Friday, May 30, 2014

Futurist Friday: IBM Watson Applies for Membership in the Oxford Union

OK, I made that headline up. Oxford isn't really in the position of having to decide whether to accept a computer program as a member of its prestigious debating society. (For one thing, Watson isn't enrolled in the University. Yet.)

The amazing thing is that current events make my fictional story fall within the Cone of Plausibility.

Your Futurist Friday assignment: watch this video short (3.24 min) in which John Kelly, senior VP and director of IBM Research, introduces IBM Debating Technologies.

Perhaps IBM's Watson (a cognitive computing program) isn't up to Oxford standards quite yet, but it seems ready to go up against some credible high school debate teams. 

In any case, casting Watson as a "debater" is just a playful way of demonstrating the ability of cognitive computing to quickly scan, assess and filter masses of information (as shown in Watson's running commentary on the process of building its arguments for the selected topic). It takes this kind of massive algorithmic power to make sense of the "big data" we are generating through our digital lives. 

 The kinds of search and summation Watson performs in this demonstration can be put to use by professionals in many fields. Including (potentially) museum staff looking to expand and supplement their research. As Kelly says at the end of this clip, "Its not man versus machine, it's man and machine reasoning together." Watson may be the ultimate research librarian of the future (especially if its summaries are supported with citations and links.) 

I can already hear the pre-echo of protest: "how does Watson know the source is credible?" "Watson isn't generating insight or new knowledge--just regurgitating what it finds!." 

Remember--cognitive computing is still in its infancy. Thinks what will happen when Watson grows up. And consider that it is pretty dang amazing that we are having this discussion at all.

The clip above is excerpted from a presentation given at a April 30, 2014 session of the Milken Institute Global Conference entitled “Why Tomorrow Won’t Look Like Today: Things that Will Blow Your Mind.” You can watch the full presentation to hear more about IBM's vision for Watson, and other speakers on printing functional organs from living tissue and the prospect of asteroid mining. . 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wordless Wednesdays: Please Curb Your Whale

Wonder What This Is? #Sustainability #GreenDesign

You can find more glimpses of the future (and links to associated articles) on CFM's Pinterest Boards

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Biometrics of Cultural Engagement

I’m excavating the stratigraphic accumulation of emails, reports, requests and assignments while I was at the Alliance annual meeting last week. Mindful of those who could not join us in Seattle, I’ll  share highlights and links via Twitter and this blog in the coming month(s), subject to the speed with which I can process all the great stuff I heard. Here is a first installment, based on thoughts I shared (which are easier to access, in my post-meeting daze).

One way I use the annual meeting is as an amplifier and filter: if I incorporate a dozen fringy ideas into my conversations and presentations, which ones resonate most strongly with listeners? Which provoke laughter (genuine or nervous), eye-rolls or follow-up questions?

This year my vision for biometric monitoring of cultural engagement generated the most chuckles, eye-rolls and thoughtful nods, so I’m sharing that with you, first.

This is a Jawbone Up.

I’ve been wearing one for five months now. It tracks my activity (with “steps” being a metaphorical, rather than literal, measure of movement—it isn’t actually a pedometer) and my sleep (again, an approximation based on on movement—I’m not wearing an EEG monitor to bed). I could also enter information on my mood and everything I eat, but I don’t. The purpose of biometric monitoring, after all, is to support self-determined goals, and I’m not trying to change my mood or my calorie intake.

Here is a screen shot of (someone else’s) Jawbone app screen. You can see “Jennifer’s” daily summary for activity, sleep and food (as well as her mood, a full-on, arms-up “Fiero” emoticon.) On the left you see a timeline of recent activities, including progress to self-set goals like drinking 8 glasses of water.

So my crazy idea: why not another bar on the screen—one for Cultural Engagement? 

I can think of a number of ways a biometric band could track cultural engagement, for example:
  • The monitor itself, or your mobile device, could check your GPS location against cultural organizations (such as the 35,144 museums in IMLS’s newly released database)
  • With your permission, a museum could send a “cultural engagement” ping directly to the monitor’s app, which might also interface with the museum’s own indoor wayfinding (did you spend more time in the hall of mammals, or the dino lab?)
  • user could “check in” via the app, adding a culture hit the same way users can currently manually add sleep or exercise. (“Cultural Engagement type: art museum; engagement level: light; start time: 2 pm; duration: 1 hour 20 min.” And then I could add a smiley emoticon to indicate the visit made me happy J.)’


¬(Cultural Engagement Bar, to right)

     ¬(Jennifer is happy to have visited SAM)

      I’ve written about how collecting “big data” on cultural engagement could prove to be the holy grail of museum metrics. But first we have to collect the data we are going to add to the big data pool—enlisting people who have voluntarily joined the “quantified self” movement to collect and share information on how they use our resources, what goals they set for that engagement and how it makes them feel, is one place to start.

So, all of you readers wearing biometric monitors—Up, Flex or Force, Shine, Fuelband, Pulse or others—would you use your device to monitor how you interact with arts & culture (including natural history and science) if you had the choice? 

And, Jawbone, Fitbit, Misfit, Nike, Withings, are you listening?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Robots for Accessibility: Help Henry Spread the Word

AAM conference attendees were joined in Seattle by Henry Evans, accessibility advocate and  founder of Robots for Humanity.

Henry joined us via a Beam Pro telepresence robot (courtesy of Suitable Technologies). Because he is quadriplegic, coming in person wasn't an option.

I'll be writing more, on this blog, about robots for accessibility, but for now I want to share the video Henry made for conference attendees, to share his challenge to museums. How can you make your museum accessible to people, like Henry, who for reasons of disability, age, or sheer geographic distance, can't walk through your doors?

But Henry makes that point better than I do:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Future, Meet the Past. Past, this is the Future

Its not often a dinosaur gets to face off with a drone.
(A peek at MuseumExpo, for those who could not
join AAMers for the conference in Seattle)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bringing Battlefields to Life

I’ve long wished there was an AR app for Civil War Battlefields that would allow me to overlay video of reenactors on the actual landscapes of Gettysburg, Antietam, etc. (Maybe with a little less gore than would be strictly accurate.)Maybe that’s why the Battle of Bannockburn project caught

my eye—it takes a different ingenious approach to bringing the history of warfare to life with technology. While I’m at the Alliance annual meeting in Seattle this week, I invited Tom Ingrey-Counter, Interpretation Sub-Project Manager for the Battle of Bannockburn at the National Trust for Scotland, to share more about this project.

Meet Robert the Bruce
in 3D
The National Trust for Scotland preserves a collection of monuments on the summit of a hill, near Stirling. They commemorate the thousands of soldiers – the servicemen of their day – who lost their lives at the Battle of Bannockburn. However, the debate over exactly what happened, and where, during those two days in June 1314, continues. The area in question is unwieldy and encroached upon by houses. And not one scrap of archaeological evidence of the fight has been uncovered.

The interpretative scheme
The absence of an archaeological record was one of the creative challenges faced by interpretative designers Bright White, the York-based company employed to deliver the new interpretation. Rather than working with physical objects from the archaeological record, they worked with the historical record and introduced gameplay dynamics into the visit. They invented an experience – housed within a discrete new building by Reiach and Hall architects – which places the visitor in a compelling immersive 3D visualisation of the Scots and English armies on the brink of battle: Human scale digital characters line up to share their personal stories and tactical tips, while crossbowmen loose their bolts across the room and cavalry bear down on you …

Robert the Bruce v.
Henry de Bohun
This area is intended to prepare visitors for the next part of the experience, which takes place in the Battle Room. Here, visitors take an active role in a re-invention of the battle played on an inter-active simulator. Visitors become military commanders, making strategic decisions which are played out by miniature armies across a sumptuous model of the local area. At the end of the game, the medieval terrain dissolves into the 2014 Stirling landscape. At this point, one visitor realises that, in contrast to the events of 1314, she has just won the ‘Battle of the Next’, with the decisive action occurring on the site of her local shopping centre. It’s a learning journey she’s not likely to forget.

Academic rigour
One of the challenges of this project was to make the interpretative content as historically robust as possible. The role of the project’s academic advisory panel was crucial to this, and it was fascinating to see how the project challenged and inspired them to think visually.

An extensive and highly detailed brief was developed for the digital design team at CDDV (Centre for Digital Design & Visualisation) to create the virtual armies which appear in the centre. The brief draws from a wide variety of historical sources, and contains carefully reasoned assumptions and justifications for the appearance of the combatants, in the absence of decisive evidence. The quality of the brief facilitated the production of highly detailed and realistic 3D assets - a digital armoury with untold learning potential, which sets a new benchmark for the authentic visualisation of Scottish medieval fighting men.

In parallel, the project team used highly detailed aerial scan data and worked with paleo-environmental archaeologists at Stirling University, to develop the battle simulator. By examining ancient pollen samples taken from the area, the archaeologists were able to determine quite precisely the extents and characteristics of bogs, marshes, woodland and rivers on the battlefield in June 1314. Thus, the topography and natural obstacles players encounter in the battle game are as real as can possibly be known.
Statue of Robert the Bruce restored to
his original bronze glory

Project management
The project involved some innovative partnerships between a government department (Historic Scotland), a charity (the National Trust for Scotland), a private company (Bright White) and an FE establishment (CDDV). Those involved learned about the significant differences in language, culture and approach which exist between the organisations, as well as the exciting creative potential of such collaborations.
For example, the 3D digital design process was extremely specialised and labour intensive. This meant the team had to work hard to establish a common understanding of what the content development process entailed, and where the risks and dependencies lay. Client and academic panel approvals needed to be carefully managed, to ensure production stayed on programme. Bright White’s previous experience of managing the development of 3D stereoscopic environments was crucial to the success of the operation.

What’s more, despite extensive prototype testing activities, it was impossible to know fully what the final visitor experience would be like prior to installation because of the highly innovative and immersive nature of the interpretation. As per the medieval mind set, a little faith was required (and ultimately rewarded).

Interpreting an iconic site
The immoveable event of the 700th anniversary of the battle in June 2014 posed both an opportunity and a challenge in terms of project delivery. 2014 is also, as it turned out, the year of the Scottish Referendum. Part of the challenge of interpreting such an iconic battle site at a significant time such as this is to explore which side of ‘ourselves’ we want to present to the world. The cutting edge 3D immersive experience, which showcases the best digital design talent in the country, hopefully shows something of what Scotland is now.

However, the challenge is also to properly understand, and effectively enhance the sense of place. As visitors enter into the landscape from the centre and approach the newly conserved monuments, they move from the intensity of two days of battle to a more reflective outdoor space. When they encounter the monumental bronze statue of King Robert scanning the horizon for Edward’s advancing army, they will hopefully better appreciate that he was outnumbered, and the strategic military achievement of winning against a larger and better equipped force. In short, I like to think Bruce would have approved.

Key information:
Reiach & Hall – Architects
Bright White – Interpretation Concept, Design & Build
Historic Scotland – Project Management
CDDV – 3D Media Research & Development
Ian White Associates – Landscape Architects
- Interpretation Design & Installation
Historic Scotland - Project Management

Andrew P K Wrig

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Your Guide to the Future at the 2014 Annual Meeting

 It’s time for my yearly list of “sessions I would go to if I weren’t helping to run the meeting.”

(And remember, if you aren’t going to the conference, you can still sign up to visit MuseumExpo via telepresence robot, courtesy of Suitable Technologies. Contact Vanessa Jones if you want to sign up for one of the available time slots.)

First, here’s what I’m up to in Seattle, in case you want to find me:

Sunday May 18, 3:30 – 4:45 pm
Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem
Conference Center, LL#3
I’ll be joined by Paula Gangopadhyay, Chief Learning Officer at The Henry Ford, and Nathan Ritchie, Director of the Golden History Museums and chair of EdCom, to discuss the newly released report Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem. In addition to sharing our personal and institutional visions of how we can integrate museums into a “Vibrant Learning Grid,” we’ll be soliciting guidance from attendees on how AAM can contribute to this effort, and news of what strategies are working in your communities.

Monday May 19,
8:45 – 10:00 am
TrendsWatch 2014: Your Annual Glimpse of the Future
Conference Center, Room 304
I hope you’ve had a chance to read this year’s report—it covers some pretty mind-bending trends. You can download the free PDF or the free app, (which illustrates the trends with related videos!) or pick up a print copy from the Bookstore at the meeting. I can’t cover all the report’s content in one session (and I won’t try)—what I will do is update the report with news I’ve spotted since it came out in March, as well as sharing my thoughts about how museums might take advantage of these trends. 

1:45 – 3 p.m.
Big Data: The Next Frontier
Conference Center, LL4
In this session I get to introduce some really savvy people who are figuring out how to use data analytics for the good of their institutions and the field. I’ll be joined by Beth Tuttle, from the Cultural Data Project, Donna Powell, from the Northwest Trek Animal Park, Rob Stein from the Dallas Museum of Art, and John Lucas, from Avnet.

When I’m not presenting, I’ll mostly be hanging out in the Alliance’s Resource Center in MuseumExpo, where CFM is orchestrating three demonstrations (embedded links lead to blog posts on each): telepresence robots, drones, and a playful exploration of the “Internet of Future Things.” (My thanks to Suitable Technologies for their invaluable assistance with the robot demo, and to GeLo for making the “Things” possible.)

Here are a run down of sessions I would attend if I weren’t riding herd on robots:

Any time Janet Carding, Seb Chan, Kathy McLean, Susie Serriff and Marsha Bol get together, something great is bound to happen, so I’d flag their session on Tough Times, New Ideas: Experiments in Organizational Change on Monday at 8:45 a.m. It’s an important topic. I am confident these guys will have good ideas to share.

Anyone who follows trends about historic house museums knows these institutions are experiencing tough times. There seem to be too many houses, not enough money, and a shrinking number of people who relate to the traditional methods of interpreting these sites. Monday at 1:45 p.m. Sheryl Hack of Connecticut Landmarks is guiding a discussion with Robert Kiihne (USS Constitution Museum), Kate Whitman (Atlanta History Center) and Susie Wilkening (Reach Advisors) on new ways of enlivening historic houses, and revitalizing the genre--Banishing Guided Tours: New Audiences for House Museums. (See also the related session Tuesday at 3:15 p.m., The Future of History. Susie is on that panel, too.)

As a fan of the MuseoPunks podcast, I would not be able to resist the opportunity to hear what punk-host Jeff Inscho (Carnegie Museum of Art) has to say in Crowdsourcing to Community Sourcing: Engaging Visitor Input (Tuesday, 8:45 a.m.) He’s speaking with Lori Phillips from The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis—I already love her work, and it would give me the opportunity to know Daniel Davis from the National Museum of the American Indian, and Petra Pankow from Montclair Art Museum.

One of the strengths of professional conferences is that we museumers all get together to talk to each other. That’s a weakness, too, though. One of the best sessions I went to last year was run by teens who highjack museum resources to create programs for their peers. This year, I’d like to poke my head in on Cultural Conversations with Teens (Tuesday, 10:15 a.m.) to hear from another group of emerging museum stakeholders. But I’d also like to drop in on the NMC Horizon Report> 2013 Museum Edition (same time) which will highlight examples of museums using emerging technologies.

Conferences should be fun, as well as useful. Tuesday afternoon (1:45 p.m.) I’d head for a session that promised to be both, as Ed Rodley (Peabody Essex Museum) and Judy Rand (Rand Associates) moderate a session in which Eric Siegel (New York Hall of Science), Nina Simon (Santa Cruz Museum of Science and History) and Catherine Hughes (Conner Prairie) answer the question “I Wish Somebody Had Told Me…” [when I started in museums]. And there will be an open mic…

I’m very heartened to see several sessions celebrating failure. I’m a big fan of a) being willing to fail and b) sharing what’s learned from those adventures. Fail Early, Often and Off-Broadway (Tues, 1:45 p.m.) will help fill that need, while at Mistakes Were Made (Tues, 3:15) a crowdsourced contest will award the “AAM Epic Failure Trophy of 2014.” (Which, now that I know it exists, I officially endorse.)

Wednesday, I’ve pegged three sessions related to trends followed by CFM. The Itinerate Museum (8:45 a.m.) explores the concept of peripatetic museums. (You may remember TrendsWatch 2012 featured the trend of all sorts of culture “taking to the streets.”) At 10:15 a.m. you can cheer yourself up with a look at Happiness, Sustainability and the Museum Professional. (I’m a longtime fan of the Happy Museum Project, and the Jane Addams Hull-House is exploring related concepts in its current “Slow Museum” project as part of Innovation Lab for Museums.) Also at 10:15, Open to the Public! Museums and Open Content looks at a topic I’m just starting to get up to speed on: a movement aimed at making content freely available via online platforms. (You can also delve into theory, practice and examples related to this trend at The Power of Open Data Sets, Tuesday at 8:45 a.m.)

Since I can’t get to these sessions, I’m asking you to be my eyes and ears. Please tweet insights (add the #futureofmuseums as well as #aam2014 if you can spare the characters). And tell me if you think any of these sessions, or projects highlighted in them, ought to be shared via a post on the CFM Blog.

Now, I gotta go watch Michael practice flying the drone…see you in Seattle!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Bespoke Cybernetics

Behold the Titan Arm
#cybernetics #accessibility #3DPrinting

This and other glimpses of the future (with links to associated stories) can be found on the CFM Pinterest Boards

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Internet of Future Things in Seattle

Here is a preview of part 3 of CFM’s “glimpse of the future” demo at the annual meeting in Seattle. It’s a little installation I’m calling “The Internet of Future Things,” and came about through the collision of location-aware tech with object-centered futurism.

I wrote, in TrendsWatch 2013, of how the “Internet of Things” feeds on the proliferation of Internet connected devices that have the capacity to collect and share information, as well as responding to input. In museums, this technology is being harnessed in all sorts of interesting ways: for data collection, communication, and as a form of assistive interpretation. Museums (like retail stores) can use this technology to track people moving through the exhibits, recording their path and dwell time, and push out content to mobile devices, appropriate to a visitor’s location.

In a particularly cool example, this past April, to mark the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance, the United Nations used location-aware tech to stage a high-impact [pun intended] installation at the New Museum. The “Sweeper” app used low-energy Bluetooth signals to communication with iOS devices. If a user of the app got too close to a Sweeper beacon in the exhibit, the device “detonated,” first delivering jarring explosive recording through the device’s headphones, then first-person testimony from a victim of landmines. As a follow-up, the listener was invited to make a donation to help support limiting the use of these destructive devices. 

I’ve also written before on this blog about “artifacts from the future”—fabricated objects that embody the essential attributes of potential futures. For CFM’s demo at the annual meeting next week, over a dozen museum folk have constructed such artifacts, representing technologies they believe will exist in ten, twenty or fifty years’ time. To give voice to these objects, exhibitor GeLo is pairing each with one of its Bluetooth-enabled beacons. Download the associated app, and when you get within range of one of the “future things’” scattered throughout MuseumExpo, your mobile device will be able to access the associated information (text and audio). (Download the free app for Android devices  or  for iOS),

2050: Knowledge Powder
Artifacted by Kate Burgess-Mac Intosh

We pulled this together pretty fast, so we didn’t have time to take advantage of all this technology has to offer. (No video, for example, of how Erika Kiessner’s Privacy Veil can shield its wearer, or how to properly adjust the fit of your Personal Carbon Sequester Device.) That’s fine, though, because in good part the goal of this demo is to encourage you to use your imagination. After all, location-aware technology is just at the beginning of its development. While you hunt for our “things,” think about where this tech can go. How would you use it? What do you see as barriers to adoption? And (for that matter) what would you store in a NanoMemory Vessel, if you had one?

CFM’s Artifacts from the Future will be distributed throughout MuseumExpo, with the majority positioned in the Alliance’s Resource Center, at the public email stations, and at the GeLo booth (#2805). Look for the CFM robot symbol marking the Things. To get a jump on your explorations, download the app  ahead of time, and have it prepped and ready to go on your mobile device.

To hear more about how GeLo in particular is being used in museums, you can go to their presentation Monday, May 19 at 12:45 pm in the Solutions Center. If you are attending the Tacoma Museums evening event Monday night, you can see a beta deployment of GeLo devices at the Washington State Historical Society (you can download the associated app for that event from Android ahead of time.) 

2025: Privacy Veil Urban Camoflage
Artifacted by Erika Kiessner

See you in Seattle!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Building the Future of Education: A Call to Action

 I’m pleased to announce the release of Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem. This report shares the great content and provocative ideas that bubbled up in a convening AAM co-organized with The Henry Ford last September, hosted at the National Building Museum here in DC. On Sunday, May 18 at 3:30 pm, I’ll be joined by Paula Gangopadhyay, Chief Learning Officer at THF, and Nathan Ritchie, Director of the Golden History Museum and Chair of the Alliance’s Education Professional Network (EdCom), to discuss the report and solicit input from attendees as to what actions AAM, and the field, should take next. In preparation for that session,  today’s post shares the “Call to Action” that Paula and I wrote to cap the report. If you are coming to Seattle next week, I hope you join us for the session, and contribute your ideas for how the Alliance, and the field, can help make museums vital components of a “Vibrant Learning Grid” of 21st century education.

A Call to Action
(reprinted from Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem, Copyright Creative Commons, 2014, American Alliance of Museums.)

Participants at the convening unanimously preferred the optimistic scenario presented by KnowledgeWorks’ Katherine Prince—a “vibrant learning grid”—to the depressing prospect of leaving our children and grandchildren to navigate a “fractured landscape” of education. Their challenge, on the second day of the gathering, was to generate ideas about how to guide our future towards this preferred vision. In this summary, we present a selection of these ideas. These suggestions encompass practical, short-term steps needed to sustain this conversation about the future of education, as well as big, transformative ideas that would need considerable effort, energy and funding but could create radical change and redefine the role of museums in the learning ecosystem. We have grouped the ideas under the following headings:
  • Spreading the Word: compiling and sharing information needed to guide planning and decision making
  • Disrupting Conventional Dialogue: promoting ideas that disrupt conventional thinking about education and expand our conception of the educational landscape
  • Creating Systemic Change: implementing radical experiments that could increase the role museums play in education

 We conclude with steps that convening participants and readers of this white paper can take, individually and organizationally, to scale-up the conversation about educational reform and drive change in the learning ecosystem.

Spreading the Word:
  • Create a national database of museum resources that directly support educational goals and learning objectives.
  • Maintain comprehensive documentation of how museums are serving education now.
  • Identify existing, high-performing digital platforms (e.g., Khan Academy, Gooru) that can aggregate and distribute museum educational content.
  • Unite museums with the entire educational community using a “Collective Impact Model” approach and include their contributions in the metrics used to track student learning.

Disrupting Conventional Dialogue:
  • Launch a national campaign to reenergize the notion of “museums” as educational resources (like the National Parks Centennial campaign, or the National Arts Education public awareness campaign).
  • Foster student activists at each level of learning—grade school, high school, university—empowered to incorporate out-of-school learning into their personal learning plans.
  • Improve museums’ communication pathways with local schools—for example, creating an intranet or school district “plug in.” This would enable museums to push their content on educational programming, collections options, etc., to teachers.

Creating Systemic Change:
  • Recruit and support brokers in each community whose role is to connect local museums with local schools and alternate learning networks (such as homeschoolers), as well as to help museums integrate their resources into aggregation sites like Gooru, Learning Registry, Reimagining Education and Connected Educators.
  • Foster educational systems in which students are encouraged to connect to adult mentors, including museum staff, with expertise related to each student’s areas of interest. Capitalize on the role museums can play in fostering communities of interest-driven learners, and serving as connectors and brokers of information, resources and relationships.
  • Establish a certification system for education that recognizes schools for their support of self-directed, experiential learning. Supported by an education policy that gives every student the right to access experiential learning provided by all kinds of institutions, schools could get certified in REECH (Rights to Experiential Educational Challenges), and organizations like museums could get certified as PEECH (Providers of Experiential Educational Challenges). Working together, certified institutions would create networks of accessible, experiential educational opportunities.
  • Create a national or state-based system in which personalized learning advisors help elementary and middle school students and families explore the variety of learning opportunities available to them—in school, online and community based—that they may not otherwise know about or have access to. This would help integrate museum programs, volunteer opportunities and internships into personal learning plans. This network could also match teachers with opportunities to participate in other learning environments.

Six Strategic Imperatives
The American Alliance of Museums, The Henry Ford and participants at this convening pledged to contribute to the following next steps, as appropriate to their organizations’ missions and resources:
  • Disseminate this white paper to foster discussion, generate more ideas and encourage individuals and organizations to take action.
  • Strengthen the connections among convening participants, including the exchange of news and research.
  • Expand the network of convening participants to include other stakeholders in museums, education, research and civic activism.
  • Mobilize additional convenings, small and large, to gather more input, generate more options and recruit partners in our efforts to shape the future of education.
  • Find funding to prototype and test some of the ideas coming out of the convening.
  • Distribute information to museums, schools and learners about exemplary and scalable communities of practice (e.g., Rethinking Learning, Big Picture Learning, Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge, THF Innovation Education Incubator) to increase the impact of these existing initiatives.

How You Can Become Involved
  • Distribute this white paper to museum professionals, educators, policy makers and funders. Host discussions of the content and its implications.
  • Organize a convening in your community or sector of practice to explore how museums can work with their communities to build the future of education.
  • Contribute examples of innovative projects and partnerships that demonstrate how museums can contribute to the educational landscape.
  • Identify potential funders to support prototyping and testing educational innovation.

 I hope to see you in Seattle, at the session, but in any case you can email Paula  and me to let us know of your interest in taking any of these steps, or other actions, to help build the next era of education.

The Future of Storytelling

On a recent series of flights across the country I burned through Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan" series: three Steampunk-style alt-history novels. 

One fundamental premise of strategic foresight is that any area of endeavor is characterized by a "dominant technology" that fuels innovation. In Leviathan's world, WWI is a clash between a culture who's hegemony is built on mechanical invention (Germany), and one developed through genetic manipulation of species (Britain). 

I recommend the novels in their own right, as an exploration of how these technologies play out in a fictional past (and when it comes to genomics, still may, in the future). Now Leviathan and its world has been adopted by Intel Labs and the USC School of Cinematic Arts World Building Media Lab. Their question, what happens when you mash together the worlds of film making and games design? How does a platform premised on complete control of visual content marry with one based on audience interaction? How can augmented reality open a richly imagined world, like that created by Westerfeld, to create "new story containers." 

Your Futurist Friday assignment: watch the video [7 min], and ask yourself:

  • How do you feel about the prospect of an augmented reality game that let you enter the world of one of your favorite novels? Would it supplement your experience of reading, or supplant your own visualization of the narrative?
  • What opportunities does this provide for new kinds of narrative? For example, could a "reader" can wander around encountering pieces of the action out of any established sequence (like PunchDrunk's immersive theater''s adaptation of Macbeth as "Sleep No More.") 
  • Do you think immersive fiction like this might turn into an established genre of its own right, or is it a fad?
And just enjoy the cool dirigible whale. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Droning On About the Annual Meeting in Seattle

In Tuesday's post, Henry Evans previewed the demonstration of telepresence robots (aka Remote Presence Devices) that CFM will be hosting in MuseumExpo. (If you want to sign up to "beam in" and visit the Expo via robot, email Vanessa Jones to book a slot.)

Today I  preview a second demo that will occur in the Alliance Resource Center in MuseumExpo:


This is Michael, our drone pilot. He will be stationed in the Resource Center, flying the very latest model quadcopter drone and chatting with attendees.(The drone flights are roughly scheduled for half hour stints, starting on the hour, since both Michael and the drone need to rest & recharge.)

Now, I'm not suggesting that you invite people to visit your museum via flying quadcopters. (Even Henry blanched at that thought.) But these agile little robots are whirring their way into more and more practical applications in the real world--delivering cargo in Africa, inspecting roofs, keeping an eye on kids at the bus stop.They are beginning to be used in a variety of research settings (monitoring habitat and endangered species, assisting in  archaeological  field surveys) and I think they may have broader applications in museums, as well.

Here are three ideas for how museums could put drones to work:

They could make it easier and less expensive to monitor and document  the condition of historic structures, particularly the exterior--roof and architectural detailing. 

They can  give people a different perspective on the inside or outside of your history structure. Watch, for example, this lyrical video by Nate Bolt filmed, via drone, inside the New York Public Library. (If you watch to the end, you will see shots of the drone itself, which is the same model we will be flying in Seattle.)

Controlled by museum staff, drones could provide "insider" tours of sensitive sites (habitats, archaeological or paleontological sites) or remote field research. Back in 2009 Seb Chan blogged about experimenting with drones at the Powerhouse Museum to give people a glimpse behind the scenes in collections storage.

All of these applications could help people understand what museums do, why they do it, and why it is deserving of their support. So maybe the museum drone cam will never have the viral popularity as the National Zoo's Giant Panda Cam. But museums in large, expensive to maintain structures (like Cincinnati Museum Center, where I worked before coming the the Alliance) could use livestream drone tours to make a powerful case for funding conservation of the "biggest object in its collection." Curators in the field could use drone footage (together with blogging and tweeting) as one more way to share the experience of their research, and engage people in the process, as well as the outcome, of their work.

Skeptical? That's fine. Got more great ideas for how to use drones in your work? That's great, too. Stop by the Alliance Resource Center in MuseumExpo to check out the drone, talk tech with Michael and share your inspirations and concerns.