On 13 October 2012 we held a second public engagement event at Tate to test the Art Maps app (the first one was held on 21 and 28 April 2012). For this we worked with families because we wanted to see how different age groups would use the app and whether they would work individually or collaboratively. Whilst in our first public engagement event we found that Art Maps can operate for individuals, facilitating subjective reflection and sharing through social media, at our second event we found that Art Maps can operate as a social tool, facilitating collaboration, in situ sharing, and mobile learning (see Figure 1).
As had been the case in the first event, this workshop was run by Hannah White, with Tate staff Rebecca Sinker, Curator: Digital Learning, and Kirstie Beaven, Producer: Interactive Media, among others. After a generic introduction to iPhones and their basic functionalities, different kinds of maps, road safety, and the Art Maps tool itself, participants were encouraged to look and search for artworks in relation to specific places and then document associated memories, stories of their own lives, news, local history, etc.
In the morning this was achieved through a group task using the camera phone:
Find Tate Britain on the Art Maps map. Choose one of the works that comes up at Tate Britain and take a photo inspired by it. Upload your photo in a comment on the Art Maps website and choose a word each to describe how you feel about the work, adding your words to the comments box.
and a video task:
Stop in a safe location and turn on video on your phone. Choose a height to hold your phone, then turn in a circle moving your phone with you and videoing your surroundings until you have made a full circle.
In the afternoon participants, who had by then become more familiar with the use of the app, were encouraged to create a trail. To assist them in this activity, they were given three tasks, which aimed to prompt them to explore an area from Tate Britain to a final destination, via a third location that they could choose along the way. Each final destination was the suggested location, as depicted in a Tate collection artwork, which participants could then comment on with the text and photo functions of the app. Participants could physically map their journey on a worksheet (see Figure 2), marking on the map where they completed different tasks by using symbol labels, sticky dots, colouring pencils, which had been provided by Tate. Using a set of devices mimicking what we expect to be the final functionalities of the app, participants were encouraged to take a picture featuring their family; look for patterns; create a sound map; collect objects and arrange them in a mini-sculpture; pretend to be a reporter and make a programme about the area (see Figure 3).
In both the morning and afternoon sessions participants were observed by members of the team who recorded copious notes about what they saw. Some participants were also photographed by a professional photographer and, as in the case of the first public event, the final feedback session was filmed by Chocolate Films.
Generally speaking participants found it frustrating to switch between the web app and the mobile app, which at this point in the development were still separate; found the search functionalities slow; and struggled to comment and post. However, middle and older children responded creatively to these difficulties by finding a range of solutions (for instance one participant worked out that she could flip between Safari pages to see her own search trail). Interestingly, it was primarily this age group that also enjoyed self-documenting and generally led the activity. Youngest children, on the other hand, tended to be motivated by the photo app and the paper map activities but were distracted by the overall complexity of the exercise. Families took on different roles and all families worked in different ways, with one family literally creating a documentary of the entire journey and even embracing role-play to do so: ‘we pretended that we was interviewers, so we could get some recordings I thought I was confident at being a documentarian.’ Most participants also enjoyed the trail generation and found that they engaged in family learning by talking about art, history and place and, like in the case of our first public engagement event, felt a desire to go back to the museum to see the physical works after encountering the works digitally on the phone. One teenage child even spotted, upon going back to the museum, that the image on the internet did not correspond to the work in the gallery, which made us realise that Tate owned two different copies of the same work.
The ethnographic analyses and the feedback recorded by Chocolate Films showed that participants found Art Maps stimulated them to learn socially whilst spending a day in the open. Thus one participant, for example, suggested that
‘looking at how things have changed, looking at pictures on the app, would prompt conversations’
whilst another pointed out that the tool
‘took you outside of that digital world to the world around you and we talked about things we didn’t talk about before’.
This suggests that Art Maps could be used as a learning tool but also to promote well-being. Participants also enjoyed making objects and felt that engaging with Art Maps offered families ‘something different’, for example, the possibility of responding to art outside the museum by actually making art and documenting this creative process (see Figure 4). Finally, participants simply enjoyed the physical exploration of a set of locations. In this sense Art Maps worked as a mapping and map making tool, literally allowing participants to discover new places through art:
The walk was quite nice. I don’t walk around this area. I didn’t know you had so many sculptures around. It’s amazing.