Smartphones are changing the face of journalism and open content is changing the nature of education – what does this mean for providing museum content on demand?

At the 2008 INTERCOM conference leading museum architect, Ralph Appelbaum, stated that visitors will bring in to our museums more technology in their pockets than will be available throughout the whole physical museum. The 2010 Horizon Report predicts that within one year mobile computing will be the norm for many university students: “... virtually all higher education students carry some form of mobile device, and the cellular network that supports their connectivity continues to grow. ... Devices from smart phones to netbooks are portable tools for productivity, learning, and communication, offering an increasing range of activities fully supported by applications designed especially for mobiles.” (page 6). Another study about students’ use of social media (reported here) showed they actively follow the news, yet seek it from online sources, not traditional mainstream media.

Media 140 report one journalist's experience using mobile devices to break news as it happens – quickly and cheaply. Increasingly Twitter is becoming the way that news breaks, and the primary source for news updates for more and more people. The tools we have at our fingertips now are affordable, easy to use and, increasingly, available to all. Coupled with the rise of open content (another 12 month trend identified in the 2010 Horizon Report), what does this mean for distributing museum content and breaking news? Will we supply all staff with Smartphones just as we now supply them with computers as a matter of course? Will content producers be required to publish across all platforms of the web with less emphasis on the printed form (including exhibition texts, journal papers and one-to-one email enquiry services)? Will blogs and other social media tools become the primary way we communicate with our audiences? How will museums market to their audiences, given that so many museums desire to engage more people and that these people are not using traditional forms of media? How will breaking news and open content then be translated to the physical spaces of our museums? Is this even necessary anymore?