Weeknotes: 49.2015: Measuring engagement impacts, more US musetech experiences, a conference calendar

On December 10th, 2015, posted in: weeknotes by

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Following on from last week’s Part One (over on my own blog) of my tour of the museums of DC and NYC , Part Two is now live in which Laura and I visit the Cooper Hewitt and have a good play with the Pen, get a tour of the Met’s MediaLab, and I meet Barry Joseph at the American Museum of Natural History and hear all about their games. Also, robots.

Alyson attended a seminar on evaluating public engagement that seems to have left her with a lot to think about. She says:

Museum research in action

Museum research in action

“Here at FGW we use research a lot; we use it to help us understand whether (and how) projects are succeeding and to identify opportunities for improvement, we use it to understand visitors’ needs, motivations and behaviours better so we can identify opportunities and design great experiences. We don’t think of ourselves as researchers but research is an important tool and one we need to keep honed. At the moment, for example, we’re looking to improve how we measure learning and engagement so it was a real treat to attend Method for Change’s seminar “Gentle Introduction to Evaluating Public Engagement Impacts”.

The day provided both an overview of methodologies and a deeper dig into some specific areas and, more particularly for me at least, some really timely reminders.

Eric Jensen reflected that many organisations are quick to believe that measuring complex outcomes is simple and suggested that “questionable data and conclusions have been fed into the world of public engagement for years”. I can’t help but feel that the combination of digital survey technology and shrinking budgets is exacerbating this trend. In response he offered us a series of ‘indicators’ for robust evaluation that struck me as helpful for both practitioners and commissioners, for example that it should:

  • Be Systematic – avoid bias in the collection and analysis processes
  • Tell you how and why specific aspects are effective – its not binary good or bad
  • Anticipate and allow for negative outcomes as well as positive – engagement programmes can result in a negative outcome (who would have thought!) and evaluation must be designed to allow for that possibility rather than editing it out
  • Never collect data ‘on behalf of someone else’ – a huge temptation when working with families where its all to easy to ask the parents or teachers whether little Johnny learnt anything!

Delightfully these stern warnings were contrasted with a really creative approach to the type of data that can be captured. Eric’s book Doing Real Research: A Relentlessly Practical Guide to Social Research, co-authored with Charles Laurie is out next March. It’s already on the FGW Christmas list!”

Lindsey was over in Amsterdam for two days, working with the Van Gogh museum on the next phase of that project, and Laura, regrouping after her trip, was getting stuck into some thinking about her work with the National Museum of American Jewish History, more on that next week.

So nice to see our conference list being used: every time I go in there, there are other anonymous google animals having a look. (Anonymous Grizzly and Platypus this morning, I wonder who they were). I’ve just added most of the conferences that people have suggested in the “Conferences to add” sheet, working on all the American regionals. Thanks so much to everyone who has contributed so far. I’m sure there are more digital, general arts and games conferences I’ve missed too, so feel free to suggest some for those.

Finally, I see from the MCG mailing list this week that TIME/IMAGE have set up a calendar based museum conference list, which looks very handy, thanks! They are asking for help keeping it up to date, more info on their website.

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