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?