This is the third and final post about the 2010 Horizon Report: Museum Edition which considers technology use in museum settings. This post provides commentary on the technologies to watch identified in the report.

2010 Horizon Report Museum Edition: Technologies to Watch 2010-2014

Within the next 12 months the first technologies identified were mobile and social media as “… they are present and pervasive in everyday life, and audiences have ever-increasing expectations of what museums might offer via these two technologies.” (page 6) They identify that it is not the technologies themselves but the ways we now access the internet from a mobile device, especially in the developing world. This, coupled with the rise of app-culture I believe will result in a new generation that now only will never use a desktop, but not a laptop either! The report also states that: “Mobiles represent an untapped resource for reaching visitors and for bridging the gap between the experiences that happen in museums and those that happen out in the world.” This is an exciting thought and is linked to an idea I’m toying with – the museum without walls (more on this in a much later post). Their views about social media galvanizing audiences around an interest area, again linking the physical and virtual is also exciting yet challenging for museums as staff often don’t see participating in social media as ‘real work’ yet.

The second horizon (two-three years out) they believe will see a rise in augmented reality and location-based services: “Museum educators arguably have always been in the business of augmenting reality, creating bridges between objects, ideas, and visitors, but augmented reality technologies are now allowing this to happen more fluidly and easily than ever. Location-based services offer museums to extend conversations about history, art, science, and more out into their communities, effectively extending the galleries to include public works, historical sites, and much more.”(page 6-7) We’re seeing the beginning of Foursquare as a tool so far based on gaming and badges, but I see potential for geo-tagging of collections both where they are stored and where they were collected/existed. One issue however is the problem surrounding data management systems which are often incompatible…

For the far-term horizon (four-five years) it is suggested that gesture-based computing will become more widely adopted: “Mobile devices controlled by natural movements of the finger, hand, arm, and body are common, and other devices incorporating these approaches soon will be. As we work with devices that respond to us rather than requiring us to learn to work with them, our understanding of what it means to interact with a computer is changing.” (page 7). The semantic web is the other long-term trend and is explained in this way: “The semantic web reveals relationships between concepts, people, and events that are embedded in the wealth of content on the web but not always easy to see using other means. Semantic-aware applications expose those relationships by determining the context in which information exists; such applications can aggregate related information much more quickly than it could be done by hand.” (page 7)

In the more detailed sections of the report there are heaps of useful links to projects and papers for further reading and I there’s also a range of resources on the Museums and Social Media section of the Audience Research website. All in all and good and thoughtful (and essential) read, not only for museum educators but all museum professionals.

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