Where have the Digital Fellows been this summer?

The One by One Digital Fellows are attending and sharing their research at a range of conferences and events this summer. Here’s where they’ve been so far:

RESAW conference 2019: The web that was: archives, traces, reflections, 19-21 June 2019, Amsterdam

Together with Annet Dekker (University of Amsterdam), One by One Digital Fellow Dr Karin de Wild presented a paper at the RESAW conference 2019. RESAW is the European research infrastructure for the study of archived Web materials. Karin and Annet spoke about how Internet art provides (museum) curators with new challenges for collecting and preserving, and how art historians need to find new ways of accessing and analyzing these artworks.

Image promoting the IPRES conference, Amsterdam, September 16-20 2019

In September, follow-up research will be presented at iPRES 2019, a conference for digital preservation. Together with Lozana Rossenova and Dragan Espenschied (Rhizome, New York), Karin de Wild wrote a paper about how to describe the provenance of an online artwork using the W3C PROV data model, a semantic Web standard.

Lozana and Dragan will also present this research at the Wikimedia Foundation to further explore how this can be implemented in Wikidata and eventually in Rhizome’s Artbase, an online archive of digital art containing over 2500 artworks.

Museums Association – Museum Tech 2019: A Digital Festival for Museums, 27 June 2019

The focus of this sold-out event was to celebrate new and emerging digital technologies being used by museums to further collections and visitor experiences. One by One Digital Fellow Dr Lauren Vargas chaired the event. Speakers included Graham Davies, Digital Programmes Manager at One by One host organisation, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Cardiff. Graham shared lessons learned from the successful augmented reality experience pilot of Museum ExplorAR.

Throughout the day, Lauren asked each of the museum speakers about how they were embedding these lessons learned as digital skills within their organizations. All responded by saying they were creating feedback loops to share what has worked and what hasn’t with museum staff, as well as ensuring both front-of-house and back-of-house staff are fully aware of and have had a chance to personally experience and contribute feedback about the new experience(s).

At the end of the day, Lauren challenged the audience: “Do we have the time and the space to be creative and innovative? How do we make that time and space?” – the same call to action fueling the active research interventions of the One by One Digital Fellows within their six museums.

A panel of 5 people sitting on a stage

Lauren Vargas (R) with a panel on stage at Museum Tech 2019 (c) Paisley Museum

Curator Computer Creator: Museums and AI, The Barbican, London, 4 July 2019

What does the future hold for museums as we enter the age of AI? Can a tech-savvy museum that connects with modern times enrich the way we experience art? One by One Digital Fellows Dr Sophie Frost and Dr Lauren Vargas joined the debate at this drop-in discussion held by AHRC’s newly formed Museums and AI Network at the Life Rewired Hub in the Barbican Centre, as part of the AI: More than Human exhibition.

Highlights of the discussion included Sophie reminding participants about the significant role museums play as sites of civic responsibility and trust, in an era where trusted public institutions are increasingly few and far between. Lauren shared the recently published Guidelines for Human-AI Interaction paper and emphasized the importance of taking a considered approach to technology innovation – meaning, be aware of and acknowledge the risks and unintended consequences that go hand-in-hand with the role of the change agent and/or institutions collecting and using data for improved or greater visitor experiences.

This discussion highlighted the importance of digital literacy skill building within overarching digital competencies and capabilities enabling artificial intelligence and machine learning practices.

Two people stretch out their arms while lights on digital screens mirror their gestures

Future You (c) Universal Everything, part of the AI: More than Human exhibition at the Barbican. Credit: Suzanne Zhang

The Museums and AI Network, London Working Group, Goldsmiths’ College, London, 26-27 June 2019

In addition to the Barbican drop-in debate, Sophie attended a two-day symposium held at Goldsmiths’ College also led by the Museums and AI Network. This symposium sought to bring together a range of museum professionals and academics to develop the conversation around AI, ethics and museums. Led by Dr Oonagh Murphy (Goldsmiths, UK) and Dr Elena Villeaspesa (Pratt Institute, US), the network has strategic partners including National Gallery (UK), Metropolitan Museum of Art (US) and American Museum of Natural History (US).

With the first day focusing on AI and collections while the second day concentrated on AI and visitor experience, some of the most insightful speakers included Rachel Coldicutt, CEO of Doteveryone, who spoke about the need for more responsible technology in museums; Tonya Nelson, Director of Arts Technology and Innovation at ACE, who discussed the fact that AI projects are still relatively underrepresented within the Arts Council’s portfolio; and Dr Fiona Johnstone, Research Fellow on the People Like You project in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at Warwick University, who discussed what constitutes ‘personalisation’ in museums.

Such overlapping and diverse ideas emphasise the core challenge (or opportunity, depending on how you look at it) when thinking about AI in museums: it is a multifarious, layered and complex area of study, and neat answers to its ethical implications are impossible to come by.

The ‘One by One’ Digital Fellows are engaging in conversations like these within their own museums, as well as across the wider UK museum sector.

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