Thanks to the binary world, the atomic world faces extreme changes. It has never been so easy to consume and to publish content.
What started with local word processors has reached a level where everyone who wants is able producing ebooks, printed books, blog entries and all sorts of information sites. Everyone can publish her/his own picture gallery and easily apply special effects to the pictures that a decade before would have demanded a professional photgraphy studio.
Even creating real-world products is as easy as it never had been before: Thanks to the maker scene (see Chris Andersson excellent book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution on Amazon US/Amazon UK), you nearly can prototype everything you can dream of, and instead of spending 5-, six or even 7-digit budgets for an initial offering the most valueable thing you spend is your time.
How would these enormous changes affect cultural institutions like museums?
We see – amongst others – three basic challenges every cultural will be affected by and will need to respond to if they do not want falling into insignificance.
First of all, the time of addressing recipients only from the local area following a sender-receiver principle is over: With the internet, cultural institutions have the possibilities spreading their content all over the world. This means two things: First, the museum needs to find out who could be addressed with it’s unique content and what would the best way to do this – on a global scale. This implies internationalisation as well as intercultural and intersocial research. Diversity is an old buzzword. But an actual challenge.
Second, it’s possible and probably demanded delivering content to very different devices. That could be delivering to the humongous variety of devices. Just look at the funny Twitpic on the fragmentation of Samsung only devices:
But not only different screen sizes and internet capable devices want access your content. Perhaps hacked audio guides are the format your target audience demands. And so forth. Device proliferation is a not-so-old buzzword (coming from enterprise IT operations). But an actual challenge.
More and more people, not are the young ones, are used to interact. As it seems, “gamification” of content is something that pours more and more into schools and daily life (see chapter 14 of the excellent book Diamandis/Kotler, Abundance: the future is better than you think for further references [Amazon UK/Amazon US]). It’s possible to get information based on geolocation information directly on the camera view of mobile devices (augmented reality) and even glasses. For most people using and loving these abilities to only hang exhibits on the wall (or wherever) seems not to be sufficient anymore: People can and want exploring, interacting, creating own content based on information and experiences.
It’s the cultural institution that can support them here perfectly well.
We face an increasing amount of pure content/information and produce more information quantity in a year than in the entire existence of mankind. People do get more and more distracted due to an increasing amount of content channels. The biggest challenge therefor is to establish relevance in the mind of your target audiences: The more relevant a cultural institution’s offering is, the less likely people would get distracted by other offerings. Whatever your institution offers, we are pretty sure you have somthing unique and special that is worth being settled in people’s mind.
Is there any recipe that would immediately help addressing these challenges? We don’t think so. But we think, that you must start transforming your museum to stay relevant. With the Lean Museum Startup approach, transforming a museum means following an interdisciplinary step-by-step process with low financial risk – and lots of fun