Jim Ockuly, ’83
Remember “Don’t touch the art?” Jim Ockuly helped make our switch to “Please touch this to learn about the art!” He’s an interactive media developer and director, creating gallery kiosks or web sites for first the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and now the Minnesota History Center.
Barely half a dozen years out of MCAD, Jim Ockuly joined fellow MCAD alumna Lisa Nebenzahl (1979) and other producers/designers in fulfilling a generous grant from the General Mills foundation to explore “emerging technology” (not just computers, but audio tours and video shorts as well) in the service of art-museum education. These new tools were expected to “enable museum visitors to have a more self-directed, choice-based media experience. We were all learning as we went; no school could have prepared us for this work, since it was unfolding in real time!”
The MIA produced pioneering work, demonstrating that extra information made people stick around the art longer, learning more and on their own terms. His experience shaping these interactive platforms has led Ockuly to broader speculation about how our media have changed. An interactive platform, like an internet forum, is ”the world's conversation, more and more. Lots and lots of separate conversations are being merged into a much bigger one. And technical platforms can bridge gaps previously difficult if not impossible to bridge.”
But blue-sky predictions don’t entirely define the ‘next’ of interactivity: “technology is presenting us some efficiencies we aren’t quite ready for! Interactivity isn’t teleportation to some place; those places are now able to instantly travel to us. Distance and time mean nothing.”