Thursday, April 23, 2009

Participatory Design: Kicking it old school

So the words "Participatory design" are running though my head quite a bit lately. Probably because I'll be hanging out at Nina Simon's Participatory Design workshop on Friday afternoon. I've been thinking about it and what participatory design means for my museum.

My museum isn't even off the ground yet. We're out of the gate, heading onto the runway, but we don't expect lift off till September (which in this awkward metaphor, means opening to the public). So it's been hard for me to think about participatory design, because we're not even open yet.

Until it hits me. D'uh. The museum has been attempting to design things through participation, we've just been doing it old school. See, we've been hosting a series of discussions about the museum - we have a speaking interpreting each main point in the mission statement and then an extended discussion about what attendees would like to see in terms of programing. It's not elegant, and it requires attendees to come on site, but we are seeking direction from the community. And the advisory council, which sets our programming goals, is made up of a cross section of university and community members - more limited perhaps, but still a relatively progressive model, I think.

It's not a crowd curated show, it's not a well defined process yet, but it is a new museum attempting to serve the community beyond the campus in a town where campus and community sometimes butt heads. Participation, in my view, hasn't been stellar from the non-campus community, but there are some, and their voices are important. And the people who come are invested. So I think that's pretty neat.

I'm really looking forward to the workshop tomorrow, and seeing what sort of ideas come out of it. We want to be an open museum here, we want to be innovative and transparent, it's just a matter of getting there.

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