Dr. Suse Anderson served as the Center's 2018-19 Visiting Technologist to lead an examination of forward-thinking technology work in the arts and culture field. Anderson is Assistant Professor, Museum Studies at The George Washington University, President of MCN (Museum Computer Network), and host of Museopunks, a podcast for the progressive museum (presented by the American Alliance of Museums). She holds a PhD and BFA from The University of Newcastle, Australia, and a BA from Charles Sturt University, Australia.
Previously, she was Director of Audience Experience at The Baltimore Museum of Art, where she was responsible for creating a seamless and positive experience of the BMA for visitors to the museum and across its digital platforms.
Over the course of several months, Anderson presented public programs and moderated conversations with leading technologists on the possibilities within digital practice and technological experimentation, held office hours at the Center, facilitated consultation sessions, and conducted site visits with Center constituents and technology specialists in the region.
Prior to her engagement, we asked Anderson to share her thoughts on how technology is influencing organizational practices and how she was approaching her role as Visiting Technologist.
What are the advantages that technology is offering arts and cultural organizations right now?
A perennial question for arts and cultural organizations is: How can we better meet the needs of our communities? While the answer is not the same for every organization nor every community, in many cases, technology provides mechanisms through which we can better communicate with and serve our communities. This can be through social media to hear from our constituents and better learn what's important to them or through using tools that enable us to work collaboratively. It can be through better measurement to diagnose problems. Every action made using digital technology leaves a trace, which gives us rich datasets for building in data-driven decision-making into our businesses, in order to better respond to those who support us, and those we support.
What are some of the challenges that technological tools and platforms pose to these organizations?
Although technology offers significant opportunities for making the needs and desires of our communities visible, the reverse is also true. Because it is so easy to record and measure actions taken with technology, such as interactions on social media, it can be easy to imagine that all audiences are represented. However, not everyone participates and not all participation is equal. Frequently, those who don't or can't participate in these spaces and online conversations are rendered invisible. While technology brings many challenges, from integrating its workflows and resource needs to ensuring digital literacy amongst staff who will work with it to different degrees, one of the biggest challenges is creating systems that do not merely reinforce existing institutional structures and biases, but instead work against them.
How do you see your role developing as Visiting Technologist at the Center?
When I first came to the museum sector, I was often introduced as a provocateur. I often questioned assumed knowledge–largely because of my newness to the sector. Since arriving at the Center, I've found myself taking a similar role. I've had the opportunity to speak with constituents about the challenges they're facing with technology. As an outsider to the specific projects, I am often able to ask questions about audience, outcomes, and implications of projects whose answers might not have been formally articulated. This is a wonderful and welcome return to a place of gentle provocation, which in turns inspires me to think more critically about my own work and practice.
As a hub for the exchange of ideas and ongoing dialogue about issues critical to artistic practice, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage produces an extensive collection of resources and activities. Learn more about our Visiting Artist and Scholar programs here.