Last week I attended the Digital Learning Network (DLNET) conference ‘On the move: mobile learning in museums and galleries’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Here are my thoughts on the conference and some interesting ideas that might usefully inform the development of our artcasting platform.

Kati Price (V&A) reviewed lessons learned from the (ongoing) redesign of their audio guide. Kati suggested avoiding the kitchen sink approach (throwing everything in), and this idea has really stuck with me. The kitchen sink analogy reminded me of our first artcasting ‘deep day’ where the team considered the functionality of our artcasting platform. Approaching the design of artcasting with playfulness, innovation and creativity in the early stages was hugely important. Indeed, such an approach is associated with ‘designerly’ thinking. The data coming from our artcasting interviews resonates with this view:

“I think what we were trying to do [was think] what could possibly be measured and then come up with a way of measuring it. And then try and figure out what that meant. Which meant that we came up with some quite interesting temporal, personal ways of relating to people. It’s partly to do with the design approach I think.”

(Artcasting project interviewee)

At the same time, Kati’s underlying point (finding a focus) is important, and probably close to where we are in terms of the development of the artcasting platform. To date, the designerly approach has helped us scrutinise our assumptions about what artcasting is (to app or not to app?) and might be. There may still be quite a few things in the artcasting sink but perhaps we’re nearing a good place to start thinking about what to keep in the sink and what to leave for later – another research project?

Our rationale for thinking about innovative (and digital) approaches to arts evaluation was also supported by Alyson Webb (Frankly, Green and Web) who highlighted the ways that mobile guides improve visitor experience – facilitating more enjoyment, more learning and more exploring. At the same time, assumptions equating success with digital innovation were usefully challenged. Success does not necessarily come about through the use of a mobile device or through increasing functionality, personalisation or adding media to an existing device. The success of a particular intervention must be defined in relation to the problem being addressed. Obvious when you put it like that, but an important point.

According to our artcasting project objectives, success will involve:

  • understanding how mobilities approaches can enrich arts evaluation
  • developing and testing our artcasting platform
  • generating a robust artcasting platform
  • influencing ARTIST ROOMS evaluation practice

 

So, success for artcasting is, at least partly, tied up with digital innovation. At the same time, success may well also rely on social and organisational innovation. Marie Hobson (Natural History Museum), in her provocative ‘lightening’ talk, questioned the place of mobile devices in museums and galleries by suggesting that mobiles break conventional etiquette and can make users feel uncomfortable. While we are fortunate to be working with supportive museum and gallery partners (NGS and Bowes) it will be interesting, during our pilots, to observe the social response to use of artcasting in these venues.