creators, and many to many communication models can be effective for this case though.
Finally, having an active and collaborative environments, which lead to a better dialog demands a good level of collective intelligence, which can be achieved either by story-making or crowd-sourcing techniques, while the latter one is more engaging and effective, However it creates a shift in authority of medium from the expected experience initiated by museum designers to personalized and collective experience by social groups.
In addition to mentioned perspectives, in connecting museums to social media, there are several concerns and questions raised by community of intellectuals and critics about the limitations, and potential problems of this new space, the following papers and their summaries address these issues:
Museum Management and Curatorship : Ethical issues of social media in
museums: a case study
Amelia S. Wong a
This article explores the ethical issues raised from intertwining modern museum practice with social media space through a case study of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It investigates how this new medium can create synergy by increasing the size of audience and bringing the museum educational practices in humans’ everyday life, while exploring tensions raised from ethical questions around transparency of goals Vs process, Censorship of socio-cultural comments, and privacy of end users.
The paper mainly address questions like: “Can we selectively delete comments, feeling the museum’s memorial function affords the people lending their stories to these videos respectful treatment? Or should we allow any comment to stand in the name of free speech, even when it is hate speech?”, and it tries to provide a context to better understand whether the social media is appropriate for every museum practice or not.
Finally it discusses that modern museums largely motivate the inclusion of visitors’ views in social space, without considering the level of privacy that their users might be interested to be involved.
My critical point about this paper is about the authentic nature of some museums like one explored in this case study, and the openness emerged from bringing the museum experience to everyday life of a large audience which might not share the same cultural ethics.
Question: Social media can create a diverse audience for a museum which can cross the geographic and cultural borders, Should Museums expect to preserve their cultural ethics which might not be common among different communities?
Enacting engagement online: framing social media use for the Museum
This article demonstrates museums’ uses of social media by analysing critical frames which their use is currently being configured. It inspects the intersection of social media space with museum practices in Marketing, Inclusion, and collaborative intelligence frames, and tries to address the problematic views in each different frame. For example, how using marketing techniques widely applied in social media like Twitter can create a distant between museum and its audience mainly because of this fact that museums are quite different than brands.
It also investigate methods like creative ambassadors, many to many communication models, and creating shared knowledge and believe as important factors to initiate and build an online social community for museums, which cannot be necessarily reached only by having a Facebook page, Twitter account, and a Youtube channel.
Finally it compares story making and crowd sourcing techniques for maintaining an active online community, while recommending the second approach as more effective one.
Questions: Why does a museum need to have an active and collaborative online community meanwhile the social media can play an effective informative role about museum events, and contents and encourage people to visit the physical space?
Can models like collective intelligence in systems like Wikipedia be a good suggestion for museums in domain of social space?
The Use of Social Media in the Danish Museum Landscape
Nanna Holdgaard, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark
The aim of this paper was to investigate how social media and their online communications has been used in museums in Denmark Content analysis is considered as their basic systematic and reliable technique to infer generalizations of representations and meanings of media content. Different museums have been explored by considering following categories:
Language (usage of Danish language or other languages)
Videos (moving images)
Games (interactive features)
Findings suggest that the majority of museums communicate with a low degree of user interaction, participation and engagement in social media space. While benefit from this medium in order to attract more visitors to the physical museums instead.
Question: Why museums only consider serious games (interactive and educational programs), while they can benefit from social gaming frameworks for a larger education, with better motivational derives. Is entertaining nature of these applications in contrast with new museum practices?
A SECOND SIGN OF THE TIMES: AN INTERVIEW WITH DENNIS MOSER VIA EMAIL – MARCH 14, 2012
SUMMARY: As part of a homework assignment for his “New Media and the Museum” class taught by Prof. Kate Hennessy; Jeremy Owen Turner interviews the virtual world librarian and music composer, Dennis Moser about heritage and conservation issues surrounding public and private signage in Second Life. The purpose of this interview is to draw parallels between the contemporary treatment of signage in Second Life with the “Neon Vancouver – Ugly Vancouver” exhibition of historic neon signs – currently at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV).
DENNIS: Because the Mainland is governed by the Lindens and the private islands are not, I consider them an unfortunate necessary evil. I think it reflects the general non-regard of the Lindens with the creative content providers both on the Mainland and those who develop the private islands. I’m not sure anyone would rush to accuse the Lindens of exercising or encouraging good taste. And unless the content is in violation of the Terms of Service, the Lindens are not usually going to get involved.
JEREMY: Are some signs more appropriate than others? Why/Why not?
DENNIS: I do feel that some signs are more appropriate than others. I hate to invoke terms like “discretion” or “aesthetics” but there is often a lack of both throughout Second Life. Bad design is bad design and I think that the pressures of community come into play more quickly on the private islands. That said, there continues to be a need for direction in the initial user experience.
First-time users of SL are invariably a little thrown off by the complexity of the interface and “experience.” Anything that can ease entry into the environment is good. I continue to hope that wiser heads will prevail when it comes to the design and implementation of those signs relating to this.
JEREMY: As an artist in Second Life, have you made any signs? If yes, what kind of signs would you like to make and why (for what purpose)?
DENNIS: Since my creative work in SL is performance (music, with some infrequent visual work), my “sign-making” has been largely related to that work. They have tended to be performance promotion posters that are shared with friends and venue owners. But like many, I’ve tried my hand at more general building, exploring the possibilities of textures and animation of objects, though these have never been used in “signs” proper.
JEREMY: As a curator, what kinds of signs would you want to preserve from Second Life and why? Is the content or type of these signs important?
DENNIS: This is more about the significance of the content and context of the signs than the signs-as-objects. If signage relates to an event — especially a non-recurrent one — the preservation of that signage becomes part of the context of the event. These “markers” are important, especially for things such as performances that might otherwise pass unmarked. I am too familiar with builds that had signage about the objects and events taking place there that subsequently disappeared with no record of their having been in existence. I think it is important to consider that the signage is but one element of a totality of the experience within Second Life and, as such, needs to be included as a part of a whole.
JEREMY: What would the act of preserving these signs tell future generations about Second Life’s cultural heritage?
DENNIS: What does the act of preserving them tell future generations or what would the signs themselves tell future generations? Two distinctly different, yet related, questions there. The second first: the signs themselves help to document this environment we call Second Life. By providing additional details about the place and/or the event, they can glimpse a bit of what was happening in there at that moment of time. It would, of course, be an incomplete picture since the signs are only a small part of the totality of the ecology.
The first question: to me, this is the more important question. WHY are we preserving these signs? To what end? Is it just vanity, a saying “We were here” to future generations? A “Look at what we could do” thumbing of noses? Maybe all of that or none. If we are willing to recognize the value of the creative impetus behind the signs’ creation — or their “significance” in relation to an event or objects — then we are saying that these things we found of value and feel that they need be shared with the unborn yet to come. The fact that they exist in such a fragile and fugitive environment makes this latter gesture all the more poignant.
JEREMY: If Second Life were to disappear in the coming years, what would be the best strategy to archive signs, entities and other virtual objects from Second Life?
DENNIS: Lowood, et alia, included Second Life in their “Preserving Virtual Worlds” project and devoted an entire chapter in their report documenting the failure of their approach for “archiving” Second Life. This may have more to do with their strategy, which was heavily reliant on scripted, automated processes, than anything else. One serious factor was that they — like many others — continue to think of Second Life as a “game.” A better approach, which I have staunchly advocated for some time now, is to take a more ethnographic approach for virtual environments. If we consider the information ecology that such places comprise, to “archive” them requires nothing less than approach that would be used in an analogue environment. And because we are talking about entire “culture” we must avail ourselves of the very same approaches, in this case every ethnographic tool that exist for documenting human cultures in the analog environment. This means the use of interview, oral histories, ethnographic visual documentation (in this case, ethnographic machinima*), and so on. This is, of course, a large part of my argument in the paper from DRHA 2010 (http://people.brunel.ac.uk/bst/vol1001/cover.html), addressing the difficulties of documenting performance practices in Second Life, specifically.
The fact that the environment in which all of this takes place is digital or “virtual” simply means that we must utilize digital application of methodologies that are already extant and, in some cases, highly refined and effective.
One thing that was clear from the “Preserving Virtual Worlds” report: the proprietary nature of Second Life is the single greatest hindrance to its long-term preservation (this was an inherent flaw in the project’s methodology and the application of scripted or automated processes for gathering materials together for preservation purposes!).
JEREMY: What would it mean to “restore” or “conserve” signage in Second Life? Would re-constructing or emulating a new sign from your memory of what the signs looked like represent an “authentic” artifact from Second Life’s signage history? Why/why not?
DENNIS: “Restoration” and “conservation” in this context are two distinct activities, and this leads to your second question — the reconstruction, especially from memory, is particularly problematic from an strictly-defined archival perspective: the “reconstruction” from memory is NOT a “trusted” document. That is, because it is NOT the actual object, or a replication of that object from a “trusted” source, the provenance of the object being instantiated is suspect. You cannot verify, unequivocally, that it is what it purports to be, and therefore authenticity is suspect. This could represent a major problem, especially with regards to creative content of significant financial value. “Emulation” is predicated upon having a trustworthy source for the materials being emulated, so it might be less problematic — a documented provenance could be ascribed to the source material, making the issue of authenticity much more manageable.
Of course, “restoration” could easily be accomplished by the loading of the source code on to an appropriate platform, though this might entail keeping hardware (and operating systems) on hand that would support these endeavors. I’m not sure that “conservation” in this context is even possible, since there is no “treatment” option available … I suspect that “preservation” is a more apt choice.
* The growth of machinima-makers in Second Life is an excellent example of the failure of much of the academic community to come to terms with the realities — pardon the pun — of Second Life. The concept of “ethnographic” or “documentary” machinima is almost entirely absent. To the best of my knowledge, to date there have been no serious attempts to utilize ethnographic methods for documenting Second Life communities. “
JEREMY: I would like to add to this that Tom Boellstorff wrote a book about ethnographic research in Second Life called “Coming of Age in Second Life” (2008).
DENNIS MOSER is part of the Library faculty at the William R. Coe Library of the University of Wyoming, serving as the Digital Resources Librarian. Moser’s research includes the preservation of digital cultural heritage materials.
JEREMY OWEN TURNER is a PhD student at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) in Vancouver (Surrey),Canada. Turner has also been an avatar performance artist and music composer in Second Life since 2006.
Hello! Because I identify with physical experience so much, I find the exploration of tangible devices as interfaces a nice acknowledgement of [and ploy to] design for the human-centered physical experience. So I’m excited about Tangibles! This topic is also a nice way to segue discussions around awareness and acknowledgement of heritage to user’s own motivation to engage and explore heritage.
This week’s readings all revolve around Content and Interaction Design decisions by leveraging the direct experience of (or perception) of the place, space, mood, object and/ or social interaction. While the readings portray exciting situated experiences in the intended environment, I wonder how the tangibility aspects carried back into visitor’s everyday life (illustrating that an experience was meaningful). Here I just start to touch on how we can bridge the focus on experience design to the extensive content we have gathered through the course so far, and I plan on taking it a bit further in Tuesday’s class. Also, I’m afraid that my PDQ’s are concoctions of many questions, which can be escalated into much larger, overhanging questions on Tuesday.
RR #1: Ciolfi, L., and M. McLoughlin. Physical Keys to Digital Memories: Reflecting on the Role of Tangible Artefacts in Reminisce. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2011: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics.
This project designed a role for tangible artefacts to bridge the experience of exploring an open air museum environment with an additional layer of personal and social experience. Tangible artefacts were chosen and woven into a digital ‘layer’ to provide:
The focus of the experience was on the affordances of the environment, physical components that could hold meaning and social interactions that both actually happened, and could be imagined in the museum experience. ‘Reminisce’ resulted in a combination of tangible artefacts embedded with RFID tags and QR codes placed throughout the exhibits to encourage visitors to gather information that tied their immediate experience to a tangible object that could travel home with them.
One logistical consideration that the project wanted to design for was to add a layer of personal content (characters, stories, objects) to enhance the natural experience when acting staff were not available. Fictional ‘memories’ were developed around a set of characters and objects that were woven continuously through the entire ‘Reminisce’ experience. These memories were designed as ‘clues’ to other memories, so a subtle game of collecting had to be played to hear them all. QR codes were placed in various locations (on buildings, places and objects) and would provide audio files with the memories that could be accessed by a mobile device. Visitors were also able to upload their own descriptions of their experience at that particular location. Tangible artefacts (or ‘tokens’) were designed to complement the memories relating to the museum experience, then could return home with the visitors (recipes, ball of wool, chunk of turf). Tokens were also embedded with RFID tags to interact with special memories at the end of the visit. At this time viewers were able to place their token in a basket with another provided object (a book, a photo) and would hear the uploaded descriptions of other visitor’s experiences attached to the location.
The results of the study on the design implementation showed that people felt connections to the memories, tokens and the tokens’s ties to the experience. Because objects could travel home with viewers, they tended to tell family and friends more about their experience, assuming that having the object gave a more ‘live’ feeling to the re-told experience. Viewers also had a social experience while visiting the museum when accessing and creating their own memory content, being provoked to discuss the content based on their situated experience in the museum so far.
I thought this project was a great example of really thoughtfully made design decisions. The authors obviously reflected on their experience well, and while the technical design of ‘Reminisce’ seems quite simple I assume that the design of the memories is much more complex. It would have been interesting to have more information on the design of the memories, because I imagine that it was the memories and the process of ‘collecting’ memories that enhanced the experience and stayed with the visitors more than the tokens or the act of using QR codes.
PDQ 1: Can we identify and discuss the affordances of tokens, situated memories, a motivated process for attaining memories and listening to other visitor’s experiences? How important is visitor’s passive or active engagement to the resonance of the experience?
RR #2: Tanenbaum, Joshua, Karen Tanenbaum, and Alissa Antle (2010) The Reading Glove: Designing Interactions for Object-Based Tangible Storytelling. Augmented Human Conference, Megeve, France, 2010. ACM Press.
The Reading Glove project focused on the experience of ‘reading objects’ for their history, or psychometry. To do this, the Tanenbaums explored the connection objects have to personal narratives in order to experience the stories that emerge through the combination of particular personal objects. Twelve objects were embedded with RFID tags and connected to different components of a narrative, which ‘revealed’ the narrative to the user in the order the objects were handled. Compared to prior explorations in designing tangible narrative interactions, the Tanenbaums wanted to increase awareness of the objects themselves as meaningful (semantically present objects). Many prior systems used tangibles as placeholders or containers, connecting the object to the outcome. This process emphasized the function of the object rather than its meaning, and hence a deeper integration into the experience. The objects in the ‘Reading Glove’ were to become artifacts of ‘movable heritage’ through affordances to personal narratives. By exploring meaningful coupling of object to narrative, they were playing with the concept of ‘boundary objects’ as sites of negotiation between the perspectives of the viewer. These perspectives are situated in the immediacy of the experience with one’s own personal histories and perceptions of the object alongside the perspective of the object itself with its own personal history. This refers back to Clifford’s paper on Contact Zones as spaces that are only mediated by our own experience and perceptions (Clifford, 1997). These spaces provoke awareness of our own perspectives in order to broaden (or narrow?) our experiences of others. A later paper (Tanenbaum et al, 2011) discusses ‘boundary objects’ more in depth, by stating that the chosen objects implicitly present a narrative to the participant based on their own personal history and experience that challenges or extends the explicit narrative that is presented while handling the object.
Then, we have another aspect of Heidegger Time! (Yea Jeremy! But- I suppose the focus is not on time, but on awareness)
The project identifies the concepts of Present-at-Hand to Ready-at-Hand. Present-at-Hand refers to the experience of becoming aware of an object when it breaks (the hammer breaking while in use, therefore bringing awareness to it as an object because it is not longer performing the way it is intended). Ready-at-Hand refers to the experience of the object existing as an extension of the user (when the hammer works as intended, the awareness is on the task at hand, not the object performing the task). This is paralleled by a definition of transparent immediacy as present in the moment, focused on the task at hand alongside hypermediated as aware of the devices in place that you are experiencing the present moment through. The Tanenbaums go a step further to ‘create’ the term ‘present-at-mind’, referring to the process of becoming aware of the associated or embedded meanings of the object (their example that the worn handle of the hammer or the carved initials remind them of their father, the original owner of the hammer, and the related stories of the father building). While this is an interesting way to coin a term, I’m not sure I agree that becoming aware of the content of an object is within the scope of Heideggers’ concepts of awareness and ‘being’ in general. However, I do think that affording content to an object, and all the design decisions in this project, problematizes the experience in a way that brings awareness to objects and narrative in an unusual way.
This was by far my favorite paper this week, mainly because the authors really focused on all the design decisions of the entire experience. Objects were selected to be of similar era, style, look and feel. The form of interaction was based on encouraging the agency and motivation of the user. The content of the story was meticulously crafted to function as an engaging narrative that could be configured in any order to make a sense as a story (not an easy task…). The design for pitfalls of an emergent narrative was considered and the physical implementation of the electronics in the glove and the tags on the objects were assessed and considered in evaluations.
PDQ 2: How would this experience design scale up to a whole-museum experience? Would the experience change if objects were scattered through a large space and could travel and adjust their content based on their new location?
What other design considerations could be made to make this a more social activity?
Reference: James Clifford (1997) Museums as Contact Zones. In Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Pp. 188-219. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.
RR #3: Wakkary, Ron, and Marek Hatala (2006) ec(h)o: Situated Play in a Tangible and Audio Museum Guide. DIS 2006, University Park, Pennsylvania, 2006. ACM Press.
The ec(h)o project focused on designing playfulness and liveness into the museum experience. By focusing on the different cultural ecologies created through the space of the museum (many exhibits that emerge alongside and through each other) this project aimed to explore liminality and engagement. Liminality is the experience of being somewhere that is separated from everyday life (discussed as a spiritual or transformative experience, I wonder if this also applies to engagement in spectacle?), which facilitates engagement. Engagement is described as a state that facilitates both learning and play (I think they mean simultaneously?). Wakkary and Hatala explore the balance between content and physical/ embodied play in a museum context by creating a tangible device to act as a trigger for content in focused exhibits. The visitor also wears an RFID tag to trigger sound files that correspond to the ambient environment at large as the visitor walks between exhibits.
Design decisions hinged on Dewey’s Constructivist Theory: that the visitor’s own construction of knowledge is a primary component to their own experience, engagement and agency in a given scenario. By focusing on the visitor’s own agency and the ‘aesthetics of interaction’ a tactile, motivating and humorous experience was designed to ‘perform’ content in a way that leveraged the visitor’s experience of the museum. The product of this inquiry was a fun colored, ergonomic cube object to use as a pointer to choose stories and the content of the stories themselves (which were designed to be colloquial and humorous for engagement). The stories were designed to sound very different from the Unassailable Voice in presentation (Walsh, 1997), yet the information is still a sort of wolf-in-sheep’s clothing. The content is still a single perspective that is recalled from a database with a one-to-one connection to the exhibit (each selection connects to one story, no content is developing or emerging). The feeling that ec(h)o was going for was that of a ‘virtual cocktail party’. The criticism to this is that the experience seemed to be oriented towards a single person’s experience – while a cocktail party experience would be a social one. This issue is addressed in Wakkary’s later project, Kurio (Wakkary et al, 2009).
The paper on ec(h)o also had extensive documentation on the different ways that visitors held the tangible device, illustrating the playfulness of the device design. It would have been interesting to explore this phenomena more deeply: why was the handling of the device considered a method for making the experience playful? Did certain gestures feel more playful than others? How did playful gestures support the engagement with the audio content?
PDQ 3: How important is the visitor’s own ‘construction of knowledge’ in the museum experience? How can this be designed for? How does ‘playfulness’ feel in a museum context? Is the meaning of playfulness, fun, and engagement different in the context of the traditional museum? (Is the Unassailable Voice ever playful? (Walsh, 1997))
Reference: Peter Walsh (1997) The Web and the Unassailable Voice. In Parry, Ross (ed.) (2010) Museums in a Digital Age. London and New York: Routledge.
RR #4: Cafaro, Francesco et al. (2010) RFID Localization for Tangible and Embodied Multi-User Interaction with Museum Exhibits. Proceedings of UbiComp’10, Copenhagen, Denmark. Pp. 397-398.
This project briefly describes a system for collaborative interaction (?) with an ambient (?) display. This system looks at the use of RFID tags either on a handheld device (a picture in a frame) or on a person (hence embodied interaction?) to control an already-existing interactive display of historical immigration patterns in the United States. To throw out some caveats right away, I don’t see what is proactively collaborative or social about this experience beyond the system being able to have multiple inputs at a time (this was designed into the GIS project already). I also would not call an interactive media display ambient, since it is actively drawing attention to its content (and is not passively blending into its surroundings like a wallflower). Personally, I’m also hesitant to call any form of position tracking ‘embodied’, since the user does not actually have any interactive control of the system besides the inputs they have chosen for themselves prior to the interaction. It is unclear if the user can control the content they are viewing by their location in the space and the need to know how tall a user is or how they carry their tag is odd (there doesn’t seem to be any reason for that information).
Issues aside, this project is an interactive information-visualization display that existed prior to the addition of RFID interaction. There seems to be minimal consideration of design decisions given the affordances of the content (patterns of immigration to the US by ethnicity), the tangible object (a picture of an Italian/ Swede/ Persian in a frame) or the embodied experience (either the person themselves or their interactions). One action will trigger the resulting information, which doesn’t warrant the design of explicit user interaction. By working on top of complex, interesting data (immigration patterns separated by time, location and ethnicities) there is a lot of potential for exploring user’s agency, personal connections to the data or interactions for emergent information.
PDQ 4a: Because we have a somewhat open-ended framework of a project here with minimal background information: How do visitors to an exhibit engage on a personal level to screen-based content? How could this experience be better designed to connect to the visitor’s personal history?
PDQ 4b: What are the affordances of a tangible object (other) vs. an embodied interaction (self)? How could these affordances have been used to better explore experience and exploration of content?
SR #1: McCarthy, J., & Ciolfi, L. (2008). Place as Dialogue: Understanding and Supporting the Museum Experience. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 14(3), 247-267.
This paper focuses on visitors’ active sense-making and interpretation in a museum environment by exploring the support interaction design can provide to the experience. The overall goal is to provoke critical reflection of the experience by creating a constant dialogue between the situated place, people and technology. McCarthy and Ciolfi discuss that technology often presents a substitute to a real experience, which promotes passive interaction through one-sided relationships. However, acknowledging every aspect of an experience can provoking active engagement (dialogical relationships) through the consideration of WHOLE experiences. They present a framework to consider when designing technology and interaction in a museum environment:
1. Experience is based on many relationships – exploring many perspectives of people, place, community, etc. can provide information for starting dialogue
2. Openness of museum allows for transfers between affordances of technology (new) and affordances of museums (old), creating new dialogues in established environments
3. Dialogue is situated in our perceptions, our direct experiences and the depth that we hold our experiences. ‘We interpret the situation in terms of our previous experiences and we reflect on our experience and our response to it. These processes give our experiences a narrative quality.’ (pg. 252)
4. Sense-making happens by projecting someone else’s interpretations of an object over our own interpretations
5. Dialogue is sensitive to time and place: other stories and perspectives shift our experience
A case study titled ‘Re-tracing the Past’ is presented to illustrate an exhibit design based on this framework. The exhibits were place in a museum that had an established sense of place: the building was an old customs house that held personal narratives of the original family that owned it and had a strong home/ family feeling to the design of the space and place. Interactive room installations with mysterious objects were designed to provoke dialogue between staff, volunteers and visitors. The mysterious objects in the ‘Study Room’ could be investigated via 3D models of the objects and what they would sound like when touched and a ‘radio’ was available to hear other visitor’s theories about what they are and were used for. When visitors moved to the ‘Room of Opinion’ they could physically handle replicas of the objects and leave their own recordings of personal theories. This project encouraged active exploration and discussion/ debate (social aspect) of the museum experience, resulting in collaborative discussion and reflection. One interesting point was that the docents, who spend regular time as volunteers in the museum, were able to continuously develop their own theories and do their own research. ‘It also showed how many different layers of content can be discussed around the handling of objects: participants commented not only on the material qualities of the artefacts but also on their possible use in the past, the feelings they triggered, and their similarities with present-day objects’ (pg. 261)
I think this is an interesting project because they utilize curiosity so well. By drawing on an environment, place, and space that is very specific, clashing with the histories and perspectives of visitors all in their immediate experience, the project built active interaction into the whole experience. The authors claimed that ‘Making place central draws attention to the sensations and feelings, thoughts and emotions, and the plurality of voices in situated interaction’ (pg. 265). This certainly seemed to be the case, requiring visitors to actively use their imagination first in the Study Room by exploring the 3D model (on a screen) and then later giving them tangible interaction to explore and reflect in two very different experiences of sensing and assessing.
PDQ #5: How important is the temporal order of experience as a device for provoking engagement?
Before, I start mentioning some aspects of Jeremy Sr.’s paper, please check out my official interview with him from last year.
I am also hoping to bring him to SIAT to lecture about Locative Media one day or curate a show of Vancouver-based Locative Media artists…any suggestions for museums or galleries with funding that might interested? Also in the summer, I just had an idea to ask him to collaborate with me on a tiny locative Augmented Reality project using the Aurasma app (he did not know about this until probably now – as in, the time he read this blog post).
Anyway, I am going to let Tyler go into detail about Jer Sr.’s work…I have just read his blog now and I look forward to discussing his questioning more in class. I am guessing that Tyler will also go into detail in class about the pioneering “34 North 118 West” (2002) project (3-5), the “Carrizo Parkfield Diaries” (2005, 6-7) and how the “end-user in locative narrative is the movement and patterns of the person navigating the space.” (Ibid:3). This is an opportunity to remind myself to ask a question in the seminar about ways in which geo-located end-users themselves can function AS nostalgic “patterns” of identity (based on Ibid:4,8). I am thinking about how one’s “aesthetic bias” (i.e. personal preferences for navigation and attention) (Ibid) can be mapped archetypally -or perhaps even more idiosyncratically – as both the augmented site-pattern under scrutiny and the avatar-pattern. Such patterns, therefore, can be merged into a symbiotic gestalt.
In the meantime, here are some more casual (i.e. bloggable) impressions from reading his paper…
Although we correspond all the time on Facebook chat and feel as if we have known each other for a long time; from my perspective this Jeremy is from an alternative universe. Jer Sr. is almost like an “imaginary friend” without an authenticated geo-location tag except what Facebook provides me.
He talks about the power of historical overlays where through mediated GPS-enabled devices we can view the history of previous places as if they actually existed (Ibid). This idea of recording historical traces from the same simul-locative site reminds me of Zbigniew Rybczynski’s “Tango” (1981) – a fictional film where pre-recorded segments from within the same space provide multi-linear plot-augmentation through the placement of overlays.
Jer Sr.’s mention of how listening to a blues recording can act as a soundtrack that connects one nostalgically to the exact geo-locative place where it was once recorded (Ibid:1) reminds me of the fact that while writing this blog entry, I am listening to Brian Eno’s classic “Music for Films” (1975-78) album on vinyl.
Eno also uses aesthetic augmentation to provide a soundtrack for imagined geo-locative landscapes and/or films etc. However, no affordable geo-locative tech was enabled during Eno’s time. Eno’s ambient music induces nostalgia for places that may or may not exist in empirical reality,
In either case, one can use all sorts of media to activate narrative associations (based on Hight 2006:2) with a real, virtual or imaginary landscape.
The main difference between Hight’s locative media projects and Eno’s music is that Hight is using empirical (i.e. scientific and historical data, 2-3) phenomena to validate the authenticity of particular cites for the purpose of “narrative archaeology” (2, 5-6). In Eno’s case, there is no particular site in mind as the music is merely meant to bring the geo-evocative landscape to life only in the listener’s imagination.
In both cases, Hight and Eno seem interested in the dialectic of Site/Non-Site that was prevalent in the “Land Art” (2) or “Earthworks” of Robert Smithson and Robert Morris II (Robert Morris I was a similar artist and architect working in England in the 18th century). In the 1960s, site/non-site works served as historical and scientific augmentations not just for a neutral white-cube gallery space (non-site) but also for the original landscape from whence the aesthetic speculations first occurred.
More so than even Eno though, Hight would like to see the gallery and museum methodology of historical contextualization move beyond the gallery space and into the natural and built environment outside – contextualized as culturally valid Contemporary Art.
…Ok, that is all for now..I will prepare my comments from at least one other reading and look forward to Tyler’s discussion on Tuesday.
Hello everyone! I look forward to reading and hearing your responses to this week’s readings, all summarized in one fashion or another below. I thought it might be good to just outline a few trends that I picked up on in the readings, just to prime you for conversation on Tuesday. I am slightly bothered by the readings of locative media from this week, though I enjoyed most of them. I notice a trend to discuss the great potential locative media has to deepen our experience of place in new ways, and yet, rarely are there accompanying descriptions of place or space.
(I will distinguish this a bit more on Tuesday, but I consider space to be the physical organization of things in space, where place is something which carries with it a sense of identity, or possibly even emotion—so “home” has a physical reality, but also undertones of cultural and personal associations.)
The authors all make note of place, they ensure us that many of these projects actually engender new experiences of place, but they do so primarily through social and historical means—that is making evident social or historical connections that one may not be aware of. And that is great! (Really, no sarcasm.) However, I cannot shake the feeling that there is a lack of attention to the real-time unfolding of experience—the physicality of space—that is being slightly ignored in these arguments, and I think to the detriment of experience. This seems rather vague to me, and I am having difficulty finding a clear way to describe it, or find a really good example of it. So, I will want to talk about that, land art, and technological frameworks of experiences of space/place on Tuesday. Please feel free to suggest détournements and dérives that alter that trajectory in the comments.
I will also make up for the lack of images with many pretty pictures during class. I promise.
Tuters, Marc, and Kazys Varnelis (2006) Beyond Locative Media: Giving Shape to the Internet of Things. Leonardo 39(4):357-363.
Marc Tuters and Kazys Varnelis detail the tensions embedded within locative art, tensions that come out of expectations for artists to be critical of both corporate and ideological frameworks seen. Emerging at the time that net art (arguably) began to wain in popularity, locative media seemed ripe to follow net art practitioner’s critical distance from corporate interests and practices (357). The authors see locative media closely aligned with geohackers, phsychogeographers (Situationist movement) and the free wireless movement—all movements highly critical of commercial interests. Thus, they see within locative media the possibility of “re-embodying” experience in the built environment as a response to capitalist forces of production that are diminishing our experiences of space/place (359). And yet, corporate sponsorship, technologies of surveillance and ideologies of mapping (ie. Cartesian models of understanding the world) all support the practices of locative media.
The authors boil down locative media into two major approaches: annotative and tracing. “Annotative projects…generally seek to change the world by adding data to it…tracing-based projects typically seek to use high technology to stimulate dying everyday practices such as walking or occupying public space” (359). Here, the authors align locative media most strongly with Situationism, where annotating the world with data is analogous to détournement practices, such as “adding a light switch to street lights.” While tracing is analogous to the dérive, or wandering the city. Here, Situationism is argued as “a series of programmatic texts” (359). This is yet another bridge to locative media, which the authors point out is almost exclusively indebted to computer software (and hardware too, of course) (359). This is perhaps the source of the identified tension, for developing software and technology for locative projects requires that practitioners “adopt the model of research and development wholesale, looking for corporate sponsorship or even venture capital” (360).
For example, Blast Theory and Proboscis, two locative media art groups, both accepted corporate sponsorship for different projects—projects which blur the distinction of art and public relations. Anne Galloway, an anthropologist, calls for a more “structured mechanism for accountability, professionalism and ethics” (360). However, while Andreas Broeckmann, director of Transmediale, said that practitioners of locative media “have a duty to address [technologies of surveillance and control] in their work” (ibid). Coco Fusco, a new media artist, goes even further, suggesting that with locative media practice over 40 years of critical theory have dissipated and that artists need to examine the geopolitical forces in which they are situated (360-361).
The authors seem genuinely amused at the simultaneous laudatory and disparaging views of locative media from different angles. They also suggest that neither view of locative media is capturing its full potential. Instead, they argue that we should focus not on the human subject of locative media, but on things. Using Bruce Sterling’s concept of “spimes”—context aware objects that convey “information about where they have been, where they are and where they are going” (362). This would allow for a nonhuman understanding of capitalist forces of production, “an awareness of the genealogy of an object as it is embedded in the matrix of its production” (362).
I really enjoyed the way that this article draws out the rich tensions across different ways of knowing space and place, the call for politically aware art, and the different ways that artists negotiate systems of capital. It’s a lovely, tangled knot of our contemporary world that goes beyond art into how each of us chooses to live in such a world. I also enjoyed the reference to nonhumans (down with anthropocentrism!), and yet, I was surprised by their sudden shift to the nonhuman. I am all for more nonhuman views of the world, but I am skeptical that spimes are necessarily going to describe more clearly the material processes of capitalist forces and the effects therein—at least not without a shift in human experience of such processes.
Do you agree with the shift to a thing-centric locative media practice? Can that make for an opening up of productive forces to understand, critique and change them? Do you see spimes shaping our experience of space? How so? Is there still room to push locative media practices to reveal our own complicity and enfolded experiences of processes and systems of power, before jumping to to things? Are walking and occupying space truly “dying everyday practices”?
Hight, J. (2006). Views From Above: Locative Narrative and the Landscape. Leonardo Electronic Almanac, 14(7/8), 1-9
Jeremy Hight details his artistic practice and the potential of embedding narrative elements into the landscape via locative media. In this way, he argues that the viewer/participant is able to experience a much richer form of place. “The cities and the landscape as a whole can now be navigated through layers of information and narrative of what is occurring and has occurred. Narrative, history, and scientific data are a fused landscape, not a digital augmentation, but a multi-layered, deep and malleable resonance of place” (1).
Hight describes his entry into locative media as an attempt to deal with narrative of place. Beginning with experiments of overlaying text on physical locations, new technologies allowed for a more fully realized integration of narrative and place. “Narrative could be composed not of elected details to establish tone and sense of place, but could be of actually physical places, objects and buildings. It was as though the typewriter or computer keyboard had fused with fields, walls streetlights; the tool set was suddenly of both the textual world and the physical world” (3). Hight explains that the technology allowed for a new kind of “reading” of a place, an affordance that reveals hidden experiences drawn from the historical record of a place. Narratively, this unfolds not just through the triggers of information—where and how information is delivered through the technological infrastructures—but also how the narrative elements are selected “in relation to the properties of each location” (3).
34 North 118 West is a project Hight worked on with Jeff Knowlton and Naomi Spellman. A series of locations were tied to narrative segments. Participants were able to generate the narrative sequence by using an interactive map to guide them from one location to the next in whatever order they wanted, listening to the narrative via headphones. The narratives were pulled from the history of the site, thus participants were able to experience something out of the past in the present. Another project, Carrizo Parkfield Diaries used seismic data to generate the sequencing of narrative elements, thus the earth itself constructed the narrative sequence—if not the narrative elements. Hight calls this “Narrative Archaeology,” focused on revealing the historical changes of a site to the audience through a range of data. Historical, social, and scientific data can all be woven into the fabric of locative narrative. This integration of narrative and media into the landscape so that it may be “read” is only at the beginning stages, according to Hight. “The future of locative media lies in applications of ever-increasing variation fed by many kinds of data and generating narrative of any area where strutters may be read—the city, the subterranean, and the wild itself” (9).
I come away from this article with the sense that the attention Hight places on space pales in comparison to the narratives that he creates. What I mean by this, is that while we get glimpses of the narrative, there are few descriptions of the physical space that the narratives occur in. That is to say, there are no compelling points in the article that show how the physicality of place, or space, influence the narrative. I found this subtle lack of attention to space a running theme throughout many of the artistic projects described. Unfortunately, I cannot explain this more clearly (maybe by Tuesday I will have it down!), however I am curious if anyone else gets a similar vibe from this, or other articles.
Hight offers a new form of reading place through narratives derived from and organized by a range of data. However, there seems to be a lack of emphasis on the present experience of place. Does a historical archaeology of space allow us a deeper appreciation of what we are experiencing in situ? Or, does it only redirect our attention from what we are currently experiencing? It seems to me that, though interesting and engaging, Hight’s projects are not about reading the place as it is, but revealing the human traumas previously experienced. Thinking through spimes (Beyond Locative Media) offers a nonhuman critique of his, arguably, human-centric treatment of place. What are other ways we can think of space and place outside of narrative?
Rothfarb., R., Mixing Realities to Connect People, Places, and Exhibits Using Mobile Augmented-Reality Applications.
The Exploratorium in San Francisco details some of their work in locative media and AR in this article. The article covers a range of AR technologies including markers, and AR applications, examples of their work with AR, and even some guidance and best practices for other organizations looking to create AR experiences for their audiences. I found it extremely practical, and makes me want to go back to the Exploratorium, which I haven’t visited since I was a kid. Since we went over AR last week, and it appears we have a fairly good grasp of the technology, and in the interest of time (mine and those reading this), I am just going to cover one brief example of this app which is related to locative media. Specifically, I want to suggest that the Golden Gate Bridge Fog Altimeter is one of the few locative media applications focused on deepening the experience of space in real-time through technology. The authors do not go into great detail about the exhibit, writing only, “The exhibit becomes a virtual instrument that visitors can use to measure the altitude of fog in the bay by observation and to learn about weather phenomena that affect fog penetration into different parts of the city – a “take it with you” tool that can be used for personal investigation” (5).
It seems to me that this is a deepening of active experience, one which goes in direct contrast to 34 North 118 West and narrative driven projects. The goal here is to provide understanding of what one experiences. Weather processes may not be noticed, or understood, but they clearly impact our experience of space and place. The fog in San Francisco is part of the lived experience and understanding what is happening in the moment can be just as meaningful as the hidden narratives of those who once inhabited this space. However, it is difficult to tell what, exactly, the experience of this exhibit is, as it is only briefly mentioned. I just wanted to offer it as a counter to some of the larger, art-based projects that, from my point of view, tend to emphasize historical or social experiences than environmental.
Elisa Giaccardi. Cross-media interaction for the virtual museum: Reconnecting to Natural Heritage in Boulder, Colorado
This article describes The Silence of the Lands—a locative media project focusing on the sounds of nature in Boulder, Colorado. Elisa Giaccardi details both the philosophical approach to the app, as well as a description of the supporting technologies. The specific technologies (already slightly outdated, arguably) are not as important as the general technological infrastructure and activities supported, at least in my opinion. Briefly, the project works in the following stages:
1. Participants go into nature with a GPS enabled PDA to record sounds in nature. Giaccardi likens the device to a “sound camera” and the experience to taking snapshots.
2. Sounds are loaded to a web server and participants can go online to catalogue their sounds. It is a process of engaging with the sounds through personal memory and the objective reality of what is recorded.
3. Public sessions invite community members (who may or may not have participated in the capturing of the sounds) to create ideal soundscapes via an interactive table with mapping overlays.
Giaccardi also references the ability to create soundscapes on the website, but she did not include it when describing the above scenario. It seems that her focus is on the communal aspect of the project, and the ways that the project supports a move from the individual to collective experiences. This is definitely still valid for the web based editing, but the emphasis on shared soundscape creation seems important.
The result is collage-like, both in the resulting artifact, as well as the individual and communal actions needed to create the work (recording, cataloguing, and editing/representation). It is a form of shared meaning making, through different levels of collaboration. Giaccardi acknowledges that simply providing the technological infrastructure is not enough to engender such collaboration, and details a series of “social infrastructure” initiatives to get the community involved. Namely by working with local municipalities to encourage participation in organized soundwalks and community workshops. Her goal is to use sound as a way to catalyze and understand the community’s perspective on and relationship to the surrounding natural environment through these technological and social infrastructures:
“The primary objective of this project is to encourage an engaged way of listening to the natural environment and to support a situated and narrative mode of interpreting natural quiet that may foster community building and contribute to environmental culture and sustainable development. What we envision is to connect the Boulder community and its land, and to cultivate their creative relationship by enabling inhabitants and stakeholders to look at each other’s experiences, connect with each other’s perceptions, and inform their actions upon the shared narrative that is unfolding over time” (115).
Giaccardi positions the project as fundamentally different from other virtual museum initiatives, which she claims focus on the archive. Instead, she offers the model of the “repertoire” to describe the intertwining of individual and communal experience and perspectives. Thus the experience of the mobile app is focused on allowing individuals to record and map their experience in nature and to share these recordings as “digital representations” that express “their different values perspectives” (115). By providing collaborative, creative tools (recording and composition), it is hoped that the participants’ artifacts will reveal their understanding of and relationship to the natural evironment. Rather than just being a “digital archive,” she says it is a “repertoire —meant to sustain the whole system of knowledge and reproduction as a living system” (118).” She argues that the difference is predicated on a continual actualization of the community’s relationship to nature, the virtual museum is the site of activity and action that represents an unfolding reality.
I think that this is a very interesting locative media process, one which attempts to capture the experiences in nature and creatively repurpose them. I am skeptical of some of the author’s language. She describes the process of going into nature to record sounds as “authentic, direct and intimate,” but she fails to look at any ideas of technological framing of the project, or the encounter with nature (122). Going out to record sounds, in my personal experience, is different than just going out to walk in the woods. Purpose can change the experience, and arguably create a goal-driven experience. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this! It is just different. However, I find the lack of philosophical attention to technology strange in this article, as it neglects the way technology informs the project, especially since the article itself is so philosophically savvy.
What do you think of this idea, repertoire vs. the archive? Is it a fair characterization of other digital initiatives? Does the strategy reflect a shift in stance, or is it just wrapped up in nice rhetoric? Could Fiona Campbell’s papers on enhancing multiple meanings of objects also be considered a strategy of repertoire? James Clifford’s zones of contacts?
What about the role of technology in this scenario? Giaccomi does not address the way that technology shapes the experience of being in nature, recording and editing sound, or even engender a specific kind of interaction between community members. Are there not systems of logic in place (i.e., the design of the app, editing tools, interaction table) that, like any museum display or other ‘programming’, shape the potential actualizations and conceptual frameworks through which participants make meaning?
From Picassos to Sarcophagi, Guided by Phone Apps (New York Times, Oct. 1 2010)
This review article of a number of museum apps is a great continuation from last week’s AR/VR readings. It focuses on the museum experience while using apps and picks up on Barney’s article (Terminal City). It aligns with his broader critique that looking at one’s phone when standing in front of a piece of art is kind of missing the point. However, and I think more important to the museums and app makers, the author notes how bad the apps are for deepening the museum experience. Rothstein notes that there are a number of useful activities apps can help us with while in museums, but they mostly come down to way-finding techniques (Where is the bathroom? Which room can I find the Mona Lisa in?) or providing more information about a particular work of art.
The way-finding techniques are not yet widely implemented, and can be tricky. The best solutions seem to be museums who have installed wifi routers in the building and can triangulate visitor position that way. This is useful when available to receive information about specific exhibits or amenities. However, even when implemented as in the Museum of Natural History, the delivery of robust, deep content about the museum collection seems widely missing.
Rothstein laments that most of the apps are lacking content, providing only thin descriptions. What is best about this article, I think, is his vision for what these apps may provide in the future. Interestingly, I think it aligns nicely most of our readings thus far in the semester. “It is best to consider all these apps flawed works in progress. So much more should be possible. Imagine standing in front of an object with an app that, sensing your location, is already displaying precisely the right information. It might offer historical background or direct you through links to other works that have some connection to the object. It might provide links to critical commentary. It might become, for each object, an exhibition in itself, ripe with alternate narratives and elaborate associations.”
Townsend, A. (2006). Locative-Media Artists in the Contested-Aware City. Leonardo, 39(4), 345-347.
This article examines location aware technologies in a specific context-aware form, highlighting two distinct approaches of technological implementation: top-down systems and bottom-up systems. The author suggests that these two strategies will result in an ongoing power struggle waged through technological systems deployed in the built environment. Townsend offers a slightly different take on location aware media, moving instead to a “context aware” model enabled by new sensor technology. “These new technologies are characterized by their ability to gather information about their surroundings by sensing the physical world, understanding these data, identifying patterns and acting or reacting” (345).
Townsend states that the complexity of these technologies has engendered top-down and bottom-up strategies of design. Top-down strategies “use relatively simple sensing mechanisms, highly formalized vocabularies for describing and organizing sense data, and closed channels for communicating context” (345). Meanwhile, bottom-up strategies use “more sophisticated sensing mechanisms, very informal data vocabularies and open systems for exchanging context” (345). Top-down strategies are centralized control-driven designs—Townsend uses a toll system as an example. Control is strict and tied into various systems of tight control: identification systems, billing systems, etc. Bottom-up examples are the tagging system of del.icio.us and Flickr, they are often called “folksonomies,” tagging systems with open vocabularies (i.e., users can add new tags at any time).
These two different strategies are beginning to reveal different forms of context awareness, and on some levels clash against one another. For instance, he contrasts the universal presence of visual surveillance (top-down) to the (bottom-up) Open Street Map project that uses GPS logs of amateur surveyors “to create a free set of digital street maps” (347). In many ways, he pits artists and community organizations as bottom-up innovators in resistance to control-oriented top-down systems of governments and corporations. The two different strategies impact on how we experience place. “For the question being raised by context-aware systems are about more than just location, how we experience space and the meaning of place” (347).
There is an overriding technologic deterministic tone to Townsend’s article. One that has already given in to the inevitable integration of technologies and cities. “The artists of tomorrow with [sic] have to explore the meaning of perception in a world in which we will have our sourced many of our perceptive tasks to machines, to extend and augment our abilities” (347). The technological landscape, as he puts it, is determined at odds through the technologies mobilized. However, it is as if there is no room for change. I have a hard time with this view. Cultures change, and the privacy concerns he lists as one of the motivators for bottom-up technologies will undoubtedly shift with generations growing up on line along with technologies like Facebook. The dualistic approach Townsend takes seem likely in the short term, but I wonder how long this contest will really run for.
Are these the only design strategies we can come up with for how we enable technological systems to be context aware? If so, must they automatically be contested? Is there no room for hybrid practices of middle-up-and-down systems that enable new vocabularies of experience? Is a context-aware environment really going to force us to offload our perceptive tasks?
Shirvanee, L. (2007). Social viscosities: mapping social performance in public space. Digital Creativity, 18(3), 151-160.
Lily Shirvanee writes about locative media practices that “address a social consciousness” (151). She coins the term “social viscosities” to describe the “dynamic spaces of flow between people that emerge as collective activities begin to form in mobile social groups” (151). Locative media can bring forth unnoticed, and instigate new forms of, collective activities. She covers a range of artworks that attempt to do just that through a few key strategies:
Narratives in time and space—Focuses on project like 34 North 118 West. Here Shrivanee focuses on how social practices inform the production of space, and how narrative can shift the social experience of space. It creates a “resonance” between the participant and “others who have inhabited the same space” (153).
Mapping Social Histories—In Amsterdam RealTime participants were tracked via GPS in an attempt to visualize the traces of real-time activity in the city. “Locative mapping as personal expression can become interesting to individuals as a reflection and as a narration of their experience” (154).
Mobile Gaming Culture—Botfighters allows players to track one another in the city. GPS data allows the proximity of players to be determined and “indicate when another is close enough to tag or hit…In the complexity of the urban context, this game becomes a tool for mediation—a tactical device that not only enables strangers within a locative range to communicate with each other, but also has the potential to create a shared narrative between individuals that may create ripples of familiarity across a society of gamers” (155).
Surveillance and Social Spam—Films like Minority Report and Blade Runner as dystopian visions for advertising run amok. Projects like Personal Telco Project, which were providing free wireless to the public have recently been shut out of the social space by corporate wifi by Starbucks and T-Mobile signals that overpowered the independent, free service where “the potential for a new urban storytelling is surprised by commerce” (157).
These themes are analyzed through Shirvanee’s Social Viscosity project, which seeks to create a “storymapping project that tracks ‘social viscosities’ in Cambridge, UK” (158). Building on the themes above, Shrivanee expects that her project will bring forth community voices in active disruption of “political and commercial control” of public space. Her project, and the ones detailed in the article are all enabled through locative media, and she argues that these projects have the potential to create a connective space through such technologies (159).
Speed, C. (2010). Developing a Sense of Place with Locative Media: An “Underview Effect.” Leonardo, 43(2), 169-174.
Chris Speed works off of the “Overview Effect”—the reported experience of astronauts when seeing the earth from a distance feel an overwhelming sense of connection to the entire planet—to develop his own idea of an “Underview Effect”: using locative and social media to present an altered experience of place that “supports a sense of place” over a sense of time (169). His view is that technologies of navigation and mapping make our connection to place difficult to maintain. The “Underview Effect” is the author’s attempt to reinvigorate a sense of space while being on the planet, which he argues is difficult to maintain due to the Cartesian models of space and time. “[W]ith the development of the map and the marine chronometer that allowed seafarers to navigate places safely, space was split from our sense of time, making it very difficult for any future technology based on thiese systems to convey any actual sense of place—any sense of “here” or “there…Digital systems have proceeded to capitalize upon the use of the split system to an increasingly extreme extent, which at its peak posited the idea of virtual realities; spaces that promised an extreme lack of place and embraced a form of homelessness” (170). This split model of space and time is still prevalent in the map, according to Speed, and locative media needs to “be sensitive in the way that it adopts Cartesian and abstract ways of describing a sense of place” (172). In his own work, Speed and collaborators tried to do jus this when they created Digital Explorations in Architectural Urban Analysis.
They recorded GPS data from 17 people to create a simultaneous mapping of space through the group of people. The time stamp was removed from the GPS data He writes, “This apparent geography is unusual because it is the result of a social process. It is a landscape collected through the movement of groups of people working together to explore a specific place. In many ways, the topology describes knowl- edge of that place because it documents their movement across, around, over and through it. Traditional use of the same data depicted the lines of each of the 17 GPS devices over time and would have required a base map of Dundee for a user to understand the geography” (173). While I find his description of this lacking—I am honestly unable to make sense of how social mapping could be made to work “simultaneously” without reference to the time data—I nonetheless enjoy the goal of his work, a poke at the rational, Cartesian models of understanding space and place through a distributed “body” of multiple individuals.
However, once again, I find here a lack of attention to the experience of space/place as it unfolds. It focuses on processes of analysis after the experience of place.
Kabisch, E. (2010). Mobile after-media: trajectories and points of departure. Digital Creativity, 21(1), 46-54.
Eric Kabisch describes his project Datascape in terms of an after-media practice—”an approach toward media that sets itself in opposition to that which came before it” (47). Pulling from Benedcit Anderson’s idea of imagined communities, Kabisch describes how cities and communities are bound also by “shared visions and stories through witch their constituents identify both personally and collectively” (46). “Datascape is a geographic storytelling platform that enables artists, researchers, community groups and other individuals to narrate their local communities through geographic data” (ibid). He explains that his project began with the goal of exposing the use of consumer and demographic data to develop narrative descriptions of city blocks by marketing companies. Using a modular system of software, Kabisch will work with communities to incorporate technologies to enable communities to create the narratives they want to tell. Some examples of the projects using Datascape are: “graduate education majors who will be using the system to enable ecological and historical education around Newport Bay for high school students; artists and atmospheric scientists who will be using atmospheric data to illustrate correlations between changes on Earth and on Mars as a lens toward the importance of the issue of climate change; researchers who are collecting community information through cell phone users in order to highlight local community issues; a cultural anthropologist who is mapping the social geography of local Native American groups and how it has changed over time; a department of Cultural Affairs preparing interactive and interpretive experiences for visitors and residents; and a youth-artist-mentoring community group that enables disadvantaged youths to tell stories about their local communities” (49). Kabisch’s work is a response to mapping technologies and this informs his practice. He writes, “locative media as an offshoot of the underlying technologies of GIS is quite bound to previous modes of representation. I suggest that the requisite geodata ontology is typically carried through to the level of representation. A place—in all its richness—becomes a static marker on a map, a journey becomes a line, and a community becomes a polygon outline.” (49-50).
Kabisch nicely cycles through the various tensions and critiques inherent to locative media that we have seen in the other papers: an association with commercial interests, not being political enough, reliant on Cartesian models of space, and so on. His view of an after-media practice is interesting in that it works as a way to understand all of these issues. However, he does not explain how these elements manifest themselves in his work, how one practically addresses the deep tensions of an art practice through the ‘materials’ of the medium. So, his article, while interesting, and clearly delineating the critical issues surrounding locative media, does not explain how after-media works as a practice—it appears much more like a theoretical tool.
I have just finished my Powerpoint presentation for tomorrow’s seminar.
If any of you have smartphones or iPads, you may want to download the Layar app to see the projects described in most of the readings.
In the meantime, here is an AR video worth watching…
In this week’s seminar, I will be starting my presentation by giving a brief overview of some of the different forms and functions that virtual exhibits can take, illustrating these with examples. I will also present the highlights of a paper I wrote last semester on the digital affordances used to curate a virtual exhibit while we navigate through the exhibit online. After this, if we have time, I am hoping we can address some theoretical or ethical issue(s) related to virtual exhibits. I am very open to any of your suggestion(s) about what the class discussion should focus on and I am also open to presenting any virtual or visual material that you would like me to include. You can let me know in advance or else surprise me on the spot.
Before I give a brief summary of this week’s readings, I would like to start this blog post with a quote from a book that is not part of our course readings, but that is of great interest and use to me in my inquiry into the parallels between street art and web art, as well as between public space and virtual space. This book was written by one of my Concordia University art history professors who, for her doctoral research, travelled all around the world to document street art and graffiti, interviewing artists to gain insight on the function(s) of these art movements that have garnered increasing recognition by art world institutions and stakeholders. I am deliberately picking a quote, and a context, that is not directly related to the topic of “new media and the museum” to cast a wider net for our class discussions in the hope that you will consider ideas of space, context, and function that go beyond current new media scholarship.
“The problem with galleries is that 99% of urban artists use urban art as a stepping stone into galleries. It’s a fatal error because in galleries they’re seen by 40 people, in museums they’re seen by 10 people, but in the streets they’re seen by 100,000 people. And that’s the integrity of an artist’s work: to be seen. Not to be sold or to be recognized in a museum – but to be seen by the world.” (Street artist Blek le Rat qtd in Waclawek, 2011, p. 70)
So far our course readings have mostly provided us with a scholarly perspective on art, archives, as well as tangible and intangible cultural heritage in relation to the museum, its institutional discourse, and its relationship(s) to communities of practice that produce cultural artifacts. This seems perfectly reasonable since this is the title, and topic, of our course. However, in discussing virtual exhibits, as an agent provocateur, I felt it was important to draw your attention to two other important players, namely the artists themselves and the curators.
(SR #6) I found Gansallo’s (2010) article most intriguing in this respect in that it addressed the problematic relationship of both these parties to a well-established high-profile contemporary museum. The author discusses the difficulty of curating web-art embedded in a museum’s institutional website (in this case, the Tate website) when 3 different artists are individually commissioned by the museum itself to create web-art that calls into question how art is viewed (p. 346, para. 1). As curator, Gansallo became the go-between that enabled “the artists [to] have the right to present their ideas and their work without any interference whatsoever from people telling them what art is and what they should and shouldn’t do” (p. 348, para. 5).
PDQ : How can dominant culture/high-art institutional infrastructures accommodate and support subversive web-art that challenges the existing power structures institutions legitimize and shape?
(SR #5) In providing readers with an overview of many of the forms in which tangible and intangible cultural heritage is presented today, this article raises important question with regards to the role of digital technologies in preserving this heritage. Quoting Lowenthal (1994), Silberman (2008) urges us to consider the epistemological and discursive nature of cultural heritage, because, he argues, it may tell us more about the present than about the past: “the more realistic a reconstruction of the past seems, the more it is part of the present” (p. 83, para. 2). Alternatively, he suggests that cultural heritage can also be understood as a means to illuminate how the past has brought us into the present. Finally, he adds that our quest for essence in digital heritage may reflect “an overall understanding of why the Past is so important no less than what it is [sic]” (p. 90, para. 2).
In week #5’s readings, Fiona Cameron (2008) discussed this notion of the “essence” of cultural heritage in the following terms:
“A new way of looking at cultural materials in a digital format and as a model for organizing complex information online is to engage Andre Malraux’s idea of the museal, the museum characteristic of citation (quoted in Bournia 2006). Citation rejects the notion of a permanent pattern of human experience around the idea of art, or indeed heritage. In dissociating cultural materials in digital format from a sense of permanence as heritage, as an expression of their enduring essence, and instead reading objects as citation, opens selection and significance to other values and to the creative interaction between social and cultural systems as complexity” (p. 182, para. 3)
PDQ : In what way(s) does digital media problematize the “essence” of cultural heritage?
(RR #4) Comparing the exhibitionary techniques of traditional museums to those of today’s virtual museums, Lewi (2008) describes how the concept of architecture was central to the design of the CD-ROM project titled Visualising the architecture of Federation, a virtual exhibit representing the heritage of Western Australian architecture for Australia’s Centenary of Federation in 2001. She examines how architectural design was the organizing principle used to structure both information and the virtual exhibition space itself, an idea that was conceptually consistent with this project which was intended to celebrate the Western Australian Museum’s “architectural monumentality, its social status as a public space, and as an institution for research and public education” (p. 202, para. 3). Lewi offers a detailed discussion of some of the formal and logistical limitations and problems associated with the creation of a virtual counterpart to the traditional museum, in particular, lamenting the fact that lack of funds has not permitted to make this endeavor accessible on the internet.
PDQ: What is the relationship of virtual architectural exhibits to the real architectural structure(s) they aim to represent (if we reflect on it in terms of pros and cons)?
(RR #1) Tracing some of the origins of the virtual museum, Huhtamo (2002), identifies the emergence of exhibition design – a practice pioneered by avant-garde art movements of the early twentieth century – as a key factor that challenged the “relationship between exhibition spaces, exhibits and spectators/visitors” (p. 123, para. 2). The author also argues that the use of technology has historically led to a redefinition of these relationships which are still in flux today. An example he gives of this is how technology has provided audiences with a channel to bring art, and exhibits, into the home – and this can be as mundane as a series of reproductions on the walls of one’s home to a CD-ROM (pp. 128-129). I was most enchanted by Huhtamo’s essay because in my own view, exhibition design is instrumental in displaying art and cultural heritage. I believe that smoke and mirrors and lots of illusionistic cheap tricks are absolutely necessary in presenting art as they constitute an entry point into new “ways of seeing” and invite viewers to reconsider and rethink what they think they know. Citing Gell (1992), Isaac (2008) has discussed how this can be problematic if we view such strategies as “technologies of enchantment” that cast a spell over us and mystify reality (p. 291. para. 2).
PDQ: How do the magical tricks of technology enhance or disrupt our experience of art?
(RR #2) Bandelli (2010) offers some alternative examples of how virtual museums can augment and extend the physical setting of a museum space by proposing to look at what he calls the “social space” that can seamlessly be created between the ‘real’ activities and the ‘virtual’ experiences. To illustrate, he cites two major examples. First, one where students worked on their projects in computer labs located inside a science museum. Second, a virtual exhibit system that provided contextual information on a need-to-know basis. The author argues that in these scenarios, the social space is increased rather than reduced (cf. isolation). The key, he suggests, is to take into account how technology can complement the function(s) of the space in which it is implemented: to “understand social actions in space and time” (p. 152, para. 1).
PDQ: Can physical space and virtual space be combined to form a new ontological experience that does not serve to isolate the museum visitor?
(RR #3) Müller’s (2010) article extends a similar argument, except that his concern is with expanding the reach of the museum exhibit rather than enlarging the social space of its audience. Virtual space and physical space, he writes, provide different frames of reference for museum artifacts or collections and it is because of this difference in their discursive function that museums can provide the public with multiple ways to understand what they are seeing (cf. modes of reception). This, he says, is in keeping with the museums’ shift “from object-centered to story-centered exhibitions, while still maintaining the importance of the real object experience” (p. 297, para. 7). Aside from providing several examples of how digital technology can be more or less successfully applied to museum exhibits, Müller suggests seven features that he identifies as “necessary for the development of online exhibitions: space, time, links, storytelling, interactivity, production values, and accessibility” (p. 301, para. 1).
PDQ: Can you think of other features or medium affordances that could be identified to make the best use of digital technology when designing virtual exhibits or virtual museum space?
Take your pick or let’s do them all. I am looking forward to your contributions and invite you to forcefully push back and debate on issues related to week #7’s readings and presentation. And please feel free to interrupt me as often as you would like during the seminar…as well as demand that I immediately go to a URL of your choice. This week, your wish is my command: Let me be thou’s humble servant in thy seminar.
Week #7: possible themes for class discussion (feel free to add to this or state your preference(s) in class):
Cameron, Fiona (2010). The politics of heritage authorship: the case of digital heritage collections. In Y. Kalay, Kvan, T. & Affleck, J. (Eds.), (pp. 170-184), New heritage: new media and cultural heritage. London and New York: Routledge.
Gansallo, Matthew (2002). Curating new media. In R. Parry (Ed.), Museums in a digital age (pp. 344-350). London and New York: Routledge.
Gell, Alfred (1992). The technology of enchantment and the enchantment of technology. In J. Coote & Anthony Shelton (Eds), Anthropology, art and aesthetics (pp 40–66). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Huhtamo, Erkki (2002). On the origins of the virtual museum. In R. Parry (Ed.), Museums in a digital age (pp. 121-135). London and New York: Routledge.
Bandelli, Andrea (1999). Virtual spaces and museums. In R. Parry (Ed.), Museums in a digital age (pp. 148-152). London and New York: Routledge.
Isaac, Gwyneira. (2008). Technology becomes the object: The use of electronic media at the national museum of the American Indian. Journal of material culture 13 (3): 287-310.
Lewi, Hanna. Designing a virtual museum of architectural heritage. In Y. Kalay, Kvan, T. & Affleck, J. (Eds.), (pp. 261-274), New heritage: new media and cultural heritage. London and New York: Routledge.
Lowenthal, David. (1994). Conclusion: archaeologists and others. In P. Gathercole & D. Lowenthal (Eds.), The politics of the past (pp. 302-314). London: Routledge.
Müller, Klaus (2010). Museums and virtuality. In R. Parry (Ed.), Museums in a digital age (pp. 295-305). London and New York: Routledge.
Silberman, Neil (2008) Chasing the unicorn? The quest for ‘essence’. In Y. Kalay, Kvan, T. & Affleck, J. (Eds.), (pp. 81-91), New heritage: new media and cultural heritage. London and New York: Routledge.
Wacławek, Anna (2011). Graffiti and street art. New York : London : Thames & Hudson.