Week 5

The part of the readings that I found to be the most interesting was in the Art in America article “The Museum Interface” written by Sarah Hromack and Rob Giampietro, in which Hromack discusses a group of people n New York she spoke to who chose not to attend what she perceived to be an important exhibit due to the high quanitity of social media exposure to the exhibit they had received. I feel like this example directly relates to what we’ve discussed in class, which is whether or not the digital experience of an exhibit can act as a replacement to actually experiencing the exhibit in person. Hromack made the point, which I agree with, that without physically visiting a museum and seeing a piece of art for yourself, you lose some sort of sensory reaction and perhaps sense of wonder. That indefinable quality that comes from the museumm experience, I don’t think will ever be replicated into the digital sphere until we are virtually able to enter the museum space and experience it as though we are there in person.

Still, I think that the role of digital exposure in the museum world is important. A growing trend in museum visitorship is to use social media and photography to look at art in a comedic sense through parody. Last year my family went on vacation to Italy, where we essentially took a museum tour of the country. While the artwork was impressive and awe-inspiring at a certain point interaction and interest with for example hundreds of similar statues of ancient Roman figures becomes limited. My sister and I thus decided to pose ridiculously with said sculptures and objects so as to liven up the experience. Though I was slightly concerned with disrespecting the museum and the art, I think humor can actually work really well in helping people who otherwise not be interested in art to actually appreciate what they are seeing. The article “Museums See Different Virtues in Virtual Worlds” touched on the comedic role of social media in the museum experience when it touched upon the mustache tour of the Met.

Multimedia Journalism + Online Museum Publications = ?

The reading that really got me thinking this week was the Rhizome piece by Orit Gat, “Global Audiences, Zero Visitors: How to measure the success of museums’ online publishing.” Gat argues that museums should not use online publishing solely as a means to expand their audience, although online presence seems like a no-brainer in this digital age.

I agree with Gat. The purpose of a museum is to advance knowledge and encourage discussion about culture, history and heritage. And online publishing, along with any effort by a museum should serve to advance this goal. According to Gat, the success of a museum’s online publishing can be measured in terms of the innate value that it specifically brings to its digital audience (i.e. zoomable images and interactive features that print magazines lack) and the meaningful conversations that it creates.

That being said, I guess the million-dollar question that we’ve all been trying to grapple with in class discussions is, how the heck do we imbue value to digital platforms used by museums – specifically, online publications in this case? One solution is to make the connection between text and multimedia more seamless and meaningful, and I think this is something that museum curators can learn from multimedia journalists. Of course, I am by no means saying that one is better or worse than the other.

For example, The New York Times creates beautiful and immersive visual stories that marry the benefits of multimedia and the written word. One example is Desperate Crossing, a story about the journey of 733 migrants across the Mediterranean Sea, most of whom were trying to escape the poverty of subsaharan Africa or the violent wars in the Middle East. The visual story offers readers an experience, not just facts and ideas. The full-screen photos and videos, which are specific to the bite-sized text displayed, add real-life context and continually project it in the readers’ minds, as opposed to images and videos intermittently embedded between paragraphs which I’ve seen in some online publications by museums. I can see the same multimedia style being applied to digital artworks that use photos and videos or for editorial content that aims to give visitors further context about a certain artist or artwork.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 4.40.36 PM

And we can already see the same immersive multimedia/long-form style being applied to arts-related topics. Take this New York Times piece about architecture for instance: “Dear Architect: Sound Matters.” It incorporates both sound and video! I can see museums incorporating the same idea for digital tours of exhibitions.

It says: Hover for sound.
It says: Hover for sound.

Also, this piece about the newly opened Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, “A New Whitney.” The 3D animation really enhances readers’ understanding of the space.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 4.59.02 PM

Another benefit to using this multimedia narrative form is that it encourages collaboration across various art fields: photography, film, 3D visualization, animation, etc.

The possibilities are limitless.

Week 5: Art Snapchats

In “The Museum Interface,” Hromrack and Giampietro talk about facilitating “meaningful interactions with art that might occur in the gallery, via Web-based applications or in new hybrid spaces that merge the real and the virtual.” But how can curators control for these interactions to be meaningful, educational, and appropriate when technology has allowed for more freedom in digital engagement? Museums have utilized Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and online blogging platforms among many other digital tools to further expand and connect with both the local and global audience. And while the number of likes, followers, comments, and retweets can be quantified and measured, it does not necessarily translate to meaningful interactions as Orit Gat points out in his article.

A case in point is the way museum visitors use Snapchat to interact with the art. Due to the short lifespan of the captured photo, people behave and interact differently as opposed to careful posing, filters, and comments in Instagram. To catch the Snapchat users’ attention, funny, witty, or even inappropriate comments are added to the photo, which not only affects the way the art is encountered and experienced by those viewers but also leads to blatant disregard of the artist’s work and the curator’s intended experience. Buzzfeed has a couple articles dedicated to some of the saved Snapchats out there in the virtual world showcasing the ways users have interacted with art. In a way, these snapshots have become a form of art in itself since they are forms of expressions and interpretations of the users. But it poses a challenge for museums to balance their role as the caretaker of the collections while also enabling scholarship and digital engagement with the public. Giampietro says, “The new hyper-visibility is difficult because it can transform a unique installation into commodified image; the work’s lasting political power could easily be mistaken for a fleeting trend.” And these Snapchats of art pieces, although very funny, have completely removed the objects from their resonance, ignoring any means of meaningful interaction. Perhaps this is one of many reasons why museums have prohibited pictures in the gallery.

picture from Buzzfeed
picture from Buzzfeed










*Some more links to the Buzzfeed page:



The Museum Interface: “Flattening” Interpretations or Inciting New Ones?

One of this week’s readings stems from the magazine Art In America, and combines the perspectives of experts to discuss and prompt critical questions pertaining to the use of digital platforms and supplementations in the museum world. What certainly stood out to me was the overall concern for works’ interpretations- specifically, who has the “say” in how people, regardless of experiencing a museum collection or piece in person or online. Rob Giampietro, a renowned leading designer and writer for Google Design, explains this best in the article, stating the example of Instagram as a method of digital delivery that is both compelling and undermining of museum experiences, particularly using the installation “The Sugar Sphinx” by Kara Walker. He says, “In Instagram’s interface, pictures of Walker’s installation appear stamp-sized on a phone’s screen, flattened in all dimensions, their likers and commenters quantified.” It’s interesting how when even the dimensions of a work or installation is put online in, say, a museum collection, it is still lacking in the experience of scale; Walker’s Sugar Sphinx is huge, but when captured in an Instagram photo, it’s size is immediately somewhat downplayed.

However, Giampietro adds, “These images may document the installation, but they also document and identify each photographer’s individual presence in the space.” Instagram images, especially when captured by a user at the installation in real time, creates an interpretation that is altogether unique and different from that of other, similar Instagram images. If one were to see a collage of all the Instagram photos of Walker’s Sugar Sphinx, every single moment captured is an entirely separate interpretation and experience of the installation; something that is only brought out of documenting through social media photographs.

The new hyper-visibility is difficult because it can transform a unique installation into commodified image; the work’s lasting political power could easily be mistaken for a fleeting trend.

A formal photo of The Sugar Sphinx versus the variety of photos of it seen on Instagram, with commentary and initial reactions usually being rather vulgar.


Giampietro later concludes, “Those discouraged from visiting Walker’s installation in person because of its ubiquity on social media may have been discouraged not by what the installation itself offered but by what its flood of representations removed: the sense that an encounter with the work could be personal or transformative.” The numerous capturing of the installation may take away a real-life experience when seeing it in a museum setting, but it also allows users to interpret art in their own way; the argument thus lies in the allowance or legitimacy in interpretation,a s museums have long worked toward giving further context to works which essentially “give” us interpretations rather than leave room for them.