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What if you could see through the walls of every museum and something could tell you if you’d like it?
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What if you could see through the walls of every museum and something could tell you if you’d like it?


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A talk I was asked to give at Culture Hackday in London, talking about the thinking that's been going on in the latest project I'm a part of; Artfinder.

A talk I was asked to give at Culture Hackday in London, talking about the thinking that's been going on in the latest project I'm a part of; Artfinder.

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  • 1. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/JAGGEREE/ What if you could see through the walls of every museum and something could tell you if you’d like it? Chris Thorpe ArtFinderI’m going to start off this talk by saying why I think this is important. Culture is such a keypart of the fabric of our society in my eyes and yet it is something that is often perceived,rightly or wrongly as something not for me. It’s for the intelligentsia, the liberal classes, thetrendies. This is so untrue, but it’s something where there is a perceived risk to self esteemin trying new things. We have to break this, we have to make culture more democratic, moreinclusive, not by dumbing it down, but by making systems which talk to each other so thatthe good experiences you have in one place can lead to good experiences in other places.
  • 2. The concept for me of seeing through the walls of buildings all really starts with this manwho I expect none of you to know. He isn’t famous, apart from for me, he’s my maternalgrandfather.
  • 3. Who went by the great turn of the 20th century name of Cyril George Evans. He was anarchitect who designed mainly civic buildings like schools and offices. But most importantlyto me he’d draw buildings and taught me to draw them and about perspectives andprojections.
  • 4. He and I would also look at this wonderful book which is one of my most treasured things.The wonderful History of Architecture by Professor Banister Fletcher and Sir Banister Fletcher.
  • 5. And I loved pages like this, where you could see into buildings, see through their walls
  • 6. See what was inside, it’s like what we now know as MRI scans for buildings.
  • 7. It seemed to me the most magical thing to be able to see into a building. It’s such an unusualthing. Buildings are largely solid and opaque.
  • 8. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/HUMAIN/Unless of course they’re totally transparent like the Farnsworth House with all of the interioron show. It’s an unusually knowable building.
  • 9. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/SHANEGLOBAL/And that is the opposite of many galleries. From the outside they are unknowable in manyways. Solid edifices.
  • 10. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/JORDAN-SIM/Or ones which seem to categorically state what they do or what they are, which may in somecases intrigue and in other case put off.
  • 11. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/SRBOISVERT/They can be dominant facades, bereft of the ability to see in, to see what may be there.
  • 12. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/SHANEGLOBAL/Yet they can hold surprises and often things which unexpectedly fit with your tastes.
  • 13. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/MPIE/Such as the excellent collection of impressionist works at the National Gallery which youalways associate with old masters and renaissance art.
  • 14. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/JORDAN-SIM/And at the moment the Guggenheim in Bilbao, that high temple to contemporary art.
  • 15. Is housing an exhibition of Dutch and Flemish painting
  • 16. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/SRBOISVERT/And when Tate Modern opened it’s doors it contained a beautiful juxtaposition of a sitespecific work by Richard Long
  • 17. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/JUSTINMASTERSON/And Monet’s Waterlillies. There are always surprises and galleries which you feel may havenothing for you often do. It’s just hard to know where to go, to see through the walls.
  • 18. In theory websites should help. But the problem for me is that I need to know what questionsto ask of them. They are centered around the needs of the gallery to broadcast. They are usercentric in their design. However this doesn’t feel enough to me, I want user centricinformation more than I want user centric design.
  • 19. HTTP://BERGLONDON.COM/PROJECTS/HAT/ Bend services around the userI want the services I use to bend around me, and for the services I make to bend around theuser. Whenever I think about this concept I always think about this wonderful map from JackSchulze. The city and the possibilities open up from my point of view through the way itbends around the point I’m at.
  • 20. HTTP://WWW.SCHOOLOSCOPE.COM/One site which does this beautifully is Schooloscope, again from BERG. Where the informationabout schools is bent around the person’s location and the information is presented in a usercentric way.
  • 21. HTTP://OWLSNEARYOU.COM/And for me the best example is the wonderful Owls Near You, which does exactly what youwould expect. It tells you where the nearest owls to you are. If you’d like more than owls,there is Wildlife Near You.
  • 22. I think there’s a fascinating opportunity around art and around the hidden art in our world,things like the Government Art Collection. It’s the ultimate unknowable gallery, until it’sexhibitions at the Whitechapel next year you can’t see it in an exhibition where mechanismssuch as serendipity can help you discover what is in it and what you may like. At RewiredCulture I made this prototype of an iPad explorer for the GAC, which at it’s heart was aboutdemystifying and knowing it, the opening screen presented a random collection everytimeyou returned to it.
  • 23. For a while now I’ve been thinking about one of my favourite scenes from a very trashy film,Disclosure. I love the concept of the angel which acts as the guide in the virtual realityfilesystem explorer. It’s what I want for galleries, an angel on my shoulder whispering to meabout the artist’s intent and about pertinent and fascinating facts about the art history, artist,technique and provenance of what I’m looking at.
  • 24. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/STUNNED/What I don’t want really is this, augmented reality, the noisy attention seeking display of data.
  • 25. Over Christmas I watched Wall-E and it became so clear to me of what I didn’t want forgallery spaces and why I don’t want augmented reality apps. The screen gets in the way ofart, you don’t see what is there and your eye isn’t drawn to the wonderful thing juxtaposedwith the thing you came to see. It becomes all about information delivery and less about thenatural interactions that lead to discovery.
  • 26. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/JUSTINMASTERSON/ Look at art not screensIt feels simple to me. Look at art not screens. Yet so many gallery tours are full of video andyou see people wandering round, being educated but not really experiencing the thingsthey’re learning about.
  • 27. HTTP://RUSSELLDAVIES.TYPEPAD.COM/PLANNING/2009/11/PLAYFUL.HTMLThis is what we really need. This was a wonderful prototype made by the people at the ReallyInterested Group, an audio based augmented reality app. But even then, it needs to be quiet alot of the time so you can experience the whole experience of where you are.
  • 28. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/NIMINIA/ Technology should get out of the way.In all cases, this should be true. The technology is not why you are there, it needs to knowit’s place.
  • 29. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/MPIE/ How to do zoom in gallery apps...I was recently asked how we planned to zoom into the pictures in the smartphone guideswe’re making and thinking about at the moment. For me it’s obvious.
  • 30. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/MPIE/ How to do zoom in gallery apps... Walk towards the painting.You simply walk towards the real painting that’s here and now with you in the gallery.
  • 31. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/HOBER/For me the role of technology aside from being a mechanism to inform and enhance theexperience is to capture what you’re looking at, what you love, what you’ve seen. A sort offlight data recorder for gallery visits.
  • 32. Something a bit like this treasure hunt game I made for the Hide and Seek festival which gaveyou and end of day essay telling you what you’d seen, with each object being a pathway tomore discovery, you clicked on it’s name in the essay which parodies the school child’s endof summer holiday back to school essay, and discover who else has seen that thing and whatthey saw... serendipity and filtering and recommendations through implicit and explicitrecording of actions.
  • 33. HTTP://CONTENT.STAMEN.COM/PRETTYMAPS_ON_20X200_PRINTSI’ve been pondering also of late how this sort of big data can be presented back to the userspatially. And of course a good way to start thinking of this is to look at some of the lovelywork of Stamen Design in San Francisco.
  • 34. Thyssen-Bornemisza Prado Reine SofiaI’ve been playing with their Polymaps framework thinking about how this “flight recorder”data can be used to start recommending to you where you should go in cities to see the artyou’d love. This for me is the classic example, every guidebook will tell you that the must seegallery in the city is the Prado, but if you love contemporary art, the Thyssen-Bronemisza andthe Reine Sofia are more likely to be the places you’d want to spend more time. We can buildan atlas of the art that you’d love. This reduces the risk in a way of a visit where you feltuncomfortable, or that it wasn’t to your taste, or that you didn’t find anything you wanted tosee and felt that it was a waste of time or money to go to the gallery, experiences which mayreduce your desire to visit more galleries to engage more.
  • 35. HTTP://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/JAGGEREE/As I was writing this talk I noticed that there is a perfect example of this just around thecorner from the office in a tube station I use on many days. On the Central line platform thereare graphics of the pillars of the British Museum interspersed with images of some of theartefacts in the museum. It is as if the walls of the museum are stripped away, revealing thecontents that lie inside. It is the essence of seeing through the walls and seeing hints as towhat you will like within it. I hope we can make this manifest in many ways and in manyplaces so that more people will find the things they love and can enrich their lives.
  • 36. Chris Thorpe Founder/Technologist @jaggeree