mobile apps

Brave New World: Symphony Orchestras & Online Experiences

Brave New World: Symphony Orchestras & Online Experiences

Just what is an online audience? How does it differ from an offline audience? How does participating in the arts through electronic media and online channels relate to the attendance of arts events? Moreover, exactly what (and how) are symphony orchestras using these digital technologies to engage with individuals around the world?

Mobile Fundraising Applications: The Apple policy over one year later

Apple banned fundraising apps for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod over a year ago (to much controversy) just as the first fundraising app hit the market through eBay/MissionFish.  The field of software for fundraising as a result of the ban is anemic. Until this policy is removed it seems unlikely that major fundraising will take place via mobile applications.  As the iPhone is the number one smart phone on the market developers have much less incentive to build software for fundraising purposes.  It can be extrapolated that once the ban is lifted the fund-raising/development world will be playing catch-up for years.

Here are two notable successes/efforts to do fundraising through mobile apps over the last year:

eBay and Missionfish are on the verge of offering donation capabilities through eBay's mobile application for Android (it was originally intended for the iPhone).  These donations should be relatively easy to put through and involves the user downloading the mobile eBay application and then searching for your cause.  On the organization's end the donation item has to be set up as well as the account which will interface with paypal.

In the UK a group called Marie Curie Cancer Care managed to get around the ban by setting up an app that allows users to request donations from friends through text messaging.  The application itself doesn't collect the funds but is party to gathering them.

If you want to take action, you can sign the current petition to overturn the ban here.


A Visitor's Experience: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Smartphone Apps in Art Museums

Having the good fortune of living in Europe for a few years with many of the world’s most beloved fine art institutions in my backyard, I was pleased to test a myriad of their recently launched apps. There is much to be said for the wonderful ways in which mobile devices can enhance the visitor experience. Of course, there are also downfalls attributed to the growing pains associated with mobile. Often I was impressed, entertained, educated, annoyed, and confused – sometimes all simultaneously. Since mobile planning and implementation can be a backend-focused undertaking for museum staff, the following simply offers the perspective of a museum visitor with a smartphone in tow.

Mobile in Museums Visitors use a Davis Museum digital art museum guide. Photo credit: Dot Diva. No cell phone sign at the Louvre. Photo credit: Tom Arthur.

The Good

  • BYOD (bring your own device): Mobile devices are increasing all-in-ones for just about everything. Visitors can skip the line for an audio guide because with the same (if not more robust) content available on their own familiar device, they have the distinct advantage of being audio and multimedia guide self-sufficient.
  • Deeper connection: With the inclusion of video and other multimedia content, visitors are offered a closer connection to the artists. The Royal Academy of Arts did a wonderful job incorporating video interviews with Academicians in their 2011 Summer Exhibition app. To back it up, a study conducted at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center found that “on average, participants spent about 39 seconds with a work of art when viewing art without the application, and about 3 minutes and 15 seconds viewing art while using the application.”
  • Dialogue: Museums are historically notorious for offering one-way authoritative information. Since most museum mobile apps are outfitted with social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, visitors are afforded a voice to communicate with the museums (and they actually listen).
  • Save and share: I still bring my sketchbook with me on museum visits for notes and doodles, but museum apps make archiving and sharing objects of interest easier to come back to when they offer a “favorite this” feature. Other mobile tools such Pinterest and Twitter hashtags also make the impact of a visit more enduring and accessible.
  • Off-site relevance: Many museum apps make content valuable off-site as well as during in-person visits. For example, I dashed through Tate Modern’s Miró Exhibition in a rush, but later read about the impact of the Spanish Civil War on Miró’s work via the exhibition app while waiting to board a plane in Pittsburgh. This pared down version of a catalogue is easier to haul around and cheaper.
  • “Edutainment”: Why not learn while being entertained? The Andy Warhol Museum’s DIY Pop app is a great example of experiencing both. We have a frustrated museum education staff member to thank for sparking interest in developing a way to digitally educate the public on Warhol’s silkscreen process while replicating it using our own photos.

The Bad and The Ugly

  • Connectivity: Yes, a visitor may skip the line for the audio guide, but once in the gallery app download capability may be spotty since many institutions do not offer Wi-Fi (the cost of which can be a prohibitive expense). To make matters worse, the thick walls of many museums can make using a cellular network virtually impossible. If a visitor can access their cellular network, many multimedia rich museums apps can be data gluttons, especially for foreign travelers out of their network area.
  • No phone/camera policies: I’ve become a pro at the art of looking like I’m texting someone, when in fact I’m taking prohibited photos and spreading them on Twitter and Facebook. Some museums are finding it difficult to strike a balance between preventing copyright infringement and fully embracing the use of mobile technology. With apps like “Cards,” you can understand the dilemma of wanting to encourage word-of-mouth marketing while not irresponsibly promoting the dissemination of images not in the public domain. But, as a staff member of the Royal Academy of Arts pointed out to me: “If all the 50 people who came through in the last two hours went home to their Facebook and their Flickr, posted photos of this fantastic place with comments, think of the social media publicity. Think of the viral marketing.” Institutions like the RA are well positioned to proactively ask for artists’ permission for visitors to use and spread images of their work online.
  • Slow take-up: Tech savvy visitors who would enjoy a mobile option for museum content consumption are likely a little bummed that art museums tend to lag in mobile innovation. It’s hard to blame museums for not leading the way. Shelley Bernstein, chief of technology at the Brooklyn Museum admits on the museum’s blog that: “[W]e don’t have a large audience for our app.  In the galleries on any given’ll see very few visitors pulling out smartphones.” There is a significant demographic gap between the typical museum goer and smartphone owner. Yet, since it is predicted that mobile web browsing will outpace Web browsing on desktop computers by 2015, expect to see a jolt of further mobile enthusiasm from museums on the horizon.

Around the Corner

For individuals such as myself, who are certain their value as a human is inextricably tied to the use of a smartphone, 2010–2011 was an especially great time to be wondering the galleries of Tate Britain, Tate Modern, The Royal Academy of Arts, The Louvre, and more. These institutions’ fledgling apps are a solid start to their entree into mobile tech. In the near future, (especially with the help of new culturally focused app developers) I’ll be excited to see the use of image recognition (a copyright nightmare), mobile transactions (e.g. tickets, membership, gift shop purchases), and the further adoption of augmented reality. Am I asking for too much, too soon? After all, I’m about a step away from expecting my iPhone to wash my dishes if I throw it in the sink. Isn’t there an app for that?

Author Bio

Ashley Paulisick completed her master’s degree in Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London in 2011. Her dissertation, titled “The Impact of Mobile Technology on Art Institution Visitor Experiences,” took her to some of the world’s most prestigious art museums, including Tate Modern and Pittsburgh’s own Andy Warhol Museum.

Ashley has also worked in arts administration and as a painter under the “pen” name Ashley Cecil. You can read about and see her work at and find her on Twitter at @ashleycecil.

10 Takeaways From the 2011 Emerging Practice Seminar

CultureLab, a partnership between an informal consortium of arts consultants and the Cultural Policy Center (CPC) at the University of Chicago, recently held an 'Emerging Practice Seminar' in April. The organization was formed to break down the silos of research, policy and practice, and create a new capacity and approach to tackling challenging issues. The topics at this year's seminar were:

  • Uses of technology in audience engagement
  • Revenue management and dynamic pricing

The seminar's website features all of the speakers' presentations (both videos and slides) and is an extremely helpful resource!

Here were my top 10 takeaways from the 'Use of Technology in Audience Engagement' portion of the seminar.

1. Embrace technological innovation, there's nothing to fear! Tim Roberts of ARTS Australia provided an introduction to the day's topics. Tim's introduction called attention to the unfortunate fact that any arts managers and organizations still view technology as something they are fighting against. He quoted NEA chairmen Rocco Landsman as saying "the arts are battling the technology invasion". Roberts argues that many also believed cable television to be the death of television and photography to be the death of painting and that technical innovation has not caused the death of an artform but has contributed to its spread and created new audiences.

Uses of Technology in Audience Engagement - Tim Roberts from Cultural Policy Center on Vimeo.

2. Engagement is an ongoing process: Technology is least effective when it's not used in a proper context of engagement. This process of engagement often begins prior to the audience coming through the doors. Likewise, the process shouldn't end after the performance or visit ends. Technology can help to provide context to a piece of art or performance, personalize the experience and even augment the experience. There are many options when it comes to sustaining a deeper level of audience engagement.

3. Layered Arts Experiences are cool! This type of technology has been extremely underutilized in the performing arts sector. Layered Arts Experiences offer audiences options for real-time assistance imperative during arts programs. They can come in the form of supertitles for opera and dance performances. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra had a device called the 'Concert Companion' which enabled patrons to read something about the piece they were hearing as they listened to the concert.

4. Museums continue to lead the way when it comes to adapting technology: Another common theme during the seminar was the overwhelming lack of technological innovation in performing arts organizations. Even though there were examples of organizations using layered arts experience tools and mobile interactions, it seemed as though they were few and far between and many had even stopped using these tools.

5. The verdict is still out on Tweet Seats: A 'Tweet Seat' is simply a seat reserved in a theater for Twitter users. Tweet Seats have many benefits, including: encouraging a younger audience demographic to get involved in the performance, having this demographic spread the word about the performance to their Twitter followers, and cutting down on distracting other audience members by blocking off a section for Twitter users. The question, however, remains whether or not people can truly become immersed in a performance if they are multi-tasking with other technological devices.

6. Mobile Interaction isn't just limited to QR Codes in Museums Ron Evans of Group of Minds had some great ideas about ways to engage audiences via mobile devices. Evans suggested placing a QR Code on tickets for previews of the show. Evans also suggested distributing digital keepsakes after shows. He also discussed the importance of using these mobile technologies in the proper context of audience engagement. Unfortunately, most technology has focused on the pre-performance and pre-sale with the sole intention of making the sale and increasing attendance. Engaging audiences should also involve increasing their understanding and appreciation of an artform. The 'during' and 'after' is just as important to leading people to the next experience.

Mobile Interaction: adding content and context - Ron Evans from Cultural Policy Center on Vimeo.

7. Location Based Servies has a long way to go: Devon Smith presented the findings of a research study she conducted on arts organizations using location based services. Location Based Service is simply a service that uses the geographical position of a mobile device (Foursquare, Yelp, Google Maps). Applications like Foursquare can be useful in providing real-time analytics on the demographic of those who are "checking in" to a venue. Smith's study found that only 36% of the 76 nonprofit theatres she tracked, had properly claimed their venues on Foursquare, yet 97% of the venues had a mayor. Even though claimed venues had 3% more activity, the real-time analytic information could be very useful to any organization.

8. Blogging Isn't Dead!: Thomas Wickell of Malmo Opera shared one of the most interesting case studies of the day. Wickell emphasized the importance of viewing the stage from the audience's perspective as opposed to looking out at the audience from the stage. With this key distinction in mind, Wickell and his team found that the audience they wanted to attract was not responsive to traditional channels of advertisement (newspapers, television, etc). Since most of their target audience were highly engaged online, the team created a blog that was centered around the life of a character in an upcoming opera. The blog became so popular, at one point in time, traffic to the blog surpassed that of the company's main website! The staff even invited readers to a ceremony for the character (since she does not survive) and over 100 people came to pay tribute to her life. The blog can still be found here!

9. Technological Innovation Often Requires a Culture Change Within an Organization : Linda Garrison and Thomas Weitz at Steppenwolf Theatre gave an overview of helpful practices for creating video content. An important theme during this presentation was the importance of finding allies when seeking to implement any changes. Whether designing a new video campaign or placing QR codes on marketing material, implementing new technology can often mean a culture change within an organization. Finding out who your champions, advocates and contributors are beforehand can make a world of difference when proposing any sort of change. It's also well worth your time to watch the Steppenwolf videos here.

10. Know Your Target! The Steppenwolf and Malmo case studies highlighted the importance of understanding who the target audience is prior to implementing any of the strategies and tools listed above. Steppenwolf researched and found their audience tended to be highly educated, comfortable with direct marketing and confined to a very specific geographic location. As a result, Steppenwolf decided that an online video campaign could be effective in engaging their audience. The Malmo Opera worked backward and began by envisioning what type of audience they wanted to attract. Either way, this process is extremely effective when the target audience is clearly defined.

Changing Up The Check-in Pt. 2: Recommendation Engines

groupie_bigA few weeks ago I wrote a post on some of the latest updates to Foursquare's specials. To make the platform worthwhile beyond just a fun game for users, Foursquare has overhauled a lot of their services with version 3.0. This went beyond just specials, the location-based social network wanted to make using their platform a useful way for users to discover new places in their surroundings. Boom, new algorithms that form a better recommendation engine for you and me. What does that mean for us non-techies? It means the 'Explore' tab, a new service that takes info from your check-ins, your friends check-ins and presents you with search results of nearby venues that are more relevant to your interests.

Hit the explore tab, type in something like 'art' or 'mexican food' and Foursquare will take into account all your and your friends past check-ins to come up with the most relevant venue. So not only will it tell you where a venue is, but why you should want to go there. In addition to searching, there are also buttons along the top focused on common venue types people are looking for. You might already be familiar with how recommendation engines work, it is how music sites like Pandora and are able to suggest relevant material for their users.

Image via
Image via

So why should arts organizations care? Because this may be the simplest of all ways to participate in the location-based game. Claim your venue, add relevant information and start showing up in search results. Claiming a venue is free, gives you control over your brand, and will improve your search and recommendation results not only with Foursquare, but all of the apps and platforms out there using Foursquare's API (programming language and database) like Gowalla and hundreds of others.

While you're staking your claim with Foursquare, you may want to claim your venue on the two other big location-players - Facebook Places and Google Places. Google has some recommendation engines in the works and while Facebook doesn't offer one, claiming your venue there will still make you more visible to a very large group of users.

Claiming your venue on these three platforms is an easy and free way to take advantage of a fast-growing social media form. It's a simple step that may equal a return for your organization that a lot of other social networks can't offer - foot traffic.

  • Learn about claiming venues on Foursquare here.
  • Learn about claiming venues on Facebook Places here.
  • Learn about claiming venues on Google Places here.

Arts and Technology Round-up: Museums and the Web Edition

Happy Friday everyone! For this arts and technology round-up we decided to try and hone in on a few of the awesome projects that we saw at the Museums and the Web conference last week. Up first are our picks of some of the best and most innovative projects. After that, the winners of the Best of the Web 2011 awards from the conference.

Technology In The Arts Picks

Zooniverse - This group marries together the researching needs of the scientific/historical communities and the power of crowdsourcing. By creating a series of interactive web portals, Zooniverse creates communities of "Citizen Scientists".

PhilaHistory - Philly based GIS firm Azavea worked with the City of Philadelphia to create a platform for linking historical photos of the city to their real world locations using geo-location and augmented reality.

One To One with the Artist: Ai Weiwei - A simple idea with a great effect, this project from the Tate allowed museum visitors to record and upload a video in the gallery and have a video dialogue with the artist Ai Weiwei.

The WALL - The Museum of Copenhagen's giant multi-touch multimedia screen installed in one of the central squares of Copenhagen.

ARTfinder - A new recommendation engine for artwork, this site works very much like, taking your current interests and using them to introduce you to new works.

The Collective - Sounding a little bit like a bad 50's sci-fi flick, The Collective is the Denver Art Museum's interactive website/online programming space and a new way of connecting and bringing in the Denver community.

MoMA Learn - An extremely in-depth arts education web portal, the Museum of Modern Art's education department went all out on this one.

ARtours - The Stedelijk Museum's innovative augmented reality program.

The Best of the Web 2011

Education & Best Overall: The ACMI Generator

Mobile: The AB EX NY iPad app

Innovative: Nationnaal Historisch Museum / Museum of National History

Museum Professional & People's Choice: Smithsonian Web and New Media Strategy Wiki


Research/Online Collection: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Audio/Visual/Podcast: Access All Areas podcast

Project by a Small Institution: ASI: Archaeology Scene Investigations in North County Louth

Museums and the Web 2011 - Thomas's Recap

logoThe 2011 edition of the international Museums and the Web conference wrapped up this past Saturday and was a 4-day whirlwind of presentations and workshops. Presentations covered many of the exciting new technology projects currently in place and coming up from museums around the world. Topics at the conference ran the gamut from mobile technology to augmented reality to ways of creating interactive communities of constituents online. All of the papers from the conference can be found online at the Museums and the Web’s conference website. Here are just a few of the themes and tidbits that stood out to me from the 4-day conference:


Crowdsourcing - Now in 6 delicious flavors!

I attended an unconference session, roundtable talks with topics proposed by conference attendees, that aimed to crowdsource the idea of crowdsourcing. The overall feel I got from the discussion was that many museums are taking crowdsourcing very seriously these days. The talk brought up a lot of cool new projects, ranging from including constituents in collections and archives work to new ways to display crowdsourced material.

Johan Oomen, Head of Research of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, presented his ideas on how crowdsourcing can now be defined in 6 distinct ways:

  • Correction & Transcription
  • Contextualization (Adding to wikis, telling stories)
  • Complementing the Collection
  • Classification, Tagging
  • Co-Curation
  • Crowdfunding
  • Out of the Museum, into the streets - taking advantage of geo-location

    Geo-location was a popular theme, using GPS and mapping to take information and media from the museum and attach it to a location. Many presentations touched on how this idea could really help visitors build a strong connection to the history and importance of objects and sites of a community.

    Some notable projects included PhilaPlace and the Rock Art Mobile Project.


    Access, access, and more access

    There was a lot of discussion around how to not only get more content on the web, but also make that content easily accessible. The types of content being made available on the web, for free, ranged from things like online collections to projects like online teaching portals. There was a general call to standardize access to this content and data and to use more open systems to encourage data sharing among organizations.


    Intuitive design - What's the point of building it if no one can figure out how to use it?

    The conference featured a variety of opportunities for museum professionals to gain feedback on their projects, one of the most popular being the Mobile Crit Room. A reoccurring theme of these critiques was the emphasis placed on the user experience, how easy was it for someone to use your mobile app/website? The Rock Art Mobile Project led the charge, along with a few others, in insisting that any project's user experience needs to be designed in a way that is both intuitive and immediately easy to use. Building around this concept will ensure that users of all ages and skill levels can take part in a project, not just the tech-savvy ones.

    Check out the range of mobile projects from the conference’s Mobile Parade.


    So now you want to build an mobile program? Better be up on some of the new business models.

    One of the most informative presentations I attended was the “Getting on (not under) the Mobile 2.0 bus”. This talk featured case studies by MoMA, SFMOMA, Balboa Park and the Smithsonian on the new business models that now exist for developing a mobile program.

    Some of the subjects from the presentation included: Digital retail (app/download sales), Donations (e.g. by text message), Sponsorship and ad-supported content, Monetizing data from mobile social media and Using mobile to support membership and other revenue channels. The full paper is available here.


    The Rise of the Mobile Internet

    Kristen Purcell, from the Pew Research Center Internet and American Life Project, gave the opening plenary of the conference. Kristen presented on some of the changes in technology from 2000 to 2011. Some pretty surprising stats were thrown up during the presentation. Among them:

    • 1 in 3 adults do not have broadband Internet access.
    • 69% of Internet users watch online video content, 14% of Internet users upload/create video content.
    • 85% of adults will own a cell phone by 2011, making 2011 really the Year of the Mobile. (Purcell stated respondents had difficulty being able to distinguish between what was and was not a smartphone, so that statistic was not available)
    • Mobile usage varied among different ethnic groups, Latinos and African Americans were shown to be in the highest percentage of users actively engaging with mobile content.
    • 11% of mobile users use their phones to make charitable donations. (These numbers may be skewed by mobile donation drives for large natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquakes in Japan)
    • 35% of adult mobile users have apps on their phones, but only 24% use them.
    • The 90:9:1 rule for understanding the level of engagement on social media. It states that 90% of social media users are lurkers, just observing content and never really interacting or contributing. 9% are regular contributors, the ones who often like, retweet or comment on online content. 1% are the super users - always online, always engaged.

    These were just a few highlights, for me, of the conference. Coming up, Molly will do her recap on what she found interesting at Museums & the Web 2011. Definitely go to the Museums & the Web conference site to check out all of the presented papers from the conference.

    Mobile Audience Participation with Jonah Bokaer and the Ferst Center

    Audience interaction has become a pretty major trend this year and arts organizations around the country are experimenting with different ways to engage their audiences. But how does one go about making their experience a participatory one? Artist Jonah Bokaer and the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech decided to approach the issue using mobile technology. Jonah Bokaer is an award-winning choreographer and media artist participating in the Ferst Center's first ever year-long dance residency program, ARTech. Jonah worked closely with students from the Georgia Tech Music Technology Program to develop MassMobile, a smartphone app that acts as an interactive platform for audience members to participate by affecting the stage in different ways. On April 2nd, MassMobile will premier with Jonah's new work FILTER at the Ferst Center.

    I had to opportunity to speak with Jonah as well as Stephen Garrett, one of the graduate students on the MassMobile development team, and dancer Adam Weinert, who can be seen in the sneak peek video at the end of this post.

    XY Coordinate

    Where did the idea to include the audience in the performance, through a mobile app, come from?

    Jonah - Well, in 2004 I made a work called RSVP, which planted 12 cellular devices in the audience. We used those devices and their ringtones to create the music for the piece. And that was engineered from offstage by the composer. But, when doing some initial research down here and planning this production called FILTER, I wanted to put forward the idea or the proposal that there could be interaction or intervention even, with the show.  And maybe Stephen can take it from here, but we spoke with Jason Freeman and the Ferst Center and this relationship started.

    Stephen – Yeah, and I think Jason’s idea, who is my advising professor on my master’s project, was to create a system that allowed for a rapid deployment of audience interaction devices through peoples’ mobile phones. So the idea came from Jason through some previous mobile development work and with several other projects, to create an iPhone and android application that will allow any type of input that the phones will allow. Whether that be an accelerometer, motion data, text messaging, touch data, drawing…anything that the phone will accept, to try and incorporate that into the performances in some way.

    What are some of the direct ways that the audience is affecting the performance through MassMobile? Does it affect the lighting or are there sound elements that change?

    Jonah - Well, one thing I just want to clarify is that this production will premier in it’s full form here in Atlanta on April 2nd. So we’ve had a six or seven day production period in Avignon France and we premiered the choreography, but MassMobile and these technological components have not yet been unveiled and actually this week we are holding a workshop with invited public to interact with it further.

    So in terms of how the audience affects the performance? We’ve identified four ways for potential interaction. In particular I wrote in one section of the performance which is very much open-ended and is a 9 minute section which can basically be reconfigured a bit.  Specifically the lighting is influenced. We worked closely with Aaron Copp, who is my lighting designer, to integrate that into the performance.

    Stephen – And certainly MassMobile itself, the way that the app can interact with a piece, is not set in stone. It’s a creative conversation that is always happening. But specifically for this piece, for one of the sections that involves interaction during the pre-show, the audience is quite literally plugged into the lighting board through their app.

    The actual technical details of the connection is that the mobile app is connected through a client server relationship to one of our servers here at Georgia Tech. Then there is a laptop that sits in the lighting booth that constantly pulls for information. Based on what items people have selected in the app, the laptop is connected directly to the lighting board and will instantly turn lights on and off. You can change color palettes and things like that pretty much instantly.

    Did you build MassMobile specifically for this performance or is this a platform that could be used for other performances/performers?

    Jonah – I would almost say that it is still in progress. But, you know, Aaron Copp and I have known each other since 1999 and have been building work together for a long time and often in our creative discussions we would say, “Is there some way to interface or interact?” As opposed to working with just video or with sound, lighting is so integral to these performances that MassMobile seems like a natural fit. I think that for light and choreography I am working in very particular ways. For larger applications of MassMobile I know there are many options.

    Stephen – So MassMobile itself is the platform and the app, and is still in pretty active development. Working with Jonah and his FILTER has been a great way to beta-test the app and see it grow to more of its current capacity. My professor Jason Freeman already had the plan to use the application in a live music notation work with saxophone where the audience could directly affect the notes that the performer is seeing onscreen. So there are other uses for MassMobile in the arts imaginable.

    Could you speak to the importance, for you, of having participation from the audience?

    Jonah – Well, I should say that my degree is not in choreography, it is in media and visual arts. For my thesis I focused on the myth of interactivity and focused on a lot of mid to late video work in the 1980’s and 1990’s. My sense was that there is a certain parallel between what we could call this myth with interactivity with video, but also with performance.  Just because it’s time based, it’s not necessarily interactive. This is one area of focus of mine in terms of creating performances.

    I guess the impulse to say that an audience could interact, is still pretty much in progress. So far, at least in this stage in the piece, we’ve only had pre-show interaction. It’s kind of an open question.

    I think some major conventions of theater are called into question, for example having the phones on during the show, the light of a cellular device on in the theatre. Some artists would consider this distracting, but in this case we are actually inviting it.  There are certainly questions of attention and attention span. We’re sort of walking into this project and saying that it is assumed that this will be unusually structured.

    So why create such an unconventional performance? Well really, the participation is a part of why we wanted to open this out. Because instead of really disrupting or undermining a performance, we wanted people to be able to engage and help the author.

    Stephen – The way we’ve enabled that interaction is a very direct and literal effect the audience can have with the lighting of different parts of the stage. [The pre-show] is an opportunity for people to come in and the curtain is open and they can see the initial set and it gives them a chance to explore. Our hope is that creates a deeper and more meaningful bong throughout the rest of the performance. That [the audience] has really explored the set and can experience it on a different level.

    In addition to the interaction between the viewer and the stage, do you think that this program will cause the audience to interact with each other?

    Jonah Bokaer (left) and Stephen Garrett (right) do a run-through of MassMobile

    Jonah – The way that we piloted MassMobile was to have six mobile devices distributed internally to members of the creative team, producers and close colleagues over the course of a few days. I did note, on a couple of occasions, the social interactions that would occur person to person. Maybe Stephen would like to address any interactivity within the platform itself.

    Stephen – We did see people that were using the app that were sitting next to each other sort of communicating in person and coordinating their efforts, but at this moment that’s not something we’re doing. [Interactivity within the platform] is something we are looking at in the future of MassMobile. More specifically looking at how do we enable or make sure that people have their own voice in their interactions with the performance.

    From a performer’s perspective, what is it like working with something like MassMobile?

    Adam – From a performer’s perspective, I think what excites me most about this kind of initiative is that as a performer we’re always looking for new ways to engage the audience and make each articulation of the performance event unique and special and fresh. I think that MassMobile can be a unique way to do that.

    The other thing I really appreciate is how we’re using this mobile technology and multimedia to make more personal the performance. Which I think is rare and hard to accomplish.

    If you live in the Atlanta area I highly recommend heading over to the Ferst Center for the premiere of FILTER on April 2nd. You can find more information about performance times and tickets at the Ferst Center's main website here. Until then, he is a sneak peak of dancer Adam Weinert and MassMobile.

    MassMobile App Sneak Peak from Ferst Center on Vimeo.

    Changing Up The Check-in: Foursquare Updates Specials

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    Foursquare, the popular location-based social media platform, decided to shake things up a little at the annual South by Southwest festival last week. Rolling out their new 3.0 version, Foursquare has made some significant changes to their platform in the way it operates, most notably in the way it recommends venues and offers specials.

    I'll be covering the changes to the recommendation engine in an upcoming post, but today I really want to talk about the new ways arts organizations can offer specials on Foursquare. A "Special" on the platform refers to an incentive that organizations and brands can attach to a venue that is unlocked when a Foursquare user "Checks In" and meets a certain criteria. Up until last week, these specials were limited to either the frequency a user checked in (1st time, 5th time, etc.) or if the user was the "Mayor", a title held by the user that checks in the most frequently at a particular venue.

    While a great idea in concept, personally I felt the result was a little lackluster in practice. Becoming the Mayor of a venue is tough, requiring checking in at that venue a large amount of times to temporarily steal the title. While this may be easy to do for somewhere like a local coffeeshop, frequented everyday, it is unrealistic to offer this incentive for an arts organization. Then there is the average check in, some organizations have offered incentives like reduced ticket prices for having a certain amount of check ins, but this is often a one-time special. The hesitation to use a more tantalizing incentive may be the fact that organizations want a little more involvement than having a user hit a button on their cell phone once.

    The game has changed with the release of Foursquare 3.0. More types of specials have been added and split up according to whether they are loyalty specials or customer acquisition specials. Plus, nearby specials now appear when a user hits the "Places" tab in Foursquare's mobile platforms, showing users which nearby venues are offering incentives for their foot traffic. Here's a look at how the new specials work:

    Customer Aquisition

    check-inThe Check-in Special - This is the run-of-the-mill, every-time-you-check-in kind of special. It allows organizations to attach an incentive that users can claim with every check-in and is the one most often seen on the platform. Many organizations may still want to take advantage of this by offering cheaper incentives, such as a dollar off admission, to encourage visitors to adopt Foursquare and take advantage of more rewarding specials in the future.

    newbieThe Newbie Special - Most of the new specials say it right in the name and this is no exception, this rewards users only for their first time check-in. Organizations may want to take advantage of this for the same reason as the regular Check-in special, to encourage initial use of the platform.

    flashThe Flash Special - Now we start to get into some of the more interesting specials. The Flash special works like a flash sale, once a certain number is reached the special expires. It is first come, first serve. For example, say your special events are dragging a little bit for the first few hours, on average. A Flash Special can be used to create some interest in showing up first, such as "First 10 people to check-in unlock a private meet and greet with ______ !".

    swarmThe Swarm Special - Swarm specials are all about building a crowd. Swarm specials are only unlocked if a certain number of users, set by the organization,  check-in at that organization's venue within a set three hour period. This can be a great way to reward a large crowd with an incentive that would be more attractive for a group event than for an individual. For example, an organization could  have a special encore from a performer if that night's swarm special is unlocked.

    friendsThe Friend Special - This is by far my favorite new special. Users can only unlock this special by having a certain number of their foursquare friends, not just users that happen to be at the venue already, check-in alongside them. When paired with a great reward, this can be a great way to incentivize people to bring their friends along to your venue. The number of friends required to unlock the special is completely up to the organization.

    Rewarding Loyalty

    mayorThe Mayor Special - Hey now, we can't forget about the Mayor! This special works the same way as the old special, it is unlocked by the current Mayor of the venue. The Mayor is determined by which user checks in the most times in the previous 60 days and the check-ins only count once per day towards mayorship. This is so a user cannot stand in your lobby and just hit the check-in button over and over again until they have the mayorship.

    frequencyLoyalty Specials - A little bit like the regular check-in special, this special rewards frequent visitors who are regularly checking in. One version of a Loyalty special gives users a goal of total check-ins to unlock a reward. Since you can set the number, organizations may want to pair this with a sweet reward for that user who visits over 100 times. Again, only one check-in counts towards this special per day. Another parameter organizations can set with Loyalty specials is the time that user has to reach the set goal, such as having a goal of 10 check-ins for one month. This type of special could be paired up with a more temporary event like an exhibition or a performance series.

    It will be interesting to see if and how arts organizations take advantage of these new specials that Foursquare has launched. The biggest advantage to the service is that it is one of the few social media platforms out there that require users to physically be in the space. Coming up in a future post, I will go into some of the other improvements Foursquare has made to its platform, including the ways their new recommendation engine will help direct users to your organization.