MCN 2017: Tech for Tech's sake is BAD

November 20, 2017

Still gathering my thoughts and notes together post-MCN, I am noticing that one big take-away can sum up the majority of lessons learned when it comes to tech in the cultural sector:

TECHNOLOGY FOR TECHNOLOGY’S SAKE IS BAD

This may seem like a no-brainer, but when something is shiny and new and bold it is only natural for people to want to jump on a ‘bandwagon’. We live in a ‘hype’ culture, especially in the US, but hype tends to be nothing more than just that. Many sessions had cited this as their biggest take-away; story first, tech second. 

Understand the goal you are trying to achieve, the stories you want to tell, and the outcome you are hoping for, as it relates to your institutional mission. THEN explore what technologies can help make that happen. Many are still choosing technology first and then figuring out what it can do for their institutions and audiences; this however leads to the failure of new projects and a loss of time, energy, money…and ultimately, visitor satisfaction.

Take apps and QR codes for example. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon hoping that visitors would themselves download a museum app, or scan a code for interpretive info. Professionals now know better from trends and data collected on this technology’s usage, and are going back to less shiny, but more effective means of telling stories.

Lesson learned – now let’s move forward. So what is next? How can we experiment effectively with new technologies, without risk? Personally, I think it comes down to not ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’. The visitor still comes first, and many of the institutions that cited successfully experimenting with things like AR/VR also have other effective tech for storytelling. And thank goodness there are some out there experimenting, then willing to share successes and failures! It means we can learn collectively as an industry, without all diving in headfirst into the ‘next big thing’ hype of the moment. 

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