In December 2014, I attended the NODEM 2014 conference in Warsaw, Poland to present a project I have been collaborating on with US and Swedish researchers at the Swedish Naval Museum (Marinmuseum) in Karlskrona. Focused on creating augmented reality panoramas for the Neptun Submarine exhibition, the project also engages us in a number of research questions about digitally-enhanced museum spaces and heritage sites. The poster (below) has more info about the project, including our basic goals and more information about my collaborators. (Or you can download a pdf version of the poster : Poster-NODEM)
The conference itself was centred on the topic of “Engaging Spaces: Interpretation, Design, and Digital Strategies” and so the participants presented a lot of very interesting work responding to the new ways that cultural heritage and museums can use digital technologies to re-imagine, redesign, and reflect on: methods for enhancing user-expereriences beyond traditional exhibition practices; developing new digital archiving and preservation practices; and exploring issues about authority and authenticity with collaborative and participatory practices that use non-experts as integral aspects of design and content production for digital heritage objects.
I was particularly interested in a presentation of an exhibition called “BeDemocracy” at the Nobel Peace Center in Norway that used social media both as a content-generator “outside” the exhibition space, as well as a method to influence the design of the exhibition itself and the participation of its visitors. Designed by Expology, the exhibition explored how social media can influence and engage debates about democracy through personalised digital self-expression (via twitter, and blogging for example). The exhibition encouraged an online debate and then included the messages and online content as part of the display encased within a global sphere at the exhibition center. Visitors could enter the sphere, read the messages and then, via use of Kinect, a gesture-recognition software, “like” messages using a thumbs-up hand motion that recorded their votes. I loved the iterative design principles that kept the exhibition dynamic and encouraged thoughtful, social, and physicalised participation about serious topics. I have written elsewhere, in Digital Humanities Quarterly, for example, about how social media (or ME-dia) can be used for exactly these kinds of embodied, personal cultural expressions.
The playful use of more “old-school” methods that allowed visitors to leave “pipe-cleaner messages” (where the materials were bent and formed to make shapes and words) was a reminder of the way that technologically produced interaction, can exist alongside other innovative more material-making and expression. It was an evocative and simple mode to show “process” and tactile responsiveness in other mediated ways. According to the presenter at NODEM, visitors would spend a long time in the gallery after the exhibition to “craft” their hand-made messages. I love the results!