This article first appeared in the October 2005 Walker Calendar.
The online experience has been changing and growing over the past few years, and the New Media Initiatives team has been working hard to enable the Walker to share information efficiently with its audiences.
Art on Call has been up and running since April; anyone with a cell phone can call 612.374.8200 and hear interviews with artists or receive information about artworks on view. Unfortunately, those who tried to download that content onto an iPod (or other MP3 device) or computer were out of luck–until now. The material is currently online in a completely free, downloadable form at newmedia.walkerart.org/aoc. Slap on your headphones and stroll through the galleries day or night with the resonant voices of Chuck Close, Jasper Johns, and many other artists informing your footsteps and thoughts.
Downloadable date book.
Feeding information directly to desktop applications instead of the Web browser is an exciting new trend that continues to gather momentum. To help keep that ball rolling, the Walker is now providing feeds from its calendar directly to applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Apple iCal. If you use one of these, you can include Walker events in your daily schedule without ever leaving your calendar program. For a complete listing and instructions online, just go to calendar.walkerart.org and click on the “ News Center” button.
Blogs: Up close and personal.
It’s not all about technology, though; it’s also about content. The staff at the Walker has been in need of a way to publish announcements, ideas, and progress reports. Enter blogs.walkerart.org, which enables a direct line of communication from the Walker to all. So far, the blogs are filled with posts about recent performances and upcoming shows, official announcements, fresh ideas, and reflections on the work process at the Walker. If you’re not sure what blogs are all about, click on in. They’re constantly being updated, so you’ll always find something new to read.
The site has also expanded to offer RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. Think of it as the Walker’s online news wire. Content goes out over this wire and anyone can add it to their site or bring it into their software application.
This format promotes a new level of interconnected sharing on the Web, and it also fuels a whole new breed of software called “ news aggregators,” which are usually simple programs that sit on your desktop and periodically check for updates on your favorite sites. When the program finds something new, it automatically downloads the content and shows it to you–all without ever opening a Web browser. These aggregators are useful tools for people who check more than one site often or who read a lot of news regularly. If you haven’t heard of RSS yet, you will soon–it’s a standard already widely accepted by small software developers that is being quickly adopted by larger companies such as Apple and Microsoft. The Walker is among the first art institutions to take full advantage of what is sure to be an explosion of use in published feeds.