Title:Humans in the Machine – Bringing Intimacy of Voice Back to Digital Interactions.
Authors:Sam Haren, Dan Koerner
Publication:MW2020: MuseWeb 2020

Humans in the Machine explores the translation of the intimacy of curatorial stories into scalable visitor experiences. Digital tools are becoming increasingly useful and affordable for museums to create personalised experiences for large amounts of visitors every year. A potential downside of digital technology that it can "deaden" an experience, stripping it of the unquantifiable warmth and richness that human interactions can engender. This paper seeks to illuminate new approaches to technology and content generation that bring intimate conversations back to the visitor at scale.

We trace the emergence of the curator as the keeper of stories – and the digitising of the curatorial voice, from the first audio tours in the 1950s to present day mobile applications at MONA and SFMOMA. We then explore the creation of our own project, Map-O-Matic, at the State Library of Victoria in Australia, which sought to capture the idiosyncratic voice of curator Carolyn Fraser, and translate her unusual curatorial strategy of linkages into a unique tangible object which guides visitors in the space.

Map-O-Matic succeeded in capturing the human intimacy of many of Fraser’s storytelling traits, and revealed many possibilities for further personalisation for future exploration.