Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Twitter, Museums, and the "Unthinking Television" conference

In my Museums and Public Memory class this morning, we talked over why our class experiments with YouTube this semester have been running kind of stale. ( See some of the student class postings at:


Students mentioned that producing YouTube is labor intensive and demands access to technology, which is a hassle, especially to make the work look good. Bryce was a little skeptical about this; he noted that some of the most successful vlogging is done in a very informal mode with decidely low production values. Looking at some recent popular YouTube posts, we wondered why it has been hard for students to "punch up" their YouTube postings with humor? Are museums and exhibitions as cultural sites particularly resistant to humor, perhaps? Or is it that the whole campus has been so exhausted by our ongoing financial crisis and the Rose controversy that a sense of humor has been hard to muster?

In any event, the students expressed a great deal more energetic excitment over the possibilities of Twitter, for rapidfire communication and exchange of ideas (each text message limited to 140 characters). So we decided that I would, right there in class, create a Twitter account (the students patiently walked me through how to do this) and that the students would 'follow' my brand new Twitter micro-blog, "MuseumMark" which is at:


I promised to twitter from the "Unthinking Television" conference on Thursday at George Mason University, at which Bryce and I are presenting on our class experiment with YouTube. The students will twitter back to us, so we can at least all be linked together, in effect, during the conference. I'm curious what kind of conversation will ensue.

In class, we noticed the rather dynamic twitter sites for MOMA


and for the Metropolitan Museum of Art:


and speculated about what kind of cultural (and economic) work these micro-blogs are doing. The consensus was that they probably aren't attracting first time visitors to the museums. Perhaps they getting infrequent visitors to return to the museum more often, by letting them know about interesting exhibitions, highlighted 'art works of the day' and lectures. And perhaps the twitter links help to build a kind of personal relationship with the institution, which might translates into a greater likelihood of membership.

We speculated as well about the interactive possibilities of Twitter in museum and gallery contexts. Is Twitter only a good way to push content out to museum patrons, as a form of "outreach." Alternately, could twitter afford a good way for museum-goers to 'talk back' to the curators, to artists, and to one another about their reflections on art installations, as they roam through art spaces? Is this sort of thing already going on at some museums, I wonder?

1 comment:

nbm said...

All those things. You should also follow the Brooklyn Museum's twitter stream; the BMA is extremely active in this and other social media, as is the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Why don't your students review a number of museum twitter streams and blogs and see what they find?