There’s a fascinating discussion on the AHI group on Linked In just now about whether we should call ourselves ‘interpreters’ or ‘visitor experience managers’. It has set me thinking. Setting aside the Humpty Dumpty Syndrome of ‘when I use a word it means whatever I want it to mean’ which allows people to misuse both terms, I think interpreters, myself included, have been moving into ‘visitor experience’ over the past 5 – 10 years for a number of very good reasons.
1. The Experience Economy I do think this holds water. I think Pine and Gilmore’s thinking will resonate well with most experienced interpreters. I wish one of us had thought of it first.
2. Information is NOT (any more) our USP Back in the day, we thought information was a big part, often the major part, of what made our sites and collections special. If we gave people enough information they would realise the significance of what they were seeing. But the the world shifted and the Web happened. Now no one who wants it need ever be short of information again. We can find out all the stuff our heads can hold (and more) from the comfort of our settees.
I maintain our visitors want what they can’t get from books – they want the experience of ‘being there’.
So now we need ‘sell’ our heritage and the great things and places we look after as experiences not simply information. (Although sometimes information can be the key to unlocking the experience and that really IS a job for an interpreter – and a separate, future blog post.)
In societies that are at risk of becoming ‘experience-poor’, this is immensely valuable.
3. Learning is about ‘the big picture’. So often what could be a nice piece of communication is doomed to failure by being put in the wrong place, at the wrong stage of the visit journey. We now know so much more about how people learn, about the importance of environment, of context, comfort, pace, reflection and interaction. Good teachers and trainers (us included, thanks in no small part to the inspiration of those great guys at Eureka – thanks again, David) use this all the time. To keep up with the game interpreters need to too – and that means we work with visitor experience in order to make sure we get our messages across.
So, even for interpreters, it ‘all comes down to experience“.