April 11, 2007

"Let them Come and They Will Build It?”

This is my first blog entry. Here I am outlining why I elected to chair an American Association of Museums conference session on this topic.

As an independent designer focused on creating visitor experiences, I want to engage in a conversation regarding the effectiveness of visitor authored experiences in the museum setting. The question is, can we open the way to more effective design processes and more engaging visitor experiences by making the user a participant, by both open sourcing the design as well as the experience itself. Specifically, there seems to be great potential for this at the intersection of three ongoing goals in the interpretive design field:
• Creativity in the Design Process – how the user can be a wildcard creative force during the design process.
• Depth of user interaction – how the user’s presence and interaction completes the mechanism of interactivity and focuses the experience on the user’s personal characteristics.
• Adaptability of visitor experiences – how exhibits can continue to evolve once they are in place offering new perspectives each time a visitor returns to use it.

Creating Engagement
Related to these goals is the ongoing desire to have a higher level of engagement with our visitors. Does the visitor authored approach point to ways in which the user or visitor could be more engaged in the museum setting? The expectation is that the three goals above can be better fulfilled by empowering users to do the following:
• engage in the problem solving process regarding the design of an exhibition,
• contribute content and/or organizing frameworks,
• participate in a real time, two way conversation with the institution and other users.
These three forms of empowerment are characteristics of visitor authored experiences.

How can we stage these forms of visitor engagement? What positive outcomes could we expect? Are there any good examples out there and what can we learn from them? These are some of questions we wish to explore at the American Association of Museums Annual meeting in Chicago, during the Museums Remixed Sessions.

For Part I, the first session, speakers include:
• Wayne Lebar, Vice President of Exhibitions and Theaters at the Liberty Science Center who has created the Exhibit Commons website that seeks to engage the public in the design of exhibitions.
• Ray Shah, Principal of Think Design who has produced a web-based product for museums that permits visitors to curate their own exhibitions.
• Eric Stuer, Creative Director for Creative Commons, the organization founded by Lawrence Lessig that seeks to ease the way for copyrighted material to be more accessible to the public. In his role as Creative Director, Eric has seen many forms of Open Source Design implemented.

We are interested in what you think. Equally important, we are interested in how you wish to explore these issues, for via this blog, we hope to elicit comments and questions that will help us tailor these two sessions to your interests - the user.

Finally, I’d like to thank Matthew MacArthur, session Chair for Part II of the Museum Remixed Sessions, for setting up this blogsite. I would also like to acknowledge Tina Glengary and Graham Plumb for first exposing me to the potential of visitor authored experiences.

1 comment:

tiboutoo said...

thanks john! i'm sure your session will be well attended. there are lots of ways to engage audiences but sometimes the easiest is just to ask them for help.

good luck, tina