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Nina K. Simon, agent of change

Agent of Change: Nina K. Simon

Nina Simon’s crowdsourced search for a title for her upcoming book leads me to bring a fine word out of penultimate obscurity: particibility. By which I mean the amount or degree a thing is able to be participated in. To me particible gets at something that participatory glosses over, which is the quality of participation afforded. A key distinction where any game is concerned, but double-dog-especially for social (and socially relevant) games such as World Without Oil – which are notable for their very high quality of participation.

Nina is Museum 2.0, which is how we met – she wrote about WWO soon after it concluded (and coined one of the most apt descriptions of the game: WWO “was a huge growing, twisting network of news, strategy, activism, and personal expression”). She’s helped bring me into the world of museums, which has been a most fruitful introduction… Because, in a word, museums want to become more particible, and WWO-style open gameplay could be key to accomplishing that.

Getting back to that book title: I’m put off by Participatory Museums, because participatory is a tag museums assign themselves, and can I trust how the museum defines participation? Very often, no. I’m attracted to Particible Museums because to me the word particible speaks of openness to participation as defined by the visitor. And in the end it’s the visitor, and only the visitor, who decides; participation is a feeling she or he gets (or doesn’t get). Photo by Musebrarian via Flickr.

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On the left, the World Without Oil fiction; on the right, the realityNina Simon works on cool museum stuff (like the Spy Museum [cue theme music]) and posted a thoughtful post-mortem on World Without Oil some months ago in her richly ideated blog, Museum 2.0, pointing up the game’s educational side. She’s presenting museum-quality newtech ideas at a museum conference this week and sent me the slide above with this note: “Your pic on the left. On the right, cellphone pic we took yesterday in SF. Using it in upcoming presentation. Sometimes I wish games didn’t have to be so real.”

It was the world's first serious alternate reality game, a cooperative pre-imagining of a global oil crisis. Over 1900 players collaborated in May 2007 to chronicle the oil crisis with their own personal blog posts, videos, images and voicemails. The game ended after simulating the first 32 weeks of the oil shock, but its effects continue, as game designers analyze its unique gameplay and we all watch the continuing drama with global oil prices and supply.