Archives & Museum Informatics
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Un-Private: the reality of an interactive environment

Greg Van Alstyne , The Museum of Modern Art, USA
Andrew Davies , The Museum of Modern Art, USA

Session: Closing

What happens when The Museum of Modern Art and MIT Media Lab collaborate to design and build an unprecedented interactive environment, installed within an international exhibition of innovative architecture? The result is an aesthetically rich, highly informative, and socially complex experience which engages visitors with each other, with the physical space and themes of the exhibition, and especially with the content of the artists' and curator's work. The MoMA/MIT Media Lab Interactive Table uses an array of sophisticated experimental hardware and software, but places this technology visually and conceptually 'outside the frame'. The goal is to illuminate the exhibition material while preserving, indeed amplifying, contact with the physical and social reality of the gallery setting. The marriage of the physical world with the cybernetic world of information is extended further by linking the Table to the thoughts and comments of visitors on the Web. A resounding success with visitors of all pursuasions, this project argues for a transcendence of the familiar information kiosk form-factor, what we call the bank machine paradigm. The genesis of the collaboration, design process, results, and implications for the future of museum hypermedia, are the subject of this paper.