End of workshop photo

Kani workshop

You can tell how well a workshop went by looking at the end-of-workshop photo. This one was taken at the end of the first Media Conté Workshop where media exprimo and Aichi Shukutoku University worked with teenagers in Kani, Gifu Prefecture, in the centre of Japan’s largest island.

Kani is well known for its car manufacturing. One of the leaders of Media Conté is Akiko Ogawa, who’s made two trips to Wales to study digital storytelling. She told me earlier this year there were many Japanese descendants from Brasil and other countries who had come to work in Kani’s factories. She told me she wanted to find a way of bringing these people together to share their experiences and to try and find a way of making sure these stories were more widely heard throughout Japan.

The beauty of digital stories is that the process of making one brings community members together and the end-product has a surprisingly moving quality which can catch you by surprise. The story that’s built is perfect for exhibition on TV. Greater individual expression on TV is one of media exprimo’s aims and one of the things that impressed me at Mell Expo 2008 in Tokyo was that the Japanese mass media was so open to change. They listened positively to pleas for increased reflection of different areas of Japan on national TV. Of course, centralisation isn’t an issue that affects Japan alone…

Congratulations to Akiko Ogawa and her colleagues and fellow members at Aichi Shukutoku University and media exprimo because the good news is that these stories are going to be broadcast on CATV in Kani this very weekend. Every picture tells a story.

What a museum is

Museums used to be buildings that housed artefacts. The experts contextualised these objects by writing historically-accurate interpretations of their meaning. Visitors used to enter museums to absorb this.

How often have you looked at objects in museums and thought that the meaning an object has to you is different to the one conveyed by the museum’s card, plaque, kiosk, etc.? New technology and ways of working mean that can change.

Some museum managers are excited about the possibilities opened up by enabling visitors to share their own interpretations and are asking their staff to work in new ways. I did once hear one museum worker say “But that isn’t what we do” though.

Living-memory sections of museums are more to do with memories than artefacts. So museum managers can feel free to move away from traditional perceptions of what it is they’re doing. That’s when they’ll feel it’s OK to instruct their staff to spend less time on objects and more on helping people to share their own memories with other visitors.