Transformation in a spiky world

Posted on October 30, 2007


Kati Geber from Services Canada and organiser David Bearman from Archives & Museum Informatics presented a framework for considering transformations within social memory organisations. There is a full paper, here are my notes, some quotes and my thoughts.

Kati and David asked six experts (Shneiderman etc) to rate the potential impact of 25 technology developments. In particular – what will be the effect on people’s expectations.

instead of going online, they will be online, so too will objects, and the virtual and physical world will interpenetrate

A world where we expect things to respond to us – a smart world.…a communicating world, in which we are engaged with others of our choice at all times, and with objects on equal terms, and expect things and space to add to our experiences

The study was conducted with the use of scenarios based on what is available now, what is expected to be widespread in five and ten years time.

Widespread in 5 years (in part already day-to-day life) factors include massively virtual collaboration; always on broadband; location aware narrowcasting; interactive immediate surroundings; smart tag enabled action; operation at a distance. This has several implications for repositories, summarised as the notion of the “inside out museum”, instead of people coming to the museum: knowledge with be recontextualised, redistributed etc to where it has meaning.

Ten year predictions include the reality of a single information device; programmable materials; geosensitivity; integrated profile management; natural language translation agents; action by bio-recognition; voice/gesture interface; constant social group surround; digital overlays of real world.

Scenarios of potential include everything identity encoded and geocoded – so can re-encounter objects/stories in real life (and contribute back?); objects themselves reporting to people; pseudo- persistent memories through cultural passport software, including discourse; Virtual socialscapes enabling everyone to add.

I was particularly taken by the scenario presented as “explorascope”: voice interaction and digital overlays to add information missing in the real world.

Questions (actually mostly statements from floor)

Ari Davidow talked about the extra experience when watching movies in two languages (eg when subtitled for the hearing impaired). More and more, he says people are treating everything as multiple source interactive experiences – narratives and conversation with selves. The Jewish Women’s Archive where he works is entirely digital and existing on other people’s servers: they see their role is to help tell other peoples’ stories – items for remixing.

Bob Frost: talked about the emergence of infrastructure especially always on, supported by open source, intelligent learning situations, wikis etc. (although he noted the precondition – being able to communicate). He talked about how museums are inherently on the long tail (rather than the common visitor model). This gives us the opportunity to be adaptive to the audience. A difficulty is balancing this with concerns about invasiveness of data.

Q: User generated input, tagging rich conversations. Begin to have greater problems with authority (balance between police and expert of ultimate truth). Tools – folksonomies but they require large numbers of responses, unlikely. How to get authority back without elitist museological push

Q: privacy concerns. Patrons will need to have significant trust that rich interactions will not end up in commercial/state profiles

Q: rethink old model of institutional push. Assuming we’re building large set of infrastructures – modal users (audio tours) – are we repeating some front loading assumptions about users, then getting stuck with this? DB: Individual technologies not the answer, will be a gestalt transformation rather than specifics of technologies

Q from Italy: museums to understand history not looking forward. Brain for memory and reasoning. Will this have impact on schooling? (ie do we still need to learn history of Rome) Is reading more important than writing? DB these transformations as significant as writing. 21stC learner already reflected in most curriculum. Memory different from memorising facts. Importance of personal trajectory. Social memory: meanings truths etc – beyond individual objects – this is the hard bit – need to be giving this social memory back to where we got it from.

Authority and ability to produce information diverging. How to balance these? learning tools to tease these out. getting better at understanding criteria for determining truth (cf actual truth)

From floor: Authority follows resources (I disagreed, so too did Bob): Wikipedia, now has edit backtrack system . emergent peer economies – emergent authority, peer collective discipline

Q Can you clarify notion of cyber-travel? Scenario. Rome, safari, friends. Different experience – not from usual environment. “other” (in any form), then experience different reality. Already exists in remote medicine etc. (and in our virtual marae).

Jennifer: preconceptions of future grounded in what they did now. bring perspectives and horizons, envisioning powerful . Letting go is both threatening and empowering. Old dream (dysfunctional) 1 to 1 map laid over world, now possibility of more depth, more dimensions, adaptive and we can contribute to it.

Posted in: heritage, ICHIM07, museum