Provide the Science Museum’s archive with context by using the physical space and objects that surround the user.
Torsten advises caution when looking at trends, You need a ‘what is interesting here?’ filter, he suggests, and the of the interviewees rest state varying degrees of opposing views all of which are correct.
Trends that are very visible are much like your skin, what you can see is already dead, what we are perhaps talking about is what Steven Johnson calls ‘the adjacent possible’ that which is not yet here, but based on a trajectory soon will be. E.g. Netflix, recognising that high-speed internet was soon going to be available and used by millions of people started to plan for streaming movies and television, while also seeing the possibility of cheaply copying and mailing DVDs and thus providing a stepping-stone to its users (as not to introduce something too new and unfamiliar); meanwhile, Blockbuster, the largest entertainment company in the world at that time went out of business. There is this, though, which might end up in the Science Museum’s archive itself.
I am no expert on the inner workings of Blockbuster in the early 2000s (or any era) but part of their problem may have been their mission statement; if they saw themselves as a loaner of physical objects (VHS and DVDs) rather than a provider of home-entertainment, they were never going to see the opportunities of the adjacent possible. Similarly, Trian companies should have been the first airlines, Kodak should have developed Twitter or Instagram – if they were in the business of capturing a moment.
Frequently, we focus on the physical objects of a design outcome rather than the experience that they provide, because that is really what the user is actually concerned with (This does not mean that form isn’t important – aesthetic and sculptural experiences are of course part of this)
More interesting and valuable is focusing on the desired experience and only then looking at trends/trajectories/adjacent possibles/developments. It bears reminding that these trends, etc. are not just technological but for the most part consist of societal, economic, and technological. Sometimes technology trends are solutions looking for a problem and just because something is technologically possible and can be imagined and created by an inventor or designer does not mean the public will adopt it, for one the newer the technology, the more expensive it is and the ore error-prone or while it may be a good idea, the infrastructure needed is not yet there, as in the case of the this ipad ancestor in 1972.
Pioneers then profiteers.
E.g. during recessions during which there is less disposable income, people do not completely stop going out to dinner, they still want the same experience, just at a lower cost, dining out is as much about the whole evening as it is about the food (for most of us) so Sushi becomes Ramen or pho – I am generalising, but my point is that we should not focus on an object (even if it has worked until now) nor a technology or medium that is new but instead of what experience it is that we are striving to evoke, accommodate, or create. Once we know that, new trends and contexts can be investigated and – to an extent – assumed and guessed at. All design is for the future, sometimes it is two hours in the future, sometimes two years or two decades.
Another caveat is Ray Kurzweil’s warning that humans think in a linear fashion, whereas technology and invention have exponential growth.
So back to the statement of intent or mission statement, as a reminder, it is (currently)
‘Provide the Science Museum’s archive with context by using the physical space and objects that surround the user.‘
That is hopefully both specific and vague enough. Context is the important part of the statement, the physical space and objects start to talk about tactics and strategy really.
Another version of the mission statement could be
‘To provide context and meaning to objects in the Science Museum’s archive through connections and allow for the joy of discovery.’
or if we take that and make the user the focus:
To encourage the joy of discovery by providing context, meaning, and connections between objects in the Science Museum’s archive.
or to be more clear:
To engage users in the joy of serendipitous discovery and learning.
Though I might want to add that it is separate from the actual museum:
To bring the joy of serendipitous discovery and learning into spaces beyond the Science Museum’s physical location.
That is really the main goal, the fact that that it is The Science Museum’s archive or digital is really secondary, though it no doubt will be both.
In addition, I also want to look more closely into calm technology and perhaps integrating options for both push and pull learning, and after thinking about it, it seems to great an opportunity to not at least try to harness the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ or prepare for future iterations to include it. One of the reasons is that you can easily use Wikipedia without ever having to edit it, and something Mitchell Whitelaw said in a presentation on Visualising Culture ‘Humans are smart, computers are dumb – fast but dumb’
And perhaps more importantly, memories, histories should not be owned and controlled by one group, there are many truths and many ways of reading an object, digital technology should allow more stories not the dissemination of just one version. But there will no doubt be bias within the users/editors/contributors, as contributing is a privilege and luxury and not something you will be doing when fleeing your homeland or struggling to survive on the lower decks of HMS Maslow