Our opening keynote, Sebastian Deterding

Our opening keynote, Sebastian Deterding

The opening keynote for our Museums+Tech 2016 conference is Sebastian Deterding. Sebastian is a designer and researcher working on playful and motivational design who’ll share his expertise on ‘Designing for Curiosity’. We think his wide, international perspective and deep expertise in design is the perfect opening to the day.

We asked our keynotes to answer some questions to help you get to know them before their talks.


Mia: Which upcoming or emerging challenges are you most excited to see museums tackle in the next five to ten years?

Sebastian: As an outsider game and experience designer, my clueless, naive, and totally biased dream is that museums find ways to become experiential and narrative spaces to make the physical visit count, in the same way musicians realised that in a world of digital ubiquity, the one thing that can’t be copied and shared is the experience of being on a live concert. Basically, how can a museum visit be like a piece of immersive theatre or environmental storytelling? Stoking curiosity, atmosphere, emotion, planting stories and cues in my head I want to pursue without being obtrusive or eyeing everyone through the same fixed plot and spatial path or heavy interaction.


Mia: Which challenges might be the hardest to deal with?

Sebastian: I’ve been to a couple of big and small special exhibitions that come close to what I envision, but that’s always easier if you can conceive things from scratch: how to make standing exhibitions and archives experiential? That’s gonna be the tough nut.


Mia: What are you most looking forward to at the conference?

Sebastian: Corny, but: the people! And seeing their world through their words – I’m really curious to learn what excites everyone in museum technology, what angers, what challenges, what counts, what’s passé. When you go to a conference in your home field, change is so slow to be imperceptible. But enter a different community, and your mind is buzzing from being rubbed against a whole new, slightly alien world.


Mia: What can UK museums and heritage organisations learn from international projects, and vice versa? Or should we be looking to other industries or sectors instead?

Sebastian: I can’t speak to international projects, but I really, really believe good writing is having a deserved renaissance across design disciplines, and could be hugely beneficial to museums and heritage as well. In games, everyone thought interactive fiction was a dead end, until Telltale Games came along with their Walking Dead series which basically said: what if we don’t try to come up with fancy new design or tech and rather double down on writing: believable and strong characters, good dialogue, intriguing plot. The experience is simply transformative.