Monday, November 06, 2006

Video Kiosks: Let the Visitors Curate

I'm in a museum. It's the end of the experience. I'm flipping through videos that visitors have made about "freedom." And they're really, really bad. The videos fall into two genres: 1. Person stares at camera, then mumbles an inane, marginally decipherable sentence. Static. Or, 2. Group of people, overflowing with enthusiasm, "express themselves" via shout-outs and walk-ons.

No wonder I end up watching the celebrity clips. The visitor-generated videos are a minefield of disappointment.

How can museums encourage visitors to generate higher quality content? How can they create experiences that are better for me, the visitor who views that content? Ironically, the answer lies in giving visitors more agency, not less. What do I want? Ratings.

When I watch a video that consists entirely of someone looking off into space and then walking offscreen, I want to be able to rate that video terribly, so that no one else will waste their time viewing it. I want the system to automatically receive and integrate each rating, and prioritize highly rated videos in the menus so I see those first.

Some curators say this is going too far. I could give bad ratings to videos that express opinions different from mine. I could give high ratings to my friends. But the bar is so low with these kiosks--there are so many lousy videos--that even a simple "On Topic?" rating would substantially increase the number of interesting videos at the top of the heap without necessarily imposing a value judgment on their content.

And would such value judgments really arise? Would it matter? If curators are not selecting the best of the visitor crop for display--indeed, if no one is curating and weeding the content--why not allow visitors to determine what's "best?" Some may argue that this could lead to tyrannical censorship. But I bet that adding a rating system will increase the number of videos viewed by average visitors (and arguably their levels of engagement), because they will not throw up their arms in disgust after watching a couple, as I often do. And isn't that a better outcome--to have more visitors engaging with each others' content--even if there's some risk implied?

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