Museum Experience: individual or social?

exhibitions, interaction, interactivity, mobility, museums

I have just come back from a workshop at a museum where we discussed the use of labels and mobile systems, PDAs, Audioguides, or mobile phones to support or even enhance people’s experience of exhibits and exhibitions. As in other museums, the managers and curators still largely think of abele and electronic systems as information sources for individual visitors. Hence, information is written or recorded for an individual visitor to retrieve. This is somewhat surprising for a number of reasons, including the observation of the same managers and curators that devices and systems like movie phones, touch-screen systems, PDAs and Audioguides encourage people to spend more time with the systems than with with exhibits. When managers and curators report their observations in exhibitions they talk about visitors reading labels and looking at the screens of digital systems for considerable time whilst spending considerably less, sometimes no, time with the works of art hung along the gallery wall.

Research conducted over the past 20 or 30 years confirms the observations by these managers and curators about the distracting impact of information sources in museums. Together with recent research in the learning and cognitive science also suggests that if one wishes to enhance people’s experience of and learning in exhibition that there is not a need for more or more complex information sources and system but for information delivered in a way that encourages social interaction and discussion between people. Quasi-experimental studies and naturalistic, video-based studies of visitors’ interaction in museums suggests that it is not only the design of systems, i.e. the small screens and interfaces that undermine social interaction but also the content and the structure of the content delivered by labels and electronic systems. What would be required are naturalistic experiments with label content and the content of audio-guides that through questions, references to exhibit features and maybe game-like activities that involve more than one visitor in concerted and collaborative forms of looking, examination and experience.

If anybody has seen examples like this, please let me know.

Relevant Literature

Heath, vom Lehn. (2004) Configuring Reception. Theory, Culture and Society Vol21(6): 43-65

Heath, Luff, vom Lehn, Hindmarsh, Cleverly. (2002) Crafting Participation. Visual Communication. Vol1(1): 1-33

Hindmarsh, Heath, vom Lehn, Cleverly. (2002) Creating Assemblies in Public Environment. CSCW Journal Vol.14(1): 1-41

Leinhardt, Crowley, Knutson 2002. Learning Conversations in Museums. Routledge

vom Lehn, Heath 2005. Accounting for Technology in Museums. International Journal of Arts Management Vol7(3): 11-21

New Book: “”Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology” Left Coast Press

Ethnomethodology, Garfinkel, interaction

A bit of self-advertisement… in May my book “Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology” was published by Left Coast Press. The book discusses Garfinkel’s creation of ethnomethodology, its anticipation of and important influence on a range of contemporary developments in sociology, including the sociology of science and technology, the new sociology of knowledge, the sociology of work, gender studies and others.

The book is based on and expands the German version published by UVK Verlagsgesellschaft in 2012.

Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology (Left Coast Press.)


Obama launches Web App to Raise Awareness about Climate Change

innovation, Marketing, Teaching, Technology

It’s increasingly recognized that while large parts of the of populations of the US (and other Western countries) are aware of climate change and accept that human action contributes to it only little behavioural change can be observed. People continue with their lives as usual although knowing their actions contribute to climate change.

“Although a poll by the Pew Research Center last October found that 67 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening, a Pew poll in January showed that Americans ranked global warming as 19th on a list of 20 issues for Congress and the president.” (NYT-19 March 2014)

President Obama now has launched the development of a website that is designed to make visible to people the impact of climate change locally, in their citie  and neighborhoods. The New York Times reported on this development in its Science Section “Obama Turns to Web to Illustrate the Effects of a Changing Climate” and cites the motivation behind the campaign as “building a political case for the climate rules, both by defusing the opposition and by trying to create an urgent sense among Americans that they are necessary”.

Gail Markle’s recent article “Accounting for the Performance of Environmentally Significant Behavior: The Symbolic Significance of Recycling” published in Symbolic Interaction addresses this very same issue. Markle investigates why people consider recycling as a sufficient action to help the environment although being aware of the impact their consumption habits and life-style have on the environment.

A related campaign to use the Internet to raise awareness for ethics and ethical action has recently been launched by Andrea Prothero, Associate Professor at University College Dublin. The Facebook Group Talk About Ethics was launched a couple of weeks ago and encourages its members to take pictures of themselves stating why ‘talking about ethics’ is important.

Planning pregnancy, pre-pregnancy supplements and antenatal Screening

Ethnomethodology, interaction, symbolic interactionism

There is growing concern that despite planning pregnancy women delay taking pre-pregnancy supplements like folic acid as advised by experts who argue that these supplements substantially decrease the risk of birth defects that can impact the brain. These concerns have been raised in newspapers lie The Guardian and the Nursing Times.

A study concerned with the uncertainty towards their pregnancy and potential risk to it that become apparent in antenatal screening has just been published on Early View of Symbolic Interaction where I am book review editor. Alison Pilnick and Olga Zayt’s article explores the interaction between participants during antenatal screenings. In their analysis they focus on the ways in which this uncertainty is used to manage the institutionally defined category of ‘high risk’.

Technology and Social Interaction

interaction, interactivity, Marketing, public places, Technology

Over the past few weeks an article by Nick Bilton in the New York Times has raised not only eyebrows but also concerns that the journalist may have gone a little far with his argument to abandon commonly accepted and taken for granted ‘rules of conduct’ and courtesy rituals when using technology. Bilton’s article has received more than 500 comments to some of which he has curteously responded and various journalists, writers and academics, including Nick Carr and Evan Selinger, have written pieces addressing some of the issues raised in his piece. Many of the comments and associated pieces call into question Bilton’s main argument that common forms of etiquette are inefficient and a waste of our time.

The debate reflects a growing uneasiness and uncertainty on the “proper” or “acceptable” use of technology in social occasions. In her film Connected Tiffany Shlain recalls a situation with a friend she had not seen for a long time when the urge to check her phone for new messages was so overwhelming that she apologized herself to the toilet just to update herself on the going-ons elsewhere in the world.

The situation Shlain describes is symptomatic for the uneasiness in the use of technology when in social situations. Whilst in some situations it is acceptable to occasionally glance at the phone in others it is not or it is not clear whether or not it is acceptable. A solution to deal with the situation then is to use techniques or methods like ‘an apology from the table’ and temporarily leave the situation. Thus, the sociability and intimacy of the situation is left intact whilst it becomes possible to use the phone away from the table. The deployment of these techniques also reveals that the leave taking from the table is an accountable action and that not all accounts will do as a satisfying explanation for leaving the table. For example, going to the toilet is acceptable whilst saying you want to check your Facebook Wall for updates in press less so.

In other situations, people unproblematically use their phones while with another person. For example, it is quite common for people sitting at a coffee table to pick up the phone and receive or make calls. Over time methods have been developed that allow people to use a cell phone in these situations. For example, when a cell phone rings at a coffee table where two friends converse the call-taker apologies her/himself while picking up the phone and taking the call. The friend then becomes a third-party to the phone conversation and often provides the call-taker privacy by excusing her/himself (e.g. to the toilet) or by engaging in other activities, such as checking her/his own phone, picking up a newspaper or book, or by looking in the distance  (Humphreys 2005). This does not mean, of course that the friend might not feel undermined or undervalued in the situation, in particular when the phone keeps on ringing and interrupting the face-to-face interaction. Hence, in such situations we sometimes decide to switch the phone off and eliminate this influence from the face encounter.

By and large, people nowadays are familiar with the ubiquitiousness of technology. They employ methods that allow them to use technology and at the same time to limit or sanction its use, depending on situational circumstances. They also create situations that are marked by new rules, such as the  “no phones at the dinner table” rule or the “techno shabbath” that ban technology from situations for longer periods. Arguments about the use of  technologies in situations arise relatively rarely and mostly with those who are not familiar with or not adhering to these rules and social conventions.1 For example, children like Evan Selinger’s daughter are being socialized into the use of technology and its fitting within different social contexts.

With regard to email that has been around for considerable time now and that features particularly prominently in Bilton’s NYT piece social conventions have been developed and are deployed on a day-to-day basis. As with the use of other technologies, such as cell phones, mobile game consoles etc., these conventions and rules are not fixed and followed but contingently drawn on and referred to when the acceptability of their use is questioned or challenged. I would presume that Bilton’s efficiency rule with regard to courtesy conduct in email has long been deployed, in certain situations when time was tight. Such conduct that uses efficiency as an account for the withholding of an act of courtesy however also can be detrimental to the very purpose of its accomplishment, e.g. the withholding of a “thank you” in receipt of an email. Most of us probably have encountered situations when the withholding of a simple “thank you” note in response to an email has occasioned an exchange by email or over the phone to confirm the receipt of an email; a “thank you” note in response to the original email would have been much more efficient than its withholding.

How we conduct ourselves and how we refer to and draw on social conventions or etiquettes comes down to the specifics of the situation in which we find ourselves when using technology and to our competencies to conduct ourselves in specific circumstances. The artificial general abandoning of courtesy action by virtue of some kind of rule set by the Biltons of this world would be non-sensical; and Nick Bilton would probably agree with this. Instead, we all gradually adapt our acquired social competencies to the pervasiveness of technology in situations, thereby embedding technology within our lives and those we live with. And as parents we are responsible for providing our children with the knowledge and skills that allow them to act and be seen as acting, competently in technology-rich situations.



1 With regard to social conventions in “Technolosocial Situations” see also Mizuko Ito‘s research and Tricia Wang‘s work.

Marketing & New Technologies (course outline (2011/12))


Topics and Readings


Week 1 (20 January 2012) – Introduction to the Course

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the “internet revolution” or the “social media revolution”. These discussions principally argue that technological developments are shaping how we conduct our affairs, including how we organise our daily interactions as well as how we conduct marketing activities. This introductory lecture questions this premise that pervades also many marketing textbooks and sheds light on different perspectives on the relationship between marketing and technology.

The lecture also offers information on the practical issues involved in successfully participating in the module, such as the use of online resources, attendance and participation in lectures and tutorials and the modes of assessment operating in the course.


Bartels, R. (1986). Marketing: Management Technology or Social Process at the Twenty-First Century? In Marketing Management Technology as a Social Process. Edited by George Fisk. New York et al.: Praeger, pp.30-42.

Brassington, D. F., & Pettitt, D. S. (2007). Essentials of Marketing. Harlow/UK: Financial Times/ Prentice Hall.

Liebowirz, S.J. & Margolis, S.E. (1996). The standard typewriter keyboard is exhibit A in the hottest new case against markets. But the evidence has been cooked.

Marcuse, H., 1989. Some Social Implications of Technology. In A. Arate & E. Gebhardt, eds. The Essential Frankfurt School Reader. London & New York: Continuum International, pp. 138-162.

Gerardi, S., 2006. Some implications of modern technology: Revisited. The Social Science Journal, 43(2), p.293-295.

*Marx, L. (2010). Technology: The Emergence of a Hazardous ConceptTechnology & Culture51(3), 561-577.

*Matthewman, S. (2011). Technology and Social Theory. London: Sage. (Chapt. 1)

Rust, R. & Espinoza, F., 2006. How technology advances influence business research and marketing strategy. Journal of Business Research, 59(10-11), 1072-1078.

Week 2 (27 January 2012) – Marketing Technologies

Over the course of its history marketing has developed powerful technologies that nowadays are central to the knowledge disseminated in marketing textbooks like Kotler and colleagues Principles of Marketing. This lecture uses theories and concepts of technology to examine and critically discuss some of the foundations underlying the marketing concepts and related marketing technologies.


Bowker, G. & Star, S.L., 1999. Sorting Things Out. Classification and its Consequences, Cambridge, MA/London: MIT.

Joerges, B., 1994. Do Politics have Artefacts? Social Studies of Science, 23(1), p.1-20.

Martin, A. & Lynch, M., 2009. Counting Things and People: The Practices and Politics of Counting. Social Problems, 56(2), p.243-266.

*Matthewman, S. (2011). Technology and Social Theory. London: Sage.

*Suchman, L., 1993. Do Categories have Politics? Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Work (JCSCW), 2, p.177-190.

Tadajewski, M., 2006. The ordering of marketing theory: the influence of McCarthyism and the Cold War. Marketing Theory, 6(2), p.163-199.

*Rust, R. & Espinoza, F., 2006. How technology advances influence business research and marketing strategy. Journal of Business Research, 59(10-11), 1072-1078.

*Winner, L., 1986. Do Artifacts have Politics ? In The whale and the reactor: a search for limits in an age of high technology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 19-39.


Week 3 (3 February 2012) – Exchange, Markets and Networks

Exchange” is largely seen as a “core concept of marketing” (Kotler, Armstrong et al. 2008). Whilst textbooks describe it as a social relationship between two or more participants few studies examine how these relationships are organised to achieve cooperation. Instead, cooperation in exchange relationships is often ascribed to rational decision making; participants exchanging goods and services when they both “have something of value to offer the other” (Kotler, Armstrong et al. 2008: 12). In this view, the properties of money support the emergence of exchange and therefore are key to the development of modern, capitalist economies. Markets

Underlying this concept of money and exchange is the distinction between rational action and other types of social action. In recent years, this distinction has been criticised and the social uses of money have been elaborated on. This lecture examines the relationship between different types of social action, explores the discussion of the social uses of money and the different ways in which exchange may be organised.


Bartels, R. (1986). Marketing: Management Technology or Social Process at the Twenty-First Century? In Marketing Management Technology as a Social Process. Edited by George Fisk. New York et al.: Praeger, pp.30-42.

*Beckert, J. (2009). The social order of marketsTheory and Society. Vol.28(3), pp.245-269.

Fligstein, N., & Dauter, L. (2007). The Sociology of Markets.Annual Review of Sociology33(1), pp.105-128.

*Granovetter, M., 1973. The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), p.1360-1380.

Portes, A., 1998. Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), p.1-24.

Spillman, L., 1999. Enriching Exchange : Cultural Dimensions of Markets. Journal of Economics, 58(4), p.1047-1071.

*Watts, D.J., 1999. Networks, Dynamics, and the Small-World Phenomenon. American Journal of Sociology, 105(2), p.493-527.

Zelizer, V.A., 2011. The Social Meaning of Money : “Special Monies”’. Culture, 95(2), pp.342-377.

Week 4 (10 February 2012) – Social Media (Guest Lecture – Rob Wilmot, BCS)

Rob Wilmot is one of the co-founders of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) Freeserve. Since 1998, the company facilitated mass access to the internet in the UK. After the company was sold for £1.6bn to Wannado in 2001 Rob has been investing in various ventures. He sits on a number of corporate and public sector boards. He also is Chairman at Doncaster College.

One of his current interests are developments in social media and social networking. In his lecture Rob will talk about these developments and their relationship to marketing.


Baym, N., 2010. Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

*Benkler, Y., 2007. The Wealth of Networks, Yale University Press. – Chapter 1, p.1-34

Bernoff, J. & Li, C., 2008. Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Brogan, C. & Smith, J., 2010. Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

*Cova, B. & Dalli, D., 2009. Working consumers: the next step in marketing theory? Marketing Theory, 9(3), p.315-339.

Hamilton, K. & Hewer, P., 2010. Tribal mattering spaces: Social-networking sites, celebrity affiliations, and tribal innovations.Journal of Marketing Management, 26(3), p.271-289.

Katona, Z., Zubcsek, P.P.A.L. & Sarvary, M., 2011. Network Effects and Personal Influences : The Diffusion of an Online Social Network. Journal of Marketing Research, XLVIII(June), p.425-443.

Kirkpatrick, D., 2010. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World, Virgin Books.


Reading Week 5 (17 February 2012)


Week 5 (24 February 2012) – Reputation Management

Social networking sites are often used to communicate about brands, products and service. They therefore have become sites where brand image and brand vale are created or co-created with people contributing to the communication. This communication can involve talk about people’s experience with products and services and often also includes communication in which people vent their dissatisfaction with companies. And in some cases, employees submit information to social networking sites that potentially influence the company’s brand image or reputation. This lecture discusses some aspect of reputation management and social networking.


Bernoff, J., Li, C., 2008. Harnessing The Power of The Oh-So-Social Web, MIT Sloan Management Review, 2008; 49; 3; pp.35-42

Brogan, C. & Smith, J., 2010. Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Burt, R., S., 1999. “The Social Capital of Opinion Leaders”, The ANNALS of The American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1999; 566; pp.37-54

Hutton, J., G., Goodman, M., B., Alexander, J., B., Genest, C., M., 2001. “Reputation Management: The New Face of Corporate Public Relations?” Public Relations Review, 2001; 27; pp.247-261

*Ferguson, R., 2008. Word of mouth and viral marketing: taking the temperature of the hottest trends in marketing. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 25(3), p.179 – 182.

Holloman, C., 2012. The Social Media MBA: Your Competitive Edge in Social Media Strategy Development and Delivery, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Katona, Z., Zubcsek, P.P.A.L. & Sarvary, M., 2011. Network Effects and Personal Influences : The Diffusion of an Online Social Network. Journal of Marketing Research, XLVIII(June), p.425 -443.

Miller, D., 2011. Tales from Facebook, Cambridge: Polity Press.

*Rao, H., 1994. “The Social Construction of Reputation: Certification Contests, Legitimation, and The Survival of Organisations in The American Automobile Industry: 1895-1912”, Strategic Management Journal, 1994; 15; pp.29-44

Wartick, S., L., 1992. “The Relationship Between Intense Media Exposure and Change in Corporate Reputation”, Business Society, 1992; 31; pp.33-49

Yu, B., Singh, M., P., 2000. “A Social Mechanism of Reputation Management in Electronic Communities”, Proceedings of the 4th International Workshop on Cooperative Information Agents, 2000, pp.154-165


Week 6 (2 March 2012) – Innovation in Consumer Research (Siamack Salari)

Siamack Salari is founder of Everyday Lives a market and consumer research company that is well known for its innovative use of technology to conduct its studies. The projects of Everyday Lives include video-based research of shopping behaviour as well as detailed ethnographies of how people use products in their day-to-day lives.


*Belk, R. W. (1995). Studies in the New Consumer Behavior. In D. Miller (ed.) Acknowledging Consumption. London: Routledge, 58-95.

*Belk, R. W., & Kozinets, R. V. (2005). Videography in marketing and consumer research. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal8(2), 128-141.


Week 7 (9 March 2012) – Search Marketing

Over the past decade or so two important developments have emerged in the context of Internet Marketing: Search Marketingand Social Media Marketing. The growing economic weight of companies like Google suggest that Search will be one of the important marketing activities over the coming years. It is being used to obtain an understanding of the market as well as for the building of relationships and networks (Marsden and Kirby 2005; Moran and Hunt 2008). The lecture will discuss some of the practices involved in Search Marketing and assess possible problems these practices might raise for the relationship between companies and their customers. It then will turn to Social Media Marketing and explore how social networks like Facebook, Myspace or Jumo are used for marketing purposes, including the design, promotion and distribution of products and services (Penenberg 2009; Scott 2008). The discussion will touch on current debates concerned with viral marketing and online gaming as well as trust and reputation.


Marsden, P., & Kirby, J. (2005). Connected Marketing: The Viral, Buzz and Word of Mouth Revolution. A Butterworth-Heinemann Title.

Moran, M., & Hunt, B. (2008). Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company’s Web Site. IBM Press.

Pariser, E., 2011. The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You, Viking.

Penenberg, A. (2009). Viral Loop: The Power of Pass-it-on. Sceptre.

*Phelps, J. E., Lewis, R., Mobilio, L., Perry, D., & Raman, N. (2004). Viral Marketing or Electronic Word-of-Mouth Advertising: Examining Consumer Responses and Motivations to Pass Along Email. Journal of Advertising Research44(04), 333-348.

Scott, D. M. (2011). The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly. (3rd Edition). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

*Sweeney, J. C., Soutar, G. N., & Mazzarol, T. (2008). Factors influencing word of mouth effectiveness: receiver perspectives.European Journal of Marketing42(3/4), 344-364.

Vaidhynathan, S., 2011. The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry), Berkely, CA: University of California Press.


Week 8 (16 March 2012) – Service-Marketing and Service Technology

Service-Marketing has emerged as an alternative to the managerial approach to marketing that dominated developments in the discipline for the past four or five decades. This chapter briefly introduces the key concepts of service- and relationship marketing and then turns to the recent deployment of service technology into service- and retail-settings. It will briefly discuss the research on these developments and then examine some aspects of the relationship between service technology and customers by examining video-recordings collected in museums and galleries.


Armstrong, G., Kotler, P., Harker, M., & Brennan, R. (2009).Marketing an Introduction. Financial Times/ Prentice Hall.

Bitner, M. J. (2001). Service and technology: opportunities and paradoxes. Managing Service Quality11(6), 375 – 379.

Bitner, M., Brown, S., & Meuter, M. (2000). Technology infusion in service encounters. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science28(1), 138-149.

Curran, J. M., & Meuter, M. L. (2005). Self-service technology adoption: comparing three technologies. Journal of Services Marketing19(2), 103-113.

*Heath, C. & Lehn, D. vom, 2008. Configuring “Interactivity”: Enhancing Engagement in Science Centres and Museums. Social Studies of Science, 38(1), p.63-91.

Holloway, B. B., & Beatty, S. E. (2003). Service Failure in Online Retailing: A Recovery Opportunity. Journal of Service Research,6(1), 92-105.

Parasuraman, A., & Grewal, D. (2000). The impact of technology on the quality-value-loyalty chain: A research agenda. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science28(1), 168-174.

Week 9 (23 March 2012) Working in Social Media (Guest Lectures: Jadis Tillery)

Jadis Tillery is Head of Social Media for dot.talent a digital publisher for celebrity talent and top tier brands. In this role Jadis develops strategic WOM campaigns to harness the power of the social web through content creation and authentically engaging online communities.


Baym, N., 2010. Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

Benkler, Y., 2007. The Wealth of Networks, Yale University Press.

Bernoff, J. & Li, C., 2008. Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

*Hamilton, K. & Hewer, P., 2010. Tribal mattering spaces: Social-networking sites, celebrity affiliations, and tribal innovations.Journal of Marketing Management, 26(3), p.271-289.

Katona, Z., Zubcsek, P.P.A.L. & Sarvary, M., 2011. Network Effects and Personal Influences : The Diffusion of an Online Social Network. Journal of Marketing Research, XLVIII(June), p.425 -443.

Kirkpatrick, D., 2010. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World, Virgin Books.

Shih, C., 2010. The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate, Prentice Hall.


Week 10 (30 March 2012) – Marketing, Technology and Society

The growing deployment of new technologies in all parts of society is often likened to the emergence of a new form of society and coupled with that a new form of economy, namely the network economy. This lecture reflects on the content of the course and debates in sociology and related disciplines to explore how marketing theory and methods may be developed to capture current changes in marketing practice.


Achrol, R. S. and Kotler, P. (2010). Marketing in the Network EconomyNetwork63(1999), 146-163.

Anderson, C. (2009). The Long TailBusiness. London: Random House.

Baym, N., 2010. Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L., 2008. The “digital natives” debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), p.775-786.

Brogan, C. & Smith, J., 2010. Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust, John Wiley & Sons.

Benkler, Y., 2007. The Wealth of Networks, New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Castells, M. (1996). The Rise of the Network Society. Vol. I: The Information Age. Economy, Society and Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Castells, M. (2002). The Internet Galaxy. Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chaffey, D., Ellis-Chadwick, F., Mayer, R., & Johnston, M. K. (2008). Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice (4th ed.). Harlow/UK: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

Cova, B., & Dalli, D. (2009). Working consumers: the next step in marketing theory?. Marketing Theory9(3), 315-339.

Ito, M. et al., 2009. Out, Hanging. Around, Messing Out. Geeking Out. Kids Living and Learning with New Media,

Palfrey, J., 2010. Born Digital. New York: Basic Books.

Qualman, E., 2010. Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Rust, R. & Espinoza, F., 2006. How technology advances influence business research and marketing strategy. Journal of Business Research, 59(10-11), 1072-1078.

Shirky, C., 2009. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, London: Penguin.

Tapscott, D., 2008. Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. McGraw-Hill Professional.

Tapscott, D., & Williams, A. (2008). Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. London: Atlantic Books.

There are various attempts by science museums to bring to life some of the hidden ways in which the Internet works. When I visited the Science Museum in Chicago about 10 years ago there was an exhibit where I took a photograph of myself that then was transmitted to the other end of the gallery and displayed on a screen; the transmission of the picture was visualised on a wall where small packages moved along to where the screen was.

A few months ago in late March the National Media Museum’s Internet Galleries in Bradford opened together with Life Online that pursue a similar goal; making the development and functioning of the Internet intelligible.

Now in late July 2012, the Science Museum in London together with Google launched Chrome Weblab, “a series of interactive Chrome Experiments made by Google that bring the extraordinary workings of the internet to life”. The exhibition is in the basement of the Wellcome Wing. When I visited the gallery had just opened to the public and was already heaving with people.

Weblab is comprised of five ‘experiments’ people can engage with by using a Lab Tag and the various interfaces and systems displayed in the space. On entering the gallery each visitor can draw a Lab Tag from a computer system that is used as an identifier through which visitors’ engagement with the individual experiments is recorded and made retrievable from home. From here on the route took me into the gallery and a first large screen, the Data Tracer.

On entering the gallery I heard musical sounds which apparently came from the centre of the space but I had no idea who or what produced them and why. On closer look I saw a number of machines that looked like musical instruments that made sounds without anybody in particular playing them. I was intrigued but before I got to move to one of those instruments a person at the exhibit in front of me left the computer system and I engaged with the Data Tracer.


Data Tracer is comprised of three or four small screens connected to a large display showing a map of the world. On arrival I waited for a few minutes until a small screen become available and then fed my Lab Tag into an interface. I then was confronted with a number of thumbnail images showing objects and photographs of faces; on selecting one of the thumbnails a large copy of the image appeared on the large screen opposite locating the physical place where the image is stored and then drawing lines from there back to the Science Museum; thus, the exhibit visualizes the transformation of the image into data packages and their ‘journey’ to the Science Museum. Like the old exhibit at the Chicago Science Museum this Weblab experiment makes visible the process of using Google search engine. 

Having experimented with the exhibit for a while by tapping on two or three of the thumbnails I noticed other visitors waiting behind me and moved on to the next experiment, the Sketchbotswhere robots draw faces captured by a webcam of physical visitors in the gallery and online visitors in sand.

Only few people stopped for longer than a minute or so at the robots and often moved on when noticing that at the next lot of robots they can have their own faces or those of their children drawn.

The process fascinates people. Having taken a picture they observe the robot at work and their image appearing. They take pictures on their cameras or film the process with their mobile phones, commenting on the delicate strokes the machine makes in the sand. People also exploit the possibility to take pictures of others as a means to engage their (small) children with the exhibit who otherwise may not stay with the experiment for long. They lift children up in front of the camera, take the picture of their face and then show them that the robot is drawing that picture of their face in the sand; the activity keeps the children engaged with the exhibit for considerable time.

From the robots my visitor journey took me to the Teleporter, an exhibit that uses periscopes connected to the web to look at location around the world pre-determined by the designers. For somebody on their own the use of the periscope can feel a bit strange, as you pull the system in front of your eyes and loose awareness of what is happening around you.

Looking through the periscope I saw the inside of an aquarium located in Cape Town and could turn around to get a 360 degrees view of the space. On occasions I pressed a button at the top of the periscope to take a photograph that with the help of the Lab Tag was saved on my account. As I discovered when leaving the periscope on the wall behind the exhibit my picture was displayed on small digital photo frames together with those taken by others. The picture bears a time-stamp and can be discussed with others who had no access to what I was looking at while using the system.

One of the potentially most exciting exhibits is the Universal Orchestra, a robotic orchestra made up of eight instruments simultaneously operated by people in the gallery and on the Internet. The instruments are located in the centre of the gallery, each equipped with a computer system that people can use to create sounds. You touch different notes on the screen, the information is fed to the robot that then creates the sound.

Arriving here helped explain the soundscape I had been hearing on entering the gallery. As with some of the other exhibits I was a secondary user of the exhibit, experiencing how to use the systems and what they do before I gained access to one of the instruments. The interaction with the system kept me busy for a while, as I tried to figure out how my actions on the computer screen relate to the sounds made by instruments. Also, the exhibit is described as a “real-time collaboration with people across the world” but because it is difficult to make out who creates what sound the use of the notion of “collaboration” to describe the events is problematic.

Finally, I went to a workstation where the Lab Tag is used to retrieve information about the activities a visitor has engaged with during their visit to the Weblab. The Lab Tag is slotted into the system and the computer screen shows what exhibits the visitor has been at and what they have accomplished there; for example, the photograph taken with the periscope or the sounds produced as part of the Universal Orchestra can be revisited. Seeing on the screen what I had done and what I had missed doing encouraged me to return to the gallery and conduct some further experiments with the Universal Orchestra before then leaving the exhibition.

Having arrived back home I booted my computer to visit the Online Chrome Weblab. I typed in the web address given on the back of the Lab Tag, scanned in the tag and immediately arrived at my Lab Report. The site shows my activities in the galleries on at the Science Museum, and allowed me to conduct the same experiments online. When opening for example, Online Sketchrobot, a site opens that shows live footage from the gallery before opening a screen that looks very similar to the one in the gallery. I took a picture of myself which then was processed ready for the robot to draw in the sand.

I then typed in my email address through which the system later notified me that the robot had completed its job.

The other exhibits work in a similar way. The Online Data Tracer invites visitors to ask the system to use for a physical location of an image file. I typed n my Twitter handle and the system located the associated picture in Isenburg, a small city in the German federal state of Hesse. TheOnline Teleporter allows the user to click on an image and obtain a live view into the bakery in North Carolina, the miniature exhibition in Hamburg and the aquarium in Cape Town. And the Online Universal Orchestra facilitates access to the eight instruments; one can view events in the gallery and play the instruments in the gallery from a remote location, audible to visitors in the museum and remotely. The played music can be recorded and then like the activities at the other exhibits, is retrievable from the Online Lab Tag Explorer.

Chrome Weblab is a fascinating experiment of an exhibition. It tries to make intelligible that the Internet connects remote locations on the planet. And this connectedness involves much more than the accessibility of information through search engines and web browsers but also allows for the possibility to act and interact with machines and people across the world in real-time.

The exhibition invites visitors to engage and participate with exhibits in the gallery and remotely and discover for themselves the relationship between the Internet and the social world in the gallery and remotely. It is successful in engaging people for considerable time with the topic of the Internet and creates an awareness for the connected world we are now living in; robots can be operated remotely, people in remote locations can “collaboratetively” make music, we can have a peek into the world of others from remote locations.

Over the past 10 years or so I had the opportunity to study visitors participating with technology in museums, including the Science Museum and the Wellcome Wing. Therefore, for me visiting Chrome Weblab was interesting also to see how features of  exhibits in Who am I? and Digitopolishave been further developed by the design team of Chrome Weblab. For example, the replacement of the flaky fingerprinting mechanism to save visitors’ activities with exhibit on a server by the physical Lab Tag is a huge improvement.  The tag works well and without problems with webcams at home (and at work) and also is a nice memorabilia from the visit. However I could imagine that in the future the Lab Tag is transferred to a mobile phone as people tend to loose or forget about items they take away from visits to museums. Also, the taking of photographs of people’s faces that has been a critical feature of exhibits in Who am I? has been improved. The interface is much more flexible and adaptable to use pictures visitors take.

There are three aspects of the exhibition that I believe might be worthwhile exploring further for the design team and google when revising the galleries. First, I think the key message of Weblab, i.e. the interconnectedness, is not coming through clearly enough. The relationship between people’s action in the gallery and remotely need to be made more intelligible and obvious. For example, at the moment it is unclear who plays what note at the instruments of the Universal Orchestra; at Data Tracer the actions on the small screens could be made visible, and at Sketchrobot more needs to be done to make the activities by the remote participant visible to give this part of the exhibit more prominence in the gallery.

Second, as the gallery is described as a laboratory the design team and their research staff might use it not only as a laboratory to experiment with technology but also as a space where they can experiment with human behaviour in technology-rich spaces. For example, it has been a common problem for museums that display a large number of computer-based exhibits that the number of interfaces is often much lower than the number of visitors who wish to participate with the exhibits at any one time. This leads to long waiting-times and queues at exhibits, people being secondary users rather than experiencing exhibits first hand, and unfortunately also people leaving disappointed because they did not get a chance to use an exhibit first-hand. Being setup as an experimental space the gallery would allow the design team to experiment with different ways to manage the flow in the galleries and to mange access to exhibits.

And third and maybe most importantly, considering that many visitors come with friends and family the design team could use the space to experiment with the provision of resources that facilitate and encourage collaboration at computer-based exhibits. The observations at the Sketchrobots where parents provide their children with access to the exhibit illustrate that visitors are interested in experiencing the exhibits together, yet the interfaces often prioritise individual users over collaboration. It would be fascinating to see experiments with novel interfaces that encourage visitors to collaborate with others in the gallery, and also with people in remote locations.


Heath, C., & vom Lehn, D. (2008). Configuring Interactivity: Enhancing Engagement in Science Centres and Museums. Social Studies of Science38(1), 63-91.

Heath, C., & vom Lehn, D. (2004). Configuring Reception: (Dis-)Regarding the “Spectator” in Museums and Galleries. Theory, Culture & Society21(6), 43-65.

Heath, C., Luff, P., vom Lehn, D., Hindmarsh, J., & Cleverly, J. (2002). Crafting participation: designing ecologies, configuring experience. Visual Communication1(1), 9-33.

Hindmarsh, J., Heath, C., vom Lehn, D., & Cleverly, J. (2005). Creating Assemblies in Public Environments: Social interaction, interactive exhibits and CSCWJournal of Computer Supported Collaborative Work (JCSCW)14(1), 1-41.

vom Lehn, D., Hindmarsh, J., Luff, P., & Heath, C. (2007). Engaging constable: revealing art with new technology. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on HumanComputer Interaction (pp. 1485-1494). San Jose,CA: ACM Press.

vom Lehn, D. (2010). Generating experience from ordinary activity: new technology and the museum experience. In D. O’Reilly & F. Kerrigan (Eds.), Marketing the Arts. A fresh approach (pp. 104-120). Abingdon: Routledge.

vom Lehn, D., & Heath, C. (2005). Accounting for new technology in museum exhibitions.International Journal of Arts Management7(6), 11-21.

vom Lehn, D., Heath, C., & Hindmarsh, J. (2001). Exhibiting interaction: Conduct and collaboration in museums and galleries. Symbolic Interaction24(2), 189–216.



interaction, interactivity, museums

Ilicco Elia (Reuters Media) – Mobile Technology: Opportunities and Challenges for News Organisations

interactivity, Marketing, Mobile, mobility, public places, Social Media, Technology

Ilicco Elia, Head of Consumer Mobile, Reuters Media, gave a lecture as part of my module “Marketing and New Technologies” (MSc International Marketing) at King’s College London. Ilicco who has been working at Reuters since 1993 and at Reuters Mobile for the past 6 years, highlighted the increasing difficulty for media companies to retain their integrity whilst reporting news as they emerge.

Reuters are a news agency that over the decades has built up an image and a brand that stands for trust and integrity in news reporting. It now is confronted with the pressure that their customers Reuters to deliver up-to-date accurate information about events as and when they happen. Therefore, Reuters use about 2500 journalists to gather, edit and disseminate news to a global audience. These journalists use mobile technology, including networked high-end cameras, camera phones, mobile phones, laptops, etc, to gather information (pictures, videos, text, …) and immediately send it to the editor in the London office who produces news items that are disseminated across the various Reuters distribution channels. Illico illustrated the process by referring to the Football World Cup 2010 when pictures taken by journalists in South Africa appeared on Reuters mobile seconds after they had been taken. On the next day, the same pictures were published in newspapers around the world.

The immediacy that people increasingly demand from news organisations is driven by the growing pervasiveness of consumer mobile technology, such as mobile telephones, laptops and tablet computers. It is not sufficient anymore that Reuters disseminate news via its website but they have to develop applications, ‘apps’, that run on a range of different mobile devices and systems. Based on the opportunities offered by the iPhone and Blackberry phones Reuters created applications that deliver news through different kinds of mobile device. For example, Reuters New Pro, Reuters Mobile Website and Reuters RSS deliver global news to customers who are on the move; and Reuters Galleries exhibit the best photographs taken by Reuters correspondents around the word.

Ilicco highlighted the profound changes to journalism that have been initated by the wide distribution of mobile technology to consumers. It not only influences the consumption of news, everywhere and at any time but also the organisation of news production, editing and disemination. The scope of these changes is just becoming visible in the editorial offices but little is known of the emerging practices of news consumption.

The new technologies also facilitate new forms of journalism. In recent years, citizen journalism and the contribution of news by consumers in others ways has become more and more popular with many news organisations. This seems to be a dangerous path for organisations like Reuters that have built their brand on the integrity and authenticity of their news. News and information delivered by people other than Reuter’s journalists are difficult to assess in their truthfulness and authenticity. Similar, it can sometimes be difficult for news organisations to hold on and evaluate information before disseminating it, as competitors may push forward with the distribution of an item. Examples of the speedy dissemination of wrongful news are manifold. The Guardian for example pressed forward with repeatedly reporting that Nokia Smartphones would soon be running Google’s Android operating system. As we now know Nokia have entered a close collaboration with Microsoft, rather than Google.

The ease of diseminating news is a tempting for news organisations as for mobile users. By clicking on a few buttons a news item with (maybe incorrect) information, can be shared with friends and followers on social networks. The sharing of wrong news by mobile users can badly reflect on their image in the ‘twitterverse’. As Rob Wilmot highlighted in an earlier guest lecture in the same module in January, ‘trust’ is difficult to gain but easily lost in social media. And this valid for businesses and organisation as well as for individuals.

Ilicco Elia in the News

Media Guardia 100

NMA Portrait (£)