The assembly of museum media: Tracing the adoption of novel forms and formats of communication technology into museum media production
thesisposted on 01.08.2019, 10:33 by Peter P. M. Annhernu
Given that museums have continually engaged in media production throughout their history, this thesis investigates how museums approach innovations in communication technology and traces how emerging forms and formats are incorporated into museums’ own media production processes. The fieldwork investigation is focused on a set of projects at Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove; the British Museum; Southend Museums; Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Museum of Design. In each of these projects, the museums involved experimented with media forms and formats that they had not previously deployed. This research uses these case studies to explore the mesh of staff, assets, technologies, suppliers and platforms that have been embodied into the projects’ media outputs and the means by which these networks responded to opportunities and uncertainties presented by the emerging (and converging) technologies used. The intellectual framework of the analysis in this thesis is shaped by Actor-Network Theory (and successor theories) developed by Bruno Latour, Michel Callon, John Law and others. The study explores the utility of Actor-Network Theory to map the socio-technical methods of museum media production and proposes a graphical representation of network assembly and project programme that hybridizes two analytical methods of Latour and Callon. What emerges from the investigation is that museums are motivated to engage with new media technology as a means to solve problems intrinsic to their nature as physical institutions and to take opportunities to reach wider audiences. However, incorporating new technologies into their practice means that the size and instability of their production networks are increased, greater uncertainty must be overcome and that the negotiations between network actors are intensified. Additionally, there are likely to be more unrecognised or unacknowledged actors in the production network, and this is likely to affect project outcomes. Ultimately, this thesis positions the museum as a significant, yet idiosyncratic, type of media producing entity, and offers a method to study museum media output in a rapidly changing technological landscape.