Deaccessioning friends and Intel’s “Museum of Me”

Posted on June 4, 2011

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A glib exchange on Twitter this morning left a far greater impression on me than it should have when Bruce Wyman tweeted about Intel’s new Museum of Me. In what was almost certainly trolling, Bruce mentioned his appreciation for the MoM and I couldn’t help but take the bait. My reply touched on the fact that the MoM makes poor choices in deciding which friends to highlight in it’s so-called “journey of a visualization that explores who I am”, to which Bruce replied:

This response, strangely reminiscent of something from The Importance of Being Earnest, stuck with me and gnawed at the edges of my brain. Was Bruce right? Should I start deaccessioning my friends until the MoM became more accurate? The Museum’s multimedia display was strangely lacking too where I’d failed to input data about my favourite tv shows and movies. Should I work harder to fill in the gaps in the digital collection of my life, to ensure that my exhibition stayed up-to-date with all the latest trends? I started to consider that maybe I needed a collections management policy for the digital me.

I’m sure by now you can see why I was concerned. It’s not that the MoM is a soulless and narcissistic paean to the culture of me-ism. It’s that its ‘me’ is wrong. It’s cobbled together from the leftover remnants of digital interactions, the little communicative gifts bestowed on my facebook page. And in some ways, that means that it’s just like a real museum collection. After all, museums frequently begin with an act of benefaction – a gift to a city or a university from a private citizen whose personal collecting biases inform that collection for perpetuity. Further gifts will continue to shape the collection, and so-called gaps are often only filled when their absence becomes prominent. And so although I can probably shape the message of the MoM to make it more indicative of who I am, it will take quite a bit work and there are limitations… after all, explaining to my friends that I have to deaccession them so that my MoM collection more fully reflects who I am might be a little tough. Though they might understand the problem because no doubt they all have their own MoM too.

Of course, if I was to look at each of their MoM, I’d probably be in for a fairly cold experience. By necessity (let’s be honest, it is just a quirky marketing ploy) the MoM takes a one-size-fits all approach to exhibition design and collection management. The gallery space isn’t exactly tailored to different people with different interests, needs and wants, so it’s no surprise that it can’t be all things to all people. And even more critically, without the memories and stories of my friends to animate their MoM, any pleasure that could be derived from the experience would be superficial at best.

The whole MoM experience reminds me of this post on the Interactive blog. Regan Forrest writes of her experiences preparing design proposals, and says that many of the stock portfolio images:

depicted beautifully finished, perfectly lit, crisp, clean . . . empty spaces. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for projects where the aesthetic was a big part of the whole point (fine art exhibitions for instance). But I felt they really sold interactive spaces short – even the most interactive and engaging exhibition in the world looks sterile and passive without visitors there to breathe life into it.

Which is the very point. The MoM ultimately fails for me because it is nothing more than a sterile approximation at representation, but it’s still worth thinking about for the perspective it brings.

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