Media & Technology on the Go

Audio Tours 101b: Technology and Theatricality

Posted on | March 25, 2009 | No Comments

In the second of the ‘Audio Tours 101’ podcast mini-series, Chris Hardman and David Torgersen discuss the pros and cons of linear and ‘random access’ tours, and how different technologies condition both content and user experience design.

‘Random access’ to tour content, allowing visitors to chart their own route through the museum or gallery, became possible as digital audio technologies replaced cassette tapes. But even as digital audio players increased museums’ ability to offer a wide range of tours and languages on a single device, ‘information on demand’ audio design obviated certain kinds of theatrical and narrative engagement. With the visitor moving between two minute ‘stops’ in no predictable order, the tour could not develop a complex story over time, nor immerse the visitor in a continuous soundtrack to accompany the museum’s visuals. “There are always trade-offs as technology advances,” comments Torgersen. As new 21st century technologies continue to shape the nature of what you can do with content, “you have to decide what story you want to tell first, and then choose the best tools to tell it,” counsels Hardman.

From short-range radio systems and IR triggers to iPhones and GPS – with a short stop to hear how the first movie projector was put on tour – follow two of the pioneers of performative sound as they trace the development of their understanding that “all these technologies are tools; it’s the content that makes them valid.”


Leave a Reply