Dear DMA Friends,
You may now enter the Dallas Museum of Art for free.
And on top of free general admission, the DMA has implemented a tricked-up, no-cost, interactive “membership” program featuring virtual badges for participation in museum activities. Building an able badge collection can lead to discounts, special perks (free parking!) and other neat incentives that haven’t even been thought up yet.
If you take a docent-led tour of the DMA’s African art collection, you earn credit toward a Globe Trekker badge. Tour the European collection and you are on your way to a Grand Tour badge. You check in on-site at computer kiosks loaded with software, specially designed for the DMA Friends program, that keeps track of who you are, which badges you’ve earned, when you were earning them and how many times. If it all sounds a little like Big Brother watching you, don’t worry, it’s all optional. If it sounds like data-mining, that’s because it is, but the DMA’s Max Anderson and Robert Stein are interested in exploring the potential of spontaneous programming opportunities. For example, if enough people check in at the American painting and sculpture collection, a staff member learned in that subject can be there within minutes to answer questions, encourage discussion or lead an impromptu tour.
Badges are on the cutesy side, with names like “I Got Rhythm in My Suitcase, Oh Yeah,” “Social Butterfly” and “Creative Cat.” “Ringleader” is for someone who brings three friends to the museum. I am hoping for a “Cynical Bitch” badge, designed for critics who write a bad review.
The gaming strategy has been adopted by all sorts of businesses, including health care industry start-ups. I have recently recovered from an obsession with the NFL.com app’s “mpoints” thing, where I earned points, leading to an ascension of levels, leading to incentives. I did not particularly want any of the incentives (I ended up donating all of my points to the ASPCA), but watching my numbers increase and catapult me to the next level was deeply satisfying.
The traditional DMA membership program—the one where you give money and get free parking—still exists, but its name is now DMA Partners.
This blog is called “Don’t Look. Okay Look.”
Betsy Lewis is a Dallas writer and former member sales associate (membership temp), interim special events coordinator (ball temp), and last-minute-substitute McDermott intern for public programs (middle-aged intern) at the Dallas Museum of Art.