The Brooklyn Museum Unveils Personalized Smartphone Tours

08/27/2009 2:09 PM |

Brooklyn Museums new smartphone application

After the publishing industry, museums may be the sector of the arts that have had the hardest time figuring out how to adapt to this whole Internet thing. This week, ARTINFO reports, the Brooklyn Museum became the first in the world to implement a new self-curating guided tour smartphone application, which is basically like a physical, architectural version of those preference-based online radio stations, but for art.

It basically works like so: after you list some basic preferences, the application tells you which pieces you’ll probably like in each room as you enter it, then, based on what you do or don’t like, the program re-calibrates your preferences and makes updated recommendations. It also lets you create your own tour of artworks in the museum, basically like a playlist. Obviously, this program is both completely genius and slightly problematic.

On the one hand, museums need to find creative and useful ways to attract larger audiences and introduce contemporary technology to their often low-tech or downright antiquated facilities and programs. In that respect, this is a great, interactive, somewhat stimulating improvement on the dreaded audio tour concept, one that requires at least some level of engagement from visitors and forces them to develop a sense of their own aesthetic tastes and interests, which is crucial. On the other hand, if you tell Pandora you like a song, you tend to hear it 2-3 times per hour. Similarly, if you claim to only like black and white photographs of New York during the Great Depression, will this program only point you in their direction to the exclusion of everything else in the impossibly rich museum’s collection? Perhaps using it as a system for generating recommendations makes more sense, rather than a guiding program. If anybody has tried this thing please let us know what it’s like.