Nowadays, (almost) all institutions want to impulse participation and engagement by their visitors. If so many structures are aware of this important point it is thanks to all the studies and active professionals of the sectors who fought to let enter these concepts cultural institutions and built many engagement projects; among them, Mar Dixon. Mar Dixon is an audience development and social media specialist; she is carrying Teens in Museums, Museum Camp, Culture Themes and MuseomixUK (the first British edition took place in the Ironbridge Gorge Museums the 8-10th November 2013 and the second one will take place this month in the Derby Silk Mill, 7-9 November 2014). I propose you the portrait of this ultra-active character, always her smartphone in a hand to always do two things in the same time, who has more social accounts to feed than the allowed number of characters in a tweet and incomparable master in the art of linking creativity and … cakes!
Do you think that your American background allows you to consider with a different angle your actions in the cultural fields (than could do a British) or, with you saw during the 2012 Museomix edition in Lyon, actually the real difference is between Anglo-Saxon worlds and European ones?
Not sure if it’s my American background or more to do with my family background. Coming from a larger family, you often had to think quick and be creative to get to the bottom line. When I was in Lyon, I didn’t understand a word of French but could easily see how the prototypes could be used in the UK (and around the world!).
The main issue is the same regardless of language, culture, background: money. Providing a platform where you say to people ‘Ok, lets take money out of the equation, *now* what would you do?’ means you can get real creative thinking happening.
Do you think that there is a real evolution in the way of doing culture and involving Audience since the beginning of your career or is the cultural world staying on the same basics?
There has been a great shift in thinking in the last 4-5 years mainly due to outreach with social media. It has taken a bit but the cultural world is finally starting to see the benefits of putting themselves out there and not just to broadcast (ok, so we still have a bit of work to do there but at least they have created social media accounts!).
There is a two-part issue with new technology and audience:
a) cultural world and
a) The cultural world (eg museums) is about preservation, history, stories of the past. They work at a different pace because, well, in theory the past isn’t going anywhere.
Now we have b) Audience. They are connected almost 24/7 and expect instant answers to questions they hope are not silly or obvious. Technology bridges that gap (example #AskACurator Day).
But now we have a shift in roles …
Now b) Audiences are bringing technology (with faster knowledge, solutions, answers) to a) Cultural world. At first there was a real stand off. And in a way there still is. Look at smartphones. It took the audience to bring them to museums in order for them to take them serious. I see the same issue happening with wearable tech.
Do you thing that the way of engaging visitors done by Teens in Museums, Museum Camp and MuseomixUK is an accomplished form of Participation or only a first step to other ways of involving and doing interpretation?
First steps and to be honest, I’m not sure where the staircase is heading! I just know we have to keep trying and right now these projects provide a platform for people to speak and have their voice heard and that is most important.
Also, if these things help facilitate discussions to get the cultural world to peek outside their walls and see things through audiences’ eyes then that has to be a good thing, right?
Mar Dixon on networks: