The Connected Audience: The wiring of the medium may be new but the users’ wiring is old

As mentioned in a previous post I am currently attending The Connected Audience Conference, organised by KulturAgenda and the Jewish Museum Berlin. While I wasn’t sure what to expect I found the first day’s sessions stimulating and inspiring.

John Falk’s talk, The wiring of the medium may be new but the users’ wiring is old, reminded us that while technologies easily connect us with people, the wiring of the human brain hasn’t changed much in a long time. His talk was filled with many riches, and I have attempted to summarise the key points:

  • Need to understand the nature of people and how they make meaning, which is built upon prior knowledge and experience
  • Emotion is critical to mental processing
  • Memories change over time, unlike photos that are consistent
  • We all make sense of world in ways that make sense to us – specifically to ME
  • The ways people use museums has a cultural basis to it and our expectations of leisure has changed in the last 10 years
  • Learning is social, even if the experience is not social
  • Museums’ are strange and special environments – lots of what happens at beginning of visit is visitors’ getting used to these different spaces we call “museums”, figure out how to use technology
  • Good design really does make a difference – physical settings are critical, even more so when we include various “technologies”
  • No matter the technology visitor motivations will still be driven by prior interests and experiences, emotional content and identity-related needs, as well as how we make sense of the world/frame our experiences based on unique cultural value and belief systems
  • Museum experience doesn’t begin when person walk through the door
  • The museum experience is a negotiation, or contract, between the museum and visitors, so we need to evaluate success and outcomes based on the visitor not what we wanted to achieve
  • Museums are based/built on 19th century principles of industrial age – what relevance does that have in the 21st century?
  • At the end of the day museums are not designed for the 21st century visitor…

There were also several other fascinating talks which I will post separtely when I have collected my thoughts so look out!

6 thoughts on “The Connected Audience: The wiring of the medium may be new but the users’ wiring is old

  1. Johanna says:

    John Falk’s last point was that Museums are not designed for the 21st century – was there any interrogation about what makes a museum become part of the 21st century?

    • lyndakelly61 says:

      We didn’t really get to unpack that Johanna. Once of the points he did make that I didn’t note here was that “technologies” in museums include everything from text panels, graphics to what I would call tech (ie digital interactives and the like) and they have been around museums a long time and, in their day, even the humble label was considered an imposition and distraction from the object!

      My take on this is that visitors are coming to the physical site with so much more experience and ability to mine information than was ever possible before and we need to focus on this when provide visitor experiences that resonate with them. I have some more gems from him that I’m working into a post as we speak and which I’m going to talk about at TATE tomorrow.

      Really appreciate your interest in this blog BTW.

  2. Amelia says:

    I think the point about changing expectations of leisure is an important one to consider. Also one of the take-aways from the MOOC I recently completed was the connection between emotion and content – ‘We consume content that makes us feel a certain way.’ In a museum context I would suggest it is not necessarily (or exclusively) the actual knowledge that we seek but the way that content makes us feel which is both a motivator to visit and a measure of a successful visiting experience.

    • lyndakelly61 says:

      Thnx for this Amelia (& congrats on finishing that mooc!). I agree with you about emotions – they so strongly affect how we act that they are often underdone in museums. Falk’s point has always been the intersection of all these aspects that ultimately affects what we attend to, what we learn and what we remember. In my experience with longterm studies of museum learning it is the emotional and social aspects that visitors tend to recall the strongest.

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