Mobile is social media: In the museum as distributed network


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Presentation at Design 4 Mobile conference, Chicago, 22 September 2010:

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  • Inevitable, because whether the museum wants to or not, it is already part of a larger cultural discourse that is largely beyond its control.We can look at it this way: The Museum has its traditional platforms for communicating about the collection: wall labels, brochures and catalogues that it publishes. It probably also offers some sort of guided tour, and may use new technologies in the galleries for wayfinding or to provide additional information on objects and exhibitions. It may offer audio or even multimedia tours to visitors, or a tour that people can take using their own mobile phones. Some museums provide podcasts and downloadable audio tours on iTunes and iTunes U. Most museums now have at least a modest web presence, or even a blog. But whether or not a museum runs its own blog, chances are at least a few of its visitors are blogging about the museum themselves. In the same way, they are taking photos and making videos in the museum and sharing these through Flickr, YouTube and Facebook – and this is happening even where it is forbidden to take photos in the Museum. They as well as Google are adding information about museums to Google Maps and Wikipedia, and generally talking about their museum experiences through Twitter and other instant messaging services, both through computers and smartphones.So whether it has embraced social media or not, the Museum has become social media.Now you may think this is easy for me to say, coming from the Smithsonian which is probably better resourced than most institutions, although we of course always feel very poor and hard done by! But I think that even very under-resourced museums are immersed in a similar sort of network.When we take away everything that costs a lot of money here, what are we left with? Well, we are left with our human networks. We still have our guided tours and outreach projects that help connect visitors with the museum both on site and in the community. And interestingly we have our social media networks as well. Because even if the Museum is not actively blogging, or using Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook etc., their visitors are. I found 891 photos of the Museo de Antioquia on Flickr. There are numerous videos made by visitors to the Museum on YouTube, and the Museum is referenced on Facebook pages as well as blogs and other websites. None of these forms of outreach has cost the Museum a penny; the visitors have done it all themselves.
  • this video shows an example of one of the earliest tour technologies from the 1960s, excavated by LoicTallon, the perception of audio tours is that they are not terribly different today in terms of inspiring a herd mentality among users, producing crowding around exhibits and a sort of dumbed-down, one-size-fits-all experience.All the issues that have plagued audio tours throughout their history are visible here:The linearity of the tour lead to a herd-mentality among visitors and crowding around exhibitsIn addition the challenges of:Hygiene: led to one of the earliest audio tour technology debates: headphones vs wands?Distribution issues always a challenge, but complexity also driven by technology choices, including the headphones or wand choiceVery homogenous audience
  • Creating a network means going beyond the hub & spoke model: broadcasting one one message out from the center and striving to add more spokes to the wheel. On the fixed web this is called brochureware, otherwise known as Web 1.0.
  • It also goes beyond simply adding twitter,fb and ‘email this’ functionality to our mobile programs. Retweets and fb posts can extend the reach of the museum’s message, but they do not fundamentally change the model.
  • Museum Mobile 2.0 should do more than this: it should leverage social media to listen and receive as much as it lectures and transmits. It should connect people with the things they find meaningful, and also the people who share those interests.
  • And ultimately become part of a vast, 3D rhizome which, like the Internet, becomes almost self-sustaining because it’s impossible to eradicate from any single central point. So in addition to thinking beyond the technology, beyond the audio tour headphones, a big part of thinking outside the audiotour box is thinking beyond the museum’s own four walls, and thinking instead in terms of the museum as a distributed network, using mobile as a social media platform that connects audiences wherever they may be.
  • Another way to represent this is as a multi-tiered architecture with up to three kinds of content:1. -+-+-+-+-+ The Soundtrack2. o o o o o The Soundbites3. / | / | / Links
  • The second big challenge for museum mobile in the 21st century is the hand they’ve been dealt to play in the game of business:Their stock in trade is by definition Invaluable, so impossible to capitalizeTheir mission is to serve the public good, so they have to achieve the widest possible reach and relevance, regardless of individuals’ means to help pay for this serviceAnd they have to do this forever: in other words, their business, like their collections, must be sustainabie indefinitelyThese are constraints that would daunt even the most seasoned of entrepreneurs, and have prompted Max Anderson to call museums, ‘red ink businesses’. . As Max Anderson has argued, museums have done themselves a great disservice by promoting themselves as “drivers of economic benefit”, by hiding many of the true staff and opportunity costs of blockbuster exhibitions and other ostensible profit centers, and thereby encouraging the measurement of museums’ success by yardsticks and metrics that are simply not appropriate. Museums are inevitably “red ink businesses”, he argues, and we pretend to be great financial entrepreneurs at our peril. Similarly, simply measuring footfall or visitorship to our buildings doesn’t paint the full picture in an ever-more connected world.On the verge of doing the same thing with mobile: setting ourselves up for failure by adopting inappropriate and unattainable metrics; believing that mobile is cheap and we’ll make money off of apps.So I think it’s time for museums to acknowledge that with the hand we’ve been dealt, we cannot compete in the Wall Street business game, and we just set ourselves up for failure by pretending that museums can be drivers of economic benefit, let alone self-sustaining, under these constraints. Instead, we need to change the terms of the game, and choose metrics that are more appropriate to measuring our success against our core business goals in the age of social media:Quality, Relevance & SustainabilityMax Anderson, Prescriptions for Art Museums in the Decade Ahead, CURATOR,The Museum Journal,Volume 50 • Number 1January 2007
  • Subtitle: All the girls are doing it. Because museums are hoping that soon all the girls and boys will be bringing their smartphones (perhaps preferably iPhones with matching Armani suits)…And we hope they’re going to do this because it will save museums money on their mobile programs.
  • It saves platform & on-site operations, but adds other costs: We may have changed platform providers – gone from a proprietary audio tour system to a proprietary app-authoring system, for example, but I don’t think the bottom line is going to be very different. On the other hand, what museums are doing a lot more of is à la carte purchasing of the elements of their mobile mix; this has and is still in the process of radically changing mobile vendors’ business, and of course has led to many new entrants in the market, some of whom you’ll get a chance to meet here today.
  • So these are the metrics we should keep in mind as we consider the new and emerging business models on offer as a result of the new mobile platforms:Mobile metrics and datamining mobile users’ content-based activities tells us more about our audiences in a non-intrusive way. This greater understanding of whom we’re serving and what they’re interested in – where and when – can make sponsorship of exhibitions, events and event mobile products that reach those audiences more valuable because sponsors can be more certain that they are reaching their target audience.
  • And ultimately become part of a vast, 3D rhizome which, like the Internet, becomes almost self-sustaining because it’s impossible to eradicate from any single central point. Network effect businesses are ones in which the product or service becomes more valuable to the end-user the more users there are of it. Telephones and fax machines are the classic examples, along with email and all the social media platforms. Just as you’re not going to need a fax machine if no one else has one, nor are you likely to use Facebook until a critical mass of your friends are using it. On the other hand, they are perfect distributed network models: they get smarter and more powerful the more they are used.Social media acts as a multiplier on the size of the audience reached, making the free product a marketing and outreach engine.
  • We’ve already touched on how non-profit network effects help ensure the museum’s sustainability. The network effect also extends to our other two metrics of relevance and quality. Quality & relevance are very closely connected of course; as Chris Anderson has said, “in the eye of the beholder” because whatever is relevant to us, responds to our interests and needs in a given moment, is what we place the greatest value on. Value is not the same thing as quality, but something experienced as value is often perceived as quality.
  • And this is nowhere truer than in our niche passions. As Chris Anderson noted in his talk at SI 2.0, it is our hobbies – often niche activities and content - that inspires the most passion in individuals, and from which we derive the most meaning and personal relevance.
  • And the niche is the space that museums know best. They’re staffed to a large extent by people who have been lucky enough to turn their passions into professions: specialists who understand subjects in the greatest depth and finest nuances, working with rare content and collections.Museums, like the Internet, can offer space for them all, when we are structured to benefit from the ‘network effects’ of the distributed network.
  • Mobile is an ideal vehicle for niche content, experiences & audiences because both personal – intimate, even - and social.The highly personal nature of the mobile experience also makes mobile a great vehicle for the kind of niche content and experiences that museums excel at. + How many people do you let whisper in your ear?Or put content onto your personal, mobile device that is always with you, and usually carried very close to your body?
  • Means meeting people where they are…
  • New and meaningful ways of connecting with collections (not just fun for fun’s sake: does not put us into a metric more appropriately used to judge entertainment businesses). Crowdsourcing of geodata would also be a good example: Do meaningful work
  • Gives audiences a stake in our collections and activities: Makes audiences both artists and collectors/curators.Kew also planning data mining of what content is accessed where: will feed back into quality metric, enabling them to improve content.
  • Connecting people to people: help communities of interest form around objects/exhibits; facilitates the conversationEncourage forums, citizen scientists/curators, communities of interest
  • Mobile is social media: In the museum as distributed network

    1. 1. Mobile is Social Media<br />In the Museum as Distributed Network<br />Design for Mobile, Chicago, 22 Sep 2010<br />Nancy Proctor<br />
    2. 2. Are museums a fad?<br />Nancy Proctor,<br />3<br />
    3. 3. What is the Museum<br />in this Web 2.0 world of information on demand? <br />
    4. 4. The Smithsonian Institution<br />The world’s largest museum & research complex<br />137 million collections objects<br />
    5. 5. A Network for the Increase & Diffusion of Knowledge<br /><ul><li>19 Museums
    6. 6. 156 Affiliate museums
    7. 7. 9 Research centers
    8. 8. And a Zoo</li></ul>More than 30 million visitors in 2009<br />& 180 million ‘virtual’ visitors<br />
    9. 9. Our audiences now access the Smithsonian through a wide range of platforms beyond our walls and websites<br />Photo by Mike Lee, 2007; from the American Art Museum’s Flickr Group<br />7<br />
    10. 10. The Smithsonian has become a Distributed Network<br />8<br />
    11. 11. The Museum is a Social Network<br />
    12. 12. The Museum is transforming from Acropolis…<br />Nancy Proctor,<br />10<br />
    13. 13. … into Agora<br />Nancy Proctor,<br />11<br />
    14. 14. In & Out<br />– Curator David Allison, Chair of Information Technology & Communication, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution<br />Nancy Proctor,<br />12<br />
    15. 15. What is mobile<br />in the museum as distributed network? <br />
    16. 16. Some challenges<br />For mobile design in the 21st century museum:<br />Thinking outside the audiotour box<br />Thinking beyond the blockbuster<br />
    17. 17. 1. The Audiotour Box<br />
    18. 18. It’s NOT about the Technology<br />Fraunhofer Institute, Kunstmuseum Bonn: ‘Beat Zoderer’ exhibition (Listen project) 2003<br />Fraunhofer Institute, Kunstmuseum Bonn: ‘Beat Zoderer’ exhibition (Listen project) 2003<br />
    19. 19. Thinking outside the audiotour box<br />Means thinking about content & experience<br />
    20. 20.
    21. 21.
    22. 22.
    23. 23. Edward Hoover, 2010, from Flickr.<br />
    24. 24. Thinking beyond <br />what we want to tell them<br />Question mapping in the gallery:<br /><ul><li>Semi-structured interviews
    25. 25. FAQs and comments cards
    26. 26. Questions posed to staff…</li></li></ul><li>Thinking about what they want to know<br /> … Capture data & feedback on where visitors go, what they see, and what questions they ask <br />Analytics & metrics<br />Search & interactive maps (don’t forget the services!)<br />‘Create (comment), share, connect’ functionality<br />Contributors decide with whom they share their contribution<br />
    27. 27. Helping communities of interest form around content & experiences<br /> … Help audiences connect: with content, collections, each other<br /><ul><li>Support the community/conversation with comments, answers, or new content ‘just in time’
    28. 28. “Don’t be stingy” – or cheap! Quality content is worth the investment (in time & expertise as well as money)
    29. 29. Develop strategies and events to help connect individuals: SlowArt; Nina Simon’s work; Brooklyn Museum…</li></li></ul><li>Thinking beyond the ‘stop’<br /> +-+-+-+-+ Soundtracks<br />ooooSoundbites<br />xxxxInteractives<br /> | | | Links<br /> ^ ^ ^ Feedback<br /> § § § Social media<br />Narrowcast/<br />Offline or<br />Networked<br />Networked<br />only<br />
    30. 30. Creating adventure, surprise & serendipity<br />… Take the museum into the world<br /><ul><li>LBS
    31. 31. AR
    32. 32. ‘Easter Eggs’</li></ul>… Connect people, places & content<br /><ul><li>e.g. connecting web & on-site visitors</li></ul>… Give audiences meaningful things to do<br />
    33. 33. Thinking cross-platform& about pre-, during & post-visit<br />
    34. 34. Building a ‘distributed network’, not just a multi-platform museum<br />Every platform is a community<br />Using both generic & museum-focused social media platforms<br />Iterating<br />Evolving<br />Connecting the dots<br />
    35. 35. 2. Thinking beyond the blockbuster<br />Invaluable = highest possible quality<br />Public good = relevance & service for all<br />Forever business = must be sustainable<br />
    36. 36.
    37. 37. The Costs of Mobile<br /><ul><li>Platform
    38. 38. Minutes
    39. 39. Text messages</li></ul>Rev shares: 30% to Apple, n% to platform provider<br /><ul><li>On-site infrastructure
    40. 40. Project management & staff time
    41. 41. Content, include licensing of assets
    42. 42. Marketing
    43. 43. Interface design
    44. 44. Development (app/mobile website)
    45. 45. Software: CMS, statistics, distribution
    46. 46. For-fee services (or staff time)
    47. 47. SaaS
    48. 48. Players, charging racks, headsets, lanyards
    49. 49. Software: statistics, distribution
    50. 50. Operations staff
    51. 51. Opensource platform</li></ul>+ Free Marketing (off-site)<br />+ MAINTENANCE<br />
    52. 52. Business Models<br />Cost to end user<br />Rental (on-site; usu. revenue share)<br />Donations (e.g. by text message)<br />Digital retail (app/download)<br />Freemium (e.g. in-app sales)<br />Subscription (in discussion…)<br />Free to end user<br />Loss leader/mission imperative<br />Sponsorship<br />Ad-supported<br />Monetize data<br />
    53. 53. Non-profit network effects<br />Mobileis social media<br />Edward Hoover, 2010, from Flickr.<br />
    54. 54. How is social media useful to the business of museums?<br /><br />
    55. 55. Leveraging niche markets<br />
    56. 56. Museums are very good at niches<br /><ul><li> Niche collections
    57. 57. Niche expertise
    58. 58. Niche content</li></ul>“It's possible to be niche and popular at the same time.” <br />– Natasha Waterson Royal Observatory <br />
    59. 59. Mobile is personal<br />andsocial<br />
    60. 60. Meet them where they are…<br />Edward Hoover, 2010, from Flickr.<br />
    61. 61. And take them somewhere new<br />Photo by Mike Lee, 2007; from the American Art Museum’s Flickr Group<br />39<br />
    62. 62. Mobile is a great vehicle<br /><br />40<br />
    63. 63. 1. Quality<br />Wikipedia Saves Public Art<br />Tate Trumps<br />
    64. 64. 2. Relevance<br /><br />
    65. 65. 3. Sustainability<br /><br />commons<br /><br />
    66. 66. 4. Revenues<br />Exhibition apps<br />Freemium content to support the (free) experiences<br />Micropayments<br />Microdonations<br />Sponsorship & advertising<br />Datamining<br />Paid games<br />eCatalogues & subs…<br />
    67. 67. From Headphones to Microphones<br />Visitor-led mobile experience design for museums<br />Nancy Proctor, Smithsonian Institution<br />Design for Mobile Workshop, 24 September 2010<br />
    68. 68. Opportunities to continue our work:<br /> wiki, blog & podcasts<br />MCN Conference Oct 27-30, 2010, Austin, TX<br />Mobile Content Standards Summit 27 Oct, at MCN<br /><br />Koven Smith:<br />SFMOMA (Peter Samis & Stephanie Pau): &<br />Nancy Proctor: @nancyproctor<br /><br /><br />