On October 16 I interviewed Lowell Robinson, Director of the Digital Experience Lab at the Exploratorium in San Fransisco. During the interview, Mr. Robinson informed told me about his background in digital media, in particular abstract cinema. This is different than the “usual” fine arts background which other museum professionals have, yet it has helped him create experiences which get visitors to engage with and understand abstract concepts. I asked Mr. Robinson if he creates the apps and experiences for the Exploratorium with a particular audience in mind or if he aims for more educational or entertaining experiences for users. His general opinion was that if an experience is engaging and accessible, it can both educate and entertain for audiences of all ages. I also asked Mr. Robinson about his changing role at the Exploratorium over the last 20 years and if he has needed to learn new skills in order to keep up with rapid changes in technology. He replied that yes, he has needed to learn coding and programing in order to create the apps.
I would have liked to learn more about how Mr. Robinson works to make abstract concepts accessible to visitors, particularly if he uses surveys or studies to gauge what level of understanding visitors arrive with. I understand that this would be dependent on which project Mr. Robinson and the Exploratorium were working on, as well as the demographic information of the average visitor to the museum. A discussion off the average Exporatorium visitor might also have given me a better idea of where the inspiration for these projects comes from.
Overall I had a very pleasant conversation with Mr. Robinson, and I was interested to learn how different strengths and backgrounds can be used to connect visitors with source material. I was also interested by the idea that sometimes a sensory experience is needed to help create that connection.