November 21, 2005
"What Else Is On?" Effective Use of New Media - Kurt
2) Which of these sites makes the most effective use of new media? (And how?)
Many of the sites we could examine attempted to make use of multimedia and had at least in theory interesting subjects to cover but had in my view widely different results. Apparently throwing technology at an issue does not ensure a meaningful experience.
The Devices of Wonder exhibit for example made use of text, flash animation, video, and magnified images. And yet the site is strangely annoying. Perhaps it is the lack of context and introduction. The user is summarily dumped into the exhibit after a pointless flash display that does nothing to set up the premise for the site or offer suggestions as to how one should navigate through numerous diplays. For reasons I canít quite articulate I found the site strangely creepy.
The Julia Child site used many of the same tools and with better success. It came close to being my selection for the question listed above. Navigation issues, however, spoiled the soup for me. Moving around within the exhibit often took me back unintentionally to her audio introduction. After hearing her unique voice a several times I couldnít help but groan. The frustration level here dampened my initial enthusiasm for what otherwise seemed to be a good site. Even after working through that issue I have to conclude that for segments of the population this would not be the most effective use of new media. It canít be effective if people leave after the appetizer.
The Raid on Deerfield site made excellent use of mulitmedia in ways that lessened what can be a confusing experience for web viewers. I particularly found the audio introduction useful to set the stage for the rest of the site. Armed with a general understanding I felt more inclined to explore what is an extensive website. There was less of a mystery meat feel to the navigation. It is easy to figure out where you are within the site. That comfort level also encourages exploration because you feel as though are in control of the experience and not set adrift in a sea of information without a paddle having lost site of the shore. Regardless of the content and organization a site has to have an effective introduction.
The Raid on Deerfield experience benefits from the concepts explored in the article Less Clicking, More Watching. While some might attribute this to laziness I donít think that is the case. People seem more at ease after passively receiving information prior to beginning their own explorations. Take for instance many civil war battlefield visitor centers. The Manassas battlefield uses an animated map with moving lights and audio to set the stage for the public. In addition live narration and tours lead visitors through the site. My own anecdotal experience suggested members of our tour group didnít head for the parking lot but for specific areas they wanted to view in more detail after the tours. I have to wonder would they have done so or understood as much if they hadnít first experience the more passive introduction.
This past weekend I attended the first annual National Maritime Heritage Education conference sponsored by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Attendees included museum educators, website administrators, teachers, and park guides. The hot topic throughout the conference was undoubtedly live interaction with the audience whether through webcasts or video conferencing. Certainly from the numerous papers presented by NOAA field staff the most effective and exciting means of reaching students has been through the use of interactive webcasts. Indeed the keynote speaker Dr. Robert Ballard of Titanic fame spoke at length about the future of educational interaction through a live web presence in classrooms around the country. Why, because weíre all lazy or because the live one on one experience communicates most effectively? Consider which is a more effective means of transmitting not only words but also emotion and nuance: an IM chat or a telephone call? Take that one step further: a telephone call or a video conference? Information is transmitted through more than words.
I donít mean to suggest, however, that we should turn the Internet into another delivery system for television but I do think it is moving towards a more televisual experience. Audio or video introductions provide context for a siteís subject matter and can help the user/viewer feel more comfortable with exploring in-depth on their own. Additional narrated clips can augment that experience throughout the site. As social beings we donít want to be alone. Even a prerecorded voice speaking to us offers a more personal feel to what can otherwise seem to be an impersonal and cold medium.
Posted by kknoerl at November 21, 2005 02:35 PM
I like your point about the increasingly televisual delivery of content on the web. I have been thinking about this a lot since the announcement of the new iPod and the various phones and other portable devices that will deliver televisual content. Corporations (Apple, the telecoms) are betting big on this--I even heard on the radio today that there is now TiVo To Go. So, it seems to me that if industry is betting this is going to happen, the odds are good that it will...
Posted by: Mills at November 21, 2005 03:41 PM