What does a virtual queue look like?

Scott Brewer

In 2011 when we opened the doors to Mona and handed all visitors The O we were focussed on two main benefits: improving the aesthetic beauty of the space (removing wall labels meant an awful lot of freedom to light and show works in new ways); and providing access to as much content as the visitors requested (if you were to argue for a third benefit it was the ability to love and hate the artworks).  We know from the response people have had to Mona that we succeeded at doing those two things very well (even if we do say so ourselves).

While we’ve updated certain elements of the experience down at Mona one thing that David had been very focussed on was a way to removed the need for physical queues.  It was bad enough when people would have to wait in line for up to an hour to see a mummy (Pausiris) we knew that with the opening of the James Turrell works in December 2017 we would have even more of a problem (anyone who experienced these pieces during his retrospectives at LACMA or NGA will know what I’m talking about). So earlier in 2017 we set about removing the need for physical queues by moving them onto The O and allowing people to queue virtually.

There will be a more thorough blog post to come in the future of what this looked like from a technology perspective, but I’m here today to write about the success of these queues and what they look like through data visualisations.  What have we accomplished?  Where are people going?  Has it been worth the effort?

In June, to coincide with the launch of our new website, we teamed up with the National Design Award winning firm (and San Francisco neighbours) Stamen Design to find out what was going on here (and to have something pretty to put on the front page!)

You can jump straight to the finished product here (and you can speed it up by pushing the up and down arrow buttons on your keyboard up and down, it looks awesome in hyper mode! But to get there we went through a few steps.

Step 1: Time-shifting the queue.

The first prototype Stamen provided was one where they time shifted all the queueing to show everyone arriving at the queued locations at the same time.  It does a great job of showing both where the people spend their time based on how long their wait time is, and on where the majority of people come onto the queue.

Step 2: A day in the life.

We moved onto a second prototype that started to move beyond the static maps of the floors and did away with the time shifting.  Here we start to see a full day of mona in action.  In this instance we also started to show where people who were in the queues were moving through the space by magnifying them on the left hand side.  Meanwhile, the interactions both queuers and non-queuers were having with artworks are shown floating up to the heavens and down to the depths (you can indicate your love and hate for artworks on The O, the x’s and +’s are examples of people loving (+) and hating (x) various works on display.

Step 3: It all comes together.

And se we move onto the final stage.  Not a lot got adapted from the previous stage but the lines of people were made more realistic (they were walking over water previously!) and the objects people were looking at who are waiting in queue pop up over their magnified position.  You can also see the more popular objects start to grow during the day as green dots to show how they change day by day(or, in most instances, don’t change!).

What does it all mean?

When David (Walsh, Mona’s owner and Art Processors’s Director) wanted to remove wall labels from his gallery in 2008 we complied because it was going to achieve two key outcomes.  By digitising the visitors’ interactions however we were able to continue to add more and more features that continue to achieve those two main goals, greater enjoyment of the artworks and a happier journey through the space.  It’s the benefits of the digital platform that allow us to continue to build incremental benefits to people.  This won’t be going backwards anytime soon and we’re certainly excited about what this enables us to do with the other museums and galleries we work with as well as the future for the Mona Hotel (no we’re not at liberty to say what that will be yet).

What we can say, is that the migration of the queues to the virtual space have clearly had a visible impact on the way people interact with the space and the objects within it.  You no longer have to take our word for it, you can see for yourself in the images above.

Now that you know what it all means, if you want to go and have a play with the visualisation please do so here:

If you have a project that you’re wanting to see how the addition of digital elements into your physical space can transform you into the future, get in touch, we would love to hear from you: hello@artprocessors.net