The Information Architecture Institute
A conference on designing
complex information spaces of all kinds.
New York City, October 4 and 5, 2007

Archive for museums

Storytelling in the City: An Interview with Jake Barton

JakeTelling stories to strangers is not something that most people seek to do. But finding these stories, encouraging them from people in unlikely scenarios, and making the experience enjoyable, is exactly what Jake Barton aims to do.

Barton, through his design studio Local Projects, seeks to encourage the telling of stories in public spaces. In projects that account for high-tech, low-tech, and everything in between, his studio is currently working on projects from the a cellphone tour of the Statue of Liberty to a memorial of the September 11th attacks. And many of the projects happen in Barton’s own backyard—New York City.

IDEA talked with Barton about his work in New York, and some of his plans for the upcoming conference.

IDEA Q: Is it important for you to be here, in New York, doing the work that you do? Does the city itself provide a backdrop or inspiration?

Personally, I think New York is a phenomenal place to make participatory media, as the urban experience is about collective participation—with its crowded streets, with dense clusters of activity from hot dog vendors to hip-hop groups. I especially like that “normalizing” of behavior (i.e., yelling at other New Yorkers) is typical—it makes the New York experience one that is contingent on sharing with others.

IDEA Q: As a resident of New York yourself, what’s it like to have to use the experiences you design (passing by the Story Corps Booth in Grand Central Terminal, for example)?

Its really gratifying. Local Projects’ name comes from the classic Tip O’Neill quote that all politics is local. For us, design is local, steeped in the specific conditions and challenges of a site, client, or audience.

By building things in our hometown, we get consistent feedback and response, and can gauge how the projects and their meanings evolve over time. I’ve gotten “shushed” more than once in my own movies, and its very heart-warming.

IDEA Q: Where do you look for inspiration or direction outside the field of design?

Well, it depends on what you consider design, but mostly I listen to the radio. “RadioLab” from WNYC is a brilliant communicator—The Simpsons meets NOVA. “This American Life” has a consistent knack for mixing the everyday experience with profound larger meanings. And even though our design work is done, I love “StoryCorps,” each story is a jewel.

IDEA Q: What should the audience remember about your talk when they go back to their desks on Monday morning?

That you need to have a point of view about what you want the audience to do, learn, be, achieve, and dream through your work. And that making design functional and beautiful can be done and done well.

IDEA Q: Can you describe what you’ll be talking about at IDEA in just one word?


~ Liz Danzico


The IDEA 2007 social network is live on CrowdVine…

While Social Network Portability is coming soon, for now IDEA conference attendees can join a network just for the conference here: IDEA 2007 on Crowdvine

This is a great place to post your picture and conference related blog feed, flickr photos, links, and more. IDEA attendees can use this social network to meet other people with similar interests, and plan outings in NYC with other IDEA attendees.

Never been to MOMA? Start a thread on Crowdvine and encourage others to join your outing.

Want to try the latest in “molecular mixology” ? Publish a time and location on CrowdVine and befriend others before you show up in NYC.

Anyone can join, and we encourage New Yorkers to provide assistance to those who are coming from out of town on local dining spots, accomodations, and great things to do in the city.

Thanks, and have fun!


Audio and some slides

We have audio from every talk, and slides from many of them, free for download. Enjoy!

Day 1

Peter Merholz’ Introduction. Slides (PDF), MP3

Linda Stone. No slides, MP3. Questions and answers MP3.

David Guiney, Designing Across Multiple Media for the National Park Service. Slides to come, MP3
David Guiney, Addressing the Challenges of Designing for the National Park Service. Slides to come, MP3.

Dave Cronin, Art for the public: supporting a visitor-directed museum experience. Slides, MP3.

Jake Barton, Interaction Design in a Physical Space. Slides (PDF), MP3. Jake also showed a few movies during his talk: Building Timelapse movie. Jetblue booth movie. Timescapes sample chapter movie.

Ian White, The Design of Data. Slides (PDF), MP3.

Ali Sant, TRACE: Mapping the Emerging Urban Landscape. Slides to come, Part 1 MP3, Part 2 MP3.

Day 2

Stamen Design, Project Work. Slides with no movies (7.37 MB PPT), Slides with movies (164.78MB ZIP), MP3.
Fernanda Viegas, Democratizing Visualization. Slides (PPT), MP3.
Stamen and Fernanda Question and Answer. MP3.

Dan Hill, The New Media. Slides (PDF), MP3.

Next-Generation Libraries panel:

  • Deborah Jacobs, No slides, MP3
  • Ed Vielmetti, No slides, MP3
  • Paul Gould, Slides (PPT), MP3
  • Question and Answer. MP3

Robert Kalin, O Advantageous Interfaces! Slides (on Rob’s site), MP3.

Bruce Sterling, Closing Keynote. No slides. MP3.

Comments (8)

Jake Barton, Local projects

It’s unfair to play favorites, especially on a conference blog, but Barton’s talk about his Local projects work was my favorite so far, hands down. He packed a summary of various conceptual, creative and interactive gems, into a single talk, blending ideas from NPR’s this american life, to Alan Lomax’s global jukebox, with the magic of generous experience design.

Most of the projects shown were variations on the theme of connection: finding ways to help people connect with each other through some kind of technological mediation: sometimes paper and pen (Memory Maps), sometimes videocamera (JetBlue), and other times a table and a microphone (StoryCorps). Many were mobile (thus the Lomax reference), enabling them to serve a unique kind of cultural purpose, traveling to towns and villages where exhibits this clever, and reflective, rarely arrive.

Its clear the folks at Local projects are doing some amazing work: I just wish I knew where there next project installation will be so I can check it out in person.

-Scott Berkun


Design in the Getty museum

It was a special thrill to hear Dave Cronin talk about the interaction design work Cooper did at the Getty museum, as I’d visted there a couple of months ago. Its always fun to retroactively rebuild an experience, knowing something now, in the present, about how that experience was constructed.

The talk was mostly case study about their design process: the challenges of public museums, the diverse needs and types of people who visit, and the basic problems of wayfinding in public spaces. As its a Cooper design project, I wasn’t surprised to hear about their use of Personas. Having used the system I can say first hand the project was a success, as I used their interactive kiosks to both find art in the musuem, and understand the history of other art I’d already seen inside.

It was a clear, straightforward and interesting presentation, visually rich with screenshots and images (taking advantage of the visually interesting museum itself), but slightly too well packaged in feel to fit a “designer talking to other designers” vibe - and as the clients are quiet visible in the case study, I can understand the challenge of wanting to inform, but without rallying against a client: a tension all designers feel about client based work. Any inside scoups or tales of design turmoil on the scale of what it took to build the actual Getty center, will have to wait for side conversations, perhaps over drinks, with Mr. Cronin himself.

-Scott Berkun


Jake Barton, Interaction Design in a Physical Space

This talk will address how does interaction design, an ordinary issue for the web, explodes in unexpected directions when applied to physical space. What happens to accepted conventions when applied to the city streets, or museum atriums? Does it create opportunities for interaction between audience members in real time? Can we encourage multi-modal interactions between participants? Does it offer the chance for persistence within a single location?

See the entire program.


Dave Cronin’s Presentation: Art for the Public: Supporting a visitor-directed museum experience

The Getty operates with the mission of making its museums, gardens and extensive collections of artwork accessible and engaging to a diverse audience of visitors. This talk will discuss how the Getty and Cooper worked together to rethink and expand the way kiosks, handhelds and the Web are used to enhance and enrich the visitor experience by providing context-appropriate access to an immense body of content about the collection and architecture.

See the whole program.

Comments (1)

Conversation with Jake Barton, Local Projects (to be continued)

When I asked around about whom I should invite to IDEA who has done interesting work with complex information spaces in museums, I repeatedly was pointed in the direction of Jake Barton from Local Projects. Local Projects is perhaps best known for StoryCorps, an environment for collecting stories in public places. Jake was a finalist for the 2006 National Design Awards. In this conversation, Jake introduces the kind of work that Local Projects do, and we’ll get into the issues of designing for environments.


Peter Merholz: Jake, thanks for taking the time for this conversation. Looking over the website for your studio, Local Projects, I see you create “collaborative storytelling” and “environmental media”. What do you mean by those? How is your approach different from what I might already be familiar with?

Jake Barton: “Collaborative Storytelling” projects are bottom-up content systems. User-generated stories are collected, curated, and edited to create a select number of incredible stories. Because they occur in public spaces, our projects differ from similar web-based projects, creating a very rich and complicated interaction sequence that leverages the density of urban experience on top of storytelling.

“Environmental Media” projects are films and interactives made at an architectural scale. We are using storytelling to create narrative experiences that fill entire walls or buildings, fusing together large-scale Times Square electronic billboards and small-scale touch-screen interactives into a new experience. “More is different” is the phrase used by Steven Johnson in Emergence for how scale changes everything, and it fits here too: What happens to an interface when ten people can work on it simultaneously? How can you create a film experience that immerses you from every interior surface of a building?

PM: What do you plan on talking about at IDEA?

JB: IDEA is a special opportunity to talk about how interaction design, an ordinary issue for the web, explodes in unexpected directions when applied to physical space. What happens to accepted conventions when applied to the city streets, or museum atriums? Does it create opportunities for interaction between audience members in real time? Can we encourage multi-modal interactions between participants? Does it offer the chance for persistence within a single location? We’ve found that seeing similar problems solved for different spaces (physical vs. web) helps highlight what solutions are specific to the platform, versus the design challenge itself.

PM: I guess the logical follow up to that is, “Such as…?” What kinds of similar problems have highlighted platform-specific solutions?

JB: For example, bottom-up content systems, which I would apply to both bulletin boards and collaborative storytelling projects, work quite differently in Museums and public spaces, whose very peculiar attributes change the types of stories and content that people will engage in.

Museums don’t tend to lend themselves to persistence, like a community-based site or bulletin board relies on, because people generally visit a site once a year. There is a constant flow of strangers, much more a group of passersby, then a community of people beholden to each other and their reputations. I haven’t seen good examples of digital interfaces for commuters, but they would be an interesting hybrid of these two models.

So you get less easily into conversations, but can get a depth for the “collective collage”, some group archive that has a group of individual submissions whose collective adds up to a larger item, which websites have a hard time matching, specifically because the screen is small, and doesn’t show the large collective very well.

I’ll show some built and one proposed project that deal with variations on this theme, including one large-scale ambient interface for commuters and residents, that has bottom up reporting on traffic and news.

[to be continued…]


Meet Dave Cronin!

Dave Cronin is the Director of Interaction Design at Cooper. A little birdy told me he is working on About Face 3.0, following up Alan Cooper and Robert Reimann’s book. At IDEA, Dave will be talking about design work he did on the GettyGuide, a suite of interactive tools, including kiosks and mobile audio players.

The GettyGuide design project has a lengthy write up in Design Interact.

Here’s how Cooper talks about the solution:

The Cooper team and the Getty collaborated to develop a system which played to the strong point of each platform. The handheld device is predominantly used as a tour guide for both directed and undirected exploration of the galleries and grounds. The handheld also allows visitors to bookmark any work of art in the galleries. When the visitor then places the handheld next to a kiosk, the bookmarks are automatically downloaded, enabling the visitor to access the wealth of information about the bookmarked works on the larger display of the kiosk.

The kiosk provides several different ways of finding and browsing its deep stores of knowledge, from direct methods such providing indexes of the works in nearby galleries and the ability to search on a variety of criteria, to more associative methods of browsing through related works of art.

The GettyGuide system was also designed to integrate with the Getty Web site, enabling visitors to access their bookmarked works of art from the comfort of their own homes, allowing them to return to the pieces that intrigued them on their visit to the museum, as well as bookmarking pieces from the Web site, creating a tour to follow when they arrive at the museum.

Both the handheld and the kiosk were designed to be location-context-dependent, providing access to information about nearby works of art and architectural features as well as encouraging visitors to continue to explore nearby points of interest, both physically and virtually. By offering content based upon visitors’ physical location, visitors can move fluidly between a traditional directed tour and a more serendipitous experience where visitors are able to follow their interests and reactions.

Comments (1)

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