Shelly Bernstein at the Brooklyn Museum, wrote a blog post on Oct 4th, in response to Ed Rothstein’s fairly disparaging article “From Picassos to Sarcophagi, Guided by Phone Apps”,in The New York Times, three days earlier, about museum smart phone apps. She defended her museum’s efforts to date, and the efforts of all museums, to bring their content into this all important environment, the mobile landscape. I completely support the arguments she made.
Toward the end of the piece Rothstein dismissed the BklynMuse app’s capacity to allow visitors to leave comments about artworks for other visitors to find, saying “The various votes for “likes” in the museum are equally unilluminating. The result is a kind of scarcely literate cybergraffiti that does nothing to help reach a deeper understanding of the works or reveal their artistic traditions or cultural significance.”
It’s true that Likes and one word tags are not all that illuminating. I’m reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article, Small Change about social media and revolutions. Pressing the Like button next to an object is easy. It takes a higher level of commitment and interest to write a quick comment about an object, and an even higher level to write a thoughtful comment.
I left a low level comment about a little Figure from the Nicobar Islands via BklnMuse when they launched the mobile web version back in March. I wrote about my experience in this blog post, expressing excitement about the possibility of being able enter into a dialogue with other visitors and even the curator, about works of art that I love for one reason or another.
But, six months later I see that I’m the only person who left a comment, even though the little figure has been Favorited by four other people. Why did they Favorite him? Do they see what I see? What else do they see? Why has no one else chimed in? Did they not really care enough to comment?
Rothstein’s article got me thinking. How do you prime the pump to get that conversation started? How do you get people to say something that inspires a response? And how do you keep them coming back?
Could one of the curatorial staff have responded? Obviously curators can’t be responding to every comment. But – what about docents or volunteers? Could this be part of their job description?
I know I’d be more likely to leave comments if I thought that someone would read them and respond. No one wants to be lonely.
When SFMOMA created a blog for their Olafur Eliasson show visitors to the show left lots of advice for others about how and what to see. Part of the allure was the time sensitive nature of the exhibition – it was temporary and therefore it was an event.
Perhaps featuring certain objects for a specific period of time – turning them into an event based experience – would generate some action, and interaction.
What are other successful examples?