Monday, October 18, 2010

Observational Blog 6: Social Objects

Nina Simon discusses social objects and how they create dialogue between visitors in a museum and in other aspects of life. She claims, “Social objects are the engines of socially networked experiences, the content around which conversation happens. Social objects allow people to focus their attention on a third thing rather than each other, making interpersonal engagement more comfortable.” (127-128). First, she discusses how people take their pets with them if they want to start a conversation with someone new because people can talk to each other through the animal. This is common when someone is out walking their dog. Strangers will walk up and talk to the owner while focusing on the dog. It is very similar when a parent has a new baby. Animals and babies are considered social objects according to Simon because they create conversations between people who would not normally speak to one another without the object to focus upon.
Simon claims that social objects have four common qualities, “Personal, Active, Provocative, and Relational,” (129). Personal objects can relate to someone, bringing back a memory or an emotion that they may feel encouraged to share. Active objects are “objects that directly and physically insert themselves into the spaces between strangers [that] can serve as shared reference points for discussion,” (130). Active objects are often used in social settings that can open discussions between people when they share an experience. Provocative objects are often used in museums to create a dialogue. It can be something that is shocking and they decide to discuss. Relational objects necessitate more than one person to use them, causing interaction between people.
In 2009, the Massillon Museum used the approach of provocative objects in its exhibition Stark Naked Salon. The exhibit featured the work of eleven budding artists in Stark County. The exhibit was displayed salon-style and the different techniques displayed definitely opened the exhibit up for conversation. The exhibit shocked many people beginning with the title. This exhibit was the talk of the town for a while due to the fact that the different artistic styles displayed were often unconventional and contemporary. Social objects can bring people together in various settings and museums take advantage of this fact to attempt to enhance the visitor experience.

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