Throughout this module we have discussed the complexities of the online/digital museum.
We have covered topics including:
Games and apps
Online learning/digital learning
Whilst discussing and reading about these ideas, a number of key challenges and themes have stood out to me in regards to digital/online museums in the contemporary climate.
As I referred to in my post on e-books and digital collections, there isn’t yet a foundational language with which to discuss digital issues. Even things as seemingly simple as defining ‘digital’ or ‘online’ can become confusing, as we have noted in our classes. Not only are the simple terms often unclear, but the digital/online experience does not have a linguistic framework with which it can be discussed. This can lead to much confusion when discussing physicality of objects and physical interaction with objects. These are 2 very distinct ideas but without clarity, ideas and discussions can become confused and unclear.
Physicality of Objects vs Physical Interaction
It is important to be clear when discussing digital/online that there is a distinction between the physicality of objects and physical interaction with objects. People physically experience the world around them, and this is also true when they experience digital/online objects: people have to act physically, be it by using a mouse or holding a tablet, there is always some sort of physical experience. It is not a physical experience that is lost, however, physical qualities of an object may be lost in digitisation. When an object is digitised, the object is reproduced and presented as something new, something other than the original; it no longer has a physical presence but is virtual and untouchable. An interesting point Chiara raised in response to my blog post is that this is not all that different from the experience of an object in a museum, as museums do not approach their work with a hands-on attitude, how much is lost from the experience?
When should we go digital/online?
Another challenge museums need to be aware of is the desire to go digital or use digital tools when it doesn’t actually enhance the experience in anyway. In many of our classes we have discussed the importance of being aware of the constant changes and developments in new technologies online. However, we have also agreed that it is important to know when to partake in such technologies and when not to. It is not about embracing every new technological advancement but ensuring that the ones you choose to use are used strategically and in line with the museums mission.
As demonstrated in my posts exploring digital learning, sometimes it is important to develop learning tools for the purpose of education and not for the sake of using a new digital tool.
In light of this, we can discuss the notion of scaffolding tools for participation as discussed by Nina Simon in The Participatory Museum. For participatory activities such as games and apps to be successful, the tools needs to be scaffolded. They should be shaped for purpose. The users should be given goals and targets and be made to feel valued with rewards.
Social media, like any other digital tool, must be thought through and considered. It should be scaffolded and tailored to suit the needs and mission of the museum. In order to do this, it is now common practice in museums to develop social media strategies and policies.
As social media and online activities are such an integral feature of contemporary western culture, it is an obvious way for museums to engage a wider audience and to share their knowledge. However, through distributing content online in spaces designed to allow the user to be more active in commenting, copying, remixing and sharing, the museum must carefully consider the type of content they share and the platforms upon which they do so. If this content and the chosen platforms fits the mission of the museum, I think it is an excellent way to engage audiences, challenge them to think about information and to encourage dialogue around museums.