The Internet, technology, and other digital applications play an integral role in almost everyone’s lives. These new forms of communication facilitate new interactions, experiences, and expectations and have in turn reshaped the museum-going experience as a whole. As a generation that exists online, content is key, and it is abundant. The online community is obsessed with content, but they want more than just access to it, they want to be a part of the conversation. They want to be “producers” of content, not just “downloaders.” There is a new widespread desire to be “uploaders,” to be creators and contributors of the content itself. I think this new mentality should be reflected in a museums digital and online presence. Museums are already reshaping their intentions towards having more of a public service and engagement outlook. The public has more of a say than ever in what objects are deemed valuable and what is exhibited. As a result, objects and our interactions with them are more interactive than ever before. For these reasons, I think that museums that have an interactive, novel, and engaging online presence are the most successful.
After having explored Coursera, I think classes like “Big Data” or “Data Mining,” those that explore data visualization, are classes that I would be the most interested in and would watch from start to finish. I think it would also be great if those courses explored data visualization art, where the students get to create and design new interpretations for big data.
I think the MoMA has beautiful and well-produced digital storytelling pieces about the objects, artists, and artworks that are exhibited at the museum. The video, “Maria Hassabi | Plastic,” is haunting and mesmerizing. I think what makes their digital story telling successful is that each video is filled with such emotion and candor. They reveal the “human touch” that is hidden behind each piece that they explore, and as a viewer I feel I am uncovering it with them.
Most museums these days have implemented digital applications or other technologies that are developed to enhance the museum experience by offering information about the museum and its collection. On my most recent museum visit to The Broad, I was presented with their app that can be used alongside one’s visit. Though this app was extensive, interactive, well designed, and easy to use, I found myself only using it for a short period of time. An important part of my museum going experience is not only engaging with the artwork, but watching how others engage with it as well. People watching is just as integral to my museum going experience as the artwork itself, and app’s like The Broad’s require a degree of attention and isolation that takes you out of that experience. I found it really refreshing to hear that museums are conscious of how the sociality of a visit can affect a visitor’s museum experience. In “Personal and Social? Designing personalized experiences for groups in museums,” conducted by Lesley Fosh, Katharina Lorenz, Steve Benford, and Boriana Koleva of the University of Nottingham; the authors explore designing “interactive visiting experience[s] that lets visitors create interpretations of exhibits for their friends and loved ones that they then experience together.” The final “interactive visiting experience” designed required visitors to choose for their loved ones a set of objects, a piece of music, instructions on how to engage with the objects, and a portion of text for context. By allowing visitors to “gift” their loved ones a personally curated experience, I believe that this new approach definitely makes that experience more personal, intimate, and social. I think that their new design template is a great start in the right direction towards bridging the gap between the often impersonality of technology and the personal experiences museum visitors, like myself, wish to have.
The Internet facilitates new interactions, experiences, and understandings of art within a museum setting. It has spawned new conventions of display that has drastically changed the museum-going experience as a whole. As a generation that exists online, museums have had to adapt beyond catering solely to visitorship and embrace the ever-growing presence that exists online. One thing that the Internet loves is content. They want access to that content and more. They want to download it, hack it, upload it, and remix it; most importantly the online community wants to be a part of the conversation. The difficulty that museums face with the advent of the Internet and new digital platforms is what conversation they want to have. Should a museum’s online presence seek to develop scholarship? Should it entice the online world to step away from their screens and onto the museum’s steps? Should the goal be to reach an audience that would otherwise not have access to or the means of visiting and experiencing the museum itself? Or has the ubiquity that comes with having an online presence demystify and discourage online users from experiencing their works in real life? I personally find this last question most interesting. As someone who loves to actively visit museums and scroll endlessly through Instagram, with the new “hyper-visibility” that applications like Instagram, Snapchat, or Vine propagate, I do feel that objects loose their sense of wonder and resonance when I’m bombarded with their image over and over again online. I don’t think it replaces the experience of actually going to view an object in person, but I think something is lost. With the proliferation of the same image of the same object, I also can get a sense of the kinds of interactions we have with objects today within a museum setting. It has become almost less about the object, and more about the response to that object. People love to comment either through their posting of an image, or a thought on twitter, or a status update on Facebook. I find it interesting that our interactions with the objects themselves have shifted from passive viewing to actively critiquing in our own, small ways.
All in all, I’m for museums having a larger presence online. I think you can gain access to some great works that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have been accessible to you before.
As someone who doesn’t come from a digital humanities background, and who has little to no knowledge about how cataloging works, I was overwhelmed and shocked at the depth and complexity to which cataloging entails. “Cataloging Cultural Objects: A Guide to Describing Cultural Works and Their Images,” provides both simple, yet complicated guidelines and solutions to cataloging a work of art. On one hand, they condense the process into seemingly two simple components: “promoting good access to the works and images coupled with clear, accurate descriptions that users will understand.” On the other hand, when it comes down to cataloging an actual piece of work, there is so much to be taken into consideration. One must consider the difference between the work itself and a picture of the work. This process further complicates the notion of authorship. Is the author of the work the one who took the image? Is the author the one whose work is documented? Furthermore, the amount and type of information given may vary depending on what types of materials are being documented. There is just so much to be taken into account and the examples provided, though well done, gave me so much anxiety. When Baca goes into detail about the difference between works and images, it becomes so meta, so fast. A photograph of a work could be treated as either documentation or an image in itself. It could also be both. It could be a work of art that documents another work of art. It could be a photograph that documents a work of art that depicts another work of art. So where do we draw the line? Where do we begin with cataloging? As someone who is very bad at making decisions, I don’t think I could ever be responsible for having to catalogue an entire museum collection.
Within the museum setting, the relationship between object and viewer is convoluted. There has always been a tendency to keep a certain distance between the two. However, with the pervasiveness of technology and the advent of the Internet, we’ve begun to modify our experiences with objects and our relationships with them. With the rise of interactive and immersive art, the distance between object and viewer is beginning to collapse. We are no longer detached observers. We take on many roles; we are at once the audience, artist, and curator. We want to be an active part of the conversation. The accessibility and pervasiveness of content on the Internet allows us to become those active participants. Mia Ridge in her essay, “Where Next for Open Cultural Data in Museums?” explores the ways in which museums are beginning to adapt to our newfound roles. With open cultural data, museums are able to share their databases, images, and knowledge with the world. This new level of accessibility is rendering new experiences, interactions, and even new art forms. We are beginning to see open sourced art emerge as the new medium. For example, data visualizations that utilize metadata from the Tate’s collection have become art in of themselves. One project, aptly titled “Art as Data as Art,” simply sums up the process and newfound medium. One example of Tate data usage that I enjoyed the most was Shardcore’s “Machine Imagined Art.” In “Machine Imagined Art,” Shardcore provides a description of a non-existent piece of artwork implied by the Tate Data. It encourages it’s participants to even create an art piece of their own. I think this form of data visualization is an abstract piece of performance art in of itself. I believe that open sourced data and open cultural data is where our future is headed. We are a “remix” culture. We upload, download, remix, and reuse content as we see fit.
“The Exhibitionary Complex” by Tony Bennett explores how nineteenth century institutions of exhibition, such as museums, arcades, and department stores, shared practices of representation that served as vehicles for the dissemination of knowledge and power. These institutions, through their ordering of objects, in turn, ordered the public and their gaze. Bennett further examines levels of “looking” that these institutions imposed, especially that of the relationship between the individual’s gaze onto the object, and the public’s gaze onto the individual. Bennett asserts that the exhbitionary complex, “perfected a self-monitoring system of looks in which the subject and object positions can be exchanged, in which the crowd comes to commune with and regulate itself through interiorizing the ideal and ordered view of itself as seen from the controlling vision of power – a site of sight accessible to all” (82). I found his analysis, of looking and simultaneously being looked at, the most intriguing because it is a big part of my museum-going experience, which largely involves me looking at others looking at objects. People watching really is one of my favorite things to do, watching how others interact with objects within an exhibitionary setting. It is quite a powerful experience watching these relationships play out.
In the vein of looking and being looked at, the best example of this relationship at play is perhaps the most meta; Marina Abramovic’s performance art piece “The Artist is Present.” In this piece, Abramovic sat still and silent for over 700 hours (over the course of three months) while spectators were invited to sit opposite of her and gaze into her eyes. She is at once an individual looking and an object being looked at. The object is finally imbued with a gaze. I highly recommend checking out this piece. You can watch a snippet of the performance in the link provided below. This particular moment that is documented is perhaps the most heartbreaking. Marina and her once creative (and romantic) partner, Ulay, are reunited after not having seen each other for over thirty years. Enjoy (with a box of tissues).