Looking for something to do on Wednesday? The exhibition I'm curating for The Tech Museum of Innovation is opening and we are hosting a summit on June 4 (in real life and in Second Life) for museum professionals to discuss the process by which it was created. The summit will be held at The Tech from 1-5pm PST and will feature:
- keynote address by Philip Rosedale, founder and chairman of Linden Labs (creator of Second Life)
- tour of the new exhibition with the people who designed the virtual and real versions of the interactive exhibits
- roundtable discussions on translating virtual exhibits into physical reality, open source models for development, marketing impact of virtual worlds for museums, community design best practices, and the future of museum collaboration
To give you a bit of background, the exhibition is called The Tech Virtual Test Zone, and it is an experimental gallery of interactive exhibit prototypes on the theme of technology in art, film, and music. None of the exhibits were initiated by staff; instead, they were developed online by a community of international volunteers via the web and Second Life from January-March of this year. In March, we selected the best of the virtual exhibits for translation into the real world. On June 4, the physical prototypes hit the floor of The Tech and the real fun (and analysis) begins.
While many people latch on to the Second Life aspect of this project, my primary interest is in the transformation of the exhibit process into a user-generated experience. Are community-driven design techniques viable for all kinds of exhibitions (and institutions)? Are the resulting exhibits better, worse, or in some way distinctive from exhibits developed via a more standard process? How do the community members feel about their involvement in the creative part of the exhibit process? What technologies help or hinder the success of these projects, both in terms of community satisfaction and quality of outcomes? Can you really build eight interactive exhibits based on virtual prototypes in two months without going insane?
I've been grappling with these and other questions over the last several months. And while I'm excited to engage in this discussion with other museum professionals on June 4, I'm even more thrilled to meet the real people behind the avatars who initiated these wonderful exhibits. They're coming here in person, and a few have already trickled into the construction space over the weekend. It changes the stakes when you feel accountable not just to visitors and donors but to remote community producers as well. Did we change too much? Did we honor their intentions? Did we breathe life into their aspirations?
I don't think I always made the right choices about how to respect, support, and foster the creative abilities of our community designers. I learned some surprising lessons about independence and institutional relationships with communities through this process and expect to learn a lot more in the week to come. Museum folks often sit in rooms and talk about how we can serve our communities. It will be refreshing to have some of those community representatives live and in-person to tell us what they're really getting (and where we're missing the boat).
So! Later this week, a post-mortem on the summit. In the meantime, join us Wednesday in San Jose or at The Tech in Second Life (in virtual New Venture Hall) for an afternoon of lively discussion. If you would like to join us live and in person, please send an RSVP note to firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope to see you then!