April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA

Sessions: Abstract

The Museum Is Mobile: Cross-platform content design for audiences on the go   go to paper

Nancy Proctor, Smithsonian American Art Museum, USA

Acknowledging that the only constant in technology is change, this paper proposes ways of ‘thinking outside the audio tour box’ in developing mobile interpretation programs in museums: instead of making mobile interpretation a question of which device, platform, or app the museum should invest in, it puts the focus on cross-platform content and experience design.Putting audiences at the center of museums’ mobile content and experience designs make it possible to engage them through the media consumption practices and platforms that they already use outside of the museum.

Based on research conducted at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and with the principals of, this paper offers a ‘question-based’ methodology for developing an interpretive strategy that starts with mapping visitors’ queries in the galleries. From this conceptual map we can derive a matrix of platforms, media, and narrative voices that work cross-platform. The traditional audio tour, with its analog ‘linear’ content and random access ‘stops’, offers important paradigms for ‘mobile 2.0’ content design: on the one hand, conceptual overviews and immersive ‘soundtracks’ provide a ‘score’ for the museum experience, and on the other hand, ‘soundbites’ in a range of media (audio, multimedia, or text) can be searched, saved, shared and favorited in multiple contexts. From social media, we can also learn how to integrate links, apps and user-generated content into the mobile mix. Finally, the paper considers how content style impacts shelf-life. What is the enduring legacy of creating ‘quick & dirty’ interpretive ‘snacks’ versus investing in more nutritional fare? How can museums best allocate their mobile content budgets in this light?

Session: Mobiles: A Panel [mobile]

Keywords: mobile, content design, user experience, evaluation, tours, handheld