Museums and the Web 1999

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Published: March 1999.


Keeping the Virtual Social

Larry Friedlander , Stanford Learning Lab, USA

Session: Socializing Virtual Space

As museums incorporate more virtual experience in their repertoire, they will need to plan new spaces, buildings, wings etc.. that provide the social and technical support for complex hybrid virtual/real activities. In addition to re-designing hardware and enhancing connectivity, museums will need strategies that provide for the flow between on site installations and virtual ones, between social and/or discussion areas and formal exhibit spaces, between stable permanent installations and quickly re-configurable presentation and activity areas. In the following article, I describe plans for a new building at Stanford University which is being designed by the Stanford Learning lab to specifically address these problems for education and cultural enterprises. The building will house anew center, the Wallenberg Global Learning Center (WGLC), which unites a group of international partners in projects that explore the intricacies of learning and culture in a global age. The building will feature new space and technical configurations that support complex, dynamically changing global collaborations, including fluid interchanges between formal and informal spaces, built- in building memories', and reconfigurable formats designed to facilitate complex virtual and on site experiences. Though intended for use on the campus, the building should help prototype new spaces being planned for museums. The design of the WGLC will reflect the SLL's belief that learning is a social activity, arising out of the rich personal relations between teachers and students, and between students and their peers. We want virtual environments to enhance and not reduce the social and active nature of learning. Technology is a double-faced sword: it can reduce the density of these connections or it can serve to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing between individuals from different backgrounds and to firmly embed learning in particular life experiences and environments. Our spaces will provide for a new syntheses of theory , practice, dialogue, and exploration by integrating distant and on-site experiences and by forming communities out of diverse and distributed participants.