Typically I visit and explore museums without an agenda, or without a particular desired course, and much of the experience is in discovery for me. I tend to stay away from audio tours, as I feel they sometimes narrow my sense of environment. This was partially my experience with the director's audio tour- when focusing on finding the next piece's location, I was pulled from contemplation and instead focused on navigation. The navigation with co-devices of map and audio guide was interesting, felt like orienteering- more on that later! While I started following the path of the director's tour, I quickly began to wander and instead relied on entering the number of a few scattered objects, but primarily experienced most of the galleries in silence. I realized I often listen to music when walking quietly like this, and wondered whether any thought has been given to scoring a museum experience. This could be either complimentary music, or guest curated could work as well. Maybe even a few official Met Spotify playlists.. In the Islamic galleries, I listened to the audio track of a prayer several times, which only reinforced this idea that music or these kinds of complimentary audio pieces yield a more compelling experience than an informational tour. I'm curious to take a viewpoints tour next and see how individual perspective changes my experience, but I'd very much like to explore what kind of soundscape could be intriguing for visitors. Even the welcoming, inspiring echoes of the great hall seems lost upon the visitor when starting a tour there wearing headphones in isolation. I began thinking about how my sense of passing time was in flux, diminished then wavering then exaggerated. There's an interesting project out of MIT media lab concerning whether or not we want to be more conscious of our experience of time, curious to see how that applies in the context of a museum.
The Met had several free Friday night concerts in the Islamic galleries located right in front of the fountain that were terrific with respect to the types of instruments and music played. Very meditational. I know it enhanced my experience of that space and the art there.
Last week I took the '82nd and 5th st.' audio tour, 2nd floor — which features highlights from different collections of the museum. I will share here some of my thoughts about it and compare it to the experience I had today, taking the 'Hindu and Buddhist Vision in Indian and Southeast Asian Art' guided tour.
At first I was a bit confused by the fact that the audio tour featured videos as well — I guess maybe it was originally made for web? I gave up looking at the videos because it made more sense to look at the actual artworks instead.
The tours I've taken are very different, one focusing on highlights and another on a single collection. Because of that, it is hard to determine how much of my experience was shaped by the medium instead of the subject. Even so, taking the guided tour felt more like a linear — and immersive — experience than taking the audio one. I can say for sure that some of the medium aspects play a significant role here. The audio guide is sometimes hard to listen due to the noise from visitors passing by. Although that happens a bit with the guide as well, the person speaking can gently adjust his/her voice to a louder volume. And visitors seem to be more careful and respectful when in the presence of a guide.
Of course there is also a huge difference between looking at a person's face, watch all the expressions, being looked at, versus listen to a voice on playback. I lost focus several times during the audio tour.
However, listening to the audio has the advantage of doing things at your own pace. That gives a lot of room for discovering new things as well. As I walked through the halls looking for the next artwork in the tour I ended up discovering new and interesting things — including the Caravaggio and Music one that Jennifer Kim talked about last week. I almost had the impression that the distance between the pieces was planned taking that in consideration.
At last, a significant aspect of the guided tour is the room for questions and dialogue. I'm not sure how that could be replicated in the audio version — nor if it should.
My first day here happened to be the day that Facebook launched/announced their new beacon hardware initiative. One of their beta-launch-partners is The Met Museum. Although I can see how, from a commercial perspective, this is an incredible platform and opportunity for the Met, I cannot help but see red-flags. I am always a bit skeptical of corporations like Facebook that use "our" data for their revenue streams. Surveillance and the monetization of user data is a huge topic these days and one that I think we must be thinking about. We are the designers that are creating the technology that will shape our world, thus we must think about the implications of that technology.
See things from others' eyes. I noticed that in a guided tour, the group of people would often listen to the guide before exploring themselves. Also, during the free time after the guide, they tended to match what they heard just now with what they would see in the art piece.
Interview with a Korean student Lee. Lee is an economics sophomore in South Korea. He planned to visit New York for a week and MET was his last stop. According to Lee, MET is the best among MoMA and national museum. When asked the reason, he explained that he is not familiar with art in general, so he didn't enjoy looking at the paintings/descriptions in other museums, even in MET, and didn't understand the contemporary art very much. But he really likes the sculpture garden because he feels good in this large space, and the sculptures are very expressive and understandable. When looking at the sculpture, he feels that there is no space between he and the art piece, and he can enjoy this piece in the most direct way. <Perseus with the head of Medusa> is his favorite sculpture.