Four Tests in Three Summers: Assessing visitor preferences in handhelds at SFMOMA
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Four Tests in Three Summers: Assessing visitor preferences in handhelds at SFMOMA



Talk given at Tate Handheld Symposium, Sept. 5, 2008.

Talk given at Tate Handheld Symposium, Sept. 5, 2008.



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Four Tests in Three Summers: Assessing visitor preferences in handhelds at SFMOMA Four Tests in Three Summers: Assessing visitor preferences in handhelds at SFMOMA Presentation Transcript

  • Four Tests in Three Summers: Assessing visitor preferences in handhelds at SFMOMA Peter Samis Associate Curator, Interpretation San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Tate Handheld Symposium • 5 Sept. 2008
  • Case Study: Matthew Barney .
  • Matthew Barney sculptures in the gallery
  • Our problem: subtract the man/film from the gallery, and… How to make the mute plastic speak?
  • Traditionally, this would have been cause for a multimedia feature. … online, by the galleries, in the Koret Center.
  • To this, we added multiple format audio tours:
    • Podcast: download from home
    • Gallery X-plorer: rent in Atrium
    • Cell phone: turn on in show
    Collaboration with Antenna Audio to develop content for all three.
  • Downloadable podcast map
  • Cell phone promotional card - collab w/ Guide by Cell
  • At first, we thought we were setting out to measure visitor preferences for three different types of audio tours. And we did that.
  • What did we find out?
    • There is no clear winner
    • Traditional devices skew older
    • iPods and cell phones seem to skew younger *
    • Visitors appreciate multiple experience options
    * statistics not fully conclusive
  • Different devices support different touring styles :
    • Cell phones averaged 4.6 stops out of 10, indicating à la carte, on demand use
    • iPods and traditional audio tour devices averaged 70-80% stop use : a more immersive , custom experience
    In fact, iPod and traditional headset tour users had more in common than these users might suspect…
  • Those who chose the iPod and cell phone formats rated them more highly than traditional headset tour users rated theirs. (although the content was identical!)
  • Phone logs enabled us to see patterns in where visitors wanted information most: (or perhaps where they or could find the labels!)
  • In fact, GuideBy Cell now mashes up area codes and Google Maps to reveal where visitors are from:
  • Stats: Cell-phone Tours
    • Good News: Guide by Cell records
    • 1st exhibition with over 10,000 calls
    • Average message selection in other museums is only 33%
    • Bad News:
    • Still only averaging 45 visitors/day
    • Only 3.7% of exhibition visitors
  • So somewhere along the way, the target shifted.
  • The elephant in the room is that: The vast majority of our visitors do not use technology during their museum visit. So how do we reach them?
  • If our goal is to use technology, we may just nod and move on . But if our goal is to enhance visitor experience, we have to think larger.
  • “Variable on-demand mediation.” –Brad Johnson, Second Story Interactive
  • Interpretive Menu: analog + digital
    • One curatorial intro panel
    • Exhibition brochure
    • Docent tours
    • Audio tour delivered via:
    • Antenna MP3 gallery guide
    • Downloadable podcast
    • Cell phone tour courtesy GuideByCell
    • Learning Lounge in show:
    • Plasma screen with Barney video interview clips
    • Barney FAQ wall graphics
    • Interactive feature/website
    • Books & catalogs
  • Here’s what that looks like: Use of offerings by respondents:
  • But on the other hand: What helped make meaning?
  • So what did we learn? What did visitors prefer?
    • Audio: Different people opt for different devices
    • Video: Visitors want to see and hear the voice of the artist above all else
    • and perhaps most surprisingly:
    • Visitors opt for the analog first.
  • Or put another way: This is our Opportunity Space! Is it time to re-train our visitors? Change their expectations? Change our approach? All of the above?
  • How do we activate that opportunity space?
  • Next Tests: 2007 Traditional audio tour vs. iPod Picasso & American Art & Brice Marden Matisse: The Painter as Sculptor Take your time: Olafur Eliasson/ Joseph Cornell /Jeff Wall
  • When visitors were given the choice … 49% 51% Eliasson / Cornell / Wall 45% 55% Matisse 41% 59% Picasso & Marden iPod Antenna XP - “Classic”(mp3) Exhibitions in 2007 (in sequence)
  • Do we detect a trend?
  • Visitors liked the fact the iPod showed an image of the work. But the menu function was poor.
  • Fast forward to summer 2008 (right now):
  • Enter Frida Kahlo
    • MENU: analog + digital mix
    • Brochure
    • Wall texts
    • Multimedia tour with low price barrier to entry
    • Learning Lounge
    • Supplementary galleries to add context
    • Kiosk / Website
    • Video
    • Podcasts
  • Antenna XP-Vision multimedia player
  • Visitor Feedback
  • Purpose-built or Visitor-supplied ?
    • Controlled platform
    • Hi-fidelity audio, video & interactivity
    • Free of associations & hassles of home & office
    • Only about the art
    • Focused, optimized for tour experience
    • Rewrites the economic model: No need for museum to lease fleets of players
    • No need to staff and sell players to visitors
    • Free to visitors
    • More casual
    • but
    • Quality of experience cannot be assured
    Questions we have now:
  • Unless we rewrite the spec for what a quality tour experience is to a low enough threshold that it can be delivered with confidence to a wide variety of visitors in a non-proprietary manner
  • Does that mean we bypass the bells and whistles of Flash and the iPhone ?
  • Or do we opt for that expressive power and continue to supply the hardware on the old lease contract model ?
  • I, for one, no longer believe it will all sort itself out… “ in two years.”
  • Soon to come… an SFMOMA iPhone title: In the meantime…
  • Don’t worry, folks—
    • This is only a test!
  • Thank you.