Digital Technologies for Meaningful Visitor Engagement

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<ul><li><p>7/24/2019 Digital Technologies for Meaningful Visitor Engagement</p><p> 1/5</p><p>E X H IB IT IO N IST F A L L ' 1 3</p><p>15</p><p>Catching Our Breath: Assessing Digital TechnologiesforMeaningful Visitor Engagement</p><p>byStacey Mann, Jennifer Moses, and Matthew Fisher</p><p>Stacey Mann, Jennifer Moses</p><p>and Matthew Fisher work</p><p>at Night Kitchen Interactive as</p><p>Director of Learning Strategies,</p><p>Content Specialist, and President,</p><p>respectively. They may be reached</p><p>at,</p><p>, or</p><p></p><p>Fathers Day at the Met could havebeen meltdown city for my friendsthree-and six-year-old daughters</p><p>if not for Aunt Stacey and her iPhone.As the girls attention began to wane, webegan to play SFMOMAs Family GalleryGame app, helping us to connect with thesurrounding paintings and each other innew ways:</p><p>Look at the clothes of the tallest personon your team. What colors, shapes, andlines do you see? Choose an artwork inthe gallery that most closely matches theirclothes. Explain your choice.</p><p>The three-year-old selected GauguinsTwo Womenbecause one of the womensshirts matched my sweater. The six-yearold pointed to Bouquet of Flowers in aVaseby van Gogh because the dark blueand black background matched my entire</p><p>outfit (including sneakers). Prompted bythe app, we side-stepped, single-filed, andpenguin-waddled through seven galleries,and along the way found paintings thatbest-captured a sense of Cool. Quiet.and Bright. Fun. We studied onepainting closely and then recalled itsdetails and pantomimed paintings as theothers guessed. When I said my good-byes hours later, the elder child thankedme for playing that fun game todayat the museum. Her parents promptlydownloaded the app!</p><p>The Digital LandscapeThere is no doubt that rapid technologicalchange is transforming the worldaround us and in turn the museumindustry. The question is no longerwhen, but rather howwill we embraceemerging digital technologies. Museumprofessionalsexhibition developers and</p><p>educators in particularare striving todefine the space between engagementand distraction, where we can leveragetechnology to expand and enhance thevisitor experience without overwhelming(or underwhelming) them with newdigital tools. With the rush to digitize,we advocate pausing to take a breath.How can we leverage mobile and other</p><p>technologies strategically to supportmeaningful interactions in museumspaces? What are the pros and cons of themany tools, features, and functionalitiesalready in use?</p><p>Technology revolutions have over timetransformed the way we live and interact.Today, we witness the rise of the Internetand mobile technologies with the capacityto deliver the world to the palm ofyour hand. As with earlier milestones,the genie isnt going back in the bottle.</p><p>However, decades may pass before wefully understand the implications of anynew technology, either at the individualor societal level. By that time, themarketplace has been defined less by bestpractices, and more by ingrained habitsand profitability. It can be difficult torethink and retrain ourselves to use thetechnology in more strategic or beneficialways.</p><p>Technology (mobile or otherwise) isubiquitous in our daily lives, with</p><p>current surveys indicating that mobileplatforms are emerging as the primaryaccess point for people to engage withthe world around them1(Brenner, 2013).Yet, current research about how we usetechnology in our daily lives paints asobering picture. Several studies indicateshifts in cognitive processing, shrinkingattention spans, delayed or deferred</p><p>If you would like to comment</p><p>on this article or others in this</p><p>issue, please log on to the NAME</p><p>listserv at</p><p>com/group/NAME-AAM/.</p><p>Decades may</p><p>pass before we</p><p>fully understand</p><p>the implicationsof any new</p><p>technology,</p><p>either at the</p><p>individual or</p><p>societal level. By</p><p>that time, the</p><p>marketplace has</p><p>been defined lessby best practices,</p><p>and more by</p><p>ingrained habits</p><p>and profitability.</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Digital Technologies for Meaningful Visitor Engagement</p><p> 2/5</p><p>E X H IB IT IO N IST F A L L ' 1 3</p><p>16</p><p>social skill development, and drops infundamental literacy skills (Bauerlein,2008; Carr, 2011; Turkle, 2011; Smalland Vorgan, 2008). Digital natives (akaMillennials), in particular the youngestamong them, dont necessarily distinguishbetween the real and the virtual. Whenthey do, many of them prefer the digital</p><p>realm.</p><p>As much as it may be eroding attentionspans and traditional forms ofcommunication, digital engagement mayalso be fostering a new set of intellectualand social skills that often mystifynon-digital natives. They include agreater flexibility to make quick, lateralconnections; an increased consciousnessof oneself within a larger social context;more familiarity with local, nationaland global perspectives; and a stronger</p><p>feeling of empowerment to openly voicetheir ideas. We believe there is balanceto be found in this digital landscapeby anchoring museum technologies intraditional interpretive methods, whilecapitalizing on new digital abilities.</p><p>Focusing Our EffortsTraditionally museums have served the</p><p>public by providing access to historical,scientific, and cultural artifacts andinformed commentary and research, andare increasingly adopting technologies tosupport more engaged learning. But themuseum-going experience must be aboutmore than knowledge transfer.</p><p>The 21st</p><p>century museum is visitor-centric, participatory, and social. Whatrole should technology play? On one endof the spectrum, purists resist both thetechnical and democratizing aspects ofnew media; on the other end, techno-evangelists advocate doggedly for theopportunities presented by new media,often loathe to hear any reservations orcriticisms of mobile technologies. Webelieve that new media technologiespresent enormous opportunities toinnovate and enhance museum exhibits;</p><p>but uses of these technologies must begrounded in a mindful approach that mayurge visitors to actually look up from theirmobile devices, to return their attentionto the actual space of the museum exhibit,and to the other people sharing that space.</p><p>So what do we mean by a mindfulapproach? Based on our collective</p><p>The SF MOMA Family Gallery Gameapp encourages visitors to explore art galleries together, interacting with the artworks</p><p>and one another along the way. Furthermore the educational focus on fundamental art interpretation skills means the app</p><p>can be used successfully in nearly any art museum. Courtesy of Night Kitchen Interactive.</p><p>(continued from page 15)</p><p>No matter</p><p>how beautiful</p><p>and engaging</p><p>your museums</p><p>mobile apps or</p><p>other in-gallery</p><p>technologies,</p><p>there is still</p><p>profound</p><p>value in social</p><p>engagement and</p><p>dialog within the</p><p>museum space.</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Digital Technologies for Meaningful Visitor Engagement</p><p> 3/5</p><p>E X H IB IT IO N IST F A L L ' 1 3</p><p>17</p><p>experiences in the industry, we haveidentified some basic guidelines forharnessing digital technologies to fostersocial interaction and transformationallearning in the museum space.</p><p>Dont Buy the HypeFirst, technology is not always thesolution.2More importantly, just</p><p>because we can create and engage withvirtual worlds doesnt mean the physicalworld melts away. Every museumprofessional has observed the zombie-like effect that headphone audio toursinduce in gallery visitors: inattentionblindness as described in a recentAmerican Automobile Associationstudy looking at the effects of handsfree technologies on drivers awarenessof the physical space around them(AAA, 2013). In the attempt to delivermore interpretive content to visitors via</p><p>digital means, we dont want to losesight of museums as a communal spaceoffering shared experiences.</p><p>Embrace Real Social SpaceTechnology is not, nor should it be,considered a replacement for thereal social spaces represented bymuseums. That said, engaging invirtual connections is not definitivelyanti-social; one can be both socialand virtual (think Facebook). By realsocial we mean the person-to-person</p><p>connections made within real spacessuch as museums (Fisher and Moses,2013). No matter how beautifuland engaging your museums mobileapps or other in-gallery technologies,there is still profound value in socialengagement and dialog within themuseum space. To stem the tide oftechnological alienation, some museums</p><p>have begun to enforce phone-free zones.</p><p>We would argue that this is not the onlyanswer. Instead we challenge museumsto find creative ways to harness whatwould otherwise be a distraction fromthe immediate environment.</p><p>Make it IntegratedTechnologies are most effectiveat creating an intensely engagingexperience when the context of thephysical space supports the underlyingobjectives of the technologicalexperience, and vice versa. In orderto encourage social behavior, carveout room for engagement and modelor scaffold the behavior you hopeto inspire. Additionally, dont workagainst visitor expectations for theenvironment. At the University ofMichigan Museum of Art, theirDialogTable (a multi-person, gesture-based interactive) is located in a</p><p>The activities in the upper right , those that are both social and in real space, ta ke greatest advantage of the</p><p>museum environment. This quadrant is what we like to think of a s the sweet spotof social learning, or reasocial.Courtesy of Night Kitchen Interactive.</p><p>Endnotes:</p><p>1. As of May 2013: 91% ofAmerican adults have a cell phone</p><p>56% of American adults have a</p><p>smartphone, 34% of American</p><p>adults own a tablet computer.</p><p>2. Evgeny Morozov cautions</p><p>against solutionism, arguing</p><p>that the potential uses of</p><p>digital technologies have been</p><p>over-hyped, and their possible</p><p>consequences under-examined.</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Digital Technologies for Meaningful Visitor Engagement</p><p> 4/5</p><p>E X H IB IT IO N IST F A L L ' 1 3</p><p>181818</p><p>(continued from page 17) gallery adjacent to their caf rather thandeeper within the more contemplativegalleries. Conceived to engage visitorsin conversations about objects from thecollection, the table offers a variety ofvoices from the museums community,such as professors, performers, poets andvisitors. The exhibits locale supports theobjectives of the DialogTable by allowingfor real conversation about objects fromthe collection as visitors digitally exploreinformation about pieces they viewedin the galleries. Connecting lines aredrawn between visitors common objectselections, revealing common bondsbetween strangers, and creating a naturalspringboard for further discussion, allwithin an inviting atmosphere. The</p><p>experience extends beyond the museum aswell with visitors creating pools of favoriteobjects to be retrieved on the website,where they can learn more and contributeto the tags that dynamically generateconnections on the table.</p><p>Make It PersonalWhen visitors walk through the front</p><p>door of the museum, they want to beinspired or tantalized by the collection,the space, and the experience. Theres alot competing for their attention. Timelyand contextual information is useful, butthe further goal should be to establishaffinity with visitors, and invite personalconnections to initiate deeper engagement.Personalization can be accomplishedvia simple polls (What brought you tothe museum today?)or more advancedpreference mapping (Create your owntour!)The deeper question is: onceyouve made a connection, how willyou capitalize on the openness of thatmoment?</p><p>As part of their recent exhibition State</p><p>of Deception: The Power of NaziPropaganda,the United States HolocaustMemorial Museum created an interactivetexting tour. By dialing a phone numberprinted near the entrance, visitors areintroduced to Museum volunteer andHolocaust survivor, Margit Meissner. Asvisitors listen to her share her personalstory of survival and how propaganda</p><p>The DialogTable uses gesture-based technology to allow visitors to learn collectively and share their reflections about artworks in the University</p><p>of Michigans Museum of Art. Courtesy of Night Kitchen Interactive.</p><p>References:</p><p>AAA Foundation for Traffic</p><p>Safety (2013). Cognitive</p><p>distraction: Something to</p><p>think about.Retrieved June 19,</p><p>2013 from</p><p></p><p>wp-content/uploads/2013/06/</p><p>Cognitive-Distraction_AAAFTS-</p><p>Research-Compendium.pdf</p><p>Bauerlein, M. (2008). The</p><p>dumbest generation: How the</p><p>digital age stupefies young</p><p>Americans and jeopardizes our</p><p>future (or dont trust anyone</p><p>under 30).New York: Penguin</p><p>Group.</p><p>Brenner, J. (2013). Pew internet</p><p>mobile,Retrieved June 19, 2013</p><p>from</p><p>Commentary/2012/February/Pew-</p><p>Internet-Mobile.aspx</p></li><li><p>7/24/2019 Digital Technologies for Meaningful Visitor Engagement</p><p> 5/5</p><p>E X H IB IT IO N IST F A L L ' 1 3</p><p>191919</p><p>References Continued:</p><p>Carr, N. (2011). The shallows:</p><p>What the internet is doing to our</p><p>brains.New York: W. W. Norton</p><p>&amp; Company.</p><p>Fisher, M. and Moses, J. (2013)</p><p>Rousing the mobile herd: Apps</p><p>that encourage real space</p><p>engagement. Museums and</p><p>the Web 2013.Retrieved June</p><p>19, 2013 from http://mw2013.</p><p></p><p>rousing-the-mobile-herd-apps-</p><p>that-encourage-real-space-</p><p>engagement/</p><p>Morozov, E. (2013) To save</p><p>everything, cli ck here: The folly o</p><p>technological solutionism.New</p><p>York: Public A ffairs.</p><p>Norman, D. (2007). The design</p><p>of future things.New York: Basic</p><p>Books.</p><p>Palfrey, J. and Gasser, U. (2008).</p><p>Born digital: Understanding the</p><p>first generation of digital natives.</p><p>New York: Basic Books.</p><p>Small, G. and Vorgan, G.</p><p>(2008). iBrain: Surviving the</p><p>technological alteration of the</p><p>modern mind.New York: Harper</p><p>Collins.</p><p>Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together:</p><p>Why we expect more from</p><p>technology and less from each</p><p>other.New York: Basic Books.</p><p>had a direct effect on the lives of herand her family, Margit texts furtherinstructions on how to proceed. Atsubsequent stops, visitors are promptedto study certain objects and respond toquestions posed by our intrepid avatar.Having a name, face, voice, and storyassociated with the auto-generated SMStexts adds a dimension of intimacy to the</p><p>experience. The visitor is asked to engagewith this content by someone who has adeeply personal stake in the material. Theexperience allows audiences to personallyconnect, however tangentially, to someonethey wouldnt normally be able to meet.</p><p>Make It SocialWeve already expressed our belief inthe importance of social interaction asa key factor in successful technologyintegration. In a recent review of museummobile offerings we found that most</p><p>(like audio tours) dont encourage socialengagement (Fisher and Moses, 2013).There are significant exceptions, however.In the opening anecdote we describedSFMOMAs Family Gallery Game, anintentionally social romp through an artmuseum, a space typically associatedwith quiet and reflective behavior. Theapp reinforces respectful gallery etiquettebut in a way that also encourages groupcollaboration, discussion, and play.</p><p>We acknowledge that social can</p><p>mean different things, take many forms,and be tricky to achieve. What can welearn about creating social spaces fromtechnology thats already out there inthe world? To support social behavior,an exhibit or mobile app needs to do anumber of things:</p><p> establish affinity with visitors; ask visitors qu...</p></li></ul>