Museums and Digitalism

  • Tula GianniniEmail author
  • Jonathan P. Bowen
Part of the Springer Series on Cultural Computing book series (SSCC)


The distinguishing characteristic of digitalism is its focus on human behavior in cultural and social contexts. When we think of the developments of computer science and “information theory” that spawned the digital revolution, the focus generally defaults to digital tools and technology, as opposed to its effects on human life and culture and how advances in computing, digital communications and technology are transforming our ways of doing, seeing, knowing, learning, living and loving, to name a few examples. The impact of digitalism is all encompassing, touching all disciplines and human pursuits. How will museums change and transform themselves to connect in authentic ways with their communities while remaining relevant in a world transformed by digital culture that is moving full speed ahead, advancing in a state of constant change and development? While museums have been cautious and relatively slow to challenge traditional ways, they are surely noticing that we are reaching a digital tipping point of sorts that demands digital thinking and strategy to keep pace with evolving states of digital being, aesthetics, seeing and identity in world where everyone is connected to an all-encompassing digital ecosystem of shared networks and platforms. Although museums might argue that this shift to digital culture steeped in a user-centric model might be a costly one, not moving in this direction with a sense of timeliness becomes a far riskier strategy, being one that lacks consonance with museum audiences, and is out of synch with contemporary and digital life. This chapter looks at the relationship between external digital life of museum goers with the internal museum environment aligned more with the pre-digital world than with contemporary culture. How will museums recalibrate the gap between the visitors’ digital self and the museums physical identity? And, how will they revision the gallery experience for visitor learning, interaction, and participation? Will museums proceed fearlessly into digital life and art, embracing change, and the digital aesthetics and social milieu of the 21st century?


  1. Boucher B (2016) First-ever exhibition of Cézanne Portraits to tour London, Washington, and Paris. Artnet News, 8 Dec 2016. Accessed 27 Jan 2019
  2. Bowen JP, Giannini T (2014) Digitalism: the new realism. In: Ng K, Bowen JP, McDaid S (eds) EVA London 2014 conference proceedings, Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC), BCS, pp 324–331.
  3. Bowen JP, Giannini T, Polmeer G, Gannis C, Gardiner J, Kearney J, Wands B, Weinel J (2018) States of being: art and identity in digital space and time. In Bowen JP, Weinel J, Diprose G, Lambert N (eds) EVA London 2018 conference proceedings, Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC), BCS, pp 1–7.
  4. British Museum (2018) The BP exhibition—I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria. Press release, The British Museum, UK, Nov 2018. Accessed 29 Jan 2019
  5. Decron C, Serota N (2016) Tate Modern building a museum for the 21st century. Tate Publishing, p 169Google Scholar
  6. Dickerman L (2016) Robert Rauschenberg: among friends. MoMA Press, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Accessed 27 Jan 2019
  7. Giannini T (2017) Museums and the evolving digital landscape: opportunities and challenges. In: MATCON conference, Craiova, Romania, Sept 2017. Accessed 27 Jan 2019
  8. Giannini T, Bowen JP (2014) The Brooklyn visual heritage website: Brooklyn’s museum and libraries collaborate for project CHART. In: Museums and the Web, Baltimore, MD, USA, conference proceedings, 2–5 Apr 2014. Accessed 31 Dec 2018
  9. Giannini T, Bowen JP (2015) A New York museums and Pratt partnership: building web collections and preparing museum professionals for the digital world. In: MW2015: Museums and the Web 2015, Chicago, USA, 8–11 Apr 2015. Accessed 26 Jan 2019
  10. Kenny N (2018). Andy Warhol for the instagram age: huge retrospective opens at the Whitney in New York. The Art Newspaper, 8 Nov 2018. Accessed 29 Jan 2019
  11. Klimoski A (2018) Renzo Piano to design new David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea. Architectural Record, News, Jan 2018. Accessed 27 Jan 2019
  12. Passy C (2018) Met museum’s Catholicism-inspired fashion exhibit draws record crowds. Wall Street J, 11 Oct 2018. Accessed 29 Jan 2019
  13. Pogrebin R (2018) Mega-dealers taking over the world: David Zwirner plans a new $50 m art gallery. The Independent, UK, 10 Jan. Accessed 31 Dec 2018
  14. Rainie L (2017) The Internet of Things is the next digital evolution—what will it mean? Trend, The Pew Charitable Trusts, 12 June 2017. Accessed 31 Dec 2018
  15. Stein R (2017) Museums and digital strategy today. Alliance Labs, 10 July 2017. Accessed 27 Jan 2019
  16. Tallon L, Walker K (eds) (2008) Digital technologies and the museum experience: handheld guides and other media. AltaMira PressGoogle Scholar
  17. Waller HJ, Waller DS (2018) Opera costumes and the value of object biographies. J Documentation 74(6):1162–1174 (2018). Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of InformationPratt InstituteNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.School of EngineeringLondon South Bank UniversityLondonUK
  3. 3.Southwest UniversityChongqingChina

Personalised recommendations