MCN 2017: What's Next From Here?

Yes, ANOTHER post about MCN – but what can I say? It was an amazing experience and I could go on for hours about what I gleaned from muse-tech professionals on every level.

For those of you wondering what is most on the minds of muse-tech professionals, the next four points were given plenty of attention at the week’s sessions:

1. AR/VR

As big points of discussion (surprise surprise!) case studies were presented by multiple institutions to help us both understand realistic applications, as well as learn from each other’s mistakes. It all came back to the big lesson cited above – it is not for everyone, and should not be pursued for the sake of trying something new; the story needs to come first. Each session prodded those interested to ask themselves WHY they were interested. If there is no legitimate answer for how it can actually enhance your mission or story, then find a tool that will.

With that being said, there were some great applications of this tech (well, AR at least) that are really working to enhance an experience. As for VR, the overwhelming majority seemed to agree that VR is great for replacing experiences: e.g. taking visitors who will never have the chance to travel, across the world, or recreating some place in history that has been lost. Whether these experiences belong in museums is still a hot debate.

2. Location Awareness

This is still far from being flawless, but the kind of experiences that have been made possible already are astounding. The idea that a visitor can experience exactly what they are meant to experience at a very specific point in time is HUGE. It leads to greater intimacy with stories, which results in higher empathy, which in turn creates a more memorable experience – which is the end goal of every institution. I put this in the ‘going-forward’ category, because it is clear that there is still a lot that needs to happen for this to be rampant across institutions. It takes highly reliable technological infrastructure on an institutional level for this to work, and a lot of museums are already there, but there are a lot who aren’t quite yet.

3. Social Media – many of the professionals at MCN were social media professionals. Please take note that I refer to them as PROFESSIONALS as that truly is what they are. It was made clear by various speakers that the acceptance of social media as an integral part of an institution is still not accepted by many. The influence social media has on everyone’s lives is huge, and the role of the social media professional in institutions is crucial. These people are the guardians of museums’ and cultural attractions’ reputations, shaping how communities and the world at large see them.

Whether welcoming current or new audiences to come and experience said institution, or engaging in two-way conversations between the public we serve and the institution itself, they provide critical insight and influence. For the first time, on a daily basis institutions can now speak to and hear from audiences directly! Data has allowed this profession to become more of a science, and the presence of this profession and the uses therein will only continue to grow.

4. Audio, Audio, Audio!

This seems like something of the past, but what many are recognizing now is that audio is going through a resurgence. Between podcasts, 3D and binaural audio, and the public’s desire to simply hear a well told story, audio has come back to the forefront of interpretive minds in the cultural space. As learned from lesson above, keeping the tech simple and reliable, but the creativity second to none, has led to a deeper understanding in the power of audio as the original augmented reality.

With the emergence and experimentation of 3D and binaural sound, we have the capability to truly envelope visitors imaginations – and that’s not even to mention what this tech means for location aware technologies. Marrying highly technical soundscapes that are in themselves location aware, with hard-wired tech to support such an experience is extremely exciting, and of huge interest to me.

For those of you who could not make it this year, there’s always next year! I highly recommend this conference. Every professional there had something to bring to the table, and each had a perspective and insight worth learning and growing from. And of course, thank you MCN as always, for welcoming Antenna with open arms as a legitimate part of the muse-tech community, and engaging in our ideas and expertise alongside that of institutional professionals.

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