This idea originally came out of my “AI For Moral Reflection” post, but it took on a life of its own. #post. It is a more generalized version of “The Museum of You Work Here Now”.
There’s a concept in confidence training (and other trainings) of acting “as if”. Less formally known as “fake it ’til you make it”. Sometimes acting “as if” can have immediate and startling effects on your abilities. The human imagination can be incredibly powerful.
What is an Act “As If” Museum?
Maybe it’s easiest to explain with a few examples.
Imagine your favorite fancy art museum. Imagine that when you show up you are given a tuxedo or formal dress of some kind to wear and you are instructed to pretend like you know loads about art and also that you have a ton of money. (If this is already you, then for this example please pretend it wasn’t until you went to the museum).
But you’re not performing for anyone except yourself and maybe the people you are visiting with. You don’t have to talk to strangers or even interact with them in any way. You are just asked to get it into your head that you are super high class arty know-it-all. The kind who might wear a monocle except for you take it off to look at stuff. You can play this role entirely in your head. The formal wear just helps prime the pump.
You play this role to yourself to add to your experience.
Now let’s say, instead of that role, you show up and are given some overalls and a mop bucket. Now you are back in the hoi polloi and will be looking at the art through the eyes of someone whose job it is to clean the place. In other words, probably not concerned too much with the art. What would that experience be like?
Perhaps instead of an assignment of economic status, your role is simply, “someone that gets excited at the color blue”.
The idea here is to that your interaction with the museum and its art had changed. You will see the art in a new way, creating a unique experience.
In fact, maybe you don’t have to play the same role throughout the museum. Maybe each room or each individual artwork invites you to look at it through your interpretation of a different perspective. Maybe an announcement is made to everyone or individuals that they are now switching to a new role.
You might be invited to act as if you are rich, poor, old, young, animated, tired, confused, nervous, etc, etc, etc.
Will It Be Difficult to Act As If?
It’s possible that this idea of suggested intentional experience would probably require people with a fairly well developed imagination and sense of play.
On the other hand, I think our usual instruction of “act like a good person in public” is something we sort of already do in real life. That’s not to say we aren’t good people but who doesn’t know the feeling of trying to look like a good person to others? We play roles all the time.
Why not a few more for fun and possible introspection?
Act “As If” For Circumstance
Returning to the “AI for Moral Reflection” post (read it here #post) where this idea originated. Rather than have actual AI in the museum, instead tell people when they enter to act as if there will be AI at the end. Invite them to act as if their statistics will be shared. The role being played here could be stated as “hey go through this museum and act like you are doing the right things to be a good person”.
Now we’re not inviting patrons to play a character or an emotion. Instead we are inviting them to play with an imaginary circumstance. Other ideas in this vein might be: act as if the museum will close tomorrow; act as if you will die when you leave; act as if you knew the art was all fake but no one else did.
The Museum Contents
While this concept of “As If” can be applied to any museum (or anywhere, really), I think a museum designed specifically to help encourage the acting would probably be more successful.
Work that could be easily interpreted in multiple ways would lend itself to more roles. Work that is more literal (at least on the surface) would help trigger the associations for the as-if you are as-iffing.
There’s also the possibility of patrons interacting not just with the museum and the works, but with each other. That would require a certain type of openness and risk-taking on the patron’s behalf and would not be for everyone. But what that is most rewarding ever is?