Witness Voices

Real-time cross-platform aggregation of visitor responses to an exhibition.

Description

Witness Voices is a website that was designed to accompany the travelling exhibition Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the 1960s. Rather than a typical exhibition microsite, Witness Voices was designed to aggregate responses to the exhibition from multiple platforms in one place. These responses included Instagram posts, Tweets, Tumblr posts, and text responses to in-gallery prompts on labels. The website acted as a real-time content aggregator during the run of the exhibition, but then became a poignant archive of responses and conversations long after the exhibition closed.

Process

We set up a dedicated Wordpress site with some light custom theming and used that as the final repository of all content. A few posts were designated as the in-gallery prompts, we then set up a process using Twilio to capture text responses and Zapier to push those responses to the Wordpress blog as comments. We then used a combination of Zapier and IFTTT to aggregate any posts on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr using the hashtag #witnessvoices and repost them on the Wordpress site.

Response

The initial response to the site was somewhat muted, as there was far less direct conversation there than we had initially hoped for. The real value of the site became clearer over time, as traffic to the site remained relatively steady (if not necessarily spectacular in terms of absolute numbers) and professors began to use it for teaching purposes. It became clear that what we’d actually done was to enable comments for the exhibition–we had a clearer sense of the aggregate public response to this exhibition than we typically do. The site also preserved for posterity not just what we presented, but how the public responded and reacted to it.

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