Friday, 6 March 2009

Case Study 3 – Tate Modern

During my trip to London I went to the Tate Modern (all in the name of hardwork!) to experience their multimedia tour, delivered through a PDA. The tour has won a Bafta-award for technical innovation and visitor feedback has proven extremely positive.

Upon arrival at the Tate Modern I was kindly directed to the multimedia tour desk where I was told that the tour cost £2 (£1 for concessions and students) and that I would need to leave some formal identification (such as a Driving Licence or Passport) to act as a guarantee for the device. The tours are delivered through Dell Axim X51V (which appear to retail at approx £250), users are also supplied with a set of headphones and a stylus.

I was disappointed by the help I was given with the PDA from the girl that was manning the multimedia tour desk, in 10 seconds flat she gave me a whistle-stop tour of what to do and I must admit I was confused. It didn’t help that there was a glass security window between myself and the member of staff, it proved to be quite a barrier. I took the PDA to one side and spent a few minutes acquainting myself with the device and the tour. It didn’t take me too long to work it all out but I couldn’t help feeling that I should have been supported in its use from the very start by the Tate staff and I also knew for a fact that someone less confident with technology would have been blinded by science. This is a shame as some people may be missing out on the true benefits of the tour simply because they couldn’t work out how to use the device properly.

There are two different tour options, the family tour or the collections tour. The tour applies to four of the collections currently on display in the Tate Modern: Poetry and Dream, Material Gestures, States of Flux and Idea and Object. For the special collections there was an extra charge for the tours at approx £1.50.

I chose the collections tour option and headed for the ‘Poetry and Dream’ section. Depending upon the pieces of art you are in front on, the information of the multimedia tour differs. For example the first piece of art that I studied was Joan Miró’s a Star Caresses the Breast of a Negress (Painting Poem), 1938 which came under the ‘surrealism and beyond’ banner. The options provided by the tour were:

Ø About this picture
Ø The artist speaks
Ø Get talking
Ø Dream music
Ø Credits

The ‘about this picture’ option is a standard option for all the artwork included as part of the multimedia tour which tended to draw upon the artist’s inspiration for the work. Particular pieces were accompanied by an interview with the artist (as with this Joan Miró piece) which sometimes included video as well as audio. The ‘get talking’ option presents two points of view of a piece of work and asks you to consider, either together if in a group, or on your own if alone, which point of view you can relate to – this is interesting as within groups it encourages collaboration. The ‘dream music’ option that accompanied Joan Miró’s piece contextualised the piece through music and blended well with the surrealist element. The ‘credits’ option was another standardised option and simply credited any information, interviews etc. to the correct people.

I continued to experience the tour as I made my way around the gallery. Options specific to particular works included amongst others:

Ø Material and technique
Ø Love triangle
Ø Inspirations
Ø Friends, lovers and models
Ø The artist at work

After I had experienced the full collections tour I decided to get a bit of a taster for the family tour, I was interested how it would deal with some works that were not suitable for young children, for example Marlene Dumas’s work is not included in the family tour due to its generally dark nature and sexual connotations.

The family tour was a brilliant example of adapting content to suit the needs of the users. In order to demonstrate this I compared the collections tour with the family tour in relation to Jason Pollock’s Summertime, 1948. The options offered though the collections tour included:

Ø About this work
Ø The artist at work
Ø Pollock and music
Ø Pollock and patterns
Ø Credits

The options offered in the family tour included:

Ø About this painting
Ø Finger painting?
Ø Credits

The options of the family tour were accessible to all age groups containing information relevant to a younger audience. The finger painting option asked the children to see if they could see evidence where Jason Pollock had used his fingers on the canvas. There was also an on-screen option which encouraged users to select certain areas of the painting which when pressed musically announced the technique Pollock had use on that particular area e.g. finger, splatter. This interactive picture made music when touched in multiple areas through the artistic techniques used.

I was amazed at how much information the multimedia tour offered and the different formats this information was delivered. The tour definitely left me feeling much more in-tune with certain pieces of work currently on display at the Tate Modern and really helped me to understand some of the history and inspirations to the pieces of work, contextualising the techniques used by the artists to achieve a certain impression. I saw people of all age groups and all nationalities using the PDA tours, children as young as five up to couples in their sixties. The Tate’s multimedia tours are an excellent example of a successful mobile learning culture, but reinforce the strong need for support of such provisions.

I feel that there is potential to use Tate’s multimedia tour model in an academic setting, particularly in library instruction. It would enable students to experience the library induction in a more hands-on and contextual setting, rather than sitting in a lecture theatre staring at yet another PowerPoint presentation. It would also enable students to recap (after the madness of Fresher’s week when most inductions take place) on how to use the library effectively. In an academic setting I feel that if some of the Tate’s elements were adopted they would need to be delivered via students personal devices. This is because 1. I can’t imagine many students wanting to advertise the fact that they are doing a multimedia tour of the library (not cool!). If they can walk around with their mobile phone or iPod it is less conspicuous! 2. It would negate any cost element to students; they would simply have to download the library induction app to their device 3. From a support point of view, our front of house staff would not been inundated with device related questions and students would feel more comfortable using their own device that they are confident in using.

Overall I think it is definitely something that needs to be considered enabling us to deliver library inductions to students in a more flexible and blended manner.

Looking to the future for the Tate, apparently they have developed an app for the iPhone which would allow visitors to experience the multimedia tour via their own device…what was I just saying…!!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Vicki,

    I did the tour last weekend and loved every second of it. Now I have a craving for more, do you know of any similar tours??