Class discussion of the HistoryWired Website

I analyzed the effectiveness of using map technology within the website; HistoryWired: A Few of Our Favorite Things. How does the practice of this new technology inform, educate, and entertain web vistors of the Smithsonian institution’s national museums.

The adaptation of the popular multi-dimensional Money Map tool is supposed to allow users to view vast amounts of exhibit holdings in a simple, graphical, and interactive format. I think it leaves more questions than answers. However, it does empower visitors to participate in making a claim for the most popular visited objects but does this allow them to make more efficient and informed decisions about the holdings of the Smithsonian? There seems to be a natural order in allowing Money Map users to measure performance, risk and other value changes in the stock market. Highlighting patterns and anomolies to make more informed decisions about making money appears to create an audience motivated to use mapping technology. But can the general public formulate any meaningful context to help them understand and experience the Smithsonian’s holdings in a more meaningful way?

In my opinion, the mapping technology does not come across so relevant to the historical and curious audience. Even the most ardent web traveler would not spend the time perusing through this maze and transcribing the hieroglyphs in order to figure out what more is there or for that matter the graphical representation of the percentages of those who have been there before. The types of questions which naturally perculate in the minds of many guests visiting a museum is not how many people have seen the last exhibit. In my opinion, visitors ask what more do you have? and how can I interact with it?

There seems to be a loss of mission at the most and/or a loss of orientation at the very least. The ill chosen colors, popping texts, busy mouseovers, and the lack of a relationship between the timeline and the drop down categories could cause attention fatique and perhaps other incalcuable losses. My navigation experience was fustrating. It was though, I was within the bowels of a museum wandering the halls of an unexplored basement. And though I had unprecedented access to the holdings, I was given a limited map indicating the most visited objects instead of one providing important contextual information, such as the value of the objects or its spatial relationships to other holdings or the building itself.

I believe new dimensions could have been explored, such as graphical interpretations of the volume of objects compared to well established categories such as Women’s Suffrage. I believe this would provide some evidential features as to institutional effectiveness and directions. Knowing the number, the types, the estimated value, and its representative volume compared to the other objects within the same genre or category adds the multi-dimensional aspects sought after and may quinch the thirst of both the novice and expert.

In short, it is an impressive display of adapting technology with precision to reach an unspecified audience concerning a few of their favorite things. The HistoryWired website presentation causes the visitor to “wander” through not wonder about its holdings.


~ by pencil on September 5, 2006.

One Response to “Class discussion of the HistoryWired Website”

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