by • 21 Apr, 2011 • PeopleComments (1)7012

The new visitor

It's not about who you are, but when you're not
Photo by Jon Martin on (CC BY-NC-SA)

One of the recurring questions at Museums and the Web 2011 was about the new visitors technology and new media supposedly get to our institutions. Who are they? Where do they come from? And: how do we get them to be new visitors? And do they even exist?

Most talk about the new visitor goes as if there is a remote and undiscovered country full of people with nothing to do. We only have to give them the right media and technology and they’ll come running to our museums and archives and heritage sites.

Of course, there’s no such country. Rather than talking about attracting new visitors we should talk about increasing the quality of visits of people who are already visitors, and the people who can be drawn away from competition such as television, other museums and bars.

According to an MW presentation, the mobile app ARTeMuse managed to increase the time visitors spent per artwork from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. To me this means the technology created entirely new visitors, because the quality of their visit has increased dramatically.

Another example I found while finishing last quarter’s new media report today. On an average, about 0.6% of all visits to our website result in a contribution of some sort (comment, favourite, etc.). Earlier this year, we ran an architecture project with a very specific focus on people interested in culture and architecture (not “new” visitors from the supposed country). In this project, 4.9% of all visits resulted in interaction and participation. Again, not new visitors per se, yet they feel very new.

The new visitor is not new at all. S/he’s already out there, somewhere, maybe even within your institution’s walls. New media and technology will not reach new visitors. At best, they allow for a more specific focus on some of them, and a more engaging experience.

I believe it was James Davis of TATE who challenged everybody at MW to name at least one of your new visitors every project, a real person. Will your fancy technology or innovative media use really reach him or her? That should be a recurring question.

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