A Second Visit to Meow Wolf
Today I had the opportunity to visit the Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return for the second time. It's one of the most incredible places I have ever seen - a beautiful, creative, wonderful, inter-disciplinary riot of color. What I do is software with the occasional dabble in hardware, but Meow Wolf takes creative programming and software and then expands it out into a full sensory experience. The obvious programs that are there are worked into a cohesive experience even though the narrative is open ended. It's absolutely amazing and you should go there if you are ever in Santa Fe. I was there with family and my two kids (4 and 1.5). They oscillated between awe and curiosity and total sensory overload breakdowns. I even felt like a child running around and trying to see everything. Someday I would love the opportunity to spend more time there going through slowly and taking it all in.
I realized that other than the wonderful colors, one of the things I love most about The House of Eternal Return is the integration of art and computing. I'm not even sure most visitors realize how high tech it really is. Something I see occasionally are kiosk programs in museums that don't seem to be completely integrated into an exhibit. Even though Meow Wolf wasn't planned from top to bottom - artists worked on areas somewhat separately and then wove narratives together - it has a feeling of everything fitting together anyway. The technology used enhances the art rather than taking center stage, or being relegated to a kiosk that doesn't have anything to do with its surroundings.
A touch screen kiosk (or any other type of tech) can be great, but it needs to contribute to the whole narrative. It doesn't always work like that, unfortunately. When I worked at the Natural History Museum, we were in a bind where we had space but nothing to put in it, and no budget. I wound up putting together a Python program and making it work on a computer we found in storage. It was pretty fun (and I was proud of my $40 budget exhibit), but it winds up being a program against a wall rather than part of one cohesive story.
The Meow Wolf House of Eternal Reward shows how technology can become unboxed from the regular touch screen monitor and expand out to tell a story. Programming and ambient computing are powerful tools that don't need to be forced out to a separate pedestal. Let's put the experience first and marry the technology to it.