2.3 Subject Matter Experts

Cooper, Cronin, Noessel and Reimann (2014) note that while SMEs are authorities within their domain and can provide a valuable perspective on visitors and their behaviours, designers should recognise that SMEs can often represent a “skewed perspective,” because they are so invested in the product domain as it currently exists. While this deep knowledge can be an advantageous well of information to draw from, it can also be counter-productive to innovation.

Some considerations that Cooper, Cronin, Noessel, and Reimann (2014) recommend include the “following:

  • SMEs are often expert users (this is more relevant to product use).
  • SMEs are knowledgeable, but they aren’t designers.
  • SMEs are necessary in complex or specialized domains, such as healthcare, or financial services.
  • You will want access to SMEs throughout the design process.”

Three subject matter experts were consulted:

  1. Aoife Flynn: Head of Audiences and Development at the Irish Museum of Modern Art
  2. Catherine Griffin: Digital Engagement Manager at the National Gallery of Ireland
  3. John Doherty: Group Creative Director at Harcourt Developments and the Titanic Quarter Belfast.

1. Head of Audiences and Development at the Irish Museum of Modern Art: Aoife Flynn

Aoife’s contribution to this project was through her dissertation: “RE-IMAGINING IMMA ONLINE: How art museums can use the participatory and semantic web to create more engaged relationships with their audiences, and grow their communities.” (Flynn, 2014). It was this dissertation that served as the inspiration for carrying out this project.

Aoife’s main focus for her thesis was on a redevelopment of the IMMA website so that its interface was more customer focused. Below is a summary of extracts and quotes transcribed from here dissertation, that acted as pertinent data toward our redesign. These quotes can be found in full highlighted in yellow in the dissertation itself:

Link to dissertation. 

  • We have been empowering the experts for too long, we need to shift empowerment to the audience, permitting them the tools to participate and derive meaning from their visual art experience, to “co-author meaning”(Connor, 2008) from that experience.
  • In thinking about a new web presence for IMMA then, we must move beyond thinking about IMMA’s audience as simply “visitors”, people seeking information and passively viewing art, and rather conceive of them more holistically as an “audience” or “community” who can develop a relationship with the museum.
  • Create an element of discovery for the visitor.
  • A progressive and effective online environment can empower the visitor to take control of his or her own experience in both the virtual and the physical world.
  • Key words from the open question “What do you most like to do in IMMA” include
    • Wander,
    • Discover,
    • Walk,
    • Ramble,
    • Explore,
    • See,
    • Look,
    • New,
    • Coffee,
    • Exhibitions,
    • Inspiration,
    • Art.
  • When asked “what would you like to be able to do on imma.ie” (whether it is available to do now or not) suggestions include:
    • a calendar of events,
    • customer reviews,
    • artists talks,
    • less ‘artspeak’,
    • more images,
    • virtual tours,
    • learn more about exhibiting artists,
    • access content of talks after the event (documentation),
    • more video,
    • easier to navigate.

2. Digital Engagement Manager: Catherine Griffin

Link to audio interview (NB. some of this interview was made of the record, so the audio has been made private).

Catherine was interviewed in person, and was able to share insight regarding her own challenges and thoughts around visitor experience and participation. Important extracts from the transcription can be found by following this link: Visitor insights / NGI interview.

3. Group Creative Director at Harcourt Developments and the Titanic Quarter Belfast: John Doherty

John was consulted briefly about visitor experiences, but unfortunately there was no record made of the conversation. One of the key takeaways from the meeting however, was the issue of using iBeacons as a solution to trigger audio guide stops. John cautioned that depending on the size of the exhibition space, iBeacons wavelengths had a tendency to overlap, which often led to the wrong audio segment being triggered or an audio segment being triggered at the wrong time. When this happened it had a negative effect on visitors experiences.

This issue was reiterated in an interview with Katie McNiece, an audio producer, who had recently attended the Anne Frank House Museum in Amsterdam.

https://blog.beaconstac.com/2014/06/how-museums-can-use-beacons-to-enhance-visitor/ (Mallik, 2014)

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