Welcome. We are Aarón Alzola Romero and Elton Barker, from the Open University's Department of Classical Studies. This blog is part of a broader research project exploring the uses (and abuses) of mobile learning in the Arts. Our aim is to examine mobile learning applications, assess their strengths and weaknesses (in terms of user interaction, contribution to learning outcomes, cost and popularity), identify areas of opportunity and challenges in their future implementation and assess the impact that mobile learning solutions have on the delivery of Arts courses.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The battle of the ages

The Nintendo 3DS console was introduced to the Louvre last March with much fanfare. You might think that this games console is more likely to be associated with mustachioed Italian plumbers than the Venus of Milo. Well, on this occasion it is conceived as an audio guide on steroids. It provides museum visitors with interactive maps of the museum, suggests themed itineraries for different visitor profiles, complements the displays with hundreds of commentaries recorded in seven different languages, provides high resolution images of paintings that may be difficult to look at closely in the galleries (like the Mona Lisa) and even generates 3D reconstructions of statues. According to Agnes Alfandri, Louvre’s head of multimedia, less than 4% of visitors were using the old audio guide, so it was imperative to galvanise the system in order to keep up with the times.

Interestingly, user feedback suggests that the Nintendo 3DS guide may have received mixed reactions. In fact, it seems to have drawn a wedge between two group categories: the under-thirties (approximately 1/3 of all visitors), who have responded quite positively to the new system, and the over-thirties (approximately 2/3 of all visitors), who appear to be somewhat less enthralled by the entire thing. 

Image: Left CC by bixentro. Right CC by Matthew Miller (modified)

This battle of the ages is being fought on three fronts:

1. Games consoles in a museum
    • Under-thirties: many in this category see museums as intimidating, alien environments. Games consoles make museums appear less serious, more approachable and engaging.
    • Over-thirties: the idea of using games consoles in a museum is about as appropriate as bringing a vuvuzela to a funeral.
2. Ease of use
    • Under-thirties: The console and its interface are very intuitive and easy to use.
    • Over-thirties: The console and its interface are very alien and difficult to use.
3. Eye candy
    • Under-thirties: The 3D reconstructions of artefacts are cool.
    • Over-thirties: I’m standing in front of the actual statue. What is the point?
Of course, these are gross generalisations, concealing an even broader and more complex range of reactions to the system. However, the initial user feedback does highlight two important aspects about ML and some of the challenges faced in its implementation:

1. ML (and digital learning resources in general) have the capacity to reach a broad user base, but these users have very different needs, tastes and priorities.

2. The digital divide is not just about being able to access ICT, it’s also about developing the skills and knowledge required to use it efficiently.

No comments:

Post a Comment