Following over a year of research and development by a cross-departmental team, MoMA Audio+ mobile guide debuted in July 2013, replacing the handheld audio guides that the Museum had been distributing for many years. MoMA Audio+ enables visitors not only to listen to audio commentaries and read interpretive texts about works of art, but also offers the ability to take and share photographs, locate works of art and facilities, and e-mail yourself a record of your visit using the My Path feature.
Testing and assessment has been key to the process of developing MoMA Audio+. Built using a method called agile development, in the months leading up to launch, the development team released and tested functional versions of the app as it was being built. Based on testing and feedback, we could iteratively implement improvements to the user interface and features to better enhance visitor experience. After launch, we conducted assessment from a variety of perspectives: visitors returning the mobile guide were interviewed about their experience, Antenna staff distributing the mobile guide were surveyed, and user-testing sessions were conducted.
How Does User Testing Work?
Nine individuals were recruited to participate in user testing. Participants represented a mix of ages and genders, as well as varying interests, work experiences, and technical abilities. User testing took place in December over the course of three mornings in the American Modern exhibition. Three participants were scheduled for each 60- to 90-minute session, and for every participant there was a lead facilitator and a cofaciliator. The lead facilitator guided the participant through the directed-testing instrument, prompted and asked for clarification as needed, and took notes. The cofaciliator also prompted as needed, asked questions, and took notes. For each session, there was also at least one additional staff person floating between groups and observing. Participants were asked to think out loud and voice any questions or concerns as much as much as possible during the testing.
So, what did we learn?
A lot! I’ve been working in museum evaluation for a few years and am constantly amazed by the amount and depth of information that even a small group of user-testing participants can provide. While some of the insights offered confirmed our own thoughts about the mobile guide, there were also plenty of things they pointed out that we did not realize were barriers to a smooth user experience. Along with critical feedback, it was also great to hear what people enjoyed about using MoMA Audio+.
Here are some of the overall findings from the user testing sessions:
What did users really like about MoMA Audio+?
• The amount and variety of content available for them to access
• The high quality images presented on the device
• The camera feature, My Path feature, and other functions that allowed them to personalize and share their experience at MoMA
What aspects of MoMA Audio+ did users find difficult or confusing?
• Locating the How To use MoMA Audio+ instructions
• Understanding and locating all the layers of content and features available
• Locating specific artworks using the map
We really appreciated all the critical feedback these user testing participants offered because it helps us find ways to improve on what we currently offer visitors. Of course, we also loved that 89% (N=9) felt that MoMA Audio+ is something that would enhance their experience in the galleries. A few comments from participants included:
• “I feel that MoMA Audio+ enhances what I came to see here. Thousands of things on view and this helps me to shape my visit.”
• “It added another dimension. Nothing replaces the act of looking, but knowing more about what I’m seeing enriches the experience. This achieves that goal. Devices are not too heavy, not burdensome, not ugly, nice MoMA graphic.”
• “Usually, I just want to be with the art and wander around but I really like the ability this device gives you to document what you see during your visit. Personalizes the experience”
Have you tried MoMA Audio+ on one of your visits to the Museum yet? If you did, we’d love to know what you thought!
I’ve racked up a lot of frequent flier miles working with The MoMA Alzheimer’s Project. My colleagues and I have had the great pleasure of traveling to places like Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Alexandria, Louisiana (population: 48,000) to facilitate training workshops on how to use art to engage individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Read more
As an educator at MoMA, one of the projects I have the most fun with is the Family Art Workshops. Workshops are programs where a museum educator leads a group through both a gallery experience and a hands-on art-making activity in a studio. I look forward to planning these, because usually museum educators do a lot of independent lesson planning, but for the workshops we get to work in teams. I’ve always loved collaborative brainstorming, so working together on these projects exercises that part of my brain. This fall, I put my head together with fellow Family Programs Educators Shannon Murphy, Keonna Hendrick, and Lynn Seeney to plan a workshop called Dreamscapes.
Our challenge was to make René Magritte’s work approachable for the workshop’s target age of four- to six-year-olds and their accompanying adults. Each educator teaching the workshop over the course of several weeks would do things slightly differently, but our general plan was to take families into the Magritte exhibition to discover how he painted everyday objects and made them strange or transformed in a variety of ways. After looking at and discussing a few paintings, we would head down to the studio to make Magritte-inspired Surrealist collages with cut shapes and patterned papers.
Our supplies were ordered, and we were ready to go, but there was one hiccup in our plans. By the time we hit late November/early December when our workshops were set to take place, the exhibition galleries were so crowded with Magritte devotees that we couldn’t reasonably expect groups of 20 kids and adults to maneuver through the space or sit on the floor to focus on paintings together.
Time for Plan B.
Having a Plan B ready to go quickly and smoothly is the name of the game when you’re a museum educator, and we had a seasoned team of flexible educators contributing to this workshop. Luckily, we’re working at MoMA, where there is no shortage of great art, so we were able to shift our focus to some of the Surrealist works in the fifth-floor Painting and Sculpture Galleries. Thanks to the work of Marcel Duchamp, Giorgio de Chirico, and Salvador Dalí, we were able to get families to notice some of the main ideas—such as altering the way objects function, or compositional choices that create surreal spaces—that would help them collaborate on their own collage-style dreamscapes.
In the end, they may not have seen the Magritte paintings we’d originally intended to show, but the families who participated got to learn about transforming objects and settings to change a typical landscape into a mysterious dreamscape. And their collages would do any of the Surrealists proud, if you ask me.
What happens when the Museum turns into a laboratory for artists?
This year MoMA’s Department of Education invited artists Allison Smith, Paul Ramirez Jonas, and the creative collective The Office for Creative Research to be part of the second year of Artists Experiment, an initiative to develop public engagement experiences through collaboration with contemporary artists. Exploring MoMA’s history, resources, and spaces, each of these artists approaches the Museum like a laboratory—a place for thinking, collaborating, and experimenting with the museum experience and our visitors.
San Francisco–based artist Allison Smith’s work investigates the cultural phenomenon of historical reenactment, or “living history,” using it as a means of addressing the relationship between American history, social activism, and craft.
At MoMA, Allison is researching the history of the Department of Education, specifically exploring the work and programs developed by MoMA’s first director of education, Victor D’Amico. Allison is considering how MoMA’s rich history can speak to our current education practices, mining strategies and ideas from the past to inspire new experiences at the Museum today.
Brooklyn-based artist Paul Ramirez Jonas is interested in articulating shared stories and histories, working with and transforming different forms of public art and public symbols.
Paul has been looking at the visitor experience at MoMA, exploring public spaces designed for interaction including the bookstore and the Museum’s information desks.
He asks the question, how can we build on the visitor experience at MoMA.
New York–based collective The Office for Creative Research (O-C-R) includes artists and data experts Jer Thorp, Ben Rubin, and Mark Hansen, a multidisciplinary research group exploring new modes of engagement with data, through unique practices that borrow from science, technology, and the arts.
O-C-R is looking at massive amounts of information from the Museum’s collection database. From image titles to notes on how to install a work, O-C-R is thinking about how this data can be explored and activated by Museum visitors to facilitate interaction, learning, and exchange.
What can you expect?
Throughout the winter and spring, Artists Experiment will present a range of programs and interactions developed with each of these artists. To kick things off, we invite you to join us for the January 29 launch event, Social Exchange: Artists’ Reception. This special event is a chance to meet the artists in person and get a little taste of what’s to come. The Office for Creative Research and Allison Smith are creating an interactive, performative work for the evening, and Chef Lynn Bound is preparing a special menu in collaboration with Paul Ramirez Jonas. We hope you’ll join us for this warm, winter celebration!
Look out for other upcoming Artists Experiment programs at MoMA.org/artistsexperiment.
This past fall, MoMA Courses Online launched Catalysts: Artists Creating with Video, Sound, and Time, a six-week survey of performance, video, and sound art created since 1960. As MoMA’s 12-month Digital Learning intern, I facilitated the production and monitored the progress of online courses, in addition to troubleshooting digital and technical issues. Read more
Since I began working at the Museum, every MoMA Studio has undergone a complete evaluation. Evaluation strategies include interviewing visitors, surveying participants, observing/tracking/timing visitors, using prompts to encourage responses on comment boards, facilitator reflections, and a few other participatory forms of data gathering. Read more
Recently, Family Programs staff were interested in testing out some of the activities under consideration for MoMA Art Lab: Movement before it opened (on October 10, 2013). Formative evaluation is a “try it out” method that is less formal than other evaluation types. Read more
In regard to poetry, modernist poet Ezra Pound repeatedly urged his fellow practitioners to “Make It New.” Working in counterpoint to the tradition of the guided city tour, my participatory walks take their cue from poetry, where writer and reader collaborate in creating and gleaning new meanings for the world. Tuning in to the nuances of the everyday, we might make visual poems on the sidewalk with found objects, a duet with light, or monuments with our bodies in response to civic statues in public space.
“Pipe Dream” is a new walk debuting at MoMA on Saturday, November 16. It’ll take us down seldom-seen Museum hallways, through the Magritte exhibition, and outside into the sensory tangle of midtown Manhattan. Drawing from Surrealist techniques, we will create within, and rediscover, a neighborhood often cast off as one that only serves big business and rigorous consumers. But since the walk is essentially a set of prompts and reveals, I don’t want to give away too much! Come experience it for yourself.
You can also experience “Pipe Dream” as part of Into the Participatory Walk, a three-session workshop at MoMA that begins on Thursday, November 7. There, we’ll explore poetic decision making and figure out how to create a participatory walk together. I’ll be hosting a “dress rehearsal” of “Pipe Dream” when the Museum is closed as part of the workshop.
I’ve been leading participatory walks for 10 years, arriving to this form after studying poetry and sound. Over time, my poems increasingly strained against the confines of the page and became more like musical scores, so I had to create a new medium. I discovered the work of the Acoustic Ecology movement and their soundwalks, which facilitate active listening in the environment. Adopting some of their techniques and applying a lot of my own creation, I led my first sound-based walk in San Francisco in 2003.
In 2010 I founded Elastic City, a New York–based non-profit organization that commissions artists to lead participatory walks throughout the world. I quietly collaborate with the artists, many of whom work in visual media, and help them to adapt their talents to the walk form. I might assist the artist in solidifying a walk concept, planning a route, shaping the arc of the walk, or tweaking a particular moment.
Every artist, every medium, and every object or situation we encounter offers a multiplicity of contextualizing frames and potential lenses with which to look at them. My walks try to get us inside of as many frames and to use as many lenses as possible to get at a whole new reality, if only momentarily. We all have the ability to rearrange our relationships to the world and to one another. After leading “Fabstractions” (see the video above), I’ll just say that I now look at telephone booths very differently.
As part of my research for Artists Experiment, I went to MoMA to sit side by side with the volunteers that staff the information desks. I was not 100% sure what I would find, but my instincts told me that there was something interesting about the situation Read more