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Museums and the Web

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Going Mobile? Insights into the Museum Community’s Perspectives on Mobile Interpretation

Loïc Tallon, Pocket-Proof, United Kingdom; and Isabel Froes, Interaction Designer, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

http://www.museums-mobile.net

Abstract

If the future is mobile, how is the museum community developing within that future? What are the challenges museums face within it? In which directions should we be seeking to evolve our collective knowledge share? It was to gain observations on questions such as these that the 2011 Museums & Mobile survey was developed: 660 museum professionals responded. In this paper the authors highlight nine survey observations that they believe are important to the museum community’s increased understanding of and continued progress within mobile interpretation.

Keywords: mobile, research, practice, future, guidelines, survey results

Research context: the Museums & Mobile annual survey

Whilst mobile interpretation has existed in institutions for over fifty years, it is only in the last ten years that the museum community has started to act with greater confidence and independence in delivering these types of tools for their visitors. And as the museum community’s initiatives in this field multiply, so too does its collective knowledge and experience grow.

The Museums & Mobile survey is a collaborative annual research initiative run by Pocket-Proof and Learning Times. It seeks to track the evolution of this collective knowledge and experience. Now in its second year, the survey asks members of the international museum community to share their experiences of the everyday realities of developing, delivering and sustaining mobile interpretation experiences at a cultural institution. Survey questions relate to the objectives of, and target audience for, an institution’s mobile interpretation experience; the challenges faced in planning and operating a mobile interpretation experience; and the methods used to measure the success of these experiences. Other questions probe aspects of mobile interpretation where it is felt there is insufficient knowledge and also share what excites them most about this field. The data generated by these questions provide a rich opportunity to better understand the community’s approach, and identify the types of discussions, perspectives and solutions that are required to support the community’s increased understanding and continued progress within mobile interpretation.

In the 2011 Museum & Mobile survey, 738 museum professionals participated. While 80% of all respondents were from institutions based in the USA, responses were received from those working in institutions in 27 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Denmark, Japan, and Peru.

  • Approximately one-third (35%) of all responses were from those working in History Museums, with a quarter (23%) working in Art Galleries, and 8% in Monuments & Historic Sites: 25% of all respondents felt their institutions fell into the ‘Other’ category.
  • Roughly half of respondents (49%) worked in Institutions with an annual attendance of under 50,000 visitors; only 10% came from Institutions with more than one million (see Figure 1).
  • 45% of respondents worked in an Institution with no full-time staff working in digital programmes; 45% reported a staff of between one and five members, and only 10% had more than five members of staff dedicated to digital (see Figure 2).

[Note that the 2011 Museum & Mobile survey is distributed primarily through technology-orientated museum blogs and listservs. The survey respondents do not therefore represent a random sample, and all ‘findings’ should be regarded as directional only.]

See Tallon (2011) for a more detailed breakdown of the sample group.

Fig 1: What is the Annual Visitor Attendance at your Institution?Fig 1: What is the Annual Visitor Attendance at your Institution?

Fig 2: How many Full-Time Members of Staff work in Digital Programmes at your Institution?Fig 2: How many Full-Time Members of Staff work in Digital Programmes at your Institution?

The sample group represented museum professionals with a cross-section of practical experience working with mobile interpretation at their institutions. Of all survey respondents working in a cultural institution, two-thirds were at an institution that did not currently use mobile interpretation tools, but half had plans to do so. This categorization of first-hand experience is adopted throughout the paper. The exact breakdown is as follows (see Figure 3):

  • Museums, Yes Have Mobile: Responses from those working in Institutions that currently offer mobile interpretation tools to their visitors. (30% of respondents / 222 responses)
  • Museums, No Mobile, but Have Plans To: Responses from those working in Institutions that do not use mobile interpretation tools, but have plans to do so. (23% / 171)
  • Museums, No Mobile, and No Plans To: Responses from those working in Institutions that do not use mobile interpretation tools, and do not have plans to do so. (36% / 267)

The remaining 78 responses (11% of the overall sample group) were received from those working as a Vendor or Researcher in this field.

Fig 3: Current use of, or existence of plans to use, mobile interpretation tools at respondent’s InstitutionFig 3: Current use of, or existence of plans to use, mobile interpretation tools at respondent’s Institution

This paper is focused on the collective response of the 660 museum employees to the 2011 Museum & Mobile survey. A ‘headline’ analysis of this response was published online in the Survey Report, (TALLON, 2011). This paper builds on the Survey Report by extracting from it a set of nine ‘observations’. These observations are those that the authors believe are important to the museum community’s increased understanding and continued progress within mobile interpretation. In highlighting these observations, and in defining a framework and the implications for each, the authors hope to both stimulate debate on these issues within the field, and provide a tool with which to inform those debates.

The nine observations considered in this paper are:

  1. Institutions are increasingly ambitious with mobile interpretation.
  2. Mobile interpretation is increasingly seen as a means of attracting new visitors / visitor groups.
  3. Institutions are unspecific on the target audience for their mobile interpretation tools
  4. Visitor take-up of the mobile interpretation tool is (still) the elephant in the room.
  5. Experimentation is a primary objective for institutions’ use of mobile interpretation.
  6. How to measure the success of a mobile interpretation tool remains uncertain.
  7. Experience changes everything.
  8. Institutions with first-hand experience are in the best position to fulfill the community’s knowledge share needs.
  9. It’s about the content, not the technology.

1. Institutions are increasingly ambitious with mobile interpretation

The authors regard it to be a ‘given’ that cultural institutions are increasingly engaged in the potential and integration of mobile interpretation tools as part of their interpretation provisions: the significant proliferation of specialized knowledge share activities on this subject within the community over the past ten years is evidence of this. Institutional visions of the features and functionalities of an effective mobile interpretation experience for their institution have evolved within this context of growing engagement.

When asked in the Survey to select those terms that best described the type of mobile interpretation experience currently used at their institution, the top five terms selected by the 222 such respondents were:

  1. It is an audio tour (76%)
  2. It is free for visitors (62%)
  3. Visitors use their own mobile technology (54%)
  4. It is an in-gallery experience (51%)
  5. The Institution provides the mobile technology (36%)

At those institutions that did not currently use mobile interpretation, but had plans to do so in the next two years, the top five terms selected for describing the type of experience they planned to develop were:

  1. Visitors will use their own mobile technology (69%)
  2. It will be free for visitors (55%)
  3. It will be an in-gallery experience (54%)
  4. It will be an outside the museum experience (49%)
  5. It will be an audio tour (48%)

Fig 4: Which of the following best describes the functionalities of the mobile interpretation experience delivered / to be delivered at your Institution?Fig 4: Which of the following best describes the functionalities of the mobile interpretation experience delivered / to be delivered at your Institution?

Four of the top five characteristics for defining their current / planned mobile interpretation tool are common to both those institutions that currently use mobile interpretation and those that do not, but are planning to develop their first such tool. It is interesting that despite the significant developments in the performance and functionality of mobile technologies, and the reduction in the level of specialist skills and knowledge required for working with these technologies, at first sight, one could conclude that institutions' fundamental vision of mobile interpretation has not altered fundamentally. While relevant, this conclusion is probably somewhat misleading. A closer comparison of existing mobile interpretation tools and planned mobile interpretation tools makes this difference distinct.

Ten years ago, a mobile interpretation tool was largely conceived as an audio tour delivered to visitors on hardware provided to visitors by the institution. The Survey findings show that this model is changing. Institutions with mobile interpretation tools more often expect visitors to use their own hardware for the experience (54%) than to provide the hardware themselves, (36%). This shift is amplified for those institutions that are planning a mobile interpretation tool: more than two-thirds (69%) require visitors to use their own device as the hardware platform for the mobile interpretation tool, and less than a third (29%) anticipate providing visitors with the hardware. Of institution’s planning a mobile interpretation tool, 20% envision its using the institution’s WiFi network, a requirement almost exclusively geared towards those visitors using their own hardware; the similar statistic for those institutions with an existing mobile interpretation tool was less than half of that, (9%).

There is also a marked shift in an institution’s perception of the content type for mobile interpretation tool. Institutions are increasingly looking beyond audio as the sole content of a mobile interpretation experience. Even when taking account of the reduction in specialist skills and knowledge required for developing a mobile interpretation experience and the standardization of mobile content types and commercial hardware platforms, the authors would argue that the shifts in types of mobile interpretation tools identified in the Survey are evidence of increasing ambition by institutions for their mobile interpretation tool. The envelope of what is achievable by an institution with mobile may have expanded, but it is still the case that the skills required for delivering and sustaining a mobile experience with audio content only are less than those required to deliver an experience with multimedia or augmented reality content. And equally, despite the longer-term constraints it might bring, delivering and sustaining a mobile experience on a single hardware platform controlled by the institution is more readily manageable than doing the same for one delivered on visitors’ own hardware platforms. The authors find it difficult therefore not to conclude that institutions are today increasingly ambitious with mobile interpretation.

2. Mobile is increasingly seen as a means of attracting new visitors / visitor groups.

Increasing attendance and attracting new visitors is a macro objective of cultural institutions internationally, and one which informs many of an institution’s activities. It is nearly inevitable therefore that its reach extends towards the institution’s use of mobile interpretation.

When asked how important the objective of attracting new visitors was to their institution’s mobile interpretation experience, just over a quarter (28%) of those institutions with an existing mobile interpretation tool saw it as a ‘Very Important’ objective. By comparison, almost half (45%) of those institutions that were planning a mobile interpretation experience saw it as a ‘Very Important’ objective.

Fig 5: Proportion of respondents who selected=Fig 5: Proportion of respondents who selected “To attract new visitors / new types of visitors” as an objective of their / an Institution’s mobile interpretation tool

The authors confess to having harbored skepticism about the ability of a mobile interpretation to attract new visitors. This skepticism is primarily informed by an environment where a mobile interpretation tool is seen as an in-gallery experience. If the determining factor for a visitor attending an institution really is the existence of a particular mobile interpretation experience at said institution, as much credit for this visitor’s decision should be attached to the promotional material informing the visitor about the experience as to the actual mobile experience itself. In this context, it appears a lofty ambition to measure the success of a mobile interpretation experience by its ability to bring new visitors to the institution.

This perspective, however, does not take into account that institutions increasingly see mobile interpretation as an out-of-gallery experience. If the users of the mobile interpretation experience are outside of the institution, maybe it is more conceivable that this may directly cause them to decide to visit the institution. Although this does not persuade us to entirely drop our skepticism as to whether attracting new visitors is an achievable objective for a mobile interpretation tool, it is this difference in context that may lie behind an increasing willingness of institutions to identify attracting new visitors as an objective of their mobile interpretation. (Note that we have (misguidedly?) decided to deny the possibility that some institutions might believe that simply by having a mobile interpretation experience at their institution, they are making the institution more attractive to visitors).

From this finding, an interesting parallel to institutions’ Web activities is made apparent. We would have loved the Survey to have distinguished whether by identifying attracting new visitors as an objective of their mobile interpretation tool, the respondent was expressing the opinion that these new visitors were those who would physically visit the site, or whether it was based on causing new visitors/(users?) to engage with the institution even if they never subsequently physically visited the institution. Were the latter to be the case – and we suspect that for some it may well have been – it would suggest that institutions must start applying the same questions that are today associated to an institution’s Web activities to their mobile interpretation activities: i.e. what is the value of a user who engages with the institution through the Web site / mobile interpretation tool (delete as appropriate) (sic) but who never actually physically visits the institution? Furthermore, as experience has also shown, this type of debate can prompt the reciprocal question that what if the high-quality of the experience delivered by the out-of-gallery mobile interpretation tool causes the visitors to determine that they are satisfied by that alone, and so choose not to then physically visit the institution?

3. Institutions are unspecific on the target audience for their mobile interpretation tool

When asked to identify which of the following best described the target audience(s) for their institution's mobile interpretation tool, those at institutions with existing mobile interpretation tools and those at institutions that were planning a mobile interpretation tool picked the same top four options:

  1. All visitors (63%)
  2. Visitors who want an in-depth experience.(42%)
  3. Visitors that like audio guides (39%)
  4. Adult visitors (38%)

Fig 6: Which of the following best describes the target audience(s) for their institution's mobile interpretation tool?Fig 6: Which of the following best describes the target audience(s) for their institution's mobile interpretation tool?

It is challenging for any interactive tool to be all things to all people: all interactive tools meet the needs of particular users, and only the most intelligent of such tools meet the needs of a wide range of users. It follows therefore that to design an effective interactive tool, a critical starting point would be for the designer to identify the target audience in order to define the needs they seek to meet. The Survey responses however suggest that this is not necessarily possible for institutions working with mobile interpretation.

Target visitor groups defined as ‘All visitors’, ‘Visitors that like audio guides’ and/or ‘Adults’ suggests that institutions place the emphasis on the visitors to define themselves as a target user of the mobile interpretation experience, when in fact, we believe that it is the institution which is best placed to identify which visitors the mobile interpretation experience is most appropriate for. Identifying the target audience as those visitors who want a more in-depth experience is a visitor need for which the institution can design their mobile interpretation tool, and subsequently communicate this purpose to their visitors. In this vein, we believe it is an encouraging sign that a greater spread of responses is evident from those institutions developing their first mobile interpretation tool.

It was not that we expected the Survey results to show that institutions agree on a single target audience for mobile interpretation; rather, that there was an audience that is being targeted. There is a positive ‘warm-feeling’ in stating that a particular visitor provision is inclusive, and for anyone. For a single interactive tool, however, this is nigh-on impossible. This needs to be consciously recognized by institutions: ultimately, without defining the target audience, an institution is in a perilous position when attempting to assess the success of their mobile interpretation tool.

4. Visitor up-take of the mobile interpretation tool is (still) the elephant in the room.

For any mobile interpretation tool to be deemed successful by the institution, it must actually be used by visitors. It is fascinating to us therefore that institutions’ perception of their visitor’s readiness to take a mobile interpretation tool varies significantly between those institutions with an existing mobile interpretation tool, and those planning their first mobile interpretation tool (see Figure 7).

Those working in an institution that currently uses mobile interpretation tools ranked encouraging visitors to use the mobile interpretation tool as the greatest challenge they faced - more than updating the content, choosing the technology, or the cost of developing the tool in the first place. By contrast, those institutions that are currently planning their mobile interpretation tool, ranked encouraging visitors to take the mobile interpretation tool as one of the smallest challenges.

Fig 7: Ranking out of nine for the challenge of Encouraging take-up of the Mobile by Visitors” (9 = highest ranking)Fig 7: Ranking out of nine for the challenge of Encouraging take-up of the Mobile by Visitors” (9 = highest ranking)

Along similar lines, the satisfying of an existing visitor demand for such a tool was identified by only 17% of all institutions as a very important objective of their mobile existing or planned mobile interpretation plans. (Interestingly, and a subject on which further analysis is required, over one-third (37%) of Vendors / Researchers reported that satisfying visitor demand was an objective of an institution’s mobile interpretation tool.)

Fig 8: Proportion of respondents who selected=Fig 8: Proportion of respondents who selected “To satisfy visitor demand” as an objective of their / an Institution’s mobile interpretation tool

If one agrees that those working in institutions that currently use mobile interpretation tools are better placed than their colleagues in institutions that are now planning a mobile interpretation tool to judge the challenges associated with encouraging visitors to use mobile interpretation tools, then this difference in response should be a point of concern for the community.

This apparent lack of visitor engagement to take-up mobile interpretation tools runs contrary to the enthusiasm with which institutions appear to have to create their first mobile interpretation tool. Of all the progress institutions have made with regard to the technology solution used for delivering the mobile interpretation experience, and the functionality integrated into the mobile interpretation tool itself, progress on and awareness of how to motivate visitors to take the mobile interpretation tool in the first place is slim. Ten years ago, when audio tours were the only type of mobile interpretation tool and the field of mobile interpretation itself was somewhat less fashionable, a criticism often leveled at them by the community was that only a small proportion of visitors actually used them. Ten years on, the community might be in danger of overlooking this same critique of today’s mobile interpretation tool. It is not a given that just because mobile devices capable of supporting the museum’s mobile interpretation experience are within reach of more visitors, that ‘more visitors’ will actually choose to take the mobile interpretation experience.

And this problematic makes stark the vicious cycle for institutions. For if institutions do not define the target visitors whose needs they are seeking to fulfill with the mobile interpretation tool, then how can they communicate effectively to their visitors the merits of the mobile interpretation tool, and hence encourage take-up of the said tool?

5. Experimentation is a primary objective for institutions’ use of mobile interpretation

The survey data has much to say about how institutions measure the success of their mobile interpretation tools. To measure success, knowing the objectives of the mobile interpretation tool is essential: it is only against these objectives that the success should be measured.

Institutions involved with mobile interpretation – i.e. both those with a project already implemented at their institution, and those with current plans to deliver a project - identified the same four top objectives as very important for their opting to use mobile interpretation. These were:

  1. To provide supplementary information to visitors (59%)
  2. To diversify the Institution's offering to visitors (54%)
  3. As part of the Institution's experimentation in engaging visitors (52%)
  4. To create a more interactive experience (50%)

Fig 9: Which or the following are “Very Important” objectives of your / a Institution’s mobile interpretation tool? (Chart shows only top six most popular responses of the thirteen available in the survey)Fig 9: Which or the following are “Very Important” objectives of your / a Institution’s mobile interpretation tool? (Chart shows only top six most popular responses of the thirteen available in the survey)

Three of these objectives relate directly to the end-product experience offered to the institution's visitors by the mobile interpretation tool. An institution's mission is invariably defined within the framework of the visitor experiences it offers: it is to be expected that this perspective resonate within the objectives of an institution's mobile interpretation tool. More remarkable to us was that the objective of experimentation in engaging visitors was considered of equal importance.

For all the advances institutions have made in developing ‘successful’ mobile interpretation experiences, it is still a new field, and there exists only a limited best practice framework for institutions to adopt in the development of their mobile interpretation experiences. Therefore to identify the use of mobile interpretation as an exercise in experimentation is natural and should be encouraged. Furthermore, as a platform with powerful and ever-evolving potential as well as limited physical infrastructural impact on the museum – the latter of which can be more challenging to manage – mobile is well suited for those institutions looking to push the envelope in how they engage visitors.

It is interesting to us though that by stating that experimentation is an objective of mobile interpretation, institutions are equating the use of mobile interpretation with a research and development enterprise. The success of the final tool in a research and development process is just one of the performance measures: equally important is the development process, the integration of new ideas, and the subsequent intellectual / conceptual outcomes that spring from the final tool. How often though does (or can) an institution publicly state that their mobile interpretation tool is experimental, and that despite its not being appropriated by visitors as had been envisioned, it is a glowing success?

6.   How to effectively measure the success of a mobile interpretation tool remains uncertain

The effective measure of performance is a much-debated across virtually all museum fields. Mobile interpretation is among the 'virtually all.' When asked how their institution measured the success of the mobile interpretation tool, typical responses included:

"Audience feedback, usage levels."

"Downloads, page views (objects viewed in AR), press & blog article."

"It is a new program, but we'll likely go by the amount of money generated."

"Number of users mainly."

"Not very well. Our evaluation has been spotty and unprofessional. It was hard enough to even get management to use it."

"Quality: App reviews. Quantity: App downloads."

"Number of satisfied users (brief comments collected upon return of audio wand) - limited to audio wand users only - visitors using own mobile device not polled (don't know how to reach)."

"We don't really, in that if at least some people use it, it’s a success."

Figure 10 is a Tag Cloud generated from all 201 responses to this question, all of which originated from respondents at institutions already using mobile interpretation. Besides “visitor/s” and “feedback”, it is the multitude of quantitative terms that are striking: “number”, “statistics”, “usage” “data” and “downloads.”

Fig 10: Tag Cloud generated from response by Institutions that currently use mobile interpretation to the question: “how does your institution measure the success of its mobile interpretation tool?”Fig 10: Tag Cloud generated from response by Institutions that currently use mobile interpretation to the question: “how does your institution measure the success of its mobile interpretation tool?”

Logic states that an institution's objectives for the mobile interpretation tool should significantly influence how that institution would go about measuring the success of that tool. At first glance, though, the type of quantitative analysis alluded to by the responses to the Survey is not best suited for measuring the objectives highlighted earlier in their paper. One might argue – and we agree – that the prevalence of up-take statistics as a means of evaluating a mobile interpretation tool’s success is more a result of the ease of collecting such data rather than the value. But how an institution evaluates an experience should be tied to the objectives for the experience in the first place. Surely an institution that is 'unsure' how to measure their mobile interpretation tool and hence does nothing is no less reasonable than an institution seeking to measure the performance using the wrong tool?

Of course, there is an alternative – and possibly likely – reason for the reliance on quantitative data for measuring the success of mobile interpretation tools, irrespective of the relevance of said data. That is whilst those immediately involved with developing and delivering the mobile interpretation at the institution have one set of objectives – and so are the ones most likely to answer a survey such as the one from which this paper is based – these are not recognized as easily by the institution’s leadership team. Statistics convert easily into reports.

The above tag cloud picks up on the fact also that quantitative ‘analysis’ is closely followed by qualitative analysis through visitor feedback – most-often collected anecdotally by staff or in visitor books, but occasionally managed through formal visitor surveys – and published reviews in the press, app store or on a blog.

But surely the institution itself is better qualified than the visitor to identify whether it is succeeding in being experimental by using mobile interpretation? If, when asked, the visitor does not recognize that supplementary information was being provided by the mobile interpretation tool, it might be not that the supplementary information was not provided by the tool, but that the type of supplementary information provided was not appreciated by the visitor. And, if the mobile interpretation experience was designed as an in-gallery experience, what evidence is there that someone who publishes a review of the experience on iTunes actually took and used the tool in the gallery for which it was developed? Surely this is a pre-requisite in order to meaningfully assess its quality.

The one conclusion we draw from this debate is that while institutions should be more confident in evaluating the success of their mobile interpretation tools, they can only do so by being more open about their objectives.

7.   Experience changes everything

As new institutions seek to develop their first mobile interpretation tool, to what degree does their perception of the challenges they will face align with those institutions that have already overcome those same challenges? Otherwise phrased, how much are institutions learning from other institutions’ experiences?

The Survey results do not necessarily provide a clear answer to this question: generally there appears to exist a significant difference between the challenges identified as important by those institutions currently with a mobile interpretation tool, and the challenges perceived by those institutions planning their first mobile interpretation tool.

The issues and/or tasks ranked as ‘most challenging’ by those working at institutions currently using mobile interpretation were:

  1. Encouraging take-up of the mobile interpretation tool by visitors
  2. Keeping content up-to-date
  3. Content production.

The issues and/or tasks ranked as ‘most challenging’ by those working in Institutions that are not currently using mobile interpretation but were planning to do so were:

  1. Cost of implementing the mobile technology system
  2. Keeping content up-to-date
  3. The technical development of the system / tool.

Fig 11: Ranking out of nine for the challenges of developing and operating a mobile interpretation tool at an institution (9 = highest ranking).Fig 11: Ranking out of nine for the challenges of developing and operating a mobile interpretation tool at an institution (9 = highest ranking).

When identifying the challenges of their mobile interpretation tool, respondents are more likely to identify with issues and/or tasks that are of their immediate concern. This may explain why institutions with an existing mobile interpretation tool relate more closely with the challenge of encouraging visitors to use the tool in the first place, whereas those institutions trying to develop their first mobile interpretation tool are more concerned with finding the money to do so in the first place.

What stands out most to us is that of all the questions in the Survey, it was for this question regarding the challenges related to mobile interpretation tools that the responses differed most greatly between those working in institutions that currently used mobile interpretation and those working in institutions that were planning their first mobile interpretation tool. This raises concerns about how aware those institutions currently developing their mobile interpretation tool are of the different challenges they will face once the mobile interpretation tool has been delivered. This concern is important as good decisions made now in the planning of the mobile interpretation tool – and in particular to the content quantity and types, and the functionality of the CMS that will enable the institution to manage that content – will make the challenges they will face later when sustaining the mobile interpretation tool more manageable.

8.   Institutions with first-hand experience are in the best position to fulfill the community’s knowledge needs

It is a simple and self-evident observation, but it is important to highlight here: institutions that already use mobile interpretation tools are best placed to provide the type of research materials that the community is most keen to access. The top four issues on which institutions ‘definitely’ desired greater research were:

  1. Guidelines on what makes a successful mobile experience (74%)
  2. Information on strength and weaknesses of different mobile technology tools (65%)
  3. Research / visitor evaluations from other institutions (63%)
  4. Practice guidelines from other cultural institutions (57%).

Fig 12: On which of the following issues would you “Definitely” like to see more research?Fig 12: On which of the following issues would you “Definitely” like to see more research?

All four points relate to institutions’ existing practical experience developing and sustaining a mobile interpretation tool, and in so doing position those institutions with an existing mobile interpretation tool as those best suited to fulfill the research requirements of the wider community. It highlights that institutions are keen for tangible and detailed information to enable more informed decision-making in the development of mobile interpretation tools at their institution. We believe that this should be a reminder / motivator for those institutions with experience in delivering and sustaining a mobile interpretation tool to participate in community Web sites such as museummobile.info and in knowledge share events as a means of helping these institutions that are new to the field to gain the information they require to make informed decisions.

9.   It’s about the content, not the technology

Finally, taken as a whole, a clear message is apparent from the Survey: for mobile interpretation, content trumps technology. Three of the top four challenges identified by institutions with mobile interpretation were content related. When asked to envision the future of mobile interpretation at their institution, the top response, agreed on by over two thirds (69%) of all respondents, was an increase in the role of the institution in developing the content.

Fig 13: Which of the following do you envision your Institution / Institutions to have “Definitely” implemented within the next five years?Fig 13: Which of the following do you envision your Institution / Institutions to have “Definitely” implemented within the next five years?

Supporting these perspectives, looking at a tag cloud generated from all responses to the question “What excites you most about mobile interpretation?” the key words are ‘visitors’, ‘ability’, ‘content’ and ‘experience’: ‘technology’ makes only a guest appearance in this cloud of consciousness.

Fig 14: Tag Cloud generated from response to the question: “What single thing to you find most exciting about mobile interpretation for museums?”Fig 14: Tag Cloud generated from response to the question: “What single thing to you find most exciting about mobile interpretation for museums?”

With mobile interpretation, content is more important to an institution than technology. The Survey results are clear on that. May that perspective be adopted by new institutions and vendors making their first steps in mobile interpretation.

References

Tallon, Loïc. (2011). Museums & Mobile Survey 2011: 738 museum voices on the objectives, challenges & future of mobile interpretation. Consulted January 31, 2011. http://www.museums-mobile.org/survey

Cite as:

Tallon, L., and I. Froes, Going Mobile? Insights into the Museum Community’s Perspectives on Mobile Interpretation. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2011: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2011. Consulted http://conference.archimuse.com/mw2011/papers/going_mobile_insights_museum_community_perspectives