Assignment: It’s 2114. Write a detailed review/description of a historic house/ place museum about the way we live now. Think of the Tenement Museum and other historical houses you have seen. Be clear on the experience—the wayfinding, the media, the content, what are the stories, how does the audience experience it.
An excerpt from the theoretical website
Plan Your Visit
All visitors check in at the Visitors Center, where you can purchase tickets for specialized guided tours. Guided tours delve more deeply into subjects such as the technology boom in the Bay Area, the increased housing prices and the cultural clash, and more as they take you through the building and follow the story of an employee who witnessed the beginning and end of Google. You can sit in the office of the founders, play with early models of Android smartphones from the era, and much more!
Self Guided Tours
Walk around the building with former employees of the startup as they tell the tale of its rise and fall. Visitors can walk at their own pace as they follow the series of projected employees and relive a day in their lives, including sampling some of the free food Google offered to their employees and participating in meetings.
My Trip to Historic Google
I chose to go to Historic Google for my Cabinets of Wonder assignment this weekend and wow was the place big! Luckily I had done my research and downloaded the map of Google to my augmented device so that I could see the map overlay on the campus. Navigating the Google website was pretty easy, though I guess they designed it in the style of Google’s design from the 2010’s because it looked a little archaic. It also wasn’t SmartTable enabled, I had to browse it in a tablet (a misguided attempt to be nostalgic maybe?).
It turns out I didn’t need the map because the paths were pretty clearly marked as to how to get to the visitor’s center once I connected to Google’s visitor system. The campus looks pretty untouched from what it looked like back then, but they have managed to install sensors to project on top of the sidewalk and path; when I arrived on the teleportation platform, it immediately brought up the light overlay on the sidewalk. It took me maybe five minutes to walk to the visitor’s center; without the navigation projection I probably would have taken fifteen or twenty minutes to get there since the visitor’s center is tucked away in what I now know is the old reception area for the main Google campus.
Visitors have several options explore Google – you can go on your own or take a guided tour. I opted to do the ‘Day in the Life of a Googler’ guided tour since that one had been recommended to me, and it was a good choice! The tour guide met us at the Visitor’s Center and offered us a free sample of some of the snacks and drinks they had back then. The tour guide then started to talk about the history of Google and the impact it had on Bay Area culture, such as starting the industry standard of offering employees free meals and other things to keep them happy (companies didn’t offer their employees free food in the past? Really? Glad that doesn’t happen anymore). The tour guide walked us through the life of Marissa Meyer, who was one of the first employees at Google – there were projection points where they actually had Marissa talk about her life as a Googler and why she left. The tour guide also told stories about Marissa herself, so it was nice to get hear about her from an unbiased (well, as unbiased as history can be) perspective as well as hear what she herself had to say.
As we walked around, it was fascinating to see how well preserved Google. The museum restored a lot of the old software to working order, and the tour guide let us explore it for a little bit. My favorite was the old booth where you can step in and fly around the earth based on Google’s mapping technology back then – graphics have come a long way since then, but the enclosed space with the simulated muffled sounds of people walking around and talking behind you along with the smell of coffee made it really feel like I lived in that moment back then. I had turned my tech off, so it felt like I had a moment to just take in the memory and get an idea of what it was like to be someone from back then.
Navigation was pretty easy; we relied on the guide to take us around but I think that even without him I could find my way around. He took us through some of the galleries that were reserved for the guided tours, but when I was in the self guided galleries it was easy to reintegrate with Google’s visitor system after I was done with the tour. It was easy to get from exhibit to exhibit in an order that made sense even without the visitor system since the exhibits seem to have been created around the same time. Additionally there were signs to help direct as well, and I think this dates back to before the augmented systems were invented so people could get directions without having to ask someone. The museum even pulled up suggestions for where I might want to go after the tour based on which tour I’d been on and let me know via my phone where the nearest bathroom was based on my bio-readings. Somehow, even with all the modern modifications, I really did feel like I could live in the moment of old Google (though the fact that Google was a tech company probably made me feel more comfortable).
There was a big mix of people at Google – everyone from kids to older adults were there, though I think the kids were there primarily for the robotics camp being hosted this weekend. Some people were from the area and had stories about their grandparents and great grandparents working at Google, which I overheard as I was walking around after the tour. Some of them even pointed out people they knew in the rooms where you could walk with projections of the employees going about their day.
I expected a lot of interactivity at Google, and I got it both in digital and analog. There was a smartphone exhibit where you could play with the phones and get a sample printed out as a souvenir (which I did). I also got to try some of the experiments from the Google X division. My only complaint was the museum sometimes overloaded my tech with too much information about the devices I was playing with, but luckily I figured out how to minimize the extra information coming in when I wanted to and rely just on some of the captions. It started learning what I was interested in as I was walking along, so I stopped being overwhelmed with extra information.
If I had to describe my Google experience, I’d have to say ‘nostalgic’ and ‘personalized’. The museum did a good job of preserving the environment as best as they could while also offering us modern amenities such as integration with our augmented devices to learn more about things we were interested in. The tour guide definitely had an impact on my experience here because he was full of stories and information that helped bridge the gaps in the information the projections and exhibits provided. I wasn’t able to see all of the museum today, but I would definitely come back to check out the rest of it because there’s so much to learn here. I got what I felt was a pretty informed look at life at Google, but I know that there’s a lot more to learn and I know it’ll be as enjoyable as the last.