iBeholder: a new way of understanding unticketed audiences

iBeholder is an interactive online platform that allows museums and galleries to develop a better understanding of their non-ticketed audiences. It was developed by g39 and Golant Media Ventures with support from the Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales.

In the UK the vast majority of museums and galleries are free at the point of access, and this is just one example of how the sector is committed to reducing the barriers that prevent people from engaging with visual art. But that free access poses a real problem. Without a transaction in place how can those museums and galleries gain knowledge and insight about the people who choose to engage with them? iBeholder is our solution for taking the guesswork out of bringing curated programmes to non-ticketed audiences. 
This idea goes beyond compliance and reporting: it’s a new model for audience engagement and is informed by current discourse in other sectors that use digital in innovative ways. Taking its cue from conversational commerce, iBeholder invites people to respond to artworks in a way that feels like a conversation. The platform listens to their individual preferences and tastes, and gives them tailored enhancements to their experience based on their responses. Crucially this exchange doesn’t have to take place during the visit – it can happen after a period of reflection, or even in anticipation of the visit. We wanted iBeholder to be based on a meaningful exchange of value, which encourages gallery visitors to appreciate the value of their personal data, and also the value of their free access to the gallery or museum.
One of g39’s ongoing aims is to help visitors develop a vocabulary for their cultural experiences, and we think digital can be used to achieve this. iBeholder enables us to know more about our audiences, particularly their reaction to our artworks. To test this we developed prototypes in which we wrote interactive content that would encourage audiences to process their art experience through a series of choices, and by encouraging associations with references that were more familiar to them.
We think this idea will improve relationships between museums and galleries, their audiences, and the artworks. It offers the prospect of a new depth of audience insight and a level of technology and data sophistication previously unavailable in the visual arts.

Why the contribution is important

Non-ticketed venues such as museums and galleries know almost nothing about their audiences. How much can they attribute footfall to their efforts in communicating with audiences? They simply don't know. This is a big problem.

While other organisations can gather audience data via a transaction – for example purchasing a ticket, or services or goods – non-ticketed arts organisations are unable to connect the people who come through their doors with the names that sit on their database. Sometimes a visitor may not feature on the database at all. This has an impact on the organisation’s ability to deliver effective engagement, marketing and programming.
We mentioned earlier that free entry to UK museums and galleries was one way of reducing barriers to people’s engagement with culture. iBeholder will help to reduce another barrier by increasing people’s understanding and appreciation of contemporary practice via tailored exchanges. 
The way that audiences engage with iBeholder can become an important source of data that helps us to make our programming and curation more relevant to more people. Crucially for the first time this means the way we create discourse around our programming as a non-ticketed venue could become informed by data-driven evidence.
iBeholder could also be useful for ticketed as well as non-ticketed venues (and indeed other venues and experiences in the wider cultural and entertainment sphere) because of its potential to gather not just contact details of visitors and events attended, but to explore their response to the work they see, in real time. Current audience insight for ticketed venues relies on data from ticket sales combined with demographic data, from which we can only infer audience attitudes and preferences. There is currently no satisfactory solution to gather sufficient volumes of individual emotional responses and personal meanings to cultural experiences.

by chris_g39 on August 01, 2017 at 01:56PM

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