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Notes from Museums and Technology Talk

May 10, 2011

Recently Danny and Martha from Wellcome gave a talk about the interesting stuff they’d seen at the Museums and the Web event in Philadelphia.  I took some notes from their notes which unhelpfully gives you a 2nd-hand account of the event.  However there is some cool stuff from the event they reported on…

The first thing that caught my eye was Wolfquest – a free downloaded game that teaches people about the ecology and behaviour of wolves.  The original idea behind the game was to rehabilitate the image of the wolf, so maligned by popular culture over the last couple of hundred years. (The US has been re-introducing wolves in some areas to act as natural controls on herbivores.)  However it turns out that wolves are actually quite liked, so the game instead seems to focus on teaching players about them and their habitat.  Its a free download and looks worth checking out.

Screenshot from Wolfquest

Next thing that I was intrigued by was the Smithsonian’s Web and New Media strategy process. This was done via a publicly accessible Wiki (same idea as Wikipedia) which means that anyone could read and amend the document. I like the idea of putting such documentation into the public domain and giving people a chance to comment.

There were also some interesting apps mentioned during the talk. Apps that just show you round a space or are some kind of virtual map, to me miss a trick. Yes that is helpful functionality, but apps are native to interactive and computational processes – i.e. you can do stuff with them. So the Davis Museum’s app that adds gamification to the process sounds great (and the research showed using it resulted in people spending more time with each exhibit).

I also loved the idea of Magritte Me, where in the museum they have the background to the famous apple/hat-paining ‘The Son of Man‘ where by using Augmented Reality (AR) you can re-create the painting with your friend inside. The idea being that the technology re-connects you to the space you are in.

Magritte Me App

As with the above example, it seemed that AR is a tool that is now being explored with much more success. I suspect that this is because in part the technology has improved and in-part because the ideas have been around for a while and had time to ferment. So the technology has been used to create art in spaces where the artists has no permission to be there – but because it’s AR – how can you stop them? An example of this is the Infiltr.AR work floating a giant yellow balloon over the Pentagon:

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