Weeknotes: 12.2016 – Visitor Studies Group conference report, games workshop reminder, SS Great Britain

On March 22nd, 2016, posted in: weeknotes by

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Pleased to see quite a bit of interest in our Getting to Grips with Games workshop on the 18th April. Don’t forget that the early bird tickets run out at the end of this Friday, so book this week for the best price. Also very pleased to have been tipped off that the fabulous Oink games, a Japanese game company whose seriously cute little boxed games I’ve been trying to get hold of for ages, have a single European stockist. So, I now have these beauties on order and hope to include them in the workshop. Come along and be a Fake Artist in New York…

Also glad that we can now talk about one of our spring projects, which is looking at the potential for digital at a really great location: the SS Great Britain in Bristol. Alyson and I have both been on site visits now and I think are equally taken with the incredible restoration of the ship. I knew very little about it before, but have since been educated in its fascinating history; each area of the ship recreates different aspects of this history in a very atmospheric way.

The work we’re doing is part of a larger project to make the museum, the site and its operations more sustainable and prepared for the future through redevelopment and improving systems. It’s funded from the Art’s Council England’s museum resilience fund.

Last week was the Visitor Studies Group conference at the Royal Geographic Society. I attended on Wednesday, and Lindsey was there speaking on Thursday. The theme was “It’s what you do with it!”: how Visitors Studies can have real impact and influence, which is a pretty vital consideration. It’s all very well having great research and insight, but if no-one uses it it’s a bit of a waste of time, not to mention very frustrating. This also came to mind reading a piece on the BBC website this week on why institutional memory matters (“Each time someone leaves their job, a chunk of the organisation’s memory leaves too. How, then, do you run complex systems, see through long-term projects, or avoid past mistakes?”).

There were very interesting talks from three different organisations about how they have tackled this. Lamia Dabboussy, Head of Audience Planning at the BBC, described her tactics – finding the right people who will listen and champion her team’s work, picking the right moment and repeating the same key points over and over, for example.

Jane Rayner from the Science Musuem described how she had encouraged her team to take on particular specialities, so they could be brought in as experts to advocate for a particular audience type. She said they were bringing knowledge in from their own research but also from others. It was great to hear that they are planning on publishing some of their insight soon in this area. Emma Morioka from HRP also talked about how she had been working to give more structure to audience research at her organisation by developing a framework for evaluation, embedding evaluation into projects, creating KPIs and a formal project review process.

Caroline Florence, “Insight Narrator”, then hammered home the importance of using storytelling to share insight in a way that makes it stick. To make these stories effective, she said, they should be consistent, have colour (details that bring it to life) and an emotional connection. They should also highlight areas of conflict, which are often more compelling. She quoted John Le Carré who said:  ‘The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat’s mat is a story.’

Lindsey is away on a well deserved holiday, so unable to share her thoughts from the second day. But you can see her slides on “embedding the research in the design” below. You can also see all the speaker presentations here, and a storify from the event here.

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