Last week my Twitter feed was all #MWXX which I presume had something to do with Museums and the Web, probably the 20th conference, it may also still be happening such is the opaque nature of the events conference hashtags refer to.
In any case whatever #MWXX was, it seemed to be filled with some of the best and brightest of those working with museums ‘and the web’ but more broadly digital. Ever since my Museum Studies training, I’ve had an interest in museums and the digital as a
digital native urghhh, I mean ‘millennial’ but more importantly the incredibly slow pace in which museums are really getting to grips with the interesting stuff that is happening on the Internet and in video games, digital art etc. Last year, there were some very silly suggestions that museums are now ‘post-digital’ and we should stop banging on about the digital as some magical future thing.
Digital is everywhere. It’s just another tool in the toolkit. I’d very strongly argue that with rare, normally uncelebrated good examples, most museums are very much analog and that Digital still equates to a not very good website, crappy gallery interactives, an unreliable app developed circa 2009 and not very good online databases. Which might actually be fine because I suspect that us urghhh ‘millenials’ are actually quite bored of digital. Give us bespoke, handmade, tangible, esoteric and analog. I’m a slave to digital platforms at work and play and I want to spend my downtime away from them. There’s a seed of a thought there that I’ll expand on in another post, maybe. But, as a keen gamer I’m quite sad to see that gamification of museum spaces just hasn’t happened in a very real way. Sure, if you read Reality is Broken in 2012 you’d have believed that by 2016 even our toasters would be recording our high scores and spamming our friends with toasted bread updates but turns out that gamification flourished in the Silicon Valley Petri dishes but didn’t squirm much further.
When you do see museums engaging in games and gamification, it’s often in a very earnest, shallow and eduware kind of way. More Fun School 3 than Never Alone and 100% less interesting, engaging and inspiring than Minesweeper. Museums should skip steadily progressing 20 years behind digital culture and jump right up to date borrowing the scummiest and unethical but addictive and sometimes lucrative practices from current social media platforms and the ballooning free-to-play models that even giants of gaming seem to be pursuing. Introducing the MyMuseum app (working title).
Why should museums engage with the digital? Is it so we can better tell our lovely stories or engage with traditional non museum visitors? No. That’s nice stuff to put on the back of the box, or to aspire to in times of plenty but at the moment we’re interested in bringing in money and we only ever get scrutinised, measured or report on visitor figures so those are the most important to museums right now. That’s why MyMuseum, in line with the worst of the social networks and mobile gaming platforms, will demand access to as much of your data as possible including all your social network information and for reasons nobody can work out will insist that you activate your location tracking at all times.
How does MyMuseum work? Well it’s simple, once you sign
your privacy data away up with a MyMuseum account (must be linked to debit or credit card) with your name, date of birth, age, gender, sexual preferences and ethnicity and create your this-looks-like-a-Nintendo-Mii-but-not-avatar, every time you visit a UK museum, visit the MyMuseum kiosk and ‘tap in’ with your smartphone. This earns you a trivial amount of the first of three MyMuseum currencies- Museum Pennies. Visit for a number of days in a row and you get slightly less trivial increases in the amount of Museum Pennies you earn. Visit in person with a group of MyMuseum friends that you got to sign up to MyMuseum and you earn even more Museum Pennies per visit (you can only earn daily check in Museum Pennies once a day though)! What can you do with MyMuseum pennies you wonder? Well you can purchase a selection of clothes for your MyMuseum avatar if you’re unhappy with the basic potato sack tee and plimsol that come as basic including such desirable items as plain white t-shirt and Standard Jeans A. You can also use your Museum Pennies to buy your favourite museum themed emoticons to use in your MyMuseum messages to your MyMuseum friends. However, if you really want to earn the best rewards and items for your Mii MyMuseum avatar you’ll want to rack up the Museum Pounds.
Museum Pounds, the second of the three currencies, can be earned by spending money in the museum shop or cafe or on paid exhibitions tickets. You can also earn a few here and there by giving
up all your personal data answering a few questions about where you live, your social economic background and what you thought of the latest exhibition you paid to see and by giving good reviews of the museum through MyMuseum linked to Trip Advisor. You can even earn Museum Pounds by taking selfies with your MyMuseum avatar in the strictly designated spots throughout exhibitions with the MyMuseum camera which you can easily share with your friends on all your existing social networks. MyMuseum will also add the appropriate tags and hashtags to your posts and tweets so you don’t have to! Initially you an earn a few Museum Pounds easily by linking your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. accounts and by sending out MyMuseum join up instructions to all your friends and email contacts! You can also purchase Museum Pounds with Museum Pennies at an atrociously low exchange rate. There are also special missions you can do to earn some more Museum Pounds, like bring along more and more MyMuseum friends to paid exhibitions and by visiting all the MyMuseum partner museums in a City in the same week. With Museum Pounds you can buy limited edition avatar items themed around the latest exhibitions such as an Andy Warhol wig or a Kurt Jackson bee print T-shirt but what you’ll really want to save them up for is Museum Diamonds.
Museum Diamonds, the third and best currency can be bought with large amounts of painfully earned Museum Pounds or you can buy them with real money through the MyMuseum app. Museum Diamonds give you access to the best items to customise your MyMuseum avatar with such as the diamond Dodo hat, the Rembrandt Moustache and the Staffordshire Hoard sneakers as well as extra space in your MyMuseum display case for limited edition museum objects earned through attending paid for exhibitions and events. With Museum Diamonds you can also activate culture vulture mode, which means that for 48 hours you’ll earn double Museum Pounds and Museum Pennies so make sure you spend them wisely! For the really high rollers you can use your hard
bought earned Museum Diamonds to get a free cup of coffee from a museum shop (redeemable once every week), free cloakroom storage or discounts on end of run museum shop merchandise. For those who really love museums have more money than sense or a gambling addiction who purchase earn serious amounts of Museum Diamonds you can buy behind the scenes tours at your favourite MyMuseum partner museum.
MyMuseum is free** to download on every device with a screen* and for the first six weeks you can buy limited quantities of ever so slightly discounted Museum Diamonds to get the most out of your MyMuseum experience! Join MyMuseum today and get your friends to join up too for the best cultural experience you can have with a smart phone, tablet, 3DS, N-Gage, Google Watch etc.
*Apart from Windows phones for no reason.
** All you need to do is submit your debit card information, billing address, allow MyMuseum to access every app you’re running as well as your location information and more information than your doctor has about you, which, they’ll promise to keep secure and oh we’ll sign you up to all of our mailing lists too.
UPDATE: 13th of April 2016. Added the MyMuseum logo which we spent more than half of the budget on a designer for because freelance web designers can do no wrong and we think they did a good job and the ‘made in Powerpoint’ look is deliberate.