Slow in the Age of Fast

Lightning Talk
Meagan Estep, National Gallery of Art, USA

Have you ever had an immersive experience with a work of art? We art museum educators love to talk about what it means to “slow down,” creating space to have—in John Dewey’s words—an aesthetic experience. In the galleries, when visitors take time to really drink in a work of art, magic happens. Museum scholar David Carr calls this “becoming”—in other words, we use objects as powerful teachers of something new; they transport us, add depth and dimension to our lives, and stir our emotions. As a museum educator turned social media manager, I’m excited about the power of technology to transform the physical museum experience into a digital one. But, to be honest, this proves challenging for an educator, whose role is to provide facilitated, mindful looking and carefully crafted conversation in front of an object. In this lightning talk, I’ll walk my audience through a guided looking activity, asking us to slow down for a moment in the middle of our busy #MWXX lives. I’ll address what it means to connect deeply with a work of art, and the challenges of translating this practice to the online world. Does the mantra “slow down” really work in the digital realm? If you aren’t physically with a work of art, can you still have a life-changing experience? How can (should?) museums facilitate looking, taking time, and connecting deeply with our online audiences?

David Carr, "A Place not a Place" (2006)
John Dewey, "Art as Experience" (1934)
John Falk, "Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience" (2009)
John Falk & Lynn Dierking, "The Museum Experience Revisited" (2012)
Robert Hughes, "The Shock of the New" (1980)
Stephanie Rosenbloom, "The Art of Slowing Down," from The New York Times (
Mia Ridge, "Does Slow Art Day Work Online?" from Open Objects (
Mike Murawski, "The Moon Belongs to Everyone: Embracing a Digital Mindset in Museums," from Art Museum Teaching (
Ed Rodley, "How to View Critics Telling You How to View Art in a Museum," from Thinking about Museums (