I have the distinct pleasure of being in Daniel‘s class this fall, Museums and Technology. While it is surprising for my classmates that I would take a class about something I do already, I am excited for the opportunity to explore more thoroughly the meaning of technology for the museum experience and how the visitor is affected by these changes. I see continual parallels between issues encountered with visitors in physical space and issues we are encountering all over again in our digital spaces. I’ve talked about Twitter before and I have been thinking about how it is harnessed by museums and where we are going wrong.
We were talking about Twitter again in a recent class, more specifically what we consider to be a successful museum tweet, and why. It’s very hard to nail down, and even harder to do. The main reason is because it’s so hard to avoid becoming a marketing ploy, something which happens without rapt attention. A museums use of twitter now stands as an analogy for the way the actual museum interacts with its visitors and the traditional barrier between the inner workings of an institution and the public at large. So many museums need to release their stranglehold on twitter feeds to actually let interesting information get out.
I was at the Indianapolis Greek Festival this past weekend, and I couldn’t help to think that they were doing something right.
There were throngs of people, tons of Greek food, everyone jostling and yelling and having a great time, but here’s the part that baffled me- you had to pay to get in, and the food was delicious, but quite pricey. What is the Holy Trinity parish doing that connects so much with their audience that museums cannot seem to do? I think we can be the Agora marketplace discussed by Dr. Steven Zucker (@drszucker) and Dr. Nancy Proctor (@nancyproctor) a vibrant place for community and discussion, in the same way that the Greek festival is. I think the problem is balance- how do we sell ourselves as experts in our field while maintaining that we want everyone else’s opinion, too?
Some people are getting it right, figuring out how to sift through all the noise and clutter to connect with their audience while maintaining their voice. One such person is the British musician Imogen Heap, who felt a divide between herself and her fans before she started to utilize blogs and Twitter, not dissimilar to the separation between and institution and it’s community. In a recent interview with Melissa Block on NPR, she describes the divide quite succinctly. She then discusses what it’s like to have that direct connection throughout the process of making her music.
It’s been so amazing. I’ve always struggled with this barrier that I felt like I’d had up until blogging came along. Just one comment from somebody really sparks something in me. It doesn’t need to be this huge wall between me and the listeners anymore. I really thrive on that.”
@ImogenHeap gets it- the audience has become part of the process, and there’s no going back.