Are Museums Really Simply
Adapting to ‘Selfie Culture’?

Today’s guest blog post is written by Whitney Rutter, Senior Account Executive, Patron Technology.

In Jessica Gelt’s October 2015 article, “How Museums are adapting to ‘selfie culture,’” she surveys some of the most recent launches in the world of educational digital media within the museum sphere. She reviews specific installations of mobile apps, websites, tablets, and touch screens at California institutions and beyond, including leaders in the field such as The Broad, LACMA, Cleveland Art Museum, Cooper Hewitt, and The Tate.

The article’s central premise operates on the assumption that there is a conflict in incorporating digital media into the museum sphere: “For every app-loving, gadget-embracing museum curator or visitor there is a solitude-craving, analog enthusiast who feels that pixelated screens and interactive devices interfere with the very soul of the museum going experience”, and goes on to say, “Because a key function of a museum is to encourage a personal experience with an object, some curators and visitors get annoyed seeing so many faces buried in screens and phones.”

However, I would argue that what she describes as “the Technology Debate” is not a museum debate at all, but a central debate in our society at large. As a recent Patron Technology study concluded, culture consumers are using mobile technology in places formerly designated ‘digital free’- in bed, in meetings, and even at church.

Therefore, when we reflect on how the museum sphere is engaging with digital technology, we shouldn’t look upon their efforts as “adapting ‘selfie culture’” but rather appreciate the fact that museums are actually engaging on a much deeper level than the ‘selfie’ trend: attempting to create thought provoking and enriching digital educational experiences that patrons naturally want to share. A counter viewpoint therefore, is that museums are embracing the very cultural dialogue they are designed to stimulate instead of pandering to a passing trend.

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