April 9-12, 2008
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Demonstrations: Description

The Poss Family Mediatheque @ The ICA Boston

Emma Fernandez, Institute for Contemporary Art Boston, USA
Rosanna Flouty, Institute for Contemporary Art Boston, USA

On December 10, 2006, the Institute of Contemporary Art unveiled its dramatic new home on Boston's waterfront. The ICA’s publicly accessible multimedia center, called the Poss Family Mediatheque, is flanked by galleries to the east and west and is dramatically suspended from below the building’s cantilever. Equipped with eighteen computer stations, visitors can sit down and access an ever-expanding amount of content, while engaging in online conversations about contemporary art and context. As one of the ICA building’s architectural highlights, the Mediatheque frames a horizonless view of the Boston Harbor. The serene ocean surface, lovingly named "the ultimate screensaver" by its architects creates a perfect setting for contemplation. This demonstration will show the ICA is seeking to redefine the traditional notion of "kiosk" by employing Web 2.0 tools and expandable content in a dedicated gallery-education space.

Conceived as a hybrid between an exhibition gallery and an interactive multi-media resource for learning, the Mediatheque redefines the role of an on-site technology-based educational facility. Utilizing a custom designed application – or as the ICA calls it, a "conversation interface" – the Mediatheque provides a place for visitors to interact both with the art and with each other. The Mediatheque also serves as an intimate space for contemplation. An asset as well as a challenge, the framed ocean view provides a dramatic backdrop for computer stations in a room that escapes the traditional definition of "kiosk."

A real-time social tagging feature has created a user-generated library of 9,300 terms and descriptors, now attached to a permanent record of the documentation of each work in exhibitions. "Polling" features and a "Question of the Month" allow visitors to write freely about the art they are seeing. Past questions include "what is your favorite feature of our new building," and "who do you think should win the James and Audrey Foster Prize?" Teen bloggers pose questions about architectural features of the building and artwork in the galleries, and are answered by curators and registrars. The "What Makes it Art?" section – a cross between a chat and a blog – fosters dialogue among visitors within the museum; visitors using it anonymously or overtly state reasons for liking or disliking art on view., browser-based artworks and teen videos developed in the on-site Digital Studio are on view, and visitors can browse a curated archive of single-channel video works. The "Contact ICA" section allows the visitor to have conversations with museum staff. Questions, no matter how big or small, are sent to the appropriate staff member who responds directly to the visitor.

Participants in the demonstration will explore the full content and functionality of the Mediatheque, as well as test the real-time tagging feature to tag artworks, join and add conversations online with visitors to the ICA in Boston, watch single channel artworks from the museum's collections and see work created by teens at the ICA. Demonstrators are looking for feedback on the newly-expanded site, including ways that the content can be further refined and new features can be added.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 1 [Demonstrations]

Keywords: conversation interfaces, meaningful connections, user generated content, contemporary art, in museum