Threat Matrix

The Threat Matrix is a daily report given to the President containing the latest security threats against the U.S. Some in the museum world might consider the technologies described in the 2013 Horizon Report for Museums (which officially launched today at MCN) a threat, so to calm the nation’s fears, I’ve updated my Horizon Report Matrix. This matrix details all the reports for higher education and museum technologies from 2004 to today in an attempt to summarise the program’s prior and ongoing contribution and of course its validity as a predictive tool. The matrix, affectionately known as Bob Marley for its deft color-coding into past, present and future, allows one to quickly see what has been, what should be and what will be.


(BTW, congratulations to the folks at NMC and the advisory board for another compelling publication.)

While this matrix doesn’t review how accurate the predicted technologies have been, are, or will be, the Horizon initiative is less about hitting the right year and more about identifying what’s important. Having said that, one can pick a report year and do a random sample: 2005 and 2006 predicted social networks and augmented reality for their furthest horizon; 2004 predicted knowledge webs, we know them as something different now.

Gold (alright, “orange”) represents today, 2013-14, and this years’ report lists Bring Your Own Device and Crowdsourcing, conversations that are happening in my institution right now. Looking back to the 2009 report’s 4-5 year horizon, the technologies we should be seeing are Semantic Aware Applications and Smart Objects. I have a smart object controlling the temperature in my house and there are any number of RFID chips embedded in any number of gadgets that make that gadget “smart”.

Are my applications semantic aware? Well, 1 out of 2 ain’t bad, but that misses the point. Semantic awareness requires that we should have been building a data infrastructure to support it, so we can blame the 2009 Advisory Panel for being overly optimistic of our ability to knuckle down and do that. More importantly, semantic awareness requires that we make our data freely available in a way that others can use it, and we all know what an institutional policy challenge that is.

But 2013-14 ain’t over yet and last years’ Museum Report (2012), predicted Open Content for 2014-15 and that institutional policy challenge has been addressed already by the National Gallery, the Getty and the Rijksmuseum, we just need others to lean in to that challenge. Incidentally, I think Open Content is now officially a movement, based on Derek Sivers’ observations of how to start a movement.

From a policy standpoint, opening up our images is no different than opening up our data and semantic awareness will be driven by Linked Open Data, which is a discussion many of us are having right now. There was even a summit about it this year (in Montreal) and with some federal funding being directed towards it, and at least one release of museum data as LOD, we’re on target to validate the 2010 Advisory Board’s 2014-15 prediction for the Semantic Web by releasing LOD. Impressive stuff.

What you don’t do when you look at the matrix is think to yourself, what are all these technologies? I’ve been following MCN 2013 #MCN2013 (in Montreal, what’s going on up there?) from the sunny climes of California, and could have used my matrix to play museum-technology word bingo. Kudos to MCN who did a great job of capturing the sessions live and posting to their youtube channel, I loved the Video Booth which gave a personal touch for those of us who couldn’t make it.

In fact, the personal touch that the Video Booth provides, accurately describes technology innovation and adoption in museums: its almost entirely dependent on individuals. Tina Roth Eisenberg (@swissmiss) elegantly captured this in her Keynote in Conversation interview with Koven Smith (@5easypieces) talking about hiring people, her interview questions include: What is your Super Secret Power? and, What are your side projects? Two questions that get at the heart of the issue that innovation, creativity and drive have nothing to do with our day jobs. How depressing…

In the same way, the accuracy of the Horizon Report Museum Edition is about selecting individuals from the museum technology community for the Advisory Board, and I’m still trying to tease apart whether the selection is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy, because they are the people working to implement these technology strategies and influencing the decisions their institution will take. Are they creating the future they are predicting or are they predicting the future they are creating?

Technology Adoption Lifecycle

Rogers' bell curve

Museums are no different than any other sector in terms of the lifecycle of technology adoption. Some individuals and institutions will look at this years’ report and say, we’re already doing “that”. That’s great, because the community needs you to be in that 2.5% innovation band. We need you to develop and experiment with technology and pass it back in a simpler and easier form to those who require time to adopt. Others will look at the report and say, there’s no way we can do “that”. But the report is not prescriptive, its value and in some way the longitudinal view that the Bob Marley matrix affords, is that it provides a mechanism for others to say, its about time we did “that”.

So while one view might say we look to the innovating 2.5% to be leading the charge, its really the Late Majority and the sixteen-percenters (laggards) that are defining the technology landscape in museums. One of the questions for the MCN Video Booth was “What is the most overated technology of the last 5 years?” In response, @5easypieces said he is fed up with talking about social media: “it doesn’t count as a technology anymore”. This is awesome, it means the technology is boring and mundane and more importantly, has arrived wholesale. Even the sixteen-percenters are using social media.

So, if you are a museum technologist, self-proclaimed or not, I charge you with taking the six technologies described in the report and making them boring and mundane.

Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2013 Museum Edition report.

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