Matthew Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Night Kitchen Interactive, which produces educational interactives, social media solutions, marketing communications, interpretive installations, and online exhibits for museums. The company uses kiosks, touch-tables, mobile apps and websites to combine the vital storytelling functions of both picture and word. We asked Matthew about his experiences facilitating participation and collaboration between museums and the public.
What is Interactive Design?
Night Kitchen Interactive (NKI) uses digital media to put the visitor in an active role, blending information and instructional design. Regardless of the end-platform, NKI starts a typical design project by clarifying the museum’s goals and success metrics. The museum gains familiarity with web, mobile, and social media tools in this discovery phase, while NKI learns more about museum education and learning strategies. Then comes the design phase, where NKI works with the museum experts to structure the content, and the information designers work with the visual designers. In the final development phase, the programmers bring it all together and test it with users. If the museum doesn’t have an evaluation plan, sometimes NKI brings in outside evaluators; typically the museum provides beta testers but NKI also has their own pool. Success isn’t just based on the popularity of an interactive, it’s about creating a transformative experience — changing visitors’ attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge.
The Rise of Mobile
Mobile is simultaneously exciting and frustrating because, like the web in its early stages, there’s a great diversity of approaches and we don’t know what works yet. Many museums are enthusiastic about mobile without really knowing how or why they want to use it. Matthew sees mobile platforms as crucial components of collaboration and participation, since mobile tools allow people to connect with content (and museums) whenever, wherever, and however they want. People expect choice; by embracing mobile technologies, museums can better provide those options, and speak with visitors rather than to them. In Matthew’s view, the dialog between the museum and the visitor is the most interesting aspect of the museum.
Dialog starts within the museum. The web and social media in particular are excellent tools for making dialog within the organization transparent to those outside. Don’t use social media if you’re not willing to commit yourself to a two-way conversation, cautions Matthew. Even the smallest museums can – and should – be using social media to engage with their users. If they can’t afford the time/resources for social media, museums must shift their priorities so that they can participate. At the very least, museums should identify their messages and propagate them across as many platforms as possible.
The Future of Remixing
As remixing becomes more common, museums must scaffold the visitor’s experience in order to facilitate participation centered about more obscure topics. They also need to reward contributions to make the motivation for participation more clear.
Matthew considers the web to be the biggest bang-for-your-buck, with mobile-enabled websites being most optimal. When visitors use mobile sites inside the museum, it frees up kiosks to be used in interesting new ways.
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