Museums should be like churches?

First of all I have to say that I am really disappointed with the production quality of this presentation. I realize that the apology was given up front, but isn’t this the Smithsonian? And in a twist of irony, the topic is using technology to further their efforts at education. . .hmmm.

Moving on.

I read this article by Alain de Botton, from the BBC earlier this semester. He proposed that museums take a cue from religion and at least attempt to deliver content that is didactic (meaning a lesson through visual aids–like gospel iconographies that follow visual cues so even the illiterate could understand the moral of the story). At first I was kind of defensive about museums and the humanities, but then, after reading our segment on digital histories somewhere around week four or five, it all began to make sense to me. I had to revisit the article in fact. And what he says is true, there is no overt lesson to be learned when we go to museums (which might seem like a relief, right?) But very little art is created without some message, without embodying certain values (be it mathematical–whatever). So what if you could use some of this bottom-up technology that I got so excited about, that would allow users to create-their-own-adventure based on features that the user is drawn to (even subconsciously!)? There are stylistic and aesthetic elements that I preferred without my having been aware of the values they represented (I discovered this in my art history courses), so what if we could use technology to deliver quick, calculated, and almost self-directed themes, threads, or courses when we visit museums…”if you liked this, then you will probably like that“. How many books have I purchased from Amazon when they made recommendations!? I never once stopped to ask how they calculated these preferences, or on what grounds they made such suggestions. But more often than not, they were right!

So. Using mobile devices to deliver a dialectic we can have with our museums. Engage the users in a conversation of sorts, letting us engage with the works and exhibits in a totally new way. Then museums could actively educate the viewers, allowing them to choose topics based on their own interests, rather just laying out a (sometimes quite small) plate of information, hoping they read it, and understand its importance.
Brilliant! I just need to find out how to do it. That’s all.

2 thoughts on “Museums should be like churches?”

  1. Loved it Missdirection and BTW Amazon has hooked me quite a few times because they now know me so well! It seems in this day and age that we have precious little time to search through the mountains of information for what we want so if a museum could follow Amazon’s example, know what we want and then design our experience accordingly that would be the cat’s meeeoooowww!

  2. This is a great idea Angie. I, too, get suckered in by Amazon because they do it well. I will say that Netflix tries and fails. Their “suggestions” based on my other movie interests make no sense to me. The calculation part seems incredibly important.

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