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Audience and Audience Again

06 Oct

The chapter in C&R this week focuses on audience. Who is our audience and how do we reach them? This is a very real issue for me with regard to my project. I have chosen to go forward with the virtual museum exhibit for the National Guard Memorial Museum. I would like to have an online “cool stuff” room – not just an archive, but a malleable experience for the visitor. I have been considering several problems, the most relevant this week being who my audience is. I think I have a two-part audience: National Guard members and their families and academics. I see this as an extension of the physical museum more than anything else. But am I getting to the point where I don’t have any real parameters at all? Is my scope too big? (This is a common problem of mine.) Is project scope an issue on the internet? Can I go as big as I want to or will I lose intelligibility? I think I need to consider those issues along with considering HOW to get the audience I expect. By the way, this site already has a built in audience, visitors to the museum website. Insert a portal to the existing site and hey presto they’re in my virtual exhibit hall.

And let me clarify what I mean by virtual exhibit hall. I mean something similar to what Dave is talking about for his project. In contrast, my idea is to have the visitor interact with objects instead of observing a malleable FMV (full motion video – the movie that plays when you get to the big boss in the video game). This also speaks to my issues with scale and importance – how do I convince a visitor that the postage stamp is as important as the Cobra helicopter or C130 airplane? Frankly, a helicopter or airplane is a lot cooler than a stamp! Importance is the issue I have to resolve now, but I’ve been thinking more about scale. This is, once again, my problem with dealing with the details before I fully conceptualize the full project.

Regarding scale, I was speaking with Lynn on Friday and she came up with linking images of familiar objects to unfamiliar objects so the visitor gets an idea of what the scale is like. An example is linking an image of a stamp from today to the WWI stamp to show how small it is, since we all know how big a stamp is today. Also, we discussed allowing the visitor to build an avatar based on his or her height so they get a clearer idea of the scale. The 6’4” visitor is now able to see the caisson wheel comes to his chest, where the 5’4” visitor (me) sees it comes up to my nose. There’s another question implied here – is the WWI stamp important because I’m a historian and I say so or because it really is important? In other words, am I making this exhibit hall accessible enough for Joe Average user? And I’m not saying Joe Average is stupid, I’m saying he may not (in fact, probably doesn’t) care about what I think is interesting and cool. This takes me back to audience. Who am I really talking to here? I say I want to talk to National Guard members, but am I really just speaking to other historians?

Any thoughts?

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2 Comments

Posted by on October 6, 2009 in Project, Readings

 

2 responses to “Audience and Audience Again

  1. DeadGuyQuotes

    October 6, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Audience in the case of the NGEF (http://www.ngef.org/) is at least officially set by the charter of the organization. I think you are looking at establishing an effective way to expand that audience to Soldiers and their families as well as historians.

    Anecdotally, I would say that Army National Guard Soldiers are not particularly aware that this museum exists. The Foundation has not done a really good job of advertising within the organization. Further, I venture to guess that historians aren’t going to conduct research based on an interactive display, but on the available digital archives, which, are not sexy.

    As for scope, I suggest the following: Plan for scalability. If your foundation is sound, you will be able to expand the digital domain as resources are available. Resources usually dictate the size of a given project. Project scope is a huge issue on the internet, and in technology-based projects in general. Technology can produce very bright, shiny objects but they invariably cost lots of money and time.

    I believe the key is good, disciplined project management. A decent overview can be found at http://management.about.com/od/projectmanagement/ht/ProjMgtSteps.htm with the basic notion of…
    1. Write out your scope… get the key folks it touches to agree
    2. Determine timeline
    3. Determine resources
    4. Make a plan to fulfill the scope
    5. Adjust the scope, as necessary
    6. Test
    7. Document
    8. Refine (rinse, repeat)

    Another point you bring up is in response to replacing the experience of physical proximity. I don’t think a digital presentation should try to do that which is extremely difficult. Instead, strive to do what you can only do digitally. Hypertextuality allows links to information/artifacts/etc on all aspects of both the postage stamp and the helicopter. Leverage that… link the two (if practical) to make them intellectually interdependent.

    Finally, CnR point out that your audience can be influenced by advertising. Build the audience you want, be prepared to identify and support the audience you have.

    — DGQ

     
  2. lprice3

    October 7, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Zayna,

    Good stuff. Here’s what I’m thinking. You noted that your audience was National Guard members and their families. So by families, you could mean someone who is not intimately knowledgeable about the Guard but who wants to learn more because of the family connection. That to me could lead directly into the public realm. I’m thinking history buffs (example – Civil War reenactors. I would imagine the rich detail of uniforms or fighting equipment would be very interesting to them) could enter that group. So it does get a little muddled. I agree with DGQ to prepare for expansion, particularly in regards to possible audiences.

    Lynn

     

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