Art & Culture

More on Online Museums

Adobe Museum of Digital Media

Rhizome recently published a piece I wrote entitled “Moving the Museum Online“. The piece was a critique of the Adobe Museum of Digital Media, and also served as a platform to discuss the concept of online museums, and highlight a few examples that I thought were particularly noteworthy, including the Virtual Museums of Canada, the Museum of Online Museums, the MINI Museum, and Google’s recent Art Project.

In both the comments section on the piece and through Twitter comments and emails, people have kindly been pointing out other examples of online museums that are of interest. Here are three that stood out:

Guggenheim Virtual Museum (vintage: 2001): “The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has commissioned the New York firm Asymptote Architects to design and implement a new Guggenheim Museum in cyberspace. This is the first phase of a three-year initiative to construct an entirely new museum facility. The structure will be an ongoing work in process, with new sections added as older sections are renovated. The project will consist of navigable three-dimensional spatial entities accessible on the Internet as well as real-time interactive components installed at the various Guggenheim locations.

As envisioned by Asymptote and the Guggenheim, the Guggenheim Virtual Museum will emerge from the fusion of information space, art, commerce, and architecture to become the first important virtual building of the 21st century.”

muSIEum (vintage: unknown, pre-2009): This online reconfiguration of four Viennese museums “…displaying gender, criticizing the conventional hegemonial ordering of things”, and “bringing out the different storylines that could (have) been told with the same objects from a standpoint counter-acting the cultural hegemony of the patriarchal view”. An intervention that is needed not just in Vienna, I’d wager. In German only.

MIX-m (vintage: 2001 – 2003): “MIX-m stands for MIXed-museum. It is a contemporary art museum that exists both in physical and digital spaces, in localized and networked environments. MIX-m plays with the dimensions of its architecture: a mix between a real museum space (here, the B√Ętiment d’Art Contemporain in Geneva) (1:1), a digital space based on the dimensions of its host (1:x) and a model of this game-like environment (1:50). MIX-m has the ability to re-locate itself into this existing exhibition environment, transforming, mixing and extending it into new territories. It offers therefore a variable environment to create art installations. These works, commissioned by MIX-m, can now define and modulate their presence inside an extended space spectrum: physical-digital, real-simulated, localized-networked.”

Read Moving the Museum Online on Rhizome, and join the discussion there or send me a Tweet (@mkasprzak) with your own suggestions of other virtual museum projects that exemplify either the lack in current physical museums (as muSIEum does), an additionality (as with the Guggenheim), or a hybrid space (MIX-m).

…also this came in from @eefski on Twitter: Oneindig Noord-Holland.


Finding Advice Online

I am a big believer in word of mouth and personal referrals, but I recently realised that more and more, I depend upon online testimonials from strangers when looking to purchase a product or service. For example, in the absence of a referral from a friend, several good online reviews from people on TripAdvisor can convince me to book one hotel over another. However, well-organised sites like TripAdvisor don’t exist for every type of product or service. In these cases, one is left combing search results for some kind of coherent positive or negative comment about the product or company you are searching for.

Aside from TripAdvisor-type sites, I have found personal blogs provide the highest quality results for fair information. I wrote about this initially in 2005, in a feature article for Broken Pencil magazine, wherein I describe how I was able to enjoy the best pizza in Montreal by reading and trusting a review by a local food blogger*. Five years later, personal reviews by bloggers are still helping me find relevant information, though I rarely provide this kind of information myself — until now. Having experienced some extreme highs and lows in terms of product expectations and customer service over the past year or so, I have created this very short list of UK-based companies that provoked extreme positive or negative reactions:

Two thumbs up:
Graze: Graze is a UK-wide healthy snack delivery service. The product itself is excellent, and there’s a fantastic selection. Using their website to plan deliveries and select food preferences was very easy — fun, even. Customer service is truly impressive, with polite and helpful responses that arrive quickly. On the rare occasion that a box failed to arrive or some food wasn’t quite right, customer service never quibbled, and always supplied a replacement product without complaint. I wish every online shopping experience was like Graze.

Schuh eBay Store: This gem of a shop stands out in the sea of shopping possibilities on eBay. The high street Schuh shops are fine, but the eBay shop is used to clear last remaining pairs, end of line items, and shoes with minor damage, and you can pick up some amazing deals. Their customer service is quick to respond, fair, and friendly. They are also fair about shipping costs, and will let you group your purchases (to a limit) for one flat shipping fee.

Two thumbs down:
Dolphin Movers: We used this firm for an international move this year. Every aspect of our experience with the company was poor (bad communication, inaccurate briefing to their subcontractors, et cetera). The rock-bottom low point was trying to get a refund on the rental of some equipment that we paid for upfront, but was cancelled well before it was to be used. It took dozens of emails, numerous phone calls, and several months to get a refund. It was a very clear case, and they never disputed that we were entitled to the refund, but kept stalling us for a totally unreasonable amount of time. It was infuriating and wasted a substantial amount of my time. (If you are looking for a good international mover, try Allied Pickfords, who I had a very good experience with on another move.)

Parcelmonkey: I used this service to ship an important document, which needed to be at its destination to meet a deadline. Despite being warned at the start of the process that I absolutely needed access to a printer to complete the booking, I was never issued a shipping label. I also never received a working tracking number, and sending support tickets to customer service was useless. Despite the fact that the status of the order still says “pending” in my account, I found out through other means that the document was in fact picked up, though I’m uncertain if it arrived in time for the deadline. Utterly shambolic.

* The best pizza in Montreal, if you really must know, is at Amelio’s.

Postscript: An article just out in the New York Times also highlights the perils of online shopping, especially when any review (even a negative one) can push a company up in search engine rankings.


Fragmenting my public face

As I cultivate relationships across a wide variety of web 2.0 platforms, I am increasingly asking myself what the relationship with each “connection” or “friend” means. For example, it’s very clear what it means on LinkedIn — either we did business together, or would like to do business together, or at the very least, met in a professional context. It gets a bit muddier on Facebook, where I have “friended” people I went to grade school with as well as current close friends, and professional colleagues. Twitter, which I will refer to as a micro-blog platform for ease of understanding, is a particularly intimate place for me where I have sometimes denied connecting with people that I know, because I intentionally want to keep that community small.

Twitter is where I might just blurt things out, and even though it is in the realm of possibility that one of my Twitter connections might pass my “tweets” on, it is highly unlikely. So amid the wild seas of web 2.0 and the trends of exposing everything, I have attempted to carve out a space where I can quietly mutter to myself (and trusted associates) and hope it will all be fine.

Regarding Twitter and so many of these other web 2.0 services, the sense of timing is pivotal. My “tweets” on Twitter seem hardly relevant the next day, since they might have been referring to something so specific to a moment. Also in a space where you are limited to 240 characters, it can be difficult to be explicit about what you are referring to, though read in the context of the time of day, or based on how quickly a tweet appears after another may provide other clues.

I looked back through my archive and found a few recurring themes and somewhat interesting thoughts which I thought I’d share here, with everyone, a random selection of what I share in what I consider to be my online “safe space”:

  • Eagerly anticipating the haircut.
  • Getting excited about tomorrow’s opening at Canada House.
  • Unwinding.
  • Looking for recipes involving polenta.
  • Sitting on a pile of Krugerrands.
  • Planning + plotting.
  • Watching the rugby at a pub in Manchester.
  • Evolving into a true microwave gourmet.
  • Really irritated by Imogen Heap’s voice and wishing would quit playing her.
  • Terrible weather outside contributing to productivity inside.
  • Unable to shake hangover.
  • Trying to remember how to do proper MLA citation.
  • Waxing poetic.
  • There is the biggest rainbow outside my train window as Arcade Fire crescendoes in my earphones – I love life.
  • Looking at food porn.
  • Thinking of naming my imaginary band “Incompetent Terrorist”.

It’s all fairly unremarkable, like everyone else’s tweets. In fact, you would only care about them if you really cared about me. For me, I suppose, that’s the allure of a service like Twitter: I have finally found a place in the web 2.0 world where it might really simply just be about sharing in an honest, open way, with people who might give a damn. And that feels good.