Has The Film Already Started? is the title of suite of galleries at the Tate Britain, which focus on exploring the ways in which ideas or performance and the construction of narrative have evolved in art in the past 30 years. It was whilst watching a chandelier flash Morse code at me and the words appearing on a computer screen that I started thinking about how technology, in particular, video, is changing the relationship between museums and visitors and its impact on visitor perception and potential meaning gained and expressed from content.
There has been a paradigm shift in visual culture. Sounds scary, but it’s a good thing. It’s no longer just about the static image. Movement, light, visualisations as well as sound have been fully absorbed into contemporary-cultural practices. New media technologies now play a key role in the work of many artists but also in learning, marketing, interpretation and in the evaluation of content in museums. Video in particular is something I’m spending a lot of time reading, watching and thinking about. I fall in love with ambient sounds, visualisations and moving image installations very very quickly. They are really engaging devices for bringing me into a story, or history, or experience. Lots of museums these days have video embedded into their websites, exhibitions and everywhere in between in lots of different ways:
- To provide opportunities for behind the scenes peeks and to share expertise. Ask a Curator is an excellent example of utilising video brilliantly to share curatorial knowledge and to answer questions.
- To extend the museum beyond what are normally capable, video clips from far flung places. Check out the Manchester museum videos with curator Andrew Grey and Costa Rican Frogs (I like frogs) also the frog blog is great too!
- To get the visitors perspective. Video offers opportunities for visitors to say what they think, “video memories” as seen in the National Museum of Scotland and Tales of Things and the Tate’s excellent One-to-One with the Artist.
Museum’s provide a excellent platform for considering the ways in which recent technological changes have influenced the perception, uptake and dissemination of visual culture. With video now available for anyone to produce and watch, almost anytime and anywhere—on mobiles, digital cameras, computers, or iPad’s—it has become the medium of choice for many museums. Video content has a massive capacity for audience engagement. This was one of the strongest things I took away from MuseumNext earlier in the year. The absolute power of video to get the message across. Whatever the message may be.
Whether it’s the Guggeheim’s YouTube Play
n8’s fabulous work bringing the freshness and vibrancy of a highly skilled young team to the cultural masses
or Rich Mintz from Blue State Digital talking about the Obama Campaign and It Gets Better as prime examples of what video can do. But stressing it’s about harnessing online but executing offline.
One of things that really struck me were Rich Mintz’ words “nobody cares about museums as much as you do!” Video changes that dynamic as this excellent video by the brand spanking new National Museum of Scotland shows
A major part of my PhD is looking at how video can be used as an evaluation tool, to see if it’s possible to understand and evaluate visitor experience from recording their behaviour. I wanted to work with video as I’ve played with the majority of user studies tools and techniques and this seemed like a challenge. It’s all new to me, but I’m enjoying the experience. I wonder if by the end of all of this video for audience evaluation will be just as pervasive as video for audience engagement. It would be great if such a interesting technology gets used equally for both.