How can we use mobile media to engage people in cultural and historical heritage? Last week I co-hosted a hands-on expert meeting dealing with this subject. Our objective: to find one or two pilot solutions that we can develop already.
The meeting followed on the post-MW2010 unconference about mobile games for museums I wrote about two weeks ago. Experts of DEN (Dutch Digital Heritage), the Dutch museum association (NMV), the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam and Beeld en Geluid together with host the Museum of National History, came up with a set of guidelines for pilot projects. We used user profiling and a tour through The Hague to develop these guidelines and a handful of ideas.
Our findings below represent what we think a mobile platform for cultural and historical heritage should look like, using contemporary technology.
Guidelines for mobile and heritage
- Develop for highly mobile savvy people, or highly culturally engaged people.
Mobile and culture is not a logical match. Mobile savvy people can be drawn to heritage, but on their terms. Cultural people might use mobile likewise.
- An external trigger (mobile to heritage or the other way around) is key
Changing people’s range of vision from a beautiful heritage site to a mobile screen and vice versa doesn’t come naturally
- Existing platforms suffice (most of the time)
Especially the mobile savvy people will turn to known and proven platforms (Google, Wikipedia, etc.) after they’re triggered.
- Go from fun facts to in-depth information
Users might be triggered to use a mobile platform by a fun fact about the heritage site, but will turn away when the information is limited or outdated.
- Don’t make downloadable websites
Flexible apps that give access to (different) sources of information rather than one app full of predetermined information are more satisfactory for users.
- Context is the added value of mobile
Make sure that what you add in information to the heritage site is useful onsite. Go beyond the information people can look up beforehand or afterwards on their home computers.
- Make sure your information is up-to-date
Nothing is worse than offering outdated information, especially as people will be able to check the accuracy of your information immediately.
Please note that our findings apply to the now. In the (near) future mobile probably will evolve significantly, bringing new opportunities.
Two possible contemporary solutions for mobile and heritage
With the guidelines above and some ideas from the expert meeting, two possible directions for mobile and heritage are:
- For the mobile savvy user, build a trigger in existing locative games to explore heritage using a variety of existing platforms. Use the “must see” attitude towards heritage as a game element.
- For the culturally engaged user, offer a very good app in your museum or archive that takes the indoor experience outside. Some of your contents might be much more interesting when visited mobile.
In the coming months, together with the team, I will develop pilot projects around these findings. On this blog, I will report back on them. To make these pilots better, please let me know your thoughts about the possibilities and opportunities of mobile for heritage. Thanks in advance!
Photo by Daniel Y. Go on Flickr.