A packed room was engaged in Sunday afternoon’s presentation on the convergence of the virtual and physical worlds in science centers. Using the PechaKucha format (Japanese for “chit-chat”), seven presenters each presented 20 slides and spoke for 20 seconds on each, highlighting existing, new, and conceptual products that bridge the gap between technology and the museum space and serve to engage visitors. The range of presenters from technophiles to technophobes stirred up a lively discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of virtual experiences and their ability to captivate visitors and propel science centers into the future.
The discussions kicked off with Jennifer Martin of TELUS Spark, who discussed the struggle between learning vs. play and competency vs. content. Lath Carlson, from The Tech Museum of Innovation, followed with thoughts on incorporating the virtual world into the physical world through the use of the Tech Tag for exhibits. Jim Spadaccini of Ideum examined the use of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) in exhibits, which was immediately juxtaposed by Paul Orselli’s (POW!) analysis of the social barriers posed by the use of screens. Darrell Porcello from Lawrence Hall of Science highlighted three user engagement websites aimed at educators, youth, and citizen scientists, and Eli Kuslansky of Unified Field provided commentary on the surge of maker labs and whether these spaces are a fad or revolution. The presentations were concluded with Liza Rawson’s (Liberty Science Center) tour through the in-development Beyond Rubik’s Cube” exhibit.
After the PechaKucha presentations, time was allotted for interactive discussion with the panelists where the concepts were explored further and the presenters were challenged on their positions. All in all, it was an interesting, educational, and mentally stimulating session where the presenters were instructed to and successfully managed to “be brief, be brilliant, and be gone.”