Are we asking the right question(s)? #COMPASSconference Day One reflections

COMPASS_WebBanner_960x380_v1Attending the NSF-funded Conference on Mobile Position Awareness Systems and Solutions (COMPASS) at the Exploratorium. Yesterday was jam-packed with presentations from a range of digital folks, researchers, industry-types and various others.

There were a few take-away highlights for me:

  • Research is showing the visitors don’t necessarily want a mobile app, yet almost 100% of them will bring their mobile device with them (refer research by Frankly Green and Webb, via @davepatten), and my own synthesis of data prepared last year for Explo: Kelly apps presso for Explo
  • We have been doing this for a long time (via the terrific timeline prepared by Claire and added to by delegates), but have we really learned and moved on from these past experiences? [And here’s my rather poor attempt at capturing the timeline, ignore the last bit where I couldn’t figure out how to stop filming!]
  • “Takeaway from day 1 of #COMPASSconference: Museums need a mind shift from location-aware tech (dynamic wayfinding, etc) to *context-aware* solutions. Context is more than physical position; involves affective, sensory, cognitive factors. ✅human-centered, not tech-centered, design” @meowius (Annelisa Stephan)
  • ‘I want a mobile app that does everything’, but have you asked your visitors what they want from their museum experience? Or read any research?
  • “Mass personalisation can also mean mass isolation” @hburgund, and mass overload
  • Why not think about developing museum mobile apps more along the lines of conference apps, which are particularly great at scheduling, tagging content / areas of interest, program updates, floor plans, social / networking?
  • Geometric fingerprinting application to tracking and timing studies has real potential, but as Theano Moussouri alluded to there are many subtleties of the visit that the human eye will pick up that technology won’t, such as social behaviour, non-verbal communication. Lesson here? Triangulation.

The break-out question we looked at was How does mobile enhance the visitor experience? Despite some great discussions I came away feeling that we couldn’t really give any new or exciting applications of the technology, apart from the obvious (wayfinding, enhanced content, making connections, recommendations, deeper engagement, etc etc). Except for accessibility. Loved the work presented by @desigonz around turn-by-turn navigation for the blind at the Cognitive Assistance Lab (NavCog), and the Warhol Museum’s Out Loud project, specifically:

We are committed to building an audio guide experience not just for community members with visual impairments, but with them as well. In our design process, we’ve worked closely with consultants with varying degrees of blindness. We talked to our partners even before we drew a single wireframe, exploring what makes a great museum experience and how they use technology.

I’m always drawn to the tweet that has the most traction (i.e. likes and comments). This one, I wrote right at the end of the day seemed to have resonance:

Tweet 1

I especially liked this reply from @RichardHGerrad, Toronto:

Tweet 2

So, I’m now beginning to think that we are asking the wrong question. Rather than how could mobile enhance the visitor experience, try asking ourselves:

What are the elements of a great visitor experience across all aspects of the visit (including pre- and post-), and then where is mobile (or more broadly, digital) best placed to enhance experiences / meet visitors needs in conjunction with other modes of interpretation (including the human element)?

And instead of trying to ‘curate’ an experience via a mobile app, encourage more activity on social and leave it up to visitors as to how they want to use their devices onsite, especially as the research Dave reported found that visitors mostly used their phones to “… record and share via photos and social media and to keep up with unrelated information such as emails”?

Here’s the Day One tweets on Wakelet (mostly me I’m afraid!), and feel free to follow along today #COMPASSconference.


2 thoughts on “Are we asking the right question(s)? #COMPASSconference Day One reflections

  1. lyndalllinaker says:

    Quite honestly the best mobile app experience that I’ve had was the MoNA one which sensed where I was and gave me extra info if I wanted it. I used a mobile app at thecScienceArt Museum in Singapore and felt disconnected from my surroundings. The best emotional experience that helped me to connect with a site of trauma was the Narrowcasters audio tour at Cheoung Ek in Cambodia which talked about the Killing Fields using personal stories, music and factual information to interpret the site. For me NGV Melbourne could give us all a few lessons with great interior design of their spaces , 70% local following, great kids programs and a bonus Melbourne Now app which may enhance some visitors experiences in the museum and after the visit..

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