Imperial War Museum Image of Social Interpretation Blog title

He Talked ... This Happened - Careless Talk Costs Lives Poster

We will be talking at the New Directions in Digital Humanities seminar on 23rd Feb 2012 at 1pm.

The King’s”New Directions in Digital Humanities” seminar presents a series of lectures and demonstrations by leading scholars, postgraduate students, and practitioners from across the disciplines of the humanities and nearby social sciences. The Seminar aims not only to present work at the leading edge of application but also to provide a forum in which this work is subject to critical reflection and thoughtful probing.

So it sounds like we have to be on our best behaviour next week!

We will be talking about the agile and user centred design process we are employing for Social Intrerpretation as well as some of the challenges Social Interpetation in Museums is bringing up.
Hope to see you there.

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Public house debate, 1945. An American soldier is amongst the audience listening to the second speaker of the evening, Miss Crooks (not pictured), on the topic of 'America and Britain'. The original caption states that "the few Americans present were unusually tongue-tied, had nothing to say to frank discussion of their qualities".

How do you control what information is online?  In the case of Twitter and Facebook, with difficulty, as Ryan Giggs found out last summer.  But these are huge sites with a lot of organisation behind them, and they will have a fair amount of resources to fight legal claims.

So what about your smaller site?  How do you control content?  What about the issues of defamation, data protection, and, with public authorities, freedom of information?   Or just insults, bullying and heated debates getting out of hand?

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We’re starting to really get into the design of phase-1 of Social Interpretation, and this will the first of a few updates on various aspects of design for the in-gallery technology and signage.

As you may have seen (here, here, here, here and, um,  here) we’re in the middle of wresting with how (or if) to best use QR Codes to facilitate physical/digital interaction. We already know from our research that part of this is to really make clear, in a small space, what the code is and how to use it. Part of that is placement, part is effective written prompt – being looked at by Claire Ross, and part is visual prompting. We’re finding out that visitors are likely to respond well to a clear phone graphic, to indicate what to use the code with. But what phone?

Which do you think it most recognisable as a smartphone?

You see, I have an aversion to using the iPhone as an icon. It’s recognisable, and definitely has a cultural recognition this definitely helps as far as being an icon is concerned.

But, I worry that it does three things:

  • Alienate non iPhone users and imply that it’s an iPhone-only function
  • Contribute to the public perception that Smartphone = iPhone. It doesn’t (it’s denying the antecedent)
  • Contribute to the public perception that you need an Apple device to take advantage of basic smartphone functions

It’s possible that none of these matter – or that I’m just worrying about nothing. And we’ll be evaluating our choice anyway to see how people react.

But what do you think?

From left to right, which phone icon do you prefer?

  • Generic, 3D (not shown) (28%, 11 Votes)
  • iPhone, straight (25%, 10 Votes)
  • iPhone, angled (18%, 7 Votes)
  • iPhone, 3D (15%, 6 Votes)
  • Generic, angled (13%, 5 Votes)
  • Generic, straight (3%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 40

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This is an interesting use of QR codes and print media in combination. There are a lot of ways this could be adapted to make museum objects really social. And have them, almost literally, talk. And in return have visitors join in that conversation. But you’d need a budget rather bigger than #socialinterp’s.

This Reporters Without Borders advert is a bit gimmicky. But still, fair play, as it’s a hard subject to get people engaged with.

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Photo UCL, Grant Museum of Zoology / Matt Clayton

The QRator project running at UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology is a collaborative project between the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities (UCLDH), UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), and UCL Museums and Collections,  to develop new kinds of content, co-curated by the public, museum curators, and academic researchers, to enhance museum interpretation, community engagement and establish new connections to museum content.

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The Chillingworth factory relax in front of the fire in the living room of their suburban London home.

This guest post is from Alex Willett, Exhibitions Manager at IWM.

A Family in Wartime is the next major exhibition opening at Imperial War Museums London in April 2012, and as such the perfect project in which to integrate and test the social interpretation strand through the design development.  The exhibition will focus on the Second World War home front in the UK, and specifically one family – the Allpress family – who lived at 36 Priory Grove, London.

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Recruits take a Morse Code test at the RAF Aircrew Reception Centre at St John's Wood, London, 24 September 1942.

As well as having a bit of a bust up about ‘how user centred, this user centred project is’ in a meeting last week, we also had a bit of mental fisty cuffs about the use of QR codes.  Are the useful? Are they just a transient technology? Are they even a technology? How do they help visitor experience? Where do they lead the visitor once they have scanned it? And ultimately who actually scans QR codes? Is it just us? We havent really reached any conclusion on this, other than lets stick a giant QR code on IWM and see what people do. I like this idea. Whether or not it will actually happen is another thing.

So I thought I’d link to a few blog posts that have already dealt with the QR question:

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Squander Bug rifle target

Squander Bug (a cartoon character to persuade people to avoid waste) air rifle target, 1940s

Hello and welcome to the Social Interpretation blog.

Over the next year, the Social Intpretation team will be regularly posting our progress, experiences, success and, critically, failures in trying to integrate social media models into museums’ outputs. We hope that this will prove an invaluable resource for others planning on developing and integrating the types of technology we’re investigating. However, I’ve obviously not explained what we’re actually up to yet. That’s what the rest of this post is really about.

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