Connecting with the iGeneration: the use of mobile interfaces and new technologies in galleries and museums


Session Title:

  • Transformative Creativity - Participatory Practices I

Presentation Title:

  • Connecting with the iGeneration: the use of mobile interfaces and new technologies in galleries and museums




  • Abstract

    The use of mobile computing and new technologies as tools for mediation, interpretation and learning are not new to museums and galleries. Since 1994 museums have used new technologies, such as the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s use of Apple Newton interactive guides and the Weisman Art Museum’s use of a ‘Talk Back’ Computer in the galleries. New technology continued in the late ‘90s with webbased work, interactive websites and, most recently, there has been an explosion of mobile interpretive equipment—such as cyborglike wearable museum guides, mobile phone tours and positioning and proximity devices.
    With the arrival of interactive digital technologies organisations have an opportunity to present their work (collections or temporary exhibitions) in new and increasingly innovative ways. The venues are now interfacing with publics that feel comfortable with new technologies and, most importantly, are providing new avenues of access into museums and galleries via relevant creative experiences.
    This paper presents work in progress and research outcomes in relation to my current PhD ‘The Role of Museums and Galleries in a New Northern Ireland’, focusing specifically on the role of interactive digital technologies and mobile computing as a tool for mediation and interpretation in the visual arts sector in the North. I will map previous and current trends in Northern Ireland looking at those who have used innovative technologies in interpretation and mediation as well as curatorial and artistic practices in digital art as they interface with the museum and gallery sector. I will delineate initial and embryonic, yet significant examples, upon which the museum and gallery sector might build upon. Important to our understanding of these new interpretative models and mechanisms is acknowledging the impact of the Net Generation or iGeneration (born mid-1990s – 2000s). These young people are highly connected and steadfastly dedicated to Internet usage. They have used computers their entire life. They are not only competent in using new media, but actively push its boundaries activating a more sophisticated usage and earning them the nickname ‘digital natives’. In this examination, I will look at three areas of new technologies: mobile computing examples such as virtual web tours, digital sound interactive work, locative media project using handheld systems; innovative artistic practices that utilise new technologies; and the use of online social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, UTube and Bebo by arts organisations.
    The paper will also present initial work on a case study of the ‘Template 2.0’ exhibition in digital art and new technological interactive mediation devices used in 20 August – 26 September 2009 at Millennium Court Arts Centre (MCAC). I will outline the findings of ‘Template 2.0’ as an ISEA exhibition collaboration between the University of Ulster and ISEA conference and MCAC and is co-curated by Christopher Murphy and Joe Gilmore, ‘Template 2.0’ MCAC will use new interactive interpretive devices during the exhibition. I will conclude with proposals for a framework for the systematic introduction of digital technologies into the museum and gallery sector in the North.