New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: 2 Areti Galani and My Great North Run

2nd post of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.

Areti Galani and Rachel Clarke: “Run mummy run”: negotiating communicative tensions in the design and use of digital installations that facilitate visitor-generated content in public exhibitions

I met Areti a couple of years ago at Museums and the Web 2011 where she was demonstrating some of the technology used in My Great North Run by Newcastle university’s culture lab and GNM_Hancock.  Not only because it is set in my home town, and in my favourite museum but because I love how the project mixed up the nature of digital and analogue technologies.  It was an interactive museum installation designed to extend visitor participation through personal reflection and contribution and combined three kinds of interaction: touchscreens, digital pens and a website. During this presentation I was really shocked by the amount of contributions that were rejected during the moderation process.

  • Can interactivity antagonise participation?
  • How can accessible technology lead to inaccessible participation paradigms?
  • My Great North Run – 2. Contribution routes and multiple contribution forms
  • C.60000 in gallery users
  • 13,000 contributions in 93 days
  • 53 online contributions- all published
  • difference between quality of the visitor contributions in-gallery vs online (though of course ‘quality’ is a highly subjective term)
  • Balance between what is considered meaningful curated content with more open social network platforms that encourage active participation.
  • 93% rejected contributions! What moderation system was used?  8% of which made it through the moderation process and became part of the exhibition.
  • Could building in some delay in the process of contributing in-gallery lead to better quality contributions?
  • Will a doodle ever become a contribution? Why do we always assume that a textual visitor contribution is better and of a higher quality and therefore more relevant?
  • The novelty of the technology: ‘pen-happy visitors’ used the technology for the sake of interacting but didn’t know what to do after picked up the pen.
  • When does a contribution become part of the narrative?
  • Many interrelated emerging narratives
  • Temporary co-existence with museum narratives of celebration.
  • Empathetic, situated, embedded
  • 3 communicative tensions present in digital installations that encourage visitors to generate and contribute content in exhibitions:
  1. how lowering the barriers to participation through technological decisions may affect the quality of the contributed content as well as the experience of the contributors;
  2. how the tension between the curatorial desire to enable user-participation while maintaining a coherent and aesthetically consistent curatorial narrative is un/resolved
  3. how visitors negotiate the ‘private’ and the ‘public’ when contributing content.

Key Point to consider: Digitally-mediated participatory installations continue to occupy the ambiguous space between audience engagement and exhibition interpretation, with an impact on both how visitor-generated content is collected and archived by institutions and also how displays facilitating visitor-generated content fit with exhibition designs. 

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