Digital column | Tech does not guarantee a great experience - Museums Association

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Digital column | Tech does not guarantee a great experience

It is vital to maintain digital interactives, writes Russell Stearman
Digital
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Russell Stearman
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While recently filming an interview for a new exhibition, I asked my interviewee whether they could talk about the subject so that it still feels relevant in 10 years’ time.

This got us both thinking about the long term. The exhibition will be about future technology: something that is always changing, although never as fast as you think. 

We all have amazing computers in our pockets in the form of smartphones – but advanced tech is no guarantee of an amazing experience. Anyone who’s used a printer knows that tech is not always reliable.

The same is true for digital interactives in our museums and galleries. By “digital interactive”, I mean anything with a computer. They are wonderful ways of engaging audiences by allowing them to play games and dig deeper into stories. They also provide a sense of wow.

And, of course, kids love them. But what no one loves is a blank screen with a sheet of A4 taped across it saying “out of order”. 

On a recent trip to a small museum, I was horrified that about 60% of interactives were either out of action, or had been hacked to get “something working”. Is this the result of shoddy work, poor maintenance, no maintenance budget or over-ambitiousness?

Being a maker of digital interactives, I was slightly ashamed for my industry, and am working hard to avoid my own work ending up in this state.

Russell Stearman is Four Agency’s creative director

Comments (1)

  1. Clare Herbert says:

    In my experience in a small museum when something goes wrong with equipment and the usual routines (eg. turn it off and back on again) do not work then you have to wait until a volunteer with the skills is available to come in and deal with it. There is no tech backup and certainly no budget to pay someone to come in. If something needs replacing then it depends on having the budget to buy it and then waiting for the volunteer to come and set it up. Believe me when I say that the staff in small museums also really hate it when things are not working!

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