Imperial War Museum Image of Social Interpretation Blog title

Old skool

Turner Prize exhibition comment card designed by A2/SW/HK

The preponderance of digital in this digital R&D project has been troubling me a bit. Ever since we installed our social interpretation kiosks in the A Family in War exhibition in early April, I have been remembering the various exhibitions I have worked on over the years and the various lo-fi commenting options that often drew more comments – and more engaged comments – from visitors than our SI technology is so far managing to do.

I think we might have missed a trick (and an opportunity for some A/B testing) by not also installing some comments cards and pencils. Many of our IWM visitors are a more mature lot, not always so comfortable with using their fingers to do their talking. They might have liked to use a postcard and pencil to record their thoughts. It would have been great to see if that was the case.

This image of a beautifully designed card and pencil comment system from the Turner Prize exhibition in 2008 remains one of my favourite designs. And the comments room was one of the busiest rooms in that exhibition. People reading, writing, or in my case pinching a blank card as it was such a nice thing. I also remember a lovely wall of pink heart-shaped post-it notes covered in comments at the Kylie exhibition at the V&A a while back.

And when I worked (way, way back when) on the Knit2Together exhibition at the Crafts Council in we had reams of great comments written down on cards. Stories of grandmothers teaching granddaughters to knit. Suggestions for good wool shops – you name it.  The problem was the cards then sat in an office for months, waiting for an intern to type them all up. The organisation had no way of utilising all that engagement. I dare say they are still in a corner somewhere.

So, where is the middle ground? Something digital that lets you comment in an analogue style?

Digital pens? Whiteboards? (please no). Answers on a postcard please..

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  1. Fiona says: May 16, 20125:01 pm

    “I went to MoMA and…” is probably the example you’re looking for, especially version 2.0:

    • Jane says: May 18, 20124:34 pm

      Yes. That would do nicely. With a small dose of handwriting recognition thrown in for extra usefulness.

  2. claireyross says: May 18, 20128:38 am

    The Great North Museum and Newcastle University’s Culture Lab did a great exhibition using special pens and digital paper, which seems to be a nice hybrid.

    Dr Johnson’s House also digital pens in the ‘interactive dictionary’, pen and inkwell. Visitors could then write entries on the paper pages of the dictionary using an Digital Pen and the visitor contribution would be displayed on a screen as well as the handwritten version.

    • Jane says: May 18, 20124:37 pm

      Digital paper..the budget might need to run to some.

  3. Chris Unitt says: May 18, 20128:58 am

    So you’re thinking about transferring physical actions into digital ones? Guess it depends on the level of input you’re after. For really basic reactions, maybe a row of buttons next to an exhibit asking people to hit the button if they thought it was good, bad or meh.

    Or how about something Kinect-based – jump around excitedly if you liked this exhibit. Or point your arms semaphore-style to indicate a score out of 10. Or use motion tracking and infer engagement from the amount of time people linger in front of various exhibits.

    For slightly more nuanced feedback, how about a telephone next to an item – pick it up and hear a voice saying “Thank you for looking at this thing, please tell us what you thought of it after the beep… *beeeeep* Maybe hook that up to some dictation/transcription software.

    Or take those physical comment cards and steal an idea from something like this: to quickly digitise them and add them to a big video wall.

    • Jane says: May 18, 20124:32 pm

      Thanks for these, the last of which comes nearest. It’s from pencil to digital in the least moves but with the cleanest outcome I’d like to see.

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