Practice vs Research

This morning I started a PhD. Yes. Unlike many students who, by this stage, would have a fairly decent proposal for a thesis topic, I am yet to focus my broad, yet related interests: art, architecture and technology. This post and those that follow are part of an experiment to share the things I’m thinking about along the winding path of research and that just might resonate with some of you.

Strange though it may seem, I’m going to talk about something I did just before starting the PhD. I attended a conference in Los Angeles called Museums and the Web, aimed at professionals and researchers working in the GLAM sector. Making the transition from museum professional to research, I was intrigued by the disconnect between many of the presentations delivered by people in these two fields.

At the time of the conference, my feet weren’t exactly planted in both camps (they still technically aren’t) and I was frustrated by the presentations which, although very considered and researched, lacked even an imagined application. This is not to say these presentations weren’t grounded in practical examples, just that the presenters did little in the way of explaining how their findings might (or might not) be useful elsewhere.

Coming from a non-technical background, the conference did result in me reactivating my adventures with Code Academy. Obviously, this is a small step, but now more than ever museums need to adapt to address the ethical implications of everyday design and engineering decisions. This necessarily involves specific technological knowledge to scrutinise decisions such as those relating to technical and software defaults, as well as a solid grounding in, and respect for, the governance of public institutions.

Python here I come.

Artwork: Pipilotti Rist: Selbstlos im Lavabad (Selfless in the Bath of Lava), 1994
(a small video embedded in a hole on the floor of MOMA PS1.)