Short Stories: Interaction and Event Programming

Daniel Meyers, USA

Short Stories: Interaction and Event Programming

This paper will explore ways that short duration, event based, cross-platform interactive experiences can be created as a way for museums to connect with new audiences, in new ways. The paper will explore recent examples of event based initiatives in a variety of museum types, as well as case studies from recent interactive installations, to make the case for a valuable new digital platform.

Visitors increasingly utilize multiple points of access to connect with a museum’s digital presence, and the expectation is that the barriers and boundaries between web, mobile, social, and onsite experiences will be invisible. Outside of the museum context, visitors are increasingly experiencing a blending of web based media, television, transportation information, access to news outlets, etc. Digitally enabled objects (Nike+ enabled shoes, the FitBit, emPower mobile energy control systems, etc.) are proliferating, and connecting seamlessly with social media, personal digital communication, and personal data. This phenomenon of digital/physical blending will powerfully influence visitor expectations for experiences in museums, and everywhere else.

Visitors and audiences perennially crave variety and novelty in programming. The desire for socially active, youth-oriented experiences has given rise to any number of recent event based initiatives. Recent examples include the the opening event for Pacific Standard Time at the Ghetty, The Guggenheim’s Dark Sounds Concert Series, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County’s First Fridays. This paper will explore the cutting edge of event based programming and review salient examples.

These two profound visitor-initiated changes– new approaches to event programming, and expectations around digital/physical experiences– can be combined powerfully through the creation of short duration interactive experiences that combine social, mobile, web, and physical interaction. Using four recent projects as case studies, this paper will look at four families of event based interactive experiences in the museum context:

  • The creation of experiences that engender challenging discourse, in a context that allows the institution greater latitude for provocation than can be achieved in longer duration exhibitions and programs.
  • Creation of memorable and shareable physical interactions that enliven and illustrate themes or concepts.
  • Creation of game based interactive experiences that engage audiences in exhibition topics, with one another, and with curators, artists, scientists, conservators, etc.
  • Creation of controlled and curated feedback mechanisms, as a tool to collect visitor feedback and impressions, and as a way to communicate openness and a deepening of the institution-visitor dialogue.

Bringing digital experiences to museum events in real time opens new channels of communication, and shows digital readiness and understanding on the part of the institution. Perhaps most importantly, these experiences offers institutions the opportunity to engage audiences in surprising, emotive, meaningful and shareable ways.