Digital Interactives: Interactivity and the exhibition space.

Our class this week focused on examining the roles that multimedia interactives play as exhibition and interpretative media in galleries. In doing so we looked at both the notion of interactivity as well as Ross Parry and Andrew Sawyer’s article, ‘Space and the machine: Adaptive museums, pervasive technology and the new gallery environment.’ In short, Parry and Sawyer (p.44), explore the idea that museums have always been influenced by ICT ‘a phrase that ought not be the privilege of the digital age’. They then go on to discuss the evolution of new media (multimedia/digital interactivity) in the gallery/museum, outlining six phases:    

1.      OUTSIDE (1950s-1960s)

2.      SELECTIVELY INSIDE (1970s)

3.      CONTAINED (1980s-1990s)

4.      DISCRETE (1990s)

5.      INTEGRATED (today)

6.      INNATE (emerging)

The multimedia interactives in Manchester Art Gallery very much seem to reinforce Parry and Sawyer’s concept of the six phases of integration and suggest a shift in attitudes in the gallery regarding the roles interactives should play in line with this model:

Ø      We identified the Clore Interactive Gallery to highlight the 3rd phase. It exemplifies the idea of large-scale yet partial infiltration, the new media is contained in a separate gallery.

Ø      The multimedia in the design galley served to highlight the 4th phase (it is present in the gallery itself yet set away from the exhibits and thus discrete) whilst further multimedia revealed integrated interactives which highlight the 5th phase.

Ø      There was also evidence in the portrait gallery of the 6th phase, innate. Where a multimedia interactive is a part of the narrative. 

This 6th phase is particularly interesting to me as last week, I visited the ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London. Parry and Sawyer give this as an example of the 6th phase. It really does serve to highlight the increased potential for immersion that Parry and Sawyer suggest is a trait of this 6th phase. 

It is an exhibition in which the visitor becomes very much immersed in a film that focuses on genocide. The gallery is very sparse, it is all white, and the screen on which the film is displayed completely takes over your vision. Thus there are no distractions and I found that I became totally immersed in the film being shown. As, there is no distraction you must confront the ideas being presented to you, as difficult as they are. As Parry and Sawyer indicate(p.47) , ‘…the exhibit was literally shaped as a digital medium.’I found this use of multimedia to be very compelling.

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