Thursday, August 27, 2009

Technology-Enhanced Art Viewing

Two iPhone-based applications (apps) are set to make things easier for folks who want a bit of guidance in how to spend their limited art-viewing hours. First is a free app called Artnear (there's also a Pro version that costs $4.99, which gives you additional functionality, but [perhaps because it's summer] I haven't quite felt the need for it yet). Its genius is how it's designed to be consulted when you're already out and about gallery or museum hopping. With 5 views (Near, Venues, Artists, Calendar and Bookmarks), Artnear duplicates a fair bit of what you get on other listing sites...and so long as your phone gives you Internet access, you could navigate to one of them while walking about... but they can't provide the "Near" part of the service:


The integrated GPS localizes you and gives you nearby venues. You can view the Venue details by selecting them, or see a map which shows where you are in relation to the Venues.
So say you're in a section of a town and you know there are other galleries nearby, but the local map you've picked doesn't look anything like the streets you're on (I love you guys, but I found it so hard to orient myself recently when consulting one of the L.E.S. maps)...with the Near function, you can find your way based on where you're standing when you look.

The other app is one I haven't yet tried, but according to, it stands to make museum viewing a much more interactive and personalizable experience. Marisa Rindone explains:
The Brooklyn Museum has found a new, 21st-century way for visitors to navigate its galleries: Pick out an artwork on your iPhone and let the Web do the curating for you.

This week, the New York museum launched its self-guided smart-phone tours, akin to audio tours of old but with one major difference: Nothing is preordained. Neither the museum nor the mobile device knows where it’s going to take you.

Instead, the tours are personalized as you go along (think iTunes’s Genius feature), and they work on any Internet-enabled phone. This isn’t simply an iPhone app, or a program that works only on a device on loan from the museum. It’s essentially a new way to make sense of the building’s sprawling galleries, and to ensure that a visitor doesn’t miss an artwork in tune with his or her tastes.
Having fallen madly in love with the Pandora app (which selects and plays new music based on a singer or song you select via the Music Genome project), I'm quite sure the Brooklyn Museum app will be utterly addictive. And it sounds fun to use:
Shelley Bernstein, the museum’s chief of technology and developer of the smart-phone tours, explains how to get started: “There’s signage in each room that says where to point your browser, which floor, and which room you’re in.” The system will recognize them instantly. “Then, based on what’s in here, it will show you what past users have recommended.”

A number of pictures will pop up on the screen. If you like something, tap its image, then hit “Recommend,” a button prominently placed at the top of the screen. From there, your phone will call up miniatures of other pieces in the room that users who share your tastes have chosen.

The idea is for the phone to create a piece-by-piece map, which prompts a user to go from one piece to the next. Having a separate code for each room means visitors can tackle one gallery at a time. “My hope is that it’s like a scavenger hunt,” says Bernstein of the tour. “You actually go find the thing. I want it to become an aid, literally a guide to go find stuff, not a multimedia tour that’s just television-watching.”
Anyone tried it yet?

Labels: art viewing, technology


Blogger Mark said...

Everything tech in my life is Mac. Being a Verizon captive I have to struggle in the PC world of Crackberry. Although an efficient device (boring) it is frustrating when friends pull out their iphone and flip to an app for anything imaginable. I could only have a few of them... and compatibility with my Macbook, is that so much to ask? And yes the LES is a freakin maze.

8/27/2009 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little wary of anything that would encourage someone to whip out their phone while in a museum...

Why can't it just be the viewer and the work? Why do we need technology to mediate?

8/27/2009 03:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

I don't think the phone messages are inherently any worse than carrying around a hand-held audio guide. But I get just as much out of the printed placards next to the work as from the audio guides, and I don't have to pay $5 for the privilege.

When I visited the Murakami (excuse me, ©MURAKAMI) exhibit at the Brooklyn, I dutifully dialed the suggested numbers, but the crowds were so loud I couldn't hear a thing and soon gave up. But then again, I loathe Murakami, so I didn't really care.

As for the LES, I normally just print a map and carry it along, which suits me fine.

8/27/2009 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

i had my phone out in the met and the guards were telling me to put it away - despite the fact that I was talking quietly to my mom. What about the large groups of little shits? Not to mention all the people with the audio guides to their ears in the exhibits.

But I would like a "Shazam" app for art. Shazam can identify an astounding numenr of songs. Not that i have an iphone. Fuck that shit. Overpriced toys for status seekers. Personal computing will be the death of us all.

Not that I read the blog post - spent too much time tweaking InDesign to concentrate on words. Soon computers will lay out text and images for us and no one will give a shit because they will be too busy watching District 9 or whatever.

I fucking hate computers.

8/27/2009 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

thanks for pointing these out. I have the BMA app but didn't know what to do with it! I suspect that many institutions are working on similar projects. I also find the Artcards app extremely useful.

8/27/2009 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Bruso said...

2 degrees in art and now they have a cheat sheet. I should have waited and saved time, money and aggravation. Actually, I can't speak for the usefulness of the app(lication), but I once tried one of the self guided tours handsets, just to understand if I was missing something. First the even tone of the recorded voice gets annoying, then the information was just too dumbed down for me and didn't usually include the works I was interested in or information I wanted to know. These days I even skip the informational text next to the work in museums. After the title, date and medium, it's often just misleading.

8/28/2009 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

I love when the virtual world creates an overlay in the real one. This looks like a really cool application, but I have a T-mobile G1 phone, so I am not sure this would be available for me, but I would have it for my periodic trip to NYC!

Very very cool!

8/28/2009 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

This reminds me of the audio tour as art crowd. Pluss the ambient noise trippers.

augmented reality

is an idea that has been around for a long time. Jack Vance

is one of many - my favorite is a book called "Dream Park"

The idea being you get reality "augmented" by overlays, sounds,sensations whatever. I;m not sure where this becomes "illusion" - as in Stanislaw Lem's "Futurological Congress" or the movie "Strange Days" or brain changing hollidays like Phillip K. Dick - say the movie "Total Recall" or even "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" - which is where I am at personally. Art appreciation begins with a toke and ends with a trip - lets not call it entertainment delusion or derailment but rather detournement - derangement tout le mode of reality - escape from the everyday is important, even if the oompaloompas are waiting art direction back on earth.

The computer is a mental maze that takes psychic energy to maintin - you are your own jailer. Deep huh?

Thus is psychogeographical awareness within the Situation.

Dig it.

8/28/2009 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

I doubt I'd use the museum app to help me find artwork, but it might be useful for locating the restrooms.

PS - Edward, I'm enjoying your book.

8/28/2009 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger C. L. DeMedeiros said...

I don't know if I told you,
I've reading your blog in my blackberry since I bought it.

It's a relive to not need to be home
to be update on your post.

The other thing about learn more,about know more about everything
art is too much for me. I don't know why, maybe my mind is getting like my autistic brother, he said once:" too much information in my brain, hurts"

I'm having a lovely time out in Provincetown.
Enjoy your Summer wherever you are



8/28/2009 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Dalen said...

These sound like very useful tools. Who wants to look like a tourist unfolding a map on the street? And much more convenient than carrying heavy art history texts around the museum.

However, my opinion is conjecture, since I got off the technology expressway a long time ago; my budget kept on breaking down. Out of necessity, I embraced a 21st century version of bohemianism (work & library internet only, an analog TV with one channel, and recent upgrade to a flip-style cell phone).

I don't see a problem with these devices aiding the art viewing experience, as long as people remember that they are in control of the technology, not the other way around.

8/28/2009 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger donna said...

I downloaded the app, thanks for pointing it out, Edward. I can see it being very useful in Chelsea or the LES (particularly the latter, which I find a little hard to navigate.) But so far it's very thin on other areas. While I'm in New Mexico, I'd love to be hired to scope out the galleries for them, because at the moment all they have in there is Site Santa Fe. And believe it or not, there are some serious galleries here, but you have to know which ones and where they are.

8/28/2009 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Future Trash said...

I love the "what other shows are around here, now" feature. I escape from my studio for a 45 minute break to see a show and often miss exhibitions that I wasn't aware were close by. It's going to be awesome to make my limited time that much more efficient.

8/29/2009 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno, this application seems way-too involved. If I'm in my typically lazy mood, I'll resort to the New Yorker's listings to plan my gallery viewing, if I'm feeling a bit more ambitious, the internets is good enough for helping me sniff shows out. I kinda like noted-artist/minor pornstar Zak Smith's take on going up and down elevators and spending all day going to see art that he ends up hating anyway: Art fairs are much more efficient than visiting galleries.

8/29/2009 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry Samelson said...

I've been using artnear since around the time it came out. They seem to have made progress in the areas that were lacking in the beginning, namely: expanding their database of galleries beyond the usual suspects, making daily updates less of a time suck (you'd wait several minutes before to update the cache). The map function is lacking the kind of obvious interactivity it needs to be useful. I worry a bit that I'm missing nearby shows at galleries it might not have in its database, but as I said it's getting better in that area. I love that you can bookmark shows/openings and come back to them later. And it's getting better and better at providing individual gallery info (phone, email, hours etc). And I have the same issues you do with using the near function sans wireless connection. But overall, as long as they continue to make improvements at the pace they have, it's a pretty powerful and useful app.

8/30/2009 05:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Barry Hoggard said...

You don't have to own an iPhone to use the new mobile version of ArtCat for NY area shows.

9/01/2009 06:56:00 PM  
Anonymous John Mathew327 said...

Hey guys.. dont forget the services given by Alan J.Gerson,District 1 election candidate.. He raised several funds for Dixon Place Theatre, Mercy Corps,Dance New Amsterdam,etc..

9/08/2009 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Smith said...

Yeah John.. you are absolutely right.

9/08/2009 11:33:00 AM  

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