This year’s SXSWi festival is filled with several micro-themes, one, of course, being the idea of remixability. Today’s tech people don’t see entertainment as a static concept. They’re moving ahead as if this is a generally accepted principle — as always, it’s up for to the rest of the world to leap on the bandwagon (and they always do).
Leaping boldly into the void is Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. In creating an online design museum, the institution is embracing Web 2.0 and making art accessible to the public in a new and exciting way. The relaunched website will allow visitors to create virtual collections, act as their own curators, even help museum staff by adding to the institution’s knowledge-base. In other words, the museum realizes that the dialogue doesn’t have to go just one way.
Among the models that [Kevin] Farnham and Maeda point to are Yahoo’s My Web 2.0 and the site http://del.icio.us. Users on those sites already are creating communities through “tagging” — Web-speak for linking personal reactions to items on a site. Tags allow spontaneous communities of strangers to share interests in seemingly random ways.
The Washington Post rightly wonders if museum culture can survive radical upheaval — museum websites are traditionally staid and as likely to entice browsing as a brochure for teeth whitening. And if a museum’s website can’t engage people, what hope does the museum have?
It’s not wrong to wonder how a Smithsonian museum can survive as the Wikipedia of design culture. Or whether a museum site modeled after the populist photo-sharing http://Flickr.com — with favorite artifacts and amateur points of view — would diminish an institution’s reputation. The bigger question for all museums is how to flourish if they don’t.