Challenges of Museum app development

March 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Do you know what? Museum mobile app development is hard sometimes.  That is what today has taught me.  Quite a lot of today was taken up with draining discussions about what the primary aim of the Social Interpretation mobile app should be.  Is it a closed in gallery app for commenting?  Should it highlight sharing? Should it focus on collected objects? How/should the app interface with Online?  Just because it has the technical functionality does that mean we should actually implement it?

I understanding the aim and the intended visitor experience for the in gallery kiosk.  I understand the aim and the intended visitor experience for the online elements.  But for some reason I really cant grasp the mobile aspect.  So much so that today I found myself arguing for a clean and simple contained visitor experience, but with hindsight I’m beginning to wonder that I might be argueing for something which isn’t actually enough of a viable experience.   I just don’t know.

The original plan for the mobile app was to scan, comment, collect and share on objects in IWM’s collections. But from the initial feedback of the mobile functionality wireframes, potential users felt the app was too busy, and confused.  It was felt that it was unclear what it is intended to do.  Potential users asked if it was to convey information about the object, or to facilitate discussion around objects?

This was fed back to the team, and we tried to focus on some key elements in the design, curating the museum object content, and really focusing on the calls to action and the interactive elements encouraging users to comment.  Today we have been looking at some brilliant designs of a commenting app. And it does look really good.

But still arguments ensued. Had we lost sight of the original aim of the project? Providing the ability to Collect objects was an important aspect, and should it be neglected?

For me, personally, I want the app to focus on commenting and sharing.  Which hits the key aims of SI, using digital technology to encourage engagement and spread of the museum’s collections. This is what I argued for quite sternly and also somewhat in a Bill and Ted stylie today.  I lost count of the number of times I said “totally”, and “cool”.

But what if I’m wrong? I still believe comment and share is the most engaging call to action for a visitor. And its a really nice compact in gallery experience. But can collect fit in there too?


What is the sound of Digital Humanities?

March 27, 2012 in Blogging, Morning, Reflecting

One of the many things I thought about on my commute into London….

I recently recorded a Global Lab podcast  with the brilliant Steve, which had audio from one of Global Labs presenters, Martin, at TalkFest which is a brilliant science communication event. I really like science communicators because they are so passionate about what they do, and are really good at breaking down scientific concepts into easily digestible chunks.  In the Humanities, we’re not as good at explaining and communicating, what we do and why its great.  We seem to be science’s quieter, geeker shy cousin. You can get the global lab podcast here. One of the things TalkFest discussed was the Sound of Science.  No, not the Beastie Boys Anthology. The discussions varied from the importance of sound in science, the power of audio of science communication, science on radio and songs about science.  This got me thinking, what is the Sound of Humanities, or for that matter the Sound of Digital Humanities?  And it really shouldn’t be a stereotypical ‘shuush’ from a librarian.

I’d love to hear what people think the main sound of the Digital Humanities is.

Currently mine is the clack of the keyboard.  But that isn’t very original.

Bumpy start to Day of DH

March 27, 2012 in About Day of DH, Morning, Project Work, Reflecting

For the start of my Day of DH 2012, I’m on a train, on the way to London, via Bedford due to signally problems. So I’m already off to a bumpy start.  I’m on my way to the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in Lambeth for a board meeting about the Social Interpretation (SI) Project.  SI is a NESTA Digital R&D Funded project and it aims to make museum objects social.  We’re creating in gallery, mobile and online applications which use social media concepts and apply them to museum collections.  The idea is that the visitor voice is just as important as the museum voice, and we are giving them equal waiting, which we hope will encourage engagement and spread of IWM’s collections.  It’s a fantastic project, which I’m really excited about; particularly because we are trying to embed agile and user centered design principles in all aspects of the project (which is more difficult than you would expect).

The board meeting happens once a month, where the entire team, stakeholders and funders get together to talk about progress and sign off some of the tricker elements. On the agenda today are:

  • the project handover, roles and responsibilities
  • Budget
  • Scope (we are trying to avoid scope creep, so we keep checking that we haven’t gone overboard)
  • Spam bots
  • Rollback
  • Mobile app
  • Web
  • Risk register

On top of that I will be talking mobile app design with IWM’s brilliant designer Christian, who has mocked up a designed wireframe.  We met last week to discuss some of the user feedback I had received from the paper based functional wireframes, so its going to be really interesting to see what Christian has done with that feedback, and the IWM colour pallet.  Then there will be chats about QR codes and content. And probably some discussion about design of the some of the web pages. It’s always a busy day at IWM.

So that what lies ahead of me, but currently I’m sitting on a surprisingly busy train watching the world go by. I have learnt to enjoy the commute into London, it gives me time to reflect and ponder and occasionally doze off.   There are multiple thought strands running through my head.  Elements which I probably blog about during the rest of the day.

I’m going to start with the most appropriate: The Day of DH. This is the third year I have taken part, it’s quite a shock that it’s been three years since I began to consider myself to be a DHer. Time flies when you are having fun! I’ve reviewed my previous posts to see how things have changed. If I’m honest the only real thing that has changed is my location.  I no longer live in London, instead chosing the train commute rather than the bus or the bikathon through central London. There’s also the biggy, I’m very much a PhD student now, rather than my previous incarnation as a research assistant at UCLDH. I’m really lucky to be working on projects which I am directly using in my PhD and I love coming in to London to work on them.

But any way back to Day of DH.  Every year Day of DH brings new discussions about what it means to be a Digital Humanist.  It interesting to see how peoples definitions and expectations of Digital Humanities have evolved over the three years I have taken part.  But for me, my definition from 2010 still stands firm:

“For me Digital Humanities explores how and whether we can apply technology to our experience of history, heritage and culture. DH questions how technology changes the environment around us, physical and digital, and discusses whether those changes are for the better. I believe the concept of digital humanities is much more than just humanities computing; as society becomes increasingly digital, it become a way of life and it is important to understand how and why that is happening”

I’m pretty sure my day at IWM fits quite nicely into that definition.  The SI project is exploring how we can apply social media methods and digital technology to transform the visitor experience of the museum collections. Whether or not these changes are for the better is still up for debate, but that’s where my role as the user evaluation researcher comes into play.

Hello world!

March 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Welcome to Day of DH 2012 Sites. We recommend that you test out the software with an About Me post, either by editing this post or deleting it and writing a new one. Enjoy your Day of DH!