Culture is future » Innovation and digital

12.23.2015

Contribution: "From the freedom of speech to data management: use of visitors’ books in cultural spaces" by Laure Pressac

The visitors’ book, created as a medium for the free expression of visitors, is currently undergoing a revolution in its technology and its use that has been transformed into a device on the crossroads of mediation, knowledge and data management which brings into question its further developments.

‘Cahier de doléances’ in France, opinion pages, readers’ comments: the origins of the visitors’ book are associated with a practical role to allow visitor information to reach the cultural institution. The white book, installed in an exhibition space, allows the guest to leave a trace behind, a critique, an opinion, an enquiry. It gathers perspectives within one standardized format: rarely do we analyze these traces, and it is certainly not automatic.

The sleeping resource, both via its uses and devices. Digital, a universe ruled by a trend, collaborative, universal, imposes its rhythm on the exchanges between the public and institutions. Today, everyone’s opinion matters, and is relayed on websites that collect the larger public’s opinions and are open to all. We are all asked on what we think about a hotel, a train station, a store…The cultural sector is not exempt from this evolution. A new tool has been created: the digital visitors’ book that allows us to leave some text and emotions after our visit, but also invites us to comment on an image, leave an e-mail address or subscribe to a newsletter. This intelligent interface initiates an inversion of relationships and seems to succeed in creating a bridge between the public and the cultural institutions. The cultural space, which had been the reference, is entering the era of relative viewpoints

Beyond the re-establishment of a conversation till now limited, the prospects associated with this tool bring two questions, on mediation and on data managements.

In particular, the exhibition « Quatre vies en résistance » (‘Four lives in resistance’), currently at the Panthéon aims to render explicit the notion of resistance and the life stories of four individuals glorified last June, reveals clues on the transformation of the visitors transformation from contributor to mediator. The visitors’ book waiting at the end of the tours allows free comment, but also to choose an image you consider emblematic of resistance. More than 3 000 contributions have been collected since the beginning of the exhibition, and this interaction with image is the one most popular with visitors. Now, the visitors’ book, is more than a form of expression, it’s a content creator. The application for mediation and exhibition programming are large: for example we can imagine exhibitions constructed based on visitors’ opinions from a previous exhibition, or « crowdsourced exhibitions ».

The second evolution possible is based on the optimization of visitor relation management: via the visitors’ data and by expanding the knowledge base, the digital visitors’ book could be an efficient weapon for a VRM, visitor relationship management. Decode free speech, may it be the second data target market for the cultural sector?

The visitors’ book is today a tool which use has shifted. A once cumbersome object, has become useful even indispensable in a world where opinion is law, the visitors’ book may become tomorrow a competitive factor, for economic efficiency, a source of artistic creation.  Leads are numerous and for now in its infancy but its promises to renew the ties between the cultural space and its public, existing, virtual or future are exciting.

About Laure Pressac

A former consultant in transformation, specialised in digital and culture, Laure has led for two years the Strategy, Prospective, and Digital project at the French National monuments center. This public operator protects, opens to the largest audience and highlights about one hundred monuments in France, among which the Arc de Triomphe, the Villa Cavrois, the Oron Castle, the Montmajour Abbey... all of them to be discovered at www.monuments-nationaux.fr/en

On Twitter : @LaurePresac