Welcome to the future*

A new kind of museum in the digital age


Technology has increasingly lodged in unanticipated aspects of our lives.

The vast advancements brought by the information society at the end of the 20th century are unquestionably affecting all areas of knowledge. Perhaps some of the biggest transformations across many disciplines can be attributed to the extensive use of digital tools, the easy access to information, and the newfound capacity to access and to generate data.

Digital technologies – computer and computer-controlled machines – have pervaded all aspects of life, delivering sustained and accelerated rates of societal and economic evolution. Digital technologies will incontrovertibly be one of the key drivers of innovation of the built environment in the 21st century.

Explosive innovation and adoption of technology and rich sources of data are changing the cities in which we live, work, and play.

We are living in the era of smartphones, communication has never been so easy, with social media we are always connected to our friends and millions of other people, no matter where we are, at a very low cost we can easily exchange messages, get all sorts of notifications and share information, all we need is a smartphone with internet connection.


Interactivity and digital art

Computer technology in postmodernity has been integrated into almost every area of everyday life in globalized life. Among them, art itself.

Interactive art, cyber art, technological art, media art, multimedia (…). The concept has different names and definitions. However, it can be said that virtually all the definitions describe them as an art where the viewer is invited to interact with a machine or technological interface.

Thinking about digital art as a new category of art requires an understanding of recent history, in view of the expansion of notions of art, creation and aesthetics, since in the course of the last century there has been a shift of functions in various fields of the arts.

A revolution of thought arose in which the individual has passed from observer / beholder to a being who establishes an active and creative connection.

The phenomenon that is the dilution of the frontier between the work of art and the spectator is due to the search of the art of positioning the spectator as its primordial element, having a very strong impact in the definition of the artist’s role and in the relation that has with your own creation.

The increase of the participation of the spectator and the insertion of the art in the daily reality found in the digital universe a fundamental ally for the constitution of what is now called interactive art.

Analyzing the work of Hélio Oiticica, an experimental and performative artist, he started in his work the search for the participation of the public, in order to become an extension of the artistic work. In this way, art passes from the state of contemplation to affect behaviors, having an ethical, social and political dimension. Other artists followed him in this search for a new relationship with his work, altering our perception of the role of the spectator and the work of art.

Today, there are many artists who explore the interactivity of art and its relationship with the human being through digital processes. Expressions such as “interactivity”, “interaction”, “real time”, “virtual”, etc., are now adopted by artists.

The relations between art and technology, with their progressive character, accelerated with the evolution of the computational configurations. The processes promoted by the technological interactivity result in a man-machine relationship.

An outstanding moment for this movement is the exhibition of 1968 “Cybernetic Serendipity” in London, where for the first time works created with the help of the computer are presented and where the questions arise: “can the computer create works of art?”; Do works created with the help of computer science have an aesthetic value? “


How does the visual representation affects our experience of the museum?

One of the most significant and momentous features of the contemporary society of the last 20 years is the proliferation of representational media.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technologies have existed for some decades now, although they have only definitely been on the market in recent years, they have already dictate new ways of living and relating. As the world will never have less technology and will change faster and faster thanks to it, certainly our relation with memories will also undergo major changes, gaining new horizons and challenges.

First of all it is important to understand the concepts of each of these technologies that are emerging in the museum context: Augmented Reality is interactive and occurs in real time, conceived in three dimensions, its processing combines virtual elements with the physical environment. Virtual Reality is a means of sensory experience that occurs through an operational system in which the user gets very close to the sense of truthfulness of some environment or situation.

Both technologies provide a close connection with the whole built environment, bringing new tools that expand the spatial sensations of those who experience them.

As of 2009 there has been a growing interest in AR associated with the mass adoption of smartphones. This new situation has made AR an emerging medium of communication of major relevance. The ubiquity of smartphones and the growing public familiarity with the AR application is having a tangible impact on how content is created and presented.

We can subscribe to Biermann’s understanding that the AR is the “first step in the evolution of better tools of expression that democratizes the tools of public media production. If successful, this and other types of digital takeovers can ultimately yield the traditional modes of public commercial advertising obsolete, equalize the power structure of representation, and allow the citizen to define his own media consumption”.

Virtual reality has not yet reached a full mainstream, however it already covers several fields that also come to influence our lives.


* This article was originally published in the book “Showing – Alternative designs for museums” by Non Architecture Competitions [2018]

Image: Cover of the book

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