Google Art Project: Your thoughts please…

On February 4th, 2011, posted in: different perspective by

Two days ago news spread like wildfire that Google had developed a new piece of software that allowed people on their computers at home to gain virtual access to some of the world’s greatest museums and view artworks close up – very close up in fact. You may have heard of it – it’s called Google Art Project

This has divided the museum digital community a little bit. And would you believe it FGW too. There seem to be two schools of thought:

    1. The dog’s talking! But it doesn’t seem to have much to say
    2. This is brilliant. Google have taken an interest in museums and art and allowed different folks to see what the museum has to offer. It’s fun to play around with and see what’s there

After further discussion though we started to realise that the views aren’t a million miles apart. My natural tendency is to go to the blue sky – wow this is interesting, could turn into something amazing… – whereas Alyson’s tendency is to offer improvements based on something’s relevance right now.

So, digital technology and culture have the power to transform peoples’ lives – to educate, give pleasure, broaden people’s horizons, but the driving force behind the activities of cultural organisations and organisations such as Google needs to be reflected in their work.

Museums should be learning and making good use of Google

    • Google tackles this from the perspective of big, blue sky technological development that doesn’t always – in fact almost never – has a single defined purpose (though you can bet they have some ideas up their sleeve and that they may not be about sharing great art!)
    • They can do this because that is a significant part of who they are – a bold, forward looking technology company stuffed full of geeks – and they have a lot of money.
    • They’ve created something, they might not entirely know what it will turn into but they aren’t that bothered because they know someone will figure it out.

Museums aren’t Google but can use the tool when they need to!

    • Cultural organisations – most of whom are in the public or third sector – have a different mission and a lot less money.
    • Today there will be a lot of innovators and tech minded people in museums and galleries excited about Googleart, wishing they could do great innovative blue sky tech projects and imagining how they can use this new technology.
    • But generally speaking – and acknowledging there are honorable exceptions – too many projects in these organisations are led by this excitement about technology and too few by the needs of the audiences and potential audiences.
    • We need to master the tools not let the tools master us, we need to REALLY care about how to give audiences that amazing moment in front of a work of art, when they are inspired, moved, their ideas shifted.

As with many things here at FGW Towers it comes down to different approaches to cooking. I will be on the scout for new fun recipes that use google artproject in an interesting way and coming up with new opportunities, where as Alyson has put Googleart in her storecupboard of ingredients and when she has a recipe that calls for it she’ll be sure to whip it out straight away and use it well.

BTW: When we first had access to Google maps – I did notice when faced with the the chance to explore the world at my fingertips, I chose to look at my own front door.  With Google artproject I pretty much did exactly the same – my first instinct was to hunt out the works and museums I know. Just me?

You may also be interested in Nancy Proctor’s article here for a behind the scenes perspective and from James Davies at Tate here

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