I’ve written before about the importance of imagination and creativity, but what about that founding principle of Brain Popcorn, the irresistability of curiosity, the need to know how things work and how they connect and how one thing could also be a half dozen others?
Fortunately for those of us who are, like Einstein once declared, ‘passionately curious,’ there have been a number of articles about curiosity in the news recently. (And not just about a certain eponymous Mars Rover, that continues to take awesome pictures even if it’s been slightly upstaged by a cousin landing on a comet this week.)
What’s over there, anyway? Let’s find out! Woman Looking Over a Fence by Leon Richet. (public domain, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
And, of course, this article simply confirms something one of the wisest people I know says all the time, and she’s always right (because learning is ultimately better for you than chocolate):
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
― T.H. White, The Once and Future King
Curiosity was also the driving force behind a smartphone app that involved 4 million players, searching for the answer to ‘what’s inside the cube?’ The need to know kept people tapping their phones (and drawing, and tracking stats, and ‘purchasing’ tools) for 150 days to uncover the video message at the end. The need to know outweighed the incredible tediousness of what would otherwise be mindless finger tapping.
How important is curiosity, really? Consider this: according to thesaurus.com, there are 21 synonyms for curiosity, and only 3 antonyms. If, in this very verbal, information-heavy world, things that are important get many names, this is a good sign for curiosity.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
― Albert Einstein
(Who’s going to argue with that? Certainly not I.)
Are you a curiosity addict? What kinds of things to you find yourself most curious about? Share them with us in the comments below.
Another brain-stretching, idea-popping day, with a lot of really packed conference rooms! I managed to pick several extremely popular sessions today, and fortunately was not one of the folks sitting on the floor. Nice to see so much determined interest in topics ranging from multi user multimedia interactives to experimental educational programming! Like yesterday, I’m picking my top 3-5 thoughts from each session, but definitely expect to see more from me on some of these topics soon:
Session 1: Learning Together: Developing Multi User Interactives
Multi user interactives are more than scaled-up single user kiosks: looking at other kinds of interactives like low-tech tabletops and games can be more useful for developing a digital multi user experience
Evaluation from the Field Museum suggests people who work together on an interactive smile 50% of the time, and visitors on their own smile only 10% of the time.
Next step in multi-user interactives probably includes motion sensing using elements like the Kinect, which might also help solve design problems like orienting text.
Session 2: Significant Objects
Writers recruited to write fiction about yardsale finds, which were then sold on ebay and had a 2700% increase in financial value – what kinds of lessons about storytelling and the perceived value of objects does this hold for museums? How can we create different entry points for people who might be craving the kinds of stories museums could tell but aren’t telling, or aren’t telling effectively?
Participatory design vs. design for participation — how do you balance it so that content creators enjoy the process and it’s open to a wide range of people, but still end up with a final product that has an appeal to people who weren’t part of its creation?
how much can museums play with the truth? How does this tie in with the conversation from earlier in the conference about real, fake, reproductions, and replicas?
Session 3: Magnificent Masters of Museum Mysteries, Narrative Games in Museum Contexts
This panel was full of people I’d really like to spend more time talking to–sadly I had a conflict and couldn’t attend their continued discussion in the hotel bar afterwards, but I’ll be watching their next projects with interest.
I’d heard about the Ghosts of a Chance game at the Smithsonian before, but it’s a pretty intimidating example, so hearing about their second attempt that didn’t go so well and their plans for a third was heartening, as was pairing this extreme example with two simpler examples from the Getty and the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Getting to play a game during a session on games was a nice touch.
Session 4: Continuing the Conversation, Experimental Projects in Museums
Lots of interesting projects going on with inviting community members, particularly creative professionals, into the museum to offer their own spin on programming. Requires clear guidelines from the museum and a flexible hands-off policy to allow for individuality and fresh ideas.
Interesting initiative from Living Arts Center in Mobile where they run a two month intro or ‘pulse’ mini-exhibit to collect community thoughts on the topics of the upcoming featured exhibit- a glorified (and formalized) type of prototyping mixed with marketing that’s really curious.
Community involvement in exhibition planning seems to mean much shorter time spans than when working solely with museum professionals–is that an audience based constraint (short attention spans) or a museum one (resource and space commitments)?
Session 5: “Your Brain on Art” sponsored by Reach Advisors
There was a fancier more academic title, but the scientists from Johns Hopkins suggested this title instead and it fit well. It was a great conversation where each side wanted to find out more about what the others were doing–could have easily run for another hour!
Fun to hear people outside the field debating the things that museum pros care so much about: is it all about education? what do museums have that is unique to that kind of experience? what about reflection? is wonder a jolt of quick there-and-gone energy to the brain, or an opportunity for a deeper connection? what makes for a useful measurement of success at reaching your audience?
Is it possible for parents who love museums to pass that love on to their children? Some studies suggest that culture changes too fast and peers have too much influence, but yet parental modelling is still one of the best ways to convey values to children. Museums are like food–if you go to museums the way you have family dinner around the kitchen table, make it a regular part of life, have conversations about it, share thoughts and favorites and encourage your kids to do the same, then yes, parents can definitely pass the culture of museum love along.
Evening enjoyment: The Owl Bar
Incredibly cool and beautiful old bar from the days of Prohibition, with fun stories regarding the blinking owl signal lights over the bar (blinking means the cops aren’t around and it’s safe to order from the speak easy!) and quite tasty food.
Worth the 2 mile trek up from the convention center and a fun adventure to a different section of the city. The worst part about a really interesting conference is that there’s too little time for sightseeing.