Museums and the Web

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Mobile Means Multi-Platform: Producing Content for the Fast-Changing Mobile Space

Erica Gangsei and Tim Svenonius, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA


Starting in early 2009, SFMOMA embarked on an ambitious plan to bring the production, publishing and distribution of its mobile tour in-house. This meant investing in a fleet of Apple iPod Touches, scripting and producing hours of new audio and multimedia content, and adopting a new authoring system to custom craft the user experience.

In the months since we began developing the new tour, innovations in the mobile app space have grabbed tech headlines everywhere. More and more, users of iPhones and other mobile devices want to know: can I download this to my own phone? (or: Why can't I?) Had we started our development the following year, we might have revised our approach in light of the rapid evolutions taking place. Teeming masses of developers have descended on the app space and quickly made it clear that many distinct approaches to the mobile problem space are available and within reach.

Now, with our home-grown mobile tour in place, we need to design a streamlined approach to serving our visitors in-house both with our devices and their own. We also need to keep in mind the thousands of Web visitors who use and enjoy our online content via SFMOMA's website or RSS feeds – an audience potentially neglected as the emphasis shifts to the mobile space. How can we produce and publish multimedia content effectively in the mobile sphere? And how can we optimize content designed for in-gallery use when it may be experienced, via apps or the Web, far from the museum?

Finally, most of our mobile stops are published to multiple delivery platforms: 1) the in-house mobile multimedia tour, 2) download via RSS, 3) Guide-by-cell, and 4) an app for iPhone and Android platforms. Can we create a one-size-fits-all solution all mobile platforms? In this paper we'll explore the viability of platform-independent content for museums, discuss how content can be tailored to specific delivery platforms, and share some key considerations in repurposing Web content for mobile use and vice versa.

Keywords: Apps, RSS, in-house production, multi-media tour, multi-platform, on-site vs on-line