Research Question One
PROCESS: The Horizon.Museum Advisory Board members are asked to review the twelve items on the 2008 Short List for the higher-education focused Horizon Report, considering them through the lens of potential applications for museums. The twelve items are listed below: you may comment on as many of the twelve items as you choose, adding museum-appropriate citations, examples, or demonstration projects. Research Notes provide additional guidance on answering the research questions.
Please add your name after each comment, as I have done here, so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples. [L. Johnson]
Research Question One
How do the technologies that museums should be using today or during the next five years compare with the 2008 Short List of twelve technologies identified by the 2008 Horizon Report for higher education? That is to say, which are likely to enter mainstream museum use within the targeted timeframe? Which will be important, but on a different timeframe? Which of these technologies would fall off the list when considered through the lens of potential applications for museums and museum practice?
At the NMC I think they typically calculate a 2-3 year lag between when technologies surface in the business/enterprise sector and when they gain currency in academe. I think that you could add another 2-3 years to that curve as a general rule of thumb before technologies have a generalized (vs. early adopter) impact on Museums. So one suggestion would be that we look not just at the 2008 Horizon report, but 2007 and 2006 as well. Some of those trends might just be coming to fruition in museums, slowly but surely. [P. Samis]
I think this is one of the great, and not very useful, myths of our community. In fact, we sometimes do things before others do, sometimes after, and often never. The reasons have to do with the fact that we have different missions much more than they do about technology lags. While I would agree that 5 year timelines (anywhere) are too short to catch lots of important things, I cannot agree that museums are somehow laggards or that the commercial world is always ahead. [David Bearman]
While I am sure that one can find a museum somewhere that's using just about any new technology earlier than some corporation somewhere, I think the central tendency is exactly as Peter describes it: in terms of neotech adoption, the great majority of museums lag, not only the corporate sector, but also other not-for-profit sectors like higher education, by several years at least. How could it be otherwise, given the tremendous disparities in resources and tech capacity between the domains? However, David makes a crucial point as well; namely, that it's not just about capacity but also about mission, so the differences in adoption are qualitative as well as chronological. Part of the reason that higher ed often leads rather than lags the corporate sector in neotech adoption is because tech innovation is a part of its mission. That's not true for most corporations, and it's not true for most museums, so one would expect them both to lag and to avoid altogether many of the technologies embraced by those charged with innovating technology for its own sake. That's exactly what I observe.
You know, I find David's comments about mission so compelling that they pushed me to reflect on my own mental model for assessing innovation. Your comments welcome. (Christopher J. Mackie)
The education sector needs to adopt new technology on a regular basis because their mission is to train the users and leaders of tomorrow. Technology vendors want students using their products and find ways to encourage it. Technology does not seem to have a real motivation in the museum and cultural arena. In many ways it is not crucial to what they do. This mindset needs to change. Museums need to think of themselves in a different way and strive to re-invent themselves. Technology can be an asset in this if used judiciously. I think technologies that allow museums to deal with the day-to-day operational processes more efficiently are one sector of consideration. A second sector is in telling stories in a different way. The function of museums will continue to be as the arbiters and presenters of art, science, history, and culture. Can this be done in new, different ways without sacrificing the core ideals? Adoption in museums seems to be 3-5 years off mainstream. I think this will accelerate to some extent. Success within institutions will breed imitation. [H. Goldstein]
I agree with the last statement and believe that the use of every kind of technology available to convey (and to develop) educational "content" to a vast variety of visitors (or users) is crucial for success in the decades to come. Translating content(s) into a variety of new technologies seems to be the challenge that museum's will face. If each and every one museum have the financial resources for this development is another question. (TH Borchert)
Having moved not too long ago from the "museum" to the "higher ed" environment, I'm increasingly wary of assuming there is a monolithic, consistent version of either world. In both cases, there are comparatively tech rich and advanced organizations, and comparatively tech poor or tech slow institutions. And even within institutions (particularly higher ed, I believe), there are people and microdomains that are eagerly adopting new technologies as they arrive, and far larger populations that strenuously avoid changing their technology menu. At the college where I now work, many faculty blanch at the notion of integrated messaging (e.g. phonecalls arriving on the computer desktop along with email and IMs), seeing it as yet another imposition on their time. Never having lived with it, they simply don't realize how much it would speed up their day. That said, I do believe that all colleges and universities have access to IT staffs and resources that only the most affluent museums can afford. In that sense, there exists in virtually every university and college an outpost of advanced technology experimentation, and that is simply NOT true of every museum. (J. Weber)
- Webware (One Year or Less)
I think this is a definite, and there is a connection to other of the technologies here- collaborative workspaces and scholarly mashups. I think this is part of a larger move toward network computing and connections between different applications and thus, information. I think this would allow museums, as it does in the business world, to be more efficient and utilize their IT resources more fully. I look at this as part of a bigger concept with collaborative workspaces to allow people to share information and produce better data. In the case of museums to tell better stories to their audience. (H. Goldstein)
I do not see Webware as having a significant impact on museums in the next year. Nor does it seem to me that it will in 2-3 years. It will have an impact when the applications available as networked functionality are relevant to museums' missions. In this case, whatever minor contribution (largely financial) can or might be made by web-based freeware instead of licensed applications, is likely to be trivial and (I would argue) the energy expended to switch to them will not pay off. [David Bearman]
I think Webware will have a significant impact. We built a very simple video editor for the Maxwell Museum back at the end of 2006 (see the American Image, Propaganda Filmaker: http://americanimage.unm.edu/propagandafilmmaker.html) that would be defined as "Webware." Developing tools that allow the visitor to express themselves creatively is a powerful concept. The V&A's Design a Tile application (circa 2005) http://www.vam.ac.uk/vastatic/microsites/1312_artsandcrafts/design_a_tile/ could also be considered Webware. [Jim Spadaccini]
I think that webware is likely to have a significant impact in museums both for our online visitors but particularly behind the scenes for our staff. We’ve been using Google Calendar and Google Docs to create shared development resources recently. It’s a much more productive way to collaborate between museum staff and consultants (who are not always local). In addition, there are good examples of using webware to enhance the visitor’s online experience like the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Google Earth: Crisis in Darfur project http://www.ushmm.org/maps/. [Sara DeAngelis]
I'm with David here: there will be some bargain-hunters who will find the short-run price-point irresistible, but for the most part, these apps don't offer enough benefit to museums at present to justify their considerable implicit costs (do you want your confidential documents stored outside the organizational firewall? What happens when your Internet connection blinks?) Commercial offerings like MS SharePoint, as well as open source content management systems, deliver equally if not more effective collaboration support at low cost. My best estimate is that the current public infatuation (such as it is) will wane, and Webware may slowly come to occupy a useful niche for truly distributed collaborations (academic research and teaching), family usage, and perhaps for certain fieldwork situations where it provides additional data security, but Office and OpenOffice will continue to dominate productivity apps in organizational environments, including museums, for the next half-decade at least. (Christopher J. Mackie)
I think our answer to this question and the next one depends a bit on where we draw the line as to what constitutes "webware." YouTube is being used by a number of museums and is not on the list, but it is webware-ish, as is Pachyderm (as a browserbased collaborative workspace) in many ways. The latter, although open source, is a bit more proprietary, granted. (J. Weber)
Note that this year will see a wave of "offlining" of webware apps. For example, Google just added Google Gears support to Google Docs, thus instantly turning what was a web app that required connectivity into a decent standalone word processor (it's much like Word 4.1, which was and is good enough for most people) that gains additional capabilities when it's online. I get a lot of email from people in the museum world with Gmail addresses, so there could be a slippery slope into more widespread use of Google Apps For Your Domain. (Dan Cohen)
I think that webware will have a significant impact on affecting inter-staff communication and staff/vendor collaborations, as well as helping museums increase efficiency and streamline workflows, as others have said above. (P. Hecht)
I agree with others that the use of web-based applications will have a significant impact on the business of museums. Many of our staff are already using these applications as tools for collaboration with colleagues both inside and outside the institution. Creating a collaborative space with these tools takes seconds. Asking our internal IT staffs to create and support a similar space can take days if not weeks. I think that there is significant risk involved in adopting these practices (museum IP somewhere other than the museum, archiving difficulty,) but the benefits for users are so immediate, that they will continue to adopt these tools. The challenge will be to develop policy that mitigates some of the risk. (M. Jenkins)
Beyond internal staff applications museums are producing Web tools that allow teachers and students and to a lesser extent perhaps the general public to “remix” the collections for their own personal applications. ArtsConnectEd’s Art Collector, Learning@Whitney and MFA Boston’s new Educators Online sites include tools for annotation, uploading personal media and a variety of formats for sharing and presenting the personalized museum content. The fact that examples already exist and many museums are interested in creating these types of online Web tools for users to personalize their collections implies that the timeline for entering the museum mainstream is one year or less. (K. Wetterlund)
I think my opinion lies in a bit of a blended camp here. I think Chris' points about current instantiations of webware being a bit of a fad which will wane over time is probably correct. I think it's much more likely that when an institution needs an application with rather sophisticated user interface capabilities and integration with core IT systems, the institution will want more specific control over the types of integration and interaction than would be generally allowed by webware vendors. That being said, I do believe that an evolution of webware from one where we consider it the provider of the entire application stack to a different role of providing web-components that can be mixed and matched for the creation of institutionally specific applications is much more likely. YouTube has proven to be a rather interesting tool for us as a video streaming / hosting component (not an application). Many other musuems have used Flickr in a similar way to integrate the hosting and interaction with images onto their sites. Similarly, I see a role for web-component providers of identity and authentication services (OpenID, OAuth, others), Database hosting providers (AWS SimpleDB, Google AppEngine, others), Social Networking tie-ins based on OpenSocial / Facebook platforms, tagging systems, etc.
I don't think however that this means institutions will necessarily move towards a wholly formal SOA system. At least initially... I think rather, museums will continue to take advantage of web component services as the building blocks of a loosely couple application layer. At least initially... Eventually as a sophistication about software service architectures matures, institutions which desire enterprise strenth applications will venture this way as well. I think this leads to an interesting tie in to the role of Cloud / Grid computing opportunities and applicaitons for museums as well... (R. Stein)
- Collaborative Workspaces (One Year or Less)
I think museums need to break down the information silos and function more like businesses. Exhibitions should be seen as projects encompassing staff throughout the museum. The reality is that art handlers, conservators, development, marketing, publications, etc all have a stake in an exhibit. (H. Goldstein)
While Howard may be right about the potential for museum staff to work together using collaborative tools, museums are not about this and I don't see a real application of collaboration arising for most museums with their clients which is the only payback that matters. Unlike universities, where students and faculty work together to create new knowledge, museums are not in the business of collaborative knowledge construction and are certainly not about to arrive there in the next year. I'm not fully convinced that they ought to try to head there. [David Bearman]
It’s interesting that in reflecting on these topics how there really no “one size fits all”. The discipline, culture and size of organization seem to be more of an indicator of who and how technologies are being adopted and used. Within science museums and children’s museums there is a tremendous amount of collaboration both within the organization and between organizations. For example while planning their major experience revitalization the Liberty Science Center launched the Exhibit Commons http://www.lsc.org/interactive/exhibit-commons/ which invited community development of exhibits that would ultimately be put on the Center’s floor. The Tech is engaged in a similar experiment using the web’s Second Life as a platform for collaborative exhibit design. Participants (exhibit developers, curators, educators, visitors, artists, etc.) can propose exhibits in text on the web http://thetechvirtual.org and prototype them in Second Life “The Tech island”. I guess it depends on how we’re defining collaborative workspaces but I would also count the Exhibit Files online case studies and critiques as a good model in this relm as well http://www.exhibitfiles.org/blog/. [Sara DeAngelis]
I agree with David, and I should have clarified my take on this as regards museum staff working collaboratively together. As an outsider looking at workflow in museums, I find that museum departments do not work well together and could benefit from collaborative tools, as well as some mindset change. Tools alone won't solve the problems. [H. Goldstein]
This is one of several of these technologies where the fundamental issues determining adoption are not technological or economic, but sociocultural. As Howard notes, cost-effective collaborative workspace systems already exist. The question is not whether museums should use them, but whether they will. Can the culture of distributed collaboration, so widespread in cultural institutions like colleges and libraries (and as Sara points out, already present in some museum subcultures), penetrate a museum culture that is often still structured hierarchically? Can museums find ways to use CWs to enhance research and education within their buildings or with other institutions? And will the innovators reap enough rewards that the rest of the community will be motivated to follow them? I don't have much doubt about the long-term answer to all these questions ('yes'), but I fear it's going to take us a while to get there.
For what it's worth, I also find the definition of collaborative workspaces used here a bit odd, as it defines out "productivity" environments like VREs and substitutes Facebook(?!) I know very few people outside the chattering classes who do much real work in Facebook or its ilk, and my response above speaks much more to serious collaboration than to the average Facebook interaction. To repeat my point from the Webware conversation: most of these Web 2.0 apps are profoundly corrosive of organizational boundaries and domain status economies (by which I mean the processes of giving credit to individuals and institutions for original work and innovation). That's often a good thing, but one cannot expect organizations to embrace such a disruptive innovation eagerly or wholesale. Corporations have already installed proprietary del.icio.us-like environments, for example, so that their employees can share links internally without exposing business intelligence to competitors (and new startups offering this capability are arriving all the time; see, e.g., Ringside Networks. We're going to see more of that kind of behavior going forward, and it's going to be only a little less prevalent in the museum space than in the corporate arena. That's not necessarily a bad thing: do you really want curators around the world mining your Facebook musings and Google docs to try to anticipate your next show and beat you there? (Christopher J. Mackie)
I agree with Sara and Christopher that it depends on how we’re defining collaborative workspaces. If it’s a space where people with similar interests can socialize and easily share material from various sources, then museums and museum groups are participating in social networks such as Facebook and MySpace already, so the one-year time frame might be right. However, I think of an online collaborative workspace more of an environment such as the one we’re working in here, where people are coming together to work on a focused project; or a workspace/learning environment such as museum educators have sometimes created to work in with teachers. I think that an environment similar to this, or one that incorporated webconferencing/course management tools (as the Met did recently in a teacher workshop) would be several years down the road, but are something to consider. (P. Hecht)
I see a potential in the development of collaborative workspaces within museums and intra museums (cooperations in terms of co-shared exhibitions) but share the scepticism voiced above in regard to problematic attitudes and museums' hierarchies. This is - from my point of view and experience – a long term goal, not to be successfully realized within the next couple of years. (TH Borchert)
- Simple Video Capture and Sharing (One Year or Less)
This is a winner for me in the 1-3 year time frame. With the rise of YouTube, video has become omnipresent and the barriers to entry are falling. Quality no longer needs to be the bugaboo it once was. I expect to see more and more museum websites featuring short video clips prominently, and in time pervasively, to draw their publics in and promote their programs. On a longer horizon--let's say 3-5 years--I would add internal capacity building for streaming media production. [P. Samis]
This is defined in the higher education report as short clips made largely by amateurs; if so I don't see a significant application of this in museums or by museums. Obviously some use of we already are seeing some use of YouTube (see http://www.archimuse.com/mw2008/papers/hart/hart.html ) but it looks to me as a technology seeking an application and nothing the authors of this report say makes me think it is not essentially supportive, ancillary and, frankly, non-essential. [David Bearman]
I don't think most museums are ready for this in the short term, though I have seen some really nice uses like: http://guggenheim.org/exhibitions/exhibition_pages/cai.html. [H. Goldstein]
We've already seen substantial improvements in the cost of video capture in recent years. The next few years should bring equally dramatic decreases in the costs of video collection, curation, discovery, and preservation (see, e.g., the OpenCast project being led by UC-Berkeley). What's less clear to me is the business case for video capture in the museum community. Apart from the handful of uses already described here, what will museums do with enterprise-scale video capture capabilities? There's also the question of human capital: the world is full of people capable of shooting a video that will win mindshare on YouTube, but how many museums have how many staffers who can shoot video to the satisfaction of their highly critical designers and curators? Peter, I'm sure yours does, but I wonder about the center of the bell-curve? (Christopher J. Mackie)
I agree with Christopher – Only large museums can afford to commit to a programme of video creation in a 1.0 way, and it will always be harder (read expensive) to produce video content of a a high enough standard to represent the museum’s brand in a way that is acceptable to it’s off line owners. It sounds obvious, but user-generated video will lag behind text and image – Museums are more confident with them. (Matthew Cock)
In my experience working with the Marcus Project Museums across Texas, many small to medium sized museums want to include video in their interpretation menus. The videos that we create are typically low budget and utilize small production teams. (Rachel Varon)
I think the real question here is not so much the adoption of the technology but the use of it for good quality story-telling. Bad content using great technology doesn't serve any purpose. [H. Goldstein]
I agree with Peter that this is happening in the museum space, that it is a good thing and will increase rapidly. I also agree that the issue is not, as David signals, museum-user-created video; on the contrary, it is the increased capacity for museums to behave like those casual users themselves, while still producing content of adequate intellectual/aesthetic interest (if not of the absolute highest technical standard) to convey valuable meaning to visitors and members. Yes, the storytelling needs to be compelling! This is quite exciting to me, personally, and for museums in the higher ed space, it is perhaps even more intriguing: students of this generation are becoming far more prepared and willing to respond to the world audio-visually, making short videos for final projects (yes I've had students do this) in addition to writing papers. (John Weber)
Although it won't be transformative, I’d agree with John and just emphasize the increasing range and variety of video presentation that is possible from the traditional format and very high production values of the Guggenheim’s Cai Guo-Qiang video through to much simpler and modest demonstration pieces (as the M&W "Beyond Launch" paper emphasizes). Although video literacy does clearly have to be taught, it’s an increasingly available medium for education, explication, provocation and expression that will find many places on a museum’s site (either Internet or intranet). [D. Green]
I disagree with much of what has been said in this stream to date. I do think that the future possibilities of user contributed media (video) content are great, but in fact, won't be realized within the 1 year timeframe of this question. A number of the other comments in this stream seem to focus on the lack of useful application of video for museums as well as the potential difficulty and human effort associated with creating video content. In my responses to that point, I will assume we are talking about the creation of video by institutions themselves. I believe and have shown in our experience at the IMA, that the content creation barrier associated with video creation has dropped precipitously in the past 2 years. So much so that we now consider the possibily of user submitted video content as something that might actually happen someday. From a cost perspective, given the plethora of existing free or almost free streaming media hosts available today, the barriers for museums to create and publish this type content are now extremely low. Our own video efforts began just 18 months ago, and existed as a part time effort of someone already employed by the institution. We have used YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/itsmyart) heavily for the embedding and distribution of this video content with no financial impact to the institution. In addition to the creation of promotional pieces of media pushing exhibitions or events at the museum, we have also seen significant value in the creation of video to document visits and conversations with contemporary artists, documenting the installation of commissioned works of art, profiles of staff members at the museum describing their careers as museum professionals, video messages from our director, fundraising packets and DVD's for consumption by donors, and in providing on demand educational video content to the Indianapolis Public Shcool system. We do, now have a staff of 4 individuals who's primary task is the creation of this sort of media. We can, in fact, only support this level of staffing exactly because of the inherent value of this media creation to the institution. That being said, any museum could create similar content (albeit, more slowly) given a single person's time, a laptop with free software, and a handheld video camera. The value of documenting art and artists alone makes this one that museums should be taking advantage of in the next year, even if they choose never to show this video to the public. [R. Stein]
I believe that Simple Video capturing and sharing will become increasingly important in the next two years as both an educational and promotional means of Museums and other cultural institutions (like exhibition centers). One of the key reasons that Museums won't be able to avoid attending to this medium is, of course, the fact that most visitors (virtual or real) are brought up with television and are simply used to its generic visual language. The budget burden may be an obstacle for smaller institutions in terms of the desired content, but i would think that it would be possible to engage external partners in the production of such videos. In Europe, the efforts of public and private television stations to develop content for their digital networks may provide excellent opportunities for financially neutral forms of collaboration (and thus getting professional help from a technical point of view in exchange for content). We had TV-features been produced on the occasion of a couple of exhibitions (which could have been put online, would we have thought about it), and we get regular coverage from regional TV stations on almost all activities. Much of it is streamed via the local TV-station but our museums hasn't actively linked to this video-content. We also had a pilot project with public TV's efforts to engage in multimedia content which could have produced more exciting results (in my opinion) but it shows that there is an interest in collaborating with museums. Again, when seen from a European perspective, there is of course the issue of multiple languages (we can't assume that all our visitors are speaking one language, and thus subtitles or dubbing and translations are cost and time factors to consider) but i assume this issue will be increasingly important in the US as well. Apart from these general remarks, i would like to add that we all presumably sometimes do work with "ephemeral" art, i.e. performances, or downright video-art. Video-capturing and streaming thereof (once the issue of intellectual property can be resolved) can be an excellent medium to share these works of art with a broader audience. I'd be curious to hear your experience and promise that i'll try to take a couple of our future show on the Austrian Actionist Gunther Brus online if i can find a way that it won't be instantly censored. Which brings me to the last issue which is of importance here, namely archiving this form of digital content. How long, where, how, to what end? (TH Borchert)
- Community Tagging (One Year or Less)
This is big for me and it's not just because of steve. Flickr, YouTube, and the life of the culture increasingly pass this way. It will be especially interesting to see how it gets mashed up with visitor commenting beyond simple 1-3 word tags... and the bigger trend/question of mashing up visitor and authority-base content. In fact, I think THAT's the issue for the HorizonMuseum report, and tagging's just a manifestation. I'd put it on the near horizon. [P. Samis]
I agree with Peter here that the concept that we may want to explore here is not just tagging, but user-contributed (or community-contributed) content in general, and the paradigm shift that this represents for the museum community. Tagging is certainly intriguing, but so is community participation in other activities such as blogs, wikis, and other online features. The Brooklyn Museum’s “Click!” project, which invites the public to submit images that could become part of an exhibition selected by other members of the public, is a good example of where this might go (http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/click/). Furthermore, I think that we should keep in mind the potential of community-sourced content to enhance awareness of museums in resources not expressly sponsored by museums--”unauthorized” podcasts about museums abound and are often more popular than the “official” podcasts produced by museum staff. Attempts to mobilize contributions to resources such as Wikipedia are interesting too (though their efficacy is, I think, unproven)--see the Art Wikimarathon (http://thegreatinter.net/wikimarathon). [S. Chun]
I think that tagging, with words, will emerge as an important application both for social and intellectual reasons and that the steve.museum research will "prove" it. More importantly, I think that geo-tagging, using GPS contributions to museums sites will be crucially important in the coming years (see the paper I gave in Taiwan last week on geo-aware cultural heritage linked to http://www.archimuse.com/activities/activities.html) [David Bearman]
I think this is a short-term way for the community to participate in museum scholarship. The hard part will be the internal museum staff acceptance of the alternative knowledge that tagging brings. [H.Goldstein]
I agree with Peter, too, and with most of what's said here. What I see in the next few years is the emergence of compartmentalization: on the one hand, I don't expect most curators and collections managers to open their internal metadata to public tagging or even public viewing anytime soon; on the other hand, I expect many museums to make strides in opening their public web presence to include social tagging. What's going to be particularly interesting to watch will be the few innovators, probably at the margins, who are fearless enough to allow community tagging to assist them with their curation efforts. Will the long tail be able to add enough value to crack the shell of old-school curation? Will the evidence from the periphery be convincing to the core? Are there effective ways to integrate professional and public tagging synthetically, adding value to each community? (Christopher J. Mackie)
I agree that we should consider the broad range of single word / phrase / comment, and define this in terms of words as equivalent ‘searchable’ content alongide the official record. However, I would like to say that I do think that the power of folksonomy is stronger for museums that deal with pictorial art – I’m prepared to be proved wrong, but I’m not convinced that much would be added to say, Bronze and Iron age artefacts on our website if they were opened up to community tagging (well, perhaps not much that would add to a curator’s knowledge. (Matthew Cock)
We are finding that community tagging has minimal additional benefit in its own right to our social history collection at the Powerhouse, however when used purely as a navigational aid it delivers good results. So, with that in mind, and being aware of its emerging uptake amongst the education sector as well, our core educational audiences will *expect* to be able to navigate our content with tags although whether they can add them themselves or not might be largely irrelevant. (Seb Chan)
Seb's note is very interesting and should be an important consideration in any social tagging project. For tagging to go beyond the advantage it affords the public from the navigational perspective, institutions need to re-define their own sense of the definition of objects, and we need to find a more scientifc and organizational way to analyze the social tagging results. [H. Goldstein]
I don't see this being a big deal in the near term, or at least not for very many institutions. I'm still waiting to see a really useful, breakthrough application of it in the museum environment. (John Weber)
I do think this is an important trend--see, e.g., Flickr Commons. But in the next year tagging will remain experimental given (as others have noted) the culture clash of curators vs. amateur assessments. The use cases also need more work. (Dan Cohen)
Tagging is already here in many and only awaiting approval to implement in other museums. The sheer volume of subject cataloguing all museum content ensures this will happen. While there is still some educating to do - to clarify the appropriate contexts for tagging - the need for access will drive adoption in the next 1 - 2 years. In this, as in other of the short list technologies, differences in disclipines profoundly impact the decision to adopt technologies. Archives and history museums are much more likely to adopt tagging quickly, also science museums looking for user contributions around bird-sightings or plant determinations, etc. (Cathryn Goodwin)
I think it's useful to sort out the kinds of ambitions people may have with tagging and user contributed content, and a number of them surfaced here: Cathryn wants her users to help provide key access points to materials; Seb uses the tags to build better navigation; and I think Peter hints at the benefits in community engagement. All of these ambitions and potential uses of tagging / user contributed content need to be evaluated separately. The one I'd like to comment on is the community engagement aspect. In the LC-Flickr project, I was struck particularly by the community engagement aspect of bringing the materials into a framework which allows tagging and commentary. I have never seen a community have such an in-depth, often funny, sometimes off-topic or trivial, but more often than I expected insightful conversation about materials from a cultural heritage organization. LC managed to have their cake and eat it too: they got all the credit for posting the images (witness the profuse amount of thank yous posted on Flickr) and for starting the conversation, yet they managed to keep that conversation and its inherent messy-ness outside of the bounds of their tightly controlled catalog. Let's see how others fare on the commons. I predict the community aspect of socially contributed content (they way it creates community around your materials) will have the big impact over the next 3 years. (Günter Waibel)
I think we are just beginning to understand how museums benefit from user contributed content, but a significant portion of the public already understands the power of tagging. Teachers surveyed last year as part of a museum Web site re-design sited tagging among the top priorities, not so museums could benefit but so that teachers could find stuff. As a result of sites like flickr and del.icio.us, teacher and students are starting to expect tags. (K. Wetterlund)
I this community tagging is one that certainly applies to most museum collections in the next year if only to help in enhancing the search results against collections and as a navigational aid, as Seb has commented. I do think that the community adoption of community tagging will continue to be a snag for museums as long as we continue to think and talk about tagging in the same way we talk about our other collection documentation. Tagging in and of itself reflects the current perceptions of our visitors to our collections. Ask the to tag again in 5, 10, or 15 years and you'll be very likely to get different answers. This in fact highlights the specific value of tagging as it relates to the factually based collection documentation that so many museum professionals have labored over for many years. Tagging provides the opportunity to map existing perception and language trends to academic documentation created to reflect factual information about our collection. A 'catalogging' of social trends in thinking about art for instance over a 10 year period would undoubtedly yeild facinating insights for museum educators in understanding how to help the public connect to the pieces in our collections.
A second challenge that I see in moving forward with tagging for museum collections is the motivation problem. Its unclear to me what the prevailing motivation to tag is for masses of users to tag museum collections. Beyond, just a passing fancy or something to play with one day, what is it that would continue to keep large internet scale communities tagging over the long run? Honestly, I don't know of anything right now. That being said, I've come to think that the real source of tag based information in the future will be in the relationships that museums already maintain with small communities of enthusiasts and volunteers. These are folks who have already demonstrated an affinity and motivation to connect with the museum and spend "real" time helping forward the museum's missions. In our own experiences with tagging related to our museum's collection, we've found that even a few dedicated individuals can generate enourmous amounts of valuable information related to our collection that can be used my a much larger audience of "non-taggers" to gain numerous avenues of access to deep parts of our collection.
A third issue with tagging in my mind boils down to an unstructured data problem. Current implementations of tagging systems do not enforce much structure or boundary on the types of tags that can be submitted by users. This allows the most creative freedom for the public to engage in the description of works in the collection. So, if the aim of tagging your collection is community engagement, then this is probably a good model of data collection. If, however an institution wants to actually use this information to affect the presentation of works in context, or derive relations of works based on public knowledge/opinion... then a more structured approach to the collection of this data is needed. David's comments on Geo-tagging are a good example here. In order to present community located work onto a map, a GPS coordinate system is enforced as the only form of "tagging" accepted. Perhaps, users are also solicated for common names of places found on maps as well. This would involve the addition of structured geo-coordinates to a more free form tag. I think that innovation surrounding the ways in which we collect information from the public will be important in truly driving significant applications which make use of these pieces of data. [R. Stein]
Community tagging is very interesting with lots of potential, no doubt. Personally, I have little experience but the little that i came across here and elsewhere is absolutely fascinating. Working in a multilanguage environment, however, i wonder how universal community tagging can be given the existing social networks. My feeling is, if the community doesn't have a good command of english, there will be exclusions instead of broad cultural participation. So while the ComTags are now and here, and ever increasing, the long term goal would be to address issues of social lagging (language wise) in social tagging (TH Borchert).
- Mobile (Two to Three Years)
The recent technological development of mobile devices will offer unique opportunities in museums' environments in as far as it would allow mobile access to online learning environments. In developing those learning environments for museums and other collections, the accessibility to mobile devices should be a major concern. The timeframe seems a bit optimistic since not all technologies are momentarily available everywhere and different standards are used. Moreover: data roaming may be an issue that needs to be addressed. (TH Borchert)
Mobile devices are quickly becoming the way people access the internet, maybe not yet in the US. Museums should at least start to explore these mediums, and yes the protocols are still developing, which does make it confusing. The opportunities are very exciting. (H. Goldstein)
I'd say this is a 3-year horizon. Cell phone tours are just getting started, and that doesn't even touch all the questions around mobile broadband--the platform issues alluded to above, lack of a consistent standard (Flash or no) or screen resolution, and the firewalls between onboard content, web browsing, and phone use. Apparently new cell phones in Europe are now being packaged with an extra SIM slot: a handy solution for adding rich media content to your phone just in time when you arrive at the museum. But what if you're surfing that Web content and want to leave a voice response? Do you have to make a call? Many unresolved issues, and American carriers are lagging behind. It will be interesting to see how the iPhone and iPod Touch inflect this timeline, now that the SDK has been released. [P. Samis]
Mobiles are already having an impact on museums, and in many cases, where museums have adopted them, on their visitors. Web browsing on mobiles is not a measured quantity but is growing dramatically in importance. If we are asking in part - which technologies will museums absolutely need to come to grips with in the next x years? - mobiles rank in the next years agenda. There is no way to avoid asking the question now and yet to remain relevant. Most of the worlds population has cell phones; relatively few have computers [David Bearman]
Given all the optimism about some technologies above that (IMHO) are going to take several more years to ripen, I'm a bit startled by the pessimism here :-) If your institution's web presence isn't reasonably accessible to a reasonably capable mobile device by 2010, I think you will be behind the curve. At a minimum, prospective visitors should be able to check your calendar and hours, get a basic sense of any special events, buy tickets through their mobile devices, and receive directions and parking instructions that exploit their GPS capabilities. More sophisticated museums will also leverage geotagging to help groups meet up before, during, or after visits, structure external education curricula, and connect social tagging and other interactive capabilities to mobile patrons. Still-more-sophisticated museums will monitor and analyze patrons' uses of these interactive services in order to gain insight into (e.g.) visitor flows through the buildings, pause-times at different exhibits, favorite pre and post-visit destinations or activities (to generate revenues by sharing audiences), and so on. (Christopher J. Mackie)
I agree with Christopher and David: this is one of the biggest for me (possibly a Euro-centric view) (Matthew Cock)
Mobile is a definite although it is critical to realise that *how* people interact with services and content on a mobile device is already totally different to how they interact with that same content on a laptop or desktop (an obvious example is the use of video on mobile devices). Mobile will definitely require geotagging of content (as below) for museums to be able to play seriously in the mobile space (Seb Chan)
I agree with Christopher's premise, but I think there is a difference between a web presence accessed from a user's mobile device and more sophisticated use of mobile devices by museums. That is why I think this has more of a 3-5 timeframe. [H. Goldstein]
I think this is happening already, and I think the longer term horizon (3-5 yrs) will see a bump up from exploratory uses and nuts-and-bolts info to more rich-media use of mobiles to deliver video content, games, whatever.... I think that there is also great potential to integrate what comes through the mobile, small-screen channel of capable (iPhone or whatever) devices and how that links to what you have on your website. (John Weber)
I believe mobile is the single biggest tech story of the next three years, maybe sooner. Browsing on the phone, audio, video, the camera, etc--all of these can and will be exploited, especially as we quickly move this year from weak WAP interfaces to iPhone SDK, Nokia's new phone OS, Android, etc. (Dan Cohen)
Mobile devices are definitely in the museums now, however, the 2-3 year timeline might be about right before some of the challenges, such as those mentioned by Peter, are worked out and before they move out of the exploratory use, as John mentions. (P. Hecht)
I must throw my lot in with the more optimistic, and possibly more Euro-centric, opinions of Christopher & Matthew here: mobile devices have been used inside museums for decades now; most museums now get more visitors online than in person; and the cellphone is now the most ubiquitous mobile device in the world. The ingredients are there for us to take the museum mobile to Horizon's 20% mark easily within the 2-3 year mark if we develop for the platform *as it currently exists* rather than aiming for some next-generation mini-web or multimedia tour experience. When I consider what visitors really need when they are on the go, it seems that most of the technology is there for a sizeable portion of our visitors; the remaining impediments are more cultural (will museums let visitors use their phones in the gallery, and will visitors get over years of fear of doing it), legal (fears of copyright violation by cameraphone, etc. etc.) and financial (how expensive a pound of flesh will the network operators take out of each transaction, esp. for those on roaming)- which is not to sweep those issues under the carpet, but to indicate that we are not in Star Wars technology territory here:
1. I'm in town and suddenly it occurs to me to stop by the Museum: is it near where I am? is it open? what's on? do I need/can I get tickets? A simple phone recording can answer all this, but people are more likely to call if they already know the number, so maybe all we need is a memorable shortcode and some good advertising, aimed at encouraging people to visit the Museum spontaneously while out & about. On the other hand, those pre-recorded messages can be annoying and may require having a pen to hand; can I simply text a shortcode and get the vital info by SMS?
2. For those with Blackberries, iPhones, or other web-enabled mobiles, a small-screen, small-bandwidth Museum portal would also do the trick: basic visiting info and a short, memorable URL, well advertised!
3. In the Museum, I might like to get more info on exhibits: IVR is a pretty simple way to deliver this to cellphones and requires only some signage in the galleries. Visitors can even pay for this service pretty easily now, either through buying a PIN at the admissions desk, or reverse SMS-billing: I'd like to see some more trials of this, especially in the US, to see how visitors respond. Or maybe the Museum or its sponsor can pay for the service, but I (speaking as a museum professional now) feel more comfortable with an audio information/interpretation service that is self-sustaining financially - which is more possible when you don't have to pay for staffing or technology.
4. To take the Museum and my favorite exhibits home with me, I'd like to be able to 'bookmark' works and either send their unique identifier to a webpage where I can access my bookmarks later, or receive an SMS reply, containing 'tombstone' info, to my dialing the exhibit's audio commentary. I would then also be able to forward that SMS to a friend who'd like the work as well. Certain vendors tell me this is possible now; we'll see when SAAM runs a pilot phone tour later this year!
5. The other probable use of visitors' own mobile devices is capturing the visitors' comments on the exhibits and their museum experience, either by leaving voice messages or sending text messages. I suspect, and research so far seems to indicate, that most visitors feel silly talking to themselves in the gallery, so SMS is a more likely initial platform for capturing this. Again, the technology is there already, so the Museum needs to make provision for marketing the service and dealing with visitor response to it.
If we start by developing simple but robust mobile systems with the technology that is widely available today, then we'll be in a much stronger position to take advantage of the next generation devices and networks as they come out. In short, I'd put the smaller, simpler steps (numbers 1-3) in the 1-2 year timeframe, and the more interactive uses (numbers 4&5 above) in the 2-3 year timeframe, mainly because of the content management infrastructure those services require. [Nancy Proctor]
- Geotagging (Two to Three Years)
I argue (see the paper I gave in Taiwan last week on geo-aware cultural heritage linked to http://www.archimuse.com/activities/activities.html) that geo-tagging will become one of the most important processes for museums. In my opinion, the infrastructure that makes objects location-aware and our environs aware of us, is as important as the WWW, and will, in a decade or so, completely transform the way we perceive the world. The interpenetration of the physical and the virtual; on a time/space axis will make it possible to experience things that surpass physical; 'reality' in every way and will be assumed to exist everywhere. I fully agree that within 2-3 years museums will be addressing these issues seriously but more than that, I have argued that it will completely change the museum as a social institution by turning it "inside-out" and repatriating the massive collections we have stolen (in war, excavation, power-differential purchases , etc.) to the cultures that created them. [David Bearman]
As David suggests, some museums, especially those with field education activities, are already making innovative and effective use of these tools. It's going to be particularly interesting to see whether museums not currently doing field education can innovate around this idea to start doing it, and whether museums can learn to use it for other purposes as well; for instance, will museums build virtual collections or virtual exhibits that are extended beyond their own walls by geotagging relevant objects and locations? Can geotagging be exploited interactively, so that (say) a member of an art museum visiting Europe may be able to take walking tours of key locations guided by her home museum and connected back to its own collection? Within the next few years, any museum should be able to use geotagging data to understand its audience better, and thereby to grow that audience, but to do so it will have to make the investment in geotagging support and find the hooks that persuade its audience to share the information. I anticipate a great deal of innovation in the near future, but I expect it will still be some time before widespread use and consistent best-practices emerge.
That said, once geotagging does arrive, it sets the scene for something that I think could be more consequential for museums in the middle-term than virtual reality; namely, augmented reality. In all the hoopla over virtual worlds, let's not lose sight of the advances being made in reality augmentation, because that's potentially a lower-overhead, easier-entry, larger-return investment than are VWs for museums and other NFPs. (Christopher J. Mackie)
Having skimmed David’s article, I agree that this has the potential to be a major process for Museums – I can see incredible benefits (‘giving the collections back to the world virtually’ has a major appeal to the British Museum, obviously), but I‘m concerned because I can’t see what the drivers will be for museums to take this up - people have been talking about searching across collections, and interoperable databases for years, and we never found that holy grail – is this not just a specific evolution of the same? I hope I’m wrong in my pessimism though! (Matthew Cock)
Geotagging is already here and can provide the missing link that makes cross-collection search *really* useful to a large population (beyond *just* scholars). Natural history museums should be well advanced with precise geotagging of their collection whilst social history museums can leverage a range of new tools to be able to extract *good enough* place data from their collections (see Fresh & New). (i will have much more to show in montreal on this) (Seb Chan)
For the record, this issue is pretty much absent and invisible to me where I live, and I wonder how many museums are thinking about it. I will be fascinated to see what others do with it. (John Weber)
The time-frame for Geo-Tagging is too far out. Museums are and have been using this technology for several years already. Science museums and Botanical Gardens have been using mapping software, running mapservers and geo-referencing all data for at least the last 6 years. Part 2 of geotagging is realistically 2 years out for museums - the interface between real-time data and geo-referenced data sets. Art museums are much farther behind science, archeology, and anthroplogy in this area, although google earth is making it a reality. (Cathryn Goodwin)
I've always thought that 'where it's at' is important, and so jumped on the LBS bandwagon early with multimedia tours - and have therefore carried the scars of getting it wrong longer than many! I'm less worried about the technology horizon here (though the ubiquity and affordability of geo-sensitive devices strikes me as at least 3-5 years off) than our knowing what it is we - and our users/visitors - want to do with that geo-local information. I don't think it's automatic triggering of content: we all saw how spectacularly projects that invested lots of money & time in replacing the good old keypad crashed in 2002-4. The mistake there was taking a new technology to try to do something that was already done pretty well, and much more cheaply, by an existing technology; similarly with geo-tagging and GPS technologies, we need to think outside existing social practices to find this technology's killer ap. I suspect that the answer lies in the direction of a more sensitive interweaving of location, context, and community to make geo-tagging really reach its potential, and I've just not yet seen many approaches that convincingly build an enhanced user experience on all three. Cue everyone to send me lots of links to the contrary, please! Though it's a good first step to display all of America's outdoor sculptures on Google Maps and Google Earth, for example (as we are doing at SAAM), there's a lot of content and context that needs to be wrapped around that simple interface both to inspire people to look for geo-local info and make their experience of it meaningful, not to mention social habits that need to be formed. I almost feel like we need a cultural shift in the order of the introduction of Google search before this technical capacity will translate into practical and widespread use. Until I've seen more thinking about the content and user experience, in addition to the technology, I'd put this one at 3-5 years at the earliest. [Nancy Proctor]
I agree with Cathryn that art museums are way behind in geotagging, and I don’t see a lot of potential for catch up. Different from keyword tagging, geotagging offers a scientific level of specificity in defining the historic locations of an object’s origin. Once curators come to understand that geotagging is directly tied to the scholarship of an object, they will vie for control of it in relation to object records. Because of this, I worry that formal internal adoption of geotagging of art museum collections may be slowed by scholarly politics. I’d put a timeframe for geotagging art museum objects at 4-5 years. This is unfortunate since one of the greatest opportunities offered by geotags, as David points out in his paper, is identifying an object’s historic journey. (K. Wetterlund)
I do agree with those contributors who would like to see Geo-Tagging move up in the time-line. It can be implemented much quicker, and there are already exciting projects (even though beyond the museums' field, see, for example: http://www.romanes.com/romanes_map.html and click through the map). I believe GT is of particular use for environements with high density cultural heritage, like Siena, Florence, Rome, or Paris. We have started projects involving GT as part of a collaborative effort between the museum and the tourism industry. We'll expect to be able to evaluate the success within 24 months (TH Borchert).
- Socially-Centered Virtual Worlds (Two to Three Years)
While museums will benefit greatly from socially centered virtual; worlds and the ability to invoke groups of 'others' as people experience museums physically and virtually together, the timeframe is greater than 2-3 years. I would expect to see applications emerging in 4-5 years but not significant impact on museum life in that timeframe. [David Bearman]
I think as exciting as this is, real utilization in the business world is still a few years off, and I just don't see museums making real-world use of this technology for another 5 years or so. I cannot see this technology being used for online virtual exhibitions before museums figure out how to use all the other rich media they have to enhance the online experience for a physical exhibition. I think this would be a better use of museum technology commitment. [H. Goldstein]
Will socially centered virtual worlds be a cornerstone of every museum's public face someday? I hope so. Will that day be sometime in the next 5-10 years? I'm glad to see that I'm not the only pessimist in this group. SecondLife(tm) has taught us that it's possible to assemble critical mass in a virtual world, but my sense is that the current wave of non-gamer public enthusiasm is already rolling back out to sea--disappointed, not by the social richness of SL and the current crop of MMOGs, but by their intellectual poverty. By the time the next wave of public enthusiasm rolls in, I hope it will be met (and driven) by the arrival of virtual worlds that are structured to support cutting-edge research and serious gaming as well as entertainment. If not, I don't see how museums will see the technologies as sufficiently mission-critical to engage with them fully enough to make them sustainable. And if museums (and other culture-contributory not-for-profits, like colleges and universities) don't engage seriously and deeply with these environments, they are unlikely to grow and remain sophisticated enough to serve those institutions' needs. In that case, the next wave, too, will be driven by entertainment and sociability--and whether it, too, rolls back out or whether it is finally the wave that sticks to the shore won't matter much to the not-for-profit world beyond those few institutions prepared to compete head-to-head with the entertainment conglomerates.
As I see it, one of the crucial tipping points for museums as well as other culture-contributors will be the arrival of virtual worlds environments that allow participants to modify core aspects of the environment itself, rather than just building within it. This capability is essential for serious reflection and serious gaming, which are in turn essential for cultural organizations to construct offerings that are meaningfully different from those constructed by the entertainment industry. We see some hints of this capability today, in open source virtual worlds projects like OpenCroquet, but they're still nascent, requiring further development and some "killer applications" to help the museum world and others understand more clearly the affordances they offer. It's not obvious that a VW producer focused on mass entertainment has any incentive to build such a world, because the level of interactivity required is expensive and poses security risks. But is it possible to form public-private partnerships to build hybrid (or multipurpose or compartmentalized) worlds that can serve the needs of both entertainment and education? I think this question may be pivotal to how the next decade of VW technologies plays out. (Christopher J. Mackie)
I have been a pessimist about large-scale (non-gamer) adoption of virtual worlds for 20 years, ever since Jaron Lanier came to my college to announce the imminent arrival of VW/VR. This prophesy happens again every 5 years (with Second Life the latest case), only to find out that most people just don't get the value proposition of VW, and find participation in them clunky and even silly no matter how advanced the technology. I remain surprised at how the Horizon report has trumpeted VWs. Where's the adoption data (no, I don't believe SL's own numbers)? I have yet to look over the shoulder of a student to see a SL screen. For most people (in academia, museums) Facebook is the kind of online "world" that they want to participate in and that has value added. For museums, it seems to me one of their great advantages is Actual Objects, and so the value of VW becomes even more muddled. (Dan Cohen)
I join Dan in his skepticism about the adoption of SL. Why should museums invest in a media which attracts few eyeballs, and which as a platform has a less-than certain future? I doubt we'll have a virtual world which has enough users and is sufficiently stable to merit real investment by museums anytime soon. (Günter Waibel)
I don't buy that it is interesting to see already decontextualized museum objects decontextualized further in a virtual realm. I see limited utility of VR to take museum visitors to remote times or places like the caves of Lascaux or primeval Manhattan. (M. Jenkins)
I have no doubt that we will one day interact with one another through the web in more intuitive, visual ways than keyboards and mouses (mice?? what did we decide the plural is?). Like the increasing pervasiveness of the Internet, the evolution of interfaces to it is to my mind inevitable, but pinning down when and what form these new interfaces will take is much harder. Second Life is still at the 1996-8 stage if you want to compare it to the www's development: people are mainly trying to reproduce existing forms there, and learning what can be done with the technology, in much the same way that most websites in the early days were simply digital versions of print materials and designs. The watershed moment will be when developers start thinking outside the 'what' & 'how' boxes and begin focussing on 'who'. When the VR developers have become fluent in their new language (which is partly achieved, as in the early web's print media exercises, through translating the real world into a virtual representation), they'll be able to focus on users and their needs, and will begin producing really simple applications that use those new interfaces to allow us to do existing, daily tasks much better, faster or more cheaply: just as email developed from snail mail; Google search from using the card index; and mobile phones from phone booths. I DON'T think the killer app is reproducing the real world in a digital form; the real world, including real museums & real objects, already does the real world much better than any virtual world ever will. But that is not to say that there won't be a role for virtual worlds in better informing and attracting visitors to those real spaces. I'd guess that communications and reference will continue to be mainstays of activity in the next generation digital plane. Of course the porn industry is likely to be a leader in developing this new platform so we can always look to them for clues, but I think instead I'll reread Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash: most of what it predicted of the basic functionality of the Internet has already come about, and his crystal ball is much more interesting. [Nancy Proctor]
I am a VR proponent myself having spent many years at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (http://ncsa.uiuc.edu) as a Visualisation and VR scientist. We used virtual reality in many ways to display scientific datasets or environments in ways which were not possible in existing 2d or paper displays. VR remains valuable today in helping humans experience that which cannot be experienced or conceived physically. That being said, I think today's instantiations of virtual worlds are wholely lacking in redeeming value and unique benefit beyond what has been achieved by existing video conferencing technologies. I do think acheaological recontructions and / or replays of historic events may have some future here, but not in the next several years. Existing efforts in SecondLife particularly seem to focus a social nature of VR that I don't see much support for. I think that a more likely future for VR will be the merging of conferencing and telepresence technologies like Cisco's Telepresence solutions (http://www.cisco.com/en/US/netsol/ns669/networking_solutions_solution_segment_home.html) with more traditional vr systems. A remaining problem with this will continue to be elements of user interface that can support both 3d navigation as well as interaction and documentation without feeling cumbersome. [R. Stein]
I don't share the scepticism concerning VR, neither in terms of its appeal to publics nor, in fact, in terms of content issues. The key question here is to define the added value of VR in conjunction of other New Media. I personally see VR as supplementary, but it offers nice opportunities to develop interactive learning environements. We have, for example, tried enable the VV(isitors) to "enter" art works and to experience the world from within the picture (or object). Admittedly, VR is extremely time-consuming if your goal is to make it a platform for learning AND interactivity. (TH Borchert)
- Scholarly Mashups (Two to Three Years)
My spin on this in regards to museums is the need for more rich presentations; better storytelling. Exhibitions with audio, video, more images, etc either on kiosks, mobile devices, other interactive devices. Museums have to compete in a sense with the internet, video games, etc. The more interesting a story told the more attractive to a generation used to multimedia. Audio tours go to one level, but it needs to be pushed further. (H. Goldstein)
The authors of the Horizon report description of this technology skewed it in their title. There is nothing "scholarly" about mashups per se. Basically we are talking about linking open databases to data values in our datasets. I think this will be important to museum in the very short term, and could become critical to understanding museum data exchange if we are clever enough to create biographical, corporate, geographical, temporal, databases with cultural content to share. What was lacking for museums in data interchange (economics of unique objects) could become a driver if applied to the economics of shared authorities. I think the timeframe is too short here for museum specific mashups and too long for museum utilization of existing opportunities for mashups (such as maps). We need to be more careful to distinguish computing technologies from social technologies.[David Bearman]
Museums are essential data sources for many fields of scholarship, and there's no technical reason why mashups couldn't be a major part of museum participation in scholarship even today; in fact, just last week my Foundation funded a project (Project Bamboo: http://www.projectbamboo.org) to create a more effective institutional infrastructure for support of arts and humanities scholarship using exactly this model. Bamboo will involve higher education institutions, libraries, and museums in a dialogue about how to use technology infrastructure to support better these kinds of initiatives both within and between institutions. But even as that infrastructure is built, both museums and scholars need to understand the technology better, and to work out the intellectual property arrangements and culture-change innovations that mashups require. Will scholars learn to organize their scholarship in terms of mashups? Will museums get over their fear of publishing collections and provide the data scholars seek in the way they want to use it? How does one cite a mashup, and until we answer that question effectively, what incentive do scholars have to create them? (Christopher J. Mackie)
Like Chris, I would like to see museums understand APIs and enable mashups. Clearly right now this isn't happening, and will require serious work to get it to happen. Looking at the list of thousands of mashups at programmableweb.com, you can note that very few of the APIs that are used in the mashups come from cultural institutions. (Dan Cohen)
I found myself vigorously nodding when I read David's description of a future where descriptive economies are reaped not by exchanging descriptive records as a whole (as in copy cataloging in the library community), but by making authority files the focus of our descriptive activities. In that scenario, the core of a descriptive record will turn into pointers to the concepts in authorities files. This would also allow a much tighter integration of museums, libraries and archives - all of these communities need to control concepts such as personal names, place names, subjects, etc in order to describe their materials effectively. OCLC Programs and Research is taking a step in this direction through a soon-to-be launched Terminologies Service prototype, primarily aimed at improving searching. What we need for this to happen in a big way, however, are authority files which are sitting at the network level accessible for updating and querying by all cultural organizations. While I believe that this is precisely what the future will bring, I don't think we'll see that future in 2-3 years. (Günter Waibel)
- Collective Intelligence (Three to Five Years)
The same arguments that have been made for 30 years about artificial intelligence seem to drive this view of the future. I'm sorry. I don't buy it. The trivial examples - Wikipedia and Recommendation systems, aren't really about collective intelligence at all; truly computable examples, such as PageRank, live in the realm of myth I think - we know little about what Google does, but I can assure you that computable PageRank is not primarily what drives the first 10 returns in a Google search, however useful it might be in ordering some returns later in the result set. [David Bearman]
I share David's skepticism in terms of widespread, pervasive use, but I can see some areas where something that one could label 'collective intelligence' could be extremely valuable. For instance, if museums could share their conservation information universally (albeit anonymously), it might be possible to identify correlations between environmental variables, curation/conservation behaviors, and deterioration patterns for various classes of objects across the entire museum community much more quickly and reliably than any single institution could accomplish based on its own collection. The potential benefit to the museum community in terms of damage minimized, objects saved, and costs avoided, could be profound.
David, for what it's worth, PageRank absolutely drives the first ten results in a Google search. The fact that companies have to pay Google to be listed first is a direct consequence of PageRank's ability to put hits in an order corresponding to something other than the alphabet or advertising budget-size. A pedantic point, I suppose, but subtle causation is still causation :-) (Christopher J. Mackie)
To some extent, this will be influenced by other issues like common definitions and descriptions of object and scholarly information- metadata. Some of this exists, but I think there is still a long way to go. There seems to be some movement in getting museums and libraries to speak the same language for the sake of search. But fundamentally, right now, they speak different languages. [H. Goldstein]
- Social Operating Systems (Three to Five Years)
As described by the higher education horizon report, the technologies envisioned here are a set of rich applications made possible by the universal adoption of open-id or its equivalent. I'm, not sure I see the need or the benefit and can't quite understand why museums will be impacted especially. [David Bearman]
I think the references to OpenID are just a bit dated, is all; these days, it's the OpenSocial initiative that's the nexus of activity. Imagine a community arts/culture portal that uses OpenSocial to connect all of its participating institutions, so that a patron only has to enter certain information once, and can then share it with any of the organizations using the portal, who can then share it with each other to create tailored, multi-institutional offerings for the patron. The potentials for audience growth and audience sharing are considerable. I think 3-5 years is probably about right for this: the big Web 2 initiatives will need to push this forward a bit more before it's ready for the NFP world. But I wonder if the NFP world won't eventually take it further than the for-profits? After all, NFPs have missions involving public service and openness to the community, while Web 2 startups have missions that mostly revolve around locking up user data in some form or another. (Christopher J. Mackie)
- Open Education Resources (Three to Five Years)
This isn't going to occur. If it did, I doubt it would have significant impact on museums [David Bearman]
Where this is likely to occur in museums it is within "issues" oriented museums that find fertile ground in social networking systems to build upon or sustain audiences. More and more museums are looking for ways to sustain visitors interest between visits. I think this is a currently untapped resource but I doubt it will remain so. Still the time frame seems about right. [Sara DeAngelis]
I'm once again a bit startled by the deviation of my view from those of our other commentators. OER is already becoming a transformative movement in higher education (perhaps because OER is moving fast, the writeup in the previous report both understates its current diversity and under-sells its current impact), and I expect its effects on other educational and publishing activities--including museum education and publication--to be equally profound. The time-frame for museums is probably a bit longer than for higher ed, but the impact will, if anything, be more powerful, especially for museums still stuck in the mind-set of content providers rather than learning enablers. The cost to a museum of underestimating many of the other trends on this page is relatively trivial, because there will be few penalties, and many compensating advantages, for being the last museum on the block to climb onto most neo-tech bandwagons. But OER is a disruptive social change, not just (or even primarily) a tech change. As such, it has the potential to unravel several aspects of the current museum business/revenue model. This is one for museums to watch and, ideally, to anticipate rather than react. (Christopher J. Mackie)
I too am surprised that OERs aren't at the top of the list of things that museums (not just small ones, but large ones) should be following and thinking about. Surely this is where museums can make the greatest impact, far more than with mashups, which have a higher tech bar. (Dan Cohen)
Museums aren't educational publishers. The 'business model' of the museum doesn't depend on content delivery - museum, education and publishing are loss leaders. I still don't see where Chris and Dan are coming from. Probably museums will make their content increasingly available under CC licenses because its a nice thing to do, but why would they start producing OER? I still don't get it [David Bearman]
- Alternative Interaction Devices (Three to Five Years)
This is where I'd put a vote in for surface computing and multitouch tables. They have a great future in museums, make the most of the social knowledge building museums are already about, and can be fun and entertaining to boot. Churchill, WWI in Kansas City; these are winners but still prohibitively expensive for most museums and not ideally suited to art venues. That said, I would put them on a 3+ year horizon. [P. Samis]
I expect interaction with 'computers' using voice and gesture to take over from keyboards in all areas that are not explicitly literate in the future. And I expect that the computer, as a device for communication of words between literate folks, will be a decreasingly important aspect of the smart world. Because the nature of museums is that they are trying to engage people in experiences, not (like universities, libraries and archives) in written representations, I think that interactions that do not involve keyboards and number pads will be of increasing significance and that delivery to devices that are not seen as being computers (cars, phone, sidewalks) will be of growing importance in the 3-10 year timeframe. I am unconvinced by special applications like tables, and see them merely as experiments to arrive at smart objects and smart environments ...[David Bearman]
I think adoption of this is already here. There are already good examples out there in museums the Asia Society's "rock" driven interactive information displays, the edge recognition applications like Camille Utterback's installation at the Children's Museum of Manhattan. Museum exhibitions have been pushing this envelope for some time now! Just think back to the Design of Future reading project developed by Xerox Park back in '98. [Sara DeAngelis]
I agree with Peter about the value, I'm just more pessimistic about the timing. Important? Absolutely. 3-5 years? Probably not, except among the most exsanguinatory of bleeding-edge adopters. Almost all of these devices are still research toys: as Peter notes, we're several years away from commoditization, and even further away from the development of an adequate pool of software (and software engineers) to make them useful. As for voice/gesture, I agree it will be here first, but iPhone hype notwithstanding, the absence of a cursor from the gesture interface is already a problem even for the Apple designers, so much so that I understand they're promising to put one back in the new SDK. It also imposes penalties on accessibility for people with visual and motor impairments. As an interface option, I can see it gaining ground, but it's not going to replace current interface technologies anytime soon. (Christopher J. Mackie)
I haven't yet made any additions to this page, and am diving in with the admission that I may be perhaps one of, if not the most technologically moronic of the group's members. That apologia aside, this very limitation may serve as a useful asset in considering critically the wealth of commentary which has, and will continue to be generated concerning the responses to the questions on this site. I have however, worked for 33 years in and with major east coast and midwest museums, and I must say that many of the short listed technology options are not the first, second, or perhaps even third operational priorities for many of the approx. 50 institutions with which my organization currently partners. I may be way behind on the background work, and reserch data already generated by this group, but would like to know if the technology shortlist, and its potential time line up take for institutions, has been considered in realtionship to an intitution's size, operation's budget, nature of collections etc., and a multitute of other criteria which needs to be considered to resposibly answer the timeline question for these technologies useage. Institutions can be very insular, fundamentally conservative, and self focused concerning internal operations, inspite of the outreach rhetoric to the contrary. That having been said, unless there is consistantly supportive, internal leadership to motivate the uptake of these technologies in general, I think that many of the timeline predictions I am currently reading here appear in my judgement idealistic, except perhaps for select institutions where a number of important internal factors, and operational and staffing criteria are in place. I don't mean to be the proverbial "stick in the mud" with this perspective, but I tend to access issues as a ruthless prgamatist. ( A. Albano)
Two points: I think there will be some intriguing instances of alternative interaction devices explored in the next 3-5 years; and yet I do agree with the last comment that for the most part, such leading edge explorations will have little impact on the vast majority of museums, small and large, but particularly small! (John Weber)
Agree on long term implementation despite early users. I believe that alternative IDs will become more and more important, and if only as a means of institutions to distinguish themselves from others. The opportunities seem exciting, if unconventional. I had posted the following link about an "alternative" - not so much interactive - museum experience earlier, but forgot to save. So here it comes again: http://www.zeit.de/video/player?videoID=20080402b91f6c&from=rss. Anybody knows more about it? (TH Borchert)
I don't understand where John Weber is coming from here. For almost twenty years, the preferred interface device within galleries has been touch screens, not keyboards and mice, or joysticks. This alternative interface was adopted by big museums and small, without its being successful in the world of commerce or industry because it worked for us. Why do we ignore that? Museums have shown amazingly good sense in adopting technologies that work to achieve their missions. Things I see going on now with museums and mobiles, delivery of audio-video tours to pda devices etc. are far ahead of what is going on in the general world of commerce, again because we have strong mission purposes and experience with poeple roaming through galleries and interacting with sound, image and video. I think we short sell our ability to adopt alternative, or should we say appropriate, interfaces for our needs. Page turning applications for illuminated manuscripts and artists books made there way into applications throughout the museum world before Google books or the Internet Archive popularized them. The table computing example given by Peter is another good case in point - we've seen excellent applications of this now for five years - hundreds in museums worldwide (I'm not sure why Peter thinks art museums are not as likely - they worked were at MOMA, Asia Society, Denver Art Museum...). [David Bearman]
Additional responses to this question were solicited and recorded at a Professional Forum at Museums and the Web 2008. The responses have been posted on a separate page in the wiki.