Podcasting as a way of engaging with museum visitors

    15.04.2019 by Jerome Turner

    Keywords: CONECTA, conference, podcast, podzine

    At the recent smARTplaces conference CONECTA, I proposed something I’d never done before, to produce a podcast. In fact, it was so revolutionary, I didn’t even call it that but coined a new term: podzine (although a little googling suggests podzine means something else, but bear with me). As this was a two day conference, my intention was to spend the first day talking to attendees, recording their thoughts on the conference and themes covered so far, then create a quick edit, very much in the DIY culture ethos of a fanzine, in order to launch the finished product at the conference the following day.

    Talking to people

    There were a couple of very good reasons to create the podzine in this way. Much of our work on the smARTplaces project has been working with our partners at their various European institutions, encouraging them to think more laterally about how they engage with their audiences. Online, and offline, how do they communicate with ‘visitors’? Is it merely a case of press and marketing events, or is there a conversation to be had? And how well do they really know their existing visitors, and the people they’d like to have coming in through the door? In the frenzy of putting a show together, is it always possible to take the time to talk to people a week later on a quiet Tuesday afternoon as they wander around the show, about how they came to hear about it? It was with this last scenario in mind that I wanted to use a kind of vox pop method to demonstrate how we might simply approach people at our events.

    As one of the evaluators on this project, I also wanted to demonstrate how these recordings might be thought of data that could present attitudes to the project, or show the impact it is having. In something as straightforward as talking to people, I wanted to show our project partners, and in fact anyone attending the event, that capturing data doesn’t always need to be technical or laborious!

    Spreading the word

    In packaging up the responses into the podzine format, there was then an opportunity to show how this could be used as a data source for evaluation, but also to broadcast to the world about the event, and the themes of the smARTplaces project. Whilst people were tweeting during the event, this was another way to spread the word, and share thoughts from the delegates, at a time when podcasts are quite a popular format.

    The tech: How we did it

    The nature of the DIY ethos meant I didn’t want to make the process too complicated. I rented out some kit from BCU’s very handy hires and loans department: an iRig which plugged into my iPhone and allowed it to take an XLR microphone cable; an XLR mic cable; a “reporter’s” microphone which is omnidirectional. The iRig has a headphone jack to allow you to check levels, and an input level control to make sure you’re getting the best recording possible. I use the Voice Recorder app on my phone, which handily doesn’t stop recording if your phone goes into sleep mode while recording. Once I’d recorded all the mini interviews, I sent them to the cloud, and then downloaded them to my Mac. Here, I used Audacity (which is free) to edit them into one long podcast. Finally, I output it to a sound file, and uploaded it to our research centre’s Soundcloud account, remembering to tick the box that allows people to download it if they so wish (handy if your users want to pre-download it on WiFi to listen to later).

    I’m pleased to say everything went according to plan and the podzines were launched on the second day of the conference. They can be found here (in English) and here (with some Spanish responses).


    Photo used under Creative Commons licence, by Sidewalks Entertainment