While conducting a heap of focus groups for several clients recently (~ ten groups / 80 people), I asked participants about how they wanted to interact with museums, galleries, etc online. Their answer? They don’t!
While many reported accessing cultural activities online during the pandemic, the majority are NOT interested in any further online engagement with cultural institutions because:
- They are tired of screens
- Parents, in particular, want screen-free experiences for their children
- They much prefer to interact physically:
- Even if chances of visiting are slim (e.g. overseas museums)
- Pandemic reinforced importance of a physical experience
- Hard to replicate the ‘real’ in an online setting, for museums and galleries in particular
- Museum visiting is inherently social:
- They don’t see online experiences as social…
What did they say?
- After 2 years of not being able to attend things in person I would way rather see everything in real life.
- Virtual tours are nice but not the same experience as being there.
- The ability to touch and feel and view in person is more important to me.
- I like a holistic experience. Like to discuss what I am viewing with my partner.
- I guess post-COVID, everyone wants to step out and do things.
- I’m happy to use ‘virtual’ things that are part of the exhibition but still need to be there to appreciate. Wouldn’t join from home.
- I work on a computer for 8+ hours each day, last thing I want to do is log on for social / cultural activities.
- Attended online comedy show in COVID. Good, but didn’t enjoy so wouldn’t rush back. Was just to support the artist.
- I’d do anything to reduce my and my child’s time on a screen.
What about other audiences?
In a study I conducted in 2019 with teachers, they had pretty much the same feelings when comparing digital excursions to physical ones.
Although many teachers regularly access and value digital programs and resources for their classroom teaching – so maybe for them it’s a mixture of both, when they can get out of the classroom.
This is interesting to me and maybe worth asking what is best for our sector to invest in regarding in online programming? Be keen to see some stats and / or hear dissenting views…
Which leads me to my final question. Are we tired of online? Or are we just tired?!