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Tech+Art: Digital Innovation in The Art World


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Presented at SXSW Interactive 2014.
As deeply enmeshed as technology has become in our lives, there is one place where we still squint to read small labels, strain to hear static-filled audio guides, and wrestle with disorienting paper maps: the art museum. Well, we are on the cusp of a new experience as interactive designers begin to roll up their sleeves and re-envision how we experience art in the digital age. From the innovative Gallery One at the Cleveland Museum of Art to the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, experience designers and curators are experimenting with how to enrich the typical journey through a museum. By exploiting iBeacons, location awareness, mobile, touch screens and Wii environments, we are on the verge of redefining how we look at and interact with art. We'll look at emerging best practices at museums and galleries all over the globe, discuss what works and what doesn’t, and delve into the larger question of technology’s role in experiencing art.

Tech+Art: Digital Innovation in The Art World

  1. 1. Tech +Art #futureart Digital Innovation in the Art World Leslie Wolke
  2. 2. Hello Slidesharers: Since this presentation is mostly images, 
 I’ve embedded some captions like these to help tell the story…" By trade, I’m a wayfinding technologist, meaning I make tools to help people find their way in complex environments. I work with software developers, UX designers, and architects, but I didn’t start out in any 
 of these fields." " I’m an Art History major. And if you have any interest at all in art history, you might have heard how President Obama dis’d the entire field in a speech about the value of a technical education…"
  3. 3. but I promise you, folks can make a lot more in skilled manufacturing or the trades than with an art history degree. Nothing wrong with art history—I love art history so I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody.
  4. 4. I wrote my senior thesis about art museums and how people navigate and experience these spaces. In the 25 years since I graduated, our experience of the art museum hasn’t changed much at all…" In fact, that’s the purpose of this talk. I am issuing a challenge for all of us to REINVENT the art museum experience, with the help of technology."
  5. 5. Grand Staircase Rubloff Auditorium Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room Modern Shop Membership Desk Membership Desk Ryerson and Burnham Libraries Print Study Room (by appointment) Fullerton Hall Griffin Court 172169 168 167 166 163 162 164 165 171 173 174170 175 176 177 188 186 184 182 1 CBA Educator Resource Center Family Room StudioStudioStudio 2345 151 153154 179 178 134 136 137 108 109 133106 107 132 127B 127A 124B 124A 125 126 105104 103 102 131 130 101A101 135 American Art before 1900 161–179 Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art 150–154 Special Exhibitions 182–184 Ryan Education Center Photography 188 Film, Video, and New Media 186 Indian, Southeast Asian, and Himalayan Art 140–143 American Decorative Arts 1920–1970 162Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Art 101–109, 130–135 African Art 137 Indian Art of the Americas 136 Prints and Drawings 124–127 161 Sculpture Court STUDENT GROUP ENTRANCE MICHIGAN AVENUE ENTRANCE MODERN WING ENTRANCE MODERN WING 100 McKinlock Court 144 Chagall’s America Windows Museum Shop Alsdorf Galleries 142141140 143 152 150 Classrooms NORTH GARDEN 1Entrance level The Art Institute is made up of many different buildings. All buildings are connected on the first level only. COLUMBUSDRIVE LAKEMICHIGAN MICHIGANAVENUE GRANT PARK JACKSON STREET MILLENNIUM PARK MONROE STREET SOUTH GARDEN PRITZKER GARDEN Information Audio Guides Checkroom Elevator Escalator Gift Shop Tickets Women’s Restroom Men’s Restroom Family Restroom Wheelchair Ramp In fact, our tools haven’t progressed at all—paper maps, antique audio guides and wall captions to tiny to read."
  6. 6. But in those same 25 years (since the birth of the web, in fact), the way we MAKE things has undergone a radical transformation." If we look at the technology that kids are using today—a 12-year old can make a feature film using cameras and equipment of the caliber that only a small cadre of technicians in Hollywood had access to 25 years ago." " 3D printing—a technology that only the largest manufacturers had access to 25 years ago—is now in the hands of children, who now can produce anything they dream, stretching their understanding of the physical world."
  8. 8. HOW WE SEE THINGS How we MAKE things is indeed, completely new, but, how we SEE things has not evolved."
  9. 9. In fact, it’s not even as interesting as the days when curators would plaster each wall with paintings abutting paintings—daring viewers to make sense of the resulting mosaic."
  10. 10. Now we face the tyranny of the white box, and strain for meaning."
  11. 11. WHAT’S MISSING? Two important attributes are missing in these experiences."
  12. 12. WHAT’S MISSING? PLAY Play: we learn by playing. The iPhone doesn’t come with a user’s manual—you play with it to discover how it works. "
  13. 13. WHAT’S MISSING? PLAY CONTEXTContext: when we know something about an object, it becomes more interesting. Without context, we are lost and disinterested."
  14. 14. I spent some time researching how technology is being employed in art museums and found one great example: Gallery One at the Cleveland Museum of Art."
  15. 15. Gallagher & Associates ( and Local Projects ( created these interactive experiences. " " “Strike a Pose” uses a Wii Connect and a touch screen to dare visitors to match the pose of an artifact from the museum’s collection. " " “Make a Face” captures the visitor’s face and displays a similar one from
 the collection." " Both infuse some silliness into the stodgy museum-going experience. With inhibitions lowered through PLAY, visitors connect viscerally to the art.""
  16. 16. This 80-foot interactive collections wall displays art in CONTEXT. The museum’s contents are arrayed before you in high resolution, with associated meta data. Sort 
 and browse by any attribute and customize a tour to see your favorites."
  17. 17."
  18. 18. The Collections Wall reminds me of David Hockney’s Great Wall. The painter plastered his studio walls with European paintings in chronologic order to discover that photo- realism appeared in the Netherlands in an instant—and hypothesized that Dutch painters like Vermeer may have employed lenses and optics to make their paintings so realistic. Professionals and amateurs both learn when work is placed in CONTEXT."
  19. 19. (By the way, I believe Hockney’s hypothesis has just been proven by the work of Tim Jenison—see the wonderful documentary “Tim’s Vermeer”)"
  20. 20. So, what technologies would we use if we were to take on the challenge of reinventing the art museum?"
  21. 21. Perhaps your first thought is Google Glass—a great platform for providing context for what you see."
  22. 22. And Google Art Project (aka “crack for art historians”) puts museums in context of their collections and artifacts in context with their surroundings."
  23. 23. Project Tango, iBeacons, RFID, NFC —all location-aware technologies connect visitors to their environment."
  24. 24. By the way, President Obama did apologize in a hand-written note."
  26. 26. Tech +Art #futureart Digital Innovation in the Art World Leslie Wolke