An Evaluation of A Million Blue Pages
Because of the amount of interaction I’ve had with the site over the past few weeks, and because of how heavily we’ve focused on digital exhibits this semester, I thought that A Million Blue Pages would be an appropriate site for me to evaluate based on some of the criteria suggested by Museums and the Web 2012. Of course content is important in any exhibit, physical or digital, but I think that for digital exhibits in particular, the way in which the content is presented, how easy the exhibit is to navigate, and how the exhibit allows its users to interact with it are especially important.
The thing I like the most about A Million Blue Pages is that it’s entirely user-generated. The fact that the site isn’t governed by overriding politics and philosophies (in the way that physical exhibits curated by museums may be) allows for greater creativity, a larger sampling of perspectives, and an unbiased process of object selection. Instead of having each item undergo a vetting process, the site simply provides guidelines for contributions. The complexity of each object is up to its creator, and the objects each visitor to the site interacts with is entirely up to them.
While I appreciate the ability to interact with the objects of my choosing only, I did find it difficult at times to narrow my search for specific items. The site allows its users to filter their search by the type and origin of objects, but not by specific content of the posts. Currently, users are able to search for objects with specific tags, but even searches for specific content are limited by the tags a contributor chooses to use. I think A Million Blue Pages could benefit from expanding its search capabilities and encouraging its contributors to tag their objects carefully and appropriately.
Another element of A Million Blue Pages that I thought limited the site was the comment function. A visitor may wish to interact with an object and its viewers by commenting on it; however, the comment function as it exists is slightly confusing, limiting its users to comment only on a specific page of the book that may potentially have multiple objects assigned to it, rather than allowing them to discuss a specific object. The ability to compare objects that address the same subject on the same page is nice, but the inability to comment on an individual item may prevent some users from participating in discussions stemming from a specific object or idea.
A Million Blue Pages does do an excellent job, however, of encouraging participation from its visitors by being compatible with social media sites that people are already using. Contributing an object to a digital exhibit about House of Leaves is as simple as tagging a tweet or a photo posted to Instagram, and encourages visitors just by being accessible.
Accessibility is a crucial element in promoting a digital exhibit, and as Olivia Frost writes in her article “When the Object is Digital,” “the ability to exchange information and opinions with others of shared interests is a powerful force in Internet communities” (237-8). A Million Blue Pages, by targeting readers of House of Leaves and encouraging them to share their experiences of reading the book, succeeds in cultivating an interactive exhibit that informs, challenges, and involves its visitors. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed exploring and participating in A Million Blue Pages, and I’ll continue to go back to it to see what others are posting. Since I read House of Leaves for the first time last year I’ve been recommending it to my friends, and now I’ll be recommending that they visit and consider contributing to A Million Blue Pages as well.
Frost, Olivia C. “When the Object is Digital: properties of digital surrogate objects and implications for learning.” Museums in a Digital Age. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. Print.