MCN Projects

Humanizing the Digital: Unproceedings from the MCN 2018 Conference


Post by Suse Anderson

 

MCN’s 2018 conference, Humanizing the Digital, explored how museums can use technology to foster human connection and dialogue, advance accessibility and inclusion, and champion inquiry and knowledge. After witnessing the presentations and rich conversations that arose from them, a group of practitioners came together to explore how best to capture and disseminate the learnings that occurred at the conference. The outcome was a decision to solicit and publish a book inspired by the conference and its ideas.

A call went out in December requesting submissions from both conference attendees and presenters. Essays were encouraged to synthesize an idea that emerged over the week, dive deeper into a conference session, or speak broadly on the theme, including opportunities for non-traditional submissions.

The result, released this week, is Humanizing the Digital: Unproceedings from the MCN 2018 Conference. The book contains 17 conference-inspired responses to the state of museum technology in 2018, including essays, reflections, case studies, conversations, and an experimental in-book zine. The topics explore areas as diverse as calm technology, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, visitor-centered communication, interpretation and programming, empathy, inclusion and slow change.

It is worth noting that we were midway through the process before it occurred to us that it might be a good idea to notify MCN that we were doing this. Thankfully, MCN thought that this kind of community-driven effort was worth embracing. Though unofficial, it is definitely aligned with MCN’s mission of connecting people to ideas and each other. It is also a great example of the kind of community MCN has developed; one that is deeply collegial, true to its grassroots origins, geared toward action, and likely to ask for forgiveness before permission.

It is also worth noting that our editorial process followed (or, at least, tried to follow) those same principles. Editors and authors volunteered their time to this publication, which involved a social-media-based Call For Proposals that was open to anyone willing to put in the time and energy to turn something around within a matter of weeks. We did a bit of peer review for clarity, but relatively little editing of our submissions, so what you are about to read represents the varied voices and styles of the authors. While not every initial proposal ended up in this collection, we heartily thank all the members of the MCN community who shared their thoughts with us.

Humanizing the Digital: Unproceedings from the MCN 2018 Conference was produced using Quire™, a digital publishing platform created by Getty Publications and owned by the J. Paul Getty Trust. Thank you to our Production Editor, Greg Albers (also an MCN Board member), whose work was invaluable in turning our idea for a responsive unconference publication into reality.

Members of the Ad Hoc Museum Collective will be at Museums and the Web, the American Alliance of Museums conference and MCNx New Orleans and will have copies of the book available for purchase for a special price of $10. You can also buy the book from Amazon now. If you’re looking for another way to access the essays, we plan to make the full collection available online and for download for free in time for MCN 2019.

All proceeds from the sale of the book go to support the MCN scholarship program.

Ad Hoc Museum Collective Editorial Team

Suse Anderson, Isabella Bruno, Hannah Hethmon, Seema Rao, Ed Rodley, and Rachel Ropeik.

Production Editor

Greg Albers

0

The Museum Technology Charter

A visitor engages with technology and the collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art

By Koven Smith

The nature of how museums use technology and digital tools has changed significantly in the last ten years. Perhaps even more critically, the expectations of what museums should be able to produce using digital tools have increased significantly in the last decade. Given this, what is a museum of the 21st Century expected to do in order to deliver on these increased expectations? What is required for a museum to be digitally literate, and what are the appropriate means for achieving this literacy? These questions are particularly acute for smaller museums, who often lack the resources to investigate these questions, or even to assess their own digital literacy. Sector-wide publications like the Horizon Report: Museum Edition once provided peer-reviewed resources (and a critical lifeline) to these museums. These publications no longer exist, but the need they satisfied still remains.

In seeking to address this sector-wide need, the Museum Computer Network is developing a prototype online publication called The Museum Technology Charter, which will be unveiled at MCN 2019 in San Diego. The Charter will be a handbook for museums seeking to develop their own technology and digital capacities in effective and ethical ways. As the end result of six months of deliberation and discussion among leading thinkers in museum technology, the Museum Technology Charter will serve as a sector-wide benchmark against which a museum’s own digital efforts might be evaluated.

The Museum  Technology Charter will be an online publication consisting of four primary components:

  • The Technology “Stack”: The first component of the Charter will be a comprehensive list of technology elements that project participants consider to be sufficient (and in some cases critical) for the normal operation of a museum. These elements will be inclusive of more obvious considerations (websites, mobile apps) to the less obvious (time-based media acquisition strategies), to the future-focused (AR/VR implementations).
  • Values and methodologies: There are multiple ways to implement a given element in the technology stack, some of which are consistent with museum values and some of which aren’t. The goal of this component of the Charter will therefore be to identify values that are non-negotiable (such as accessibility) and those that might be ideal and reflective of a more digitally mature organization, but not necessarily critical  (such as open licensing of digital collections).
  • Maturity matrix: Once the technology stack elements and values have been identified, these two components will be combined into a matrix that will allow a museum to self-assess its own “technological readiness.” This matrix will, in effect, have capabilities on the x-axis and values on the y-axis, allowing a museum to take both elements into account when assessing its own maturity.
  • Skills identification: The final component of the report will be to identify skills that are necessary for moving between capability areas of the Maturity Matrix. This will help museums to better understand what training might be required or what roles may need to be hired in order to improve their overall technological maturity.

With these four components identified, the hope is that The Museum Technology Charter will provide a comprehensive accounting of the state of museum technology and digital efforts circa 2019. Stay tuned for more updates as this project evolves leading up to MCN 2019.

The Museum Technology Charter is made possible with the support of MCN (Museum Computer Network) acting as fiscal sponsor.

0