CloudGuide's Blog

Participatory Culture and Museums 2.0

BY Azucena Lozano

Nina Simon, author of 2010 reference text The Participatory Museum, is a well know  adviser of institutions which are interested on focusing their mission to 2.0 patterns and reconnecting with the public to demonstrate their value and relevance in contemporary life. In this post, we would like to introduce some hints of her interesting and necessary, in our opinion, approach of this way of understanding Culture.

Towards this goal, we have already begun to examine in some others past posts how this active participation of the onlooker is becoming something stronger than a tendency to become an undeniable fact which shows the necessity of the spectator to leave the traditional passive role as consumer to assume a new model  of behavior and attitude closer to what is called Prosumer, in other words, producer and consumer as an inextricable link.

Simon invite us to think on how and when the museums started to join this logics due to the new social context we are involved, and which kind of devises or premises they are following according to the need of stablishing bridges with their audiences.

Nevertheless, it is usual a kind of confusion between new technologies and Real Change. As Seb Chan, Smithsonian Director for new media department states, while innovation is a synonym for social change and new cultural aspirations, the concept technology is not always implicated with real change. It is necessary the, to take into account the different profiles of our general publics. As Simon said in her The Participatory Museum, we shall observe what our visitors do in our museum and after that, planning how do we want to dialogue with them.

But challenging these assumptions here, in our state context is a bit more complex. Citizens from USA, which are the basis of consideration for her thesis, are more willing to participate directly and actively on projects involving communities because of cultural reasons. Our reality is quite different so the challenge is greater. But this same reality is what encourage us to recognize that little changes are neccesaries and usually precedes bigger ones.

To modify the perception our publics have about our museums and culture centers to make it understood as an open space for community creation is something tgat requires time and great efforts, but is as well the results of a well done work on a transformation in the way museum directors lead institutional  management. 

But this topic, management leadership in cultural institutions is a fat content enough for a next post that, I am sure, It wont last to arrive.

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Knowing the audiences, the challenge for the XXI Century

BY Azucena Lozano

It look quite impossible to define the reasons why visitors goes to Spanish museums. There has been an increase in absolut numers from 2012 in big public institutions that seems to be an unstoppable trend which remains, however, indecipherable. The truth is that there are effective management tolos to provide some lights on that misterious things called Audience Studies, althought the incognita is the evident lack of interest of these institutions on the design, implementation and evaluation of  audience-related politics  despite the need thay have to find a helping analytic tool to draw a face on their potential users.

In Spain, Audience studies appeared in the eighties as an spontaneus response of the museum profesionals to the need to know the visitors profile. Most of these studies didn’t have enought cientific conditions required, but their release are are a sympthom of this new reality museums were to face.

In the nineties, the number of spanish museums which were involved in this kind of investigations, evaluations and general explorations was grown until, around 2008, the Spanish Ministery of Culture created the called Permanent Laboratory of Museum Audiences, a public institution which collect constantly and periodically, rellevant datas and informations  on public museums audiences,  to provide better management tools throught research, continuing training and communication.

Nevertheless, althought this growing tendence, there is no evidence of any permanent and scientific valid system thats provides  updated and rellevant information in this área. The absence of specifics departments in any public museum is the indication of a difference between spanish and, e.g. londonier Tate Gallery, heading the most efficent efforts on facing this challenge when they lead the way from the marketing department, in the eighties, launching cuantitative studies to improve their marketing campaigns to a proper objetive audience.

Following with the example of Tate gallery as a pioneer in this área, we should note the study they carried out ten years ago, in 2004, which focused on cualitative indicators introducing values as motivation, emotions, and so, to get to the conclusión that traditional marketing tools was starting to get too short to face the change was happening in audiences, and in society as well. To avoid boring details, conclusions shown with an example that the same person could have different motivation everytime he or she comes to an exhibition, depending on the context, the day or the partners he or she choose as companion. And this is a radical change on the way we plan communication strategies as well as the programmes or services we offer as complementary facilities. They re-oriented their policies to define  new objetives:  base audiences and developing audiences.

This new fact is shown in on the actual business model core at the Tate: knowledge and comprehension of audiences is the goal for the future.

By the other hand, beside these useful audience studies, we should pay attention to new tools provided by new technologies, which are available for all-kind-of-budgets institutions and help in the same way to analyse data. The statistics provided by software such as mobile apps may help institutions to redefine targets inclouding personal profiles or interests, as well as likes and dislikes once the visitor has entered the exhibition. These kind of information is really helpful to display that face of the visitor we need to improve our communication startegies.

Beyond the White Cube. Culture in the cloud.

BY Azucena Lozano

When Lucy Lippard and John Chandler published "The Dematerialization of Art" in 1968, it seemed obvious that a kind of change had reached the world of art, where we saw a move of focus from the object to the process. Happenings, land art, body art or mail art were expressions that confirmed that the conceptual tendences were to be the new paradigma in the world of art, as a result of a trascendental change in the notion of Piece of Art. And that was concerning as well in the way society conceives the functions museums and art centers should fullfil, as they became prescriptors and transmisors of the many stories that occupied the western cultural ecosystem instead of the simple old mission as plain conservers of the artistic heritage. Museums started to face the future, rather than keep stuck over the past.

As Pep Serra, head of the MNAC in Barcelona says, the challenge museums of the XXI century should face is to become experiencial and living spaces, to redefine the functions they develop as treasure keepers or legitimizers of what art is, and therefore, what culture is, to fit new scenarios as the digital challenge or the needs of those new audiences that claim more than content 1.0.

Serra points to the importance of knowing your audiences, to identify their needs when they get to a museum, but now more than ever, the requirements of those who are non-visitors yet, as they are a real challenge to the strategic comunication departments dedicated to finding dynamic and direct channels to foster interaction,  participation and, finally, improve the creation of communities.

Technologies 2.0 are not, at the moment, according to polls, best friends with Spanish museums. Concepts such as active participation, the improvement of a critical mass or hypertextuality should be included in the communication guidelines of the art institutions, as they are keywords in this world hungry for social interaction. But at the moment, they do not appear to have propagated into the halls of the directive departments. That would be an effective way to get the content of the exhibitions as well as the mission of the institution to reach much further than inside the walls of the museum, and become part of our daily life, to come to a real new way to understand education outside regular schools.

In that sense, there are plenty of qualified opinions in academic fields claiming the need to rethink the city in terms of education, insisting on the main role it should have to build a new conscient and free society. For the museums, this should be a boost to create and promote tools to improve participation in the task of interpreting and communicating cultural heritage as a result of the dialogue established between citizens in communities, which is, at the end, what culture is meant to be. Digital 2.0 channels are called to join forces in order to visualize this visibility that Cultural Institutions need in the XXI century. Getting beyond the walls to put Culture in the cloud may help art centers to connect and become a constant presence in the life of those people who believe in Culture as an undeniable and essential fact of contemporary communities.

Mobile Platforms as an Essential Communication tool for Culture

BY Azucena Lozano

The rise of mobile platforms, and mobile applications in particular, has been spectacular. They have grown significantly in all sectors, but it is especially in cultural fields where the impact has been most inspiring. Not only from the point of view of innovation in communication, but also as a potential in terms of concepts such as seeing it as an advanced means of education.

But what does an app offer us when we download it onto our smartphones even before entering the exhibition? We can reduce the inputs to two ideas that seem obvious but that open up infinite possibilities as to foster experiences in the museum, and at the same time, provide an open access to an audience that can really have fun when consuming culture. One of them is based on increasing the physical experience and the other is to bring the exhibit out, in the street, to embed it in physical space. Aren't both inspiring to institutions whose primary purpose is to spread and communicate Culture? 

There are studies that analyze the return on investment generated by such social communication, that is, the participation of communities in social networks, with very interesting results. Following this idea, we can establish that it is neccesary that cultural organizations, and museums in particular, bet on these tools based on Web 2.0 as part of their communication strategy, beyond marketing. The mobile museum is part of how to educate art in the future, so it will be useful that smartphones, so tightly integrated in our daily life, be used as an additional element of support for traditional museology. Rather than seeing it as an enemy we need to keep it under tight control (especially in those centers where taking pictures is forbidden). The mobile must be understood as the key that allows the user to customize and personalize your experience when visiting a cultural space.

There is no doubt that the Internet is already one of the most used channels, perhaps even the most important one, to adapt to personal data, likes and dislikes, of potential visitors when planning a visit to a museum, foundation and / or cultural center. And this evidence is really something that will make us consider a long-term perspective where our responsibility as cultural promoters is to make cultural democratization more than a well-meant strategy slogan.

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