I came across Nina Simon's blog, Museum 2.0
, while researching ways to establish a video kiosk for various upcoming exhibits at the ed lab. In this
post she argues that constraints provide better participatory experiences. What does this have to do with video? Well, I immediately thought of Dan's video kiosk. He described the kiosk having a very simple user interface. The user would find an on/off button controlling a camera. This simplicity might prompt more participation, but does the content need to be mediated in some way? Should there be some constraints? How would questions be thoughtfully displayed in order to entice thoughtful responses?
I am interested in how a dialogue can be created among visitors who arrive at various times and under various contexts. In a recent design meeting we envisioned a box of questions. A participant would select a question at random to answer within the kiosk. In order to answer a question one would have to leave a question in the box for the next user.
Simon argues that it is difficult for the user, in a casual context, to come up with creative content on the spot. Many people see this as an exhausting task. The exhibits that have the most user participation are those that are tightly constrained by the participatory platform at hand.
“Why aren't more museums designing highly constrained participatory platforms in which visitors contribute to collaborative projects? The misguided answer is that we think it's more respectful to allow visitors to do their own thing, that their ultimate learning experience will come from unfettered self-expression. But that's mostly born from laziness and a misunderstanding of what motivates participation. It's easy for museums to assign a corner and a kiosk to visitors and say, “we'll put their stories over there.” It's harder to design an experience that leverages many visitors' expression and puts their contributions to meaningful use. It's like cooking. If you have a bunch of novice friends, it can be maddening to find appropriate “sous chef” roles for them to fill. Many cooks prefer just to get those clumsy hands out of the kitchen. It takes a special kind of cook, artist, or scientist to want to support the contributions of novices. It takes people who want to be educators, not just executors.”
With the new school year starting, we must think about our new audience. How can we create a participatory exposÃ© that allows users to feel a part of ed lab?