Design for Mobile: Emerging Technology in Museums

by Luke Wroblewski September 21, 2010

In his presentation on Emerging Interactive Technology and the Museum Experience at Design for Mobile in Chicago IL, Michael Horn described the potential pitfalls and opportunities for mobile computing in learning environments like museums. Here's my notes from his talk:

  • We moved form the mainframe era of computing (one computer for multiple people) to the personal computer era (one per user), and now the mobile era (multiple computers per user). The ubiquitous computing era (thousands of computers per user) is next.
  • We are seeing a cultural shift brought on by the involvement of mobile devices in our everyday lives. This trigger three challenges:
  • Relevance: how do you stay relevant in the age of ubiquity?
  • Engagement: how do we foster new ways of engaging with content?
  • Integration: how do we blur the boundaries?
  • The primary issue with interactive (mobile) tools in museums is potentially shallow engagement focusing on cool not content.
  • Informal learning: is more than the acquisition of facts, data, etc. Rather, it is measured by shifts in perspective/attitudes/beliefs and a social experience- a more active experience of learning. Mobile technology paired with informal learning represents a great opportunity.
  • Pitfalls of technology in museums: social isolation, overly scripted, too open-ended, reduced awareness, too interactive.
  • Tangible Flags and Species Explorer are examples of technology that put the focus on real world interactions with the mobile as a supporting actor.
  • Effective uses of technology in museums are: visceral- you can understand what’s going on physically before you react to it mentally; responsive– they depend on the visitor and how they interact; socially scalable- enable groups of people to interact; familiar- support everyday interactions; socially balanced- become better with more people.