Social Media and Museums

Social Media is a double-edged sword when it comes to the museum experience—it can either distract or add to the experience. Based on the above video, we can see that it can be hard to stay present when we are attached to social media on our phones. The contrast between the art the girl in the video is (not) viewing and the seemingly inconsequential status updates she is receiving is particularly glaring. Our desire to be connected to what is going on can often lead us astray so that we don’t pay attention to what is in front of us.

On the other hand, connecting social media to content in exhibitions through iPads or QR codes can foster greater engagement with the visitor. It can be a great way to engage younger visitors and help them learn more about what they are seeing in museums, and it can provide greater interaction with artworks that would otherwise be unavailable. For example, the National Gallery of Canada’s exhibition Builders: Canadian Biennial 2012 included iPads throughout the galleries that contained videos and interviews with artists and curators. Visitors could independently explore a gallery before gathering together to share discoveries, observations and things learned!

In this way, it seems that technology can help us connect, or disconnect, depending on how we use it.

Do you think social media is effective or distracting in museums?

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3 comments

  1. What I like about social media is the outreach potential. Particularly as it relates to museums and education, someone doesn’t have to physically access the campus (museum campus or otherwise!) to learn something.

    On the other hand, although that commercial is pretty funny, I imagine that I would have learned much less in my undergraduate Art History class if I had an iPad, cell phone, or other mobile device to fiddle with while I was supposed to be paying attention to lectures in the Louvre! (Then again, our professor was much more engaging than the docent in the commercial.)

    1. For sure! There seems to be a distinction in how we use social media in the museum: either for educational or for personal uses. I find that the personal uses of social media are where we become most distracted from what is in front of us–which seems to be the case in the commercial (the girl is socializing with friends instead of looking at the art).

      I definitely agree that you can learn about museum collections and educational materials via social media when you aren’t physically present at the museum site (or even in the country where the museum is located). It can provide a global network of museum learning that wasn’t previously available, which is great!

      You might be interested in the topic that The Getty (https://www.facebook.com/TheGetty) is discussing this week on digital publishing in the museum world. Today’s topic has direct links to museums and learning: “… we consider how digital publishing can move from the museum to the classroom with several perspectives on using Tate’s OSCI catalogue material as a teaching resource.”

      I will also be publishing a new blog post on digital publishing quite soon, so check back 🙂

      1. Awesome! Thanks. I’m taking a Coursera to see what it’s like, because massive online courses (I think I’m missing an o… OPEN!) at once terrify and fascinate me.

        Will be interested in reading more about digital publishing and seeing how our various fields unfold into the internet (for better and for worse!)

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