[…] This continues a reflection on New Media and children’s markets. […]]]>
The point for me is not that museums/galleries/archives don’t struggle today, but that they have participated in the struggle to capture attention, it was never merely given - whether privately owned or nationalized, gated or open, interactive or passive, even when these archives of culture only had to impress 10 wealthy visitors of their wealthy owner a year, their unifying characteristic is that of being a presentation space in which you have an edifying / entertaining experience. That doesn’t have to be a problem - knowledge and culture has always been on the edge between guilty fun and boring, and touring exhibits (like medieval freak shows) promise to teach you something new about the world….
And that is really the children’s elit angle, to me, not that it is necessary to be a child, but it helps to be childlike in openness to the world of novelties. A new sandwich or a new novel is seldom a novelty, simply because you say “I’ve done this before.” It may be
When you find yourself saying “compile a code-poem? I’ve never done that before” then you are in the Exploratorium, the realm of marked participation. Your 10,000th code-poem will be just as participatory, but acts of participation (like page-turning) tend to become invisible to the eyes of old hands….]]>
Jeremy, I enjoy your reflections on novelty and the novel. Nicely riffed and summed.
1) I hope to continue this ongoing discussion particularly regarding the role of children’s elit.
2) I like your connection of public museums-galleries-and-theme-parks, but I would want to see us trace out some of the lines of class, condescension, and indulgence that differentiate the address of each. They all strive with similar tools to snare our attention but the civic duty of one is the profit margin of another.
3) If public edification and novelty have always been inseparable, why do I feel as if museums are always struggling to recapture some MTV generation? In a recent exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, musicians have composed works to be heard while perusing the static dioramas and skeletons. It was an ingenious combination, yet in some ways, like “Curious George,” a suggestion that the museum is not enough.]]>
I’m reminded of the old chesnut “a book is interactive, too” - that is, a book has several hundred moving parts (pages), of dozens of types (front matter, chapters, index, etc.) with a complex informational layout (page numbers, chapter headings, etc.). It seems to me that the “curious” difference is that most literary novels are to a great extent standardized in format, and this standard format is expected (interface literacy) - whereas the novel object is not. Curiosity is novelty-seeking. If hundreds of head-body-feet books filled our bookshelves, the joined-page novel would be a novelty - but it is not, no matter how much or how little interactive. Multimedia and tactile design is big, but this is also present in an ATM, which is also not novel….
Back to museum design. Consider the Exploratorium, a science museum that is a paragon of multimedia immersive participatory education. The point is to explore, which implies something new. By contrast, consider the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a kind of adult Exploratorium. The MJT is weird and wonderful in a different way - it is full of new things, but presented in ways which are old. Much of the weirdness of the MJT derives from the way it subtly (or not so subtly) references, parodies, and defamiliarizes us from our literacy in the common language of the traditional museum: looped audio tapes and projections, cleverly lit models, miniature mechanical demonstrations, etc. The MJT often wraps 1950s and 60s participatory displays and multimedia techniques around oddly inappropriate subjects like mobile homes or dogs in space, but if you aren’t already deeply familiar with the “standard” museum format, you’ll miss a big part of the MJT message.
One last thought, following up on the idea of older multimedia museums: I suspect the public museums / galleries / theme parks (which often aren’t clearly differentiated) have always been multimedia and participatory, since Vauxhall Gardens in the 17th century and probably before. The idea of public edification and the idea of novelty are in some ways inseparable - hence art galleries and orchestas, the replica ruins, and the hot air balloon rides, all cheek and jowl.]]>
As if to prove my point, today my daughter picked up a book that would make Raymond Queneu flip over in his grave, albeit one strip at a time. Behold: Rita Bladucci’s Barbie Mix and Match Fashions, a book that allows you to flip through 8 single sentence stories and 8 accompanying Barbie outfits of 3 panels each to create 8^3, or 512, combinations.
My daughter created the tale, “After hiking for miles, Barbie hula dances on the tennis court,” leaving a no doubt exhausted Barbie in a tennis skirt with a lei instead of a tennis racket.
Here is the anatomized female, the combinatoric girl, the flip-panel fem who can accessorize to any narrative turn. Jennifer Elrod asks on Squirrel Tao how the children of the hypermediated word will turn out. No doubt, the daughters and sons (granddaughter’s and grandsons?) of Oulipo will grow up to inscibe tales upon supercubes and quarks.]]>