Unplugging for the Holidays

Last Spring, I attended a lecture at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego by Mike Murawski. Mike is the Director of Education & Public Programs at Portland Museum of Art and the Founding Editor of the museum-ed blog, Art Museum Teaching. The topic of Mike's talk was Teaching & Learning in Art Museums: Plugged In or Unplugged. During the talk, Mike posited the question, what is the future of museums, plugged or unplugged?

Some people, Mike argued, like to go to museums to unplug; while other like to go to museums and plug in. People who plug in use their phone to navigate around the space either by signing on for a digital tour or by researching the pieces as they see them. Mike asked the audience to consider what you gain or lose when choose you either plug or unplug at a museum? And also, are we becoming to reliant on technology?

There has been a lot of buzz about rampant plugging in our culture. Older generations sometimes wonder (lament) what is being lost in this process. A few brave souls have taken a hiatus from the online world. They have unplugged completely for a day, a week, a month, or even a year. Joanna Goddard, of A Cup of Jo, wrote about taking a phone breakShanna Trenholm did a social-media detox for 30 days. Fast Company's Baratunde Thurston stayed off-line for 25 days. This guy stayed away from the internet for a year.

Pre-The Museum Scout days, I unplugged when I went to a museum. But now that I'm writing here, I find myself plugging in more. Not just more, almost always. Before I even head to a museum, I do research to find out what's going on and what I'm going to see. And then as soon as I get to the museum, I reach for my phone. I take pictures outside and inside (if allowed) the space. I jot down thoughts on my phone as I go. And this need to stay connected makes the whole museum process much less Zen. And I like Zen. I miss Zen.

So now it's my turn. I'm going on a social media detox. Cold turkey. From now until the end of the month, no blogging, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, and no Pinterest for me. These spaces have become a powerful presence in my life lately and I need a break. I need to figure out what I am gaining and losing when I plug in. I can't figure that out unless I go on a true digital fast. And now, with Christmas and New Year's Eve rapidly approaching, is an appropriate time for me to try.

So my friends, this will be my last post of 2013. The Museum Scout will be out of commission from now until the New Year. But! I'll see you right back here in January 2014.

Wish me luck! (I'm afraid I'm going to need it.)

The Museum Scout, over and out.