Notes from "The Everybody Fluid Engage Brainstorming Meeting"

Colin Clark colin.clark at
Mon May 11 21:09:44 UTC 2009

Here are the notes from my imaginary exhibit idea:

This exhibit is a joint presentation between the CATT Museum, which is  
dedicated to historical and cultural representations of cats, and the  
Hipster Gallery, a new contemporary arts space downtown. The CATT  
Museum's show explores the history of ship's cats, while Hipster  
Gallery is presenting a collection of mixed-media work by artists  
exploring related themes. This is the CATT Museum's first time  
presenting an exhibit in collaboration with another institution, but  
are enthusiastic about the prospects for engaging a new audience of  
visitors to the museum.

Objects at the CATT Museum include annotated photographs, narratives  
about a number of prominent ships cats, and other historical objects  
such as a the barometer from the America, etc. The artworks at Hipster  
Gallery include a sound installation created by digitally manipulating  
cat purr sounds, a video projection, and a collection of stuffed  
velveteen cats created by an artist specializing in hand-sewn works.

Both the CATT Museum and Hipster Gallery are small spaces, and as a  
result, way finding is not a feature they're particularly interested  
in. The CATT Museum provides a simple user interface that works on an  
iPhone, allowing visitors to browse through a selection of objects in  
the ship's cat collection. This is powered by a series of well- 
organized menus along side thoughtfully organized graphic  
representations of the exhibit. From there, visitors can access  
stories from sailors, video clips of cats on ships, and so on.

At the Hipster Gallery, the artwork itself is really multi-modal to  
start with. The experience of the artwork itself is deeply important,  
so the iPhone app is kept simple and unobtrusive, allowing the visitor  
to access additional information about works without being overly  
distracted by the technology itself. Here, visitors can read about  
each artist and their perspective on the work, and then find  
information from web sources: YouTube, wikipedia, and ArtBabble.  
Through the use of Fluid Engage, Hipster museum is also experimenting  
with a new idea: visitors can record audio stories about their  
impressions and experience of the work. This not only helps to expand  
the interpretive material available to the gallery, but also allows  
for alternative descriptions for visual components of the artwork.

Key themes:

1. Emphasize primacy of experience in an art gallery context
2. Build simple solutions that focus on providing rich and useful  
content (esp. multimedia)
3. Avoid complicated way finding features where they are not needed
4. Show objects in a simple user interface, and allow people to  
connect with outside resources
5. Allow visitors to contribute back to the exhibit in meaningful ways

Next steps/Micro Carrot ideas:

1. A series of UIs for browsing and viewing objects and related  
2. Easy-to-use multimedia linking and playback
3. A "Related Resources" user interface for connecting with content  
from sites such as YouTube or Wikipedia

Colin Clark
Technical Lead, Fluid Project
Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto

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