notes from the grounds

Sweet use of wireless devices today at the DeCordova Museum’s sculpture park — many of the sculptures have an extra plaque that has a phone number you can call and various extensions you can dial to learn different things about the sculpture. Loved how this was simple, unobtrusive, and took advantage of technology people already have right where they are — no need to borrow an audio tour from the museum (which is closed on Mondays anyway).

One of the installations is a slope between the parking lot and the museum which is all stone archways and paths and water. Apparently it used to be poison ivy (thanks, cell phone audio tour!) but they wanted to “turn an obstacle into an opportunity” or words to that effect, so now it is a lovely space which knits together two important areas while providing a wonderful view of autumn leaves downhill.

Got me thinking that — aren’t all obstacles opportunities? Obstacles are things users encounter when they’re looking for routes to something. If they don’t care about access, it doesn’t matter how much might be in the way; barriers are only obstacles if you wanted to go there. And if someone wants to go there, there’s an opportunity for accessibility. Would that all strategies were so lovely…

4 thoughts on “notes from the grounds

    1. What is this “we” we speak of? Isn’t your company pretty much…um…you?

      I still think it’s true in the context of information-seeking behavior, though. Perhaps not uniformly outside that scope ;).


  1. What’s the penetration of cell phones like in US groups without a lot of clout? I know that the only people in my social class who don’t have cell phones are presumed to be giant weirdos, but if I were poor it’d be the first expense to go.

    Not that the poor are known for their attendance at art museums, perhaps. But adding barriers for them doesn’t thrill me.


    1. I am given to understand (via, iirc, danah boyd) that the penetration is enormous. Again iirc, African-Americans are dramatically more likely to access the web via phone than whites are. Cell phones have been a really big deal pretty much everyplace on earth without reliable landline infrastructure; when you’re talking populations that are disproportionately renters and may therefore be transient, having a stable phone number rather than having to set up a new land line every time you move is huge. And in many parts of the earth (I don’t know so much in the US) cell phones are financially crucial — people use them to get information about the prices at different markets before deciding where to take their goods for sale, people use them as banking infrastructure (as a way to access banks in areas that don’t have them, and also cell phone minutes are a growing currency). They’re not things people sacrifice if at all possible. I mean, ask Grant, of course, but you would not believe some of the places that have a market for cell service.

      (The sculpture park at the DeCordova, by the way, is free. The museum’s not, but the grounds and parking are. Of course it’s out in Lincoln, which is, let’s say, not known for its density of groups without a lot of clout.)


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