Is your Museum a Mac or a PC?

Posted on April 25, 2011

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I came across this sweet infographic yesterday (below) on PC-vs-Mac people, compiled by the people at Hunch. I pretty clearly fit into the correct category as a vegetarian, liberal, retro-clothes-wearing modern art enthusiast… And I started wondering about where museums and galleries fit.

At MW2011, the room was filled with Mac products – macbooks, ipads, iphones etc. It seemed that everywhere you looked, there was a glowing apple symbol shining back at you (suffering from major technology envy, I almost purchased myself an ipad on a spur-of-the-moment visit to the Apple Centre in NYC… only my daily O/S limit on the card I was carrying prevented the purchase then, but it’s definitely still on the cards).

The same observation seems to be true of a lot of the mobile products appearing in the museum too – from MoMA’s interactive kiosks to Melbourne Museum’s Please Touch the Exhibit ipad app.

MoMA’s interactive kiosks

So, anecdotally it seemed to me that a lot of those working in this field (or at least, those who attended MW2011) are Mac users. Are we in touch with our audiences on this? At MW2007, Judy Haynes and Dan Zambonini, Box UK Ltd, UK presented a paper called Why Are They Doing That!? How Users Interact With Museum Web sites and found that:

the Museum visitor is five times as likely to be a Mac user (9.2%) than a Standard visitor (1.8%), and of the Mac users, five times as many use Safari (7.8%) than Firefox (1.4%).

Now things move pretty quickly in the world of technology and I’d guess the demographics are likely to have shifted a little. But I’m curious: do museums and galleries consider what type of technology they will use in-house based on their demographics? Would the audience at a more conservative museum feel more comfortable using a PC-style kiosk, and those in a contemporary space feel more at home using an iPad or Mac? Obviously these decisions are often driven by factors of cost, reliability, ease of development and implementation, how pretty the object is (after all, aesthetics is important in museums) and even whether the over-arching organisation (for instance, those galleries who work within the set up of a city council) uses particular products. But I wonder whether the type of visitor the museum has comes into consideration when choosing the most appropriate platform for digital/mobile interactions?

And conversely, if there really are two types of people in the world, can we use the below graph to get a decent sense of the demographics of our visitors based purely on the type of computer they use?

Posted in: Museums