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  • kypine 3:39 am on May 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: client projects, relationships,   

    Social Media Projects and Relationships 

    In working on our client social media plan I have been struggling with defining what the relationship is I want to promote with my plan.  I find the relationship aspect less exciting than the potential a social media tool would have as a resource both for my museum’s stakeholders and a wider audience.  What type of relationship is a collective research project, say like wikipedia promoting?  It doesn’t jive with my idea of a social relationship.   If these tools can be successful (and I’d say wikipedia is) sans relatioships, do we need to plan for relationships, or for intended use?

    • ninaksimon 3:24 pm on May 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I think the relationship is “we’re a bunch of people building something together. Everyone is equal here, and you can do as much or as little as you want.” A wiki is very similar to a group project – you’re even seeing that now straddling the exhibit project across a wiki and real-life project coordinating.

      Also, the relationship of the wiki creator is something like, “I will make this space available for you, comfortable to use, and we will have rules governing how things get here and are removed. I will keep things in order and encourage you on, but mostly, you are in control.”

      Does this make sense?

  • kypine 6:11 am on May 4, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ConvergenceCulture   

    Convergence Culture 

    Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins

    Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins

    I could probably write a novel to describe this book, but I’ll limit myself to three new (to me) terms that hit me as particularly pertinent to our discussions.

    Media Convergence
    Jenkins’ simple def:  “flow of content across multiple media platforms”

    Jenkins describes our society as historically having many media outlets that were all separate and distinct.  But now, through the powers of digitization and corporate conglomerates, our media is much more interconnected.  Jenkins describes this phenomenon as being more of a cultural shift than a technological one.  The most attention grabbing part of this conversation to me, was the idea that media convergence is a long-term transition period, that will have old and new technologies and ideas living side by side for a long time.  And, even more shocking than that, many of the old media we know (radio, tv, etc) probably won’t ever disappear.  Rather its purpose, use, audience, function will change.   This was a comforting thought to an old fuddy-duddy like me.  While convergence is a big thing, it does not necessarily make current systems obsolete.

    What is it?  According to Jenkins: 

    1. communication form
    2. series of protocols around the form (i.e. saying “hello” on the telephone, buying a ticket for a movie, and other social, political, economic and material relationships)

    This definition, when taken in context with changing media, implies a larger ripples in our cultural fabric than just a change in how we communicate with one another.  

    Affinity Spaces
    Jenkins borrows this concept from educational theorist James Paul Gee, and I think it could have great implications for our application of social media in museums.  This theory is basically about informal learning spaces.  As Jenkins notes, people seem to “learn more from pop culture than they do from text books.”  He says at Gee’s theory of creating an “affinity space” for informal learning improves the learning experience because (and this is loosely paraphrased/quoted from my notes, see pg 177):

    1. “learning is driven by common endeavor which overcomes differences in age, class, race, gender and education that governs learning in classroom settings.”  (i.e. anonymity provides an equal playing field for cooperative learning)
    2. allows participation of various skill levels/interests
    3. “relies on peer-to-peer teaching that motivates participants to continually learn”
    4. “allows participants to feel like experts”  (i.e. rewards particiaption with empowerment).

    I look at these through the lens of museum education, and think how awesome would it be to see museum goers participate like this in their informal learning experiences.  What if instead of Harry Potter fanfic (which Jenkins applies this theory to), our audiences were helping eachother learn about biodiversity or civil rights.  The potential is awesome!

    This book is amazing and available online for free through the UW libraries (here).  Just use the off campus log-in option with net id to get it full text and searchable.  Which means no waiting and no library fines!  Hooray!

    • Jais 4:06 pm on June 1, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      This has been making me think for a while.

      As someone who does participate in fandom “affininty spaces,” I see where your excitement comes from, and the desire to apply the theory of affinity spaces to issues that are more relevant to society than popular culture. It’s an incredibly powerful tool.

      But, I really think the key point of affinity spaces is the passion. If there aren’t participants who really care about the source issue, whether it’s Harry Potter or biodiversity, enough to go out and teach each other. So, I think the other half of what museums need to really use this theory is find a way to get visitors to really personally engage with what we want to present to them, enough that they want to participate.

      As a participant in these communities, that’s what really gets me excited about convergence culture, and fandom in general. Sure, pop culture might be trivial, but a well-done narrative can really push readers into not just wanting to write fanfiction or make videos, but also learn more about the subject outside the context of the fandom (a particular example I can think of is Hikaru no Go).

      So, I think one thing museums can do, is use their spaces not just as a place where audiences can teach each other, but maybe as a place to show how the concepts we convey to the audience apply and connect to what they really care about in the outside world. Or conversely, to use what the audience already cares about in the pop-culture sphere, to invite them to learn and teach about the issues museums want to convey.

  • kypine 5:06 am on April 28, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Strangers   

    Why talk to strangers? 

    I was struck in our conversation on Sunday by the very different views in class regarding why we seek to talk to strangers. Reading some more blog posts today added to the variety of goals. Lists help me think, so I compiled one mining what I’ve heard and read from y’all and my own thoughts (please correct if I misquote and add to):

    Goal of talking to strangers:

    • Building Relationships (Erin)
    • Creating Unique Encounters (Nina)
    • Encountering new ideas and humanizing strangers (Kelly)
    • Helping people have fun (Alex)
    • Fostering habits of civility, courtesy and mutual respect (Kylie)

    I’d be curious to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the issue.

    • Kathryn 11:03 pm on April 28, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I guess one issue with this new website format is that the author of the post isn’t obvious! Who wrote this? I like to visualize who I’m talking to!

    • Shin Yu 4:22 pm on May 2, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve been thinking too about this idea of talking to strangers and models I’ve seen in the near or far past that have integrated aspects of this concept into their design. A couple of months ago there was a gallery show in Seattle for one night where visitors arrived in a gallery and instead of being confronted visually with artwork, they were confronted with phone numbers on the wall of the artists “contributing” to the show. The visitors then called the artists by cell phone and had a conversation with them and the opportunity to ask them questions, but also received in many cases directives from the artists, or instructions to do or go somewhere. This does not seem unlike some of Yoko Ono’s exhibitions, wherein she phones in to a gallery or museum and if the visitor happens to be near the phone when it rings and picks up, they have the opportunity to talk to Yoko live.

      Last year at Bumbershoot there was a similar exhibition concept around one of the exhibitions related to the conflict in the Middle East. Visitors could pick up a hotline phone installed at the gallery and be connected to people living in Iraq to talk to them about their experiences – I saw the concept as a way to bridge the gap between the I and other and to help humanize strangers.

    • bienne 10:18 am on October 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think all the points you listed above are viable reasons for interacting with strangers, and it really depends on the individual, but for me, personally, I’d have to go with Nina’s and Kelly’s. Ever since I began taking public transport at the beginning of University (three years ago now), I’ve noticed that a lot of people tend to initiate conversations with me, seemingly without any provocation, if I can use that word without it having any negative connotations. At first, being that I was fresh out of an all girl’s Catholic school and had limited experience with the world, I found it unnerving. But now I welcome such encounters. I’ve had conversations with members of the Indonesian consulate on the tram, who were here to perform some site visits, I’ve had a discussion with a girl about art and landscape paintings in particular, and I’ve had a young Spanish accountant approach me in the middle of the street and, as a result, spent twenty minutes with him discussing the difference between the Australian culture and our own (I’m from the Philippines, and so our cultures are quite similar.) Each encounter has helped to colour my everyday life with unique and interesting stories, albeit briefly (I never see them again, and that’s okay. Brief, meaningful encounters are amazing) and has also helped me to view strangers as individual people rather than a collective that I am supposed to fear. People are fascinating. 🙂

  • kypine 7:29 pm on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Should Museum Visitors be Consumers? 

    I think the answer to this question is yes. No, not just yes, but YES! I was extremely surprised by our discussion in class today to hear how negatively people were looking at business models/terminology being applied to museum practices and discussion. I know there are a lot bad ethos that surround the idea of consumerism, but this type of model is inherently user-empowering, especially compared with the traditional museum model. I, as a consumer wield the power of choice when I deal with businesses. I want, or perhaps need a toaster. I go to several stores and choose to purchase a toaster based upon many factors including quality, my interactions with sales service, promises of future assistence if my toaster breaks down, etc. If I am unsatisfied with any of these factors I get to choose not to spend my money there. Because of this choice businesses cater to me. They do research to anticipate my needs, they provide special incentives to get me to buy their toaster, they create new and improved toasters regularly to continue to be competitive for my business. They need my business and the business of thousands of other customers to survive. And if they don’t listen to me and my thousands of other friends, they fail.

    This may seem like an over simplification, but compare this customer-centered business model to how museums function (especially historically). As a visitor to a museum I certainly have the choice to go there or not, and yes, the museum will benefit from my choosing them over another venue. Yet, in a world where museums get an disproportionately large chunk of their operating expenses from unearned (and as I read it, un-consumer driven) funds, my power as a consumer dwindles. Choices in museum programming and content are made not necessarily because of what I want or need, but because of the nebulous mission statement, staff interests, or higher-ranking stakeholder whims. Mission becomes central and consumers are relegated to the position of peripherally important “visitors” (aka aliens, outsiders). The obligatory comment cards in the museum lobby are nothing compared to the millions of dollars of R&D other companies are pouring into understanding and adapting to their consumer’s needs and wants. Sure, museums are engaging in audience research. Great! But why are they engaging in audience research? To fulfill the requirements of a granting agency that is only perhaps marginally related to the actual people that come through the doors? I guess what I am trying to argue is that if the museum does not provide a quality service to their visitors, they don’t pay the same types of consequences that business do and my power as a consumer dwindles. As my power dwindles, the museum’s increases and we see what many people have been arguing about as the hegemony of curator/institutional voice in museums.

    I think museums should think more about their visitors as consumers and appropriate thinking from the business world to inform the efficiency and accountability of the practices. This does not necessarily mean changing everything a museum does to a bottom line. Rather, appropriating business tools to think more concretely about practices, the same way museums and non-profits have been appropriating business world tools like “mission statements” and “vision statements.”

    In some ways I think this appropriation has already happened. Museums are looking more and more at museums as transforming from, to borrow from an article from Stephan Weil we had to read in another class last week, “Being about something to being for somebody” (Here is article)
    He argues (often in contradiction to my arguments above) that museums since the end of world war II have exploded population-wise and that there are not enough resources to sustain them, forcing museums to rely more and more upon what he calls “box office income” and limited support of corporations and granting agencies. This, Weil argues, makes them more dependent upon “consumers” and more interested in what consumers want (as well as a lot of other things!). He mitigates the effect of the “business language,” though, away from potentially troubling “buying and selling” model and more towards a pr angle, which might be easier to swallow in a non-profit setting.

    It seems clear, at the most elementary level, that the greater degree to which a museum must rely for some portion of its support on “box office” income — not merely entrance fees but also the related funds to be derived from shop sales and other auxiliary activities–the greater will be its focus on making itself attractive to visitors. Likewise, the greater the extent to which a museum might seek corporate funding–particularly for its program activities–the more important will be that museum’s ability to assure prospective sponsors that its programs will attract a wide audience…The consequence is that museums almost everywhere have, in essence, shifted from a “selling” mode to a “marketing” one. In the selling mode, their efforts were concentrated on convincing the public to “buy” their traditional offerings. In the marketing mode, their starting point instead is the public’s own needs and interests, and their efforts are concentrated on first trying to discover and then attempting to satisfy those public needs and interests.

    -Stephan E. Weil “From Being about Something to Being For Somebody”

    So, the point I am trying (unfortunately very verbosely) to make is that I think the business perspective put forth in the Groundswell text is extremely valuable to museums in helping them to become consumer/visitor relevant.

    • Jais 12:29 am on April 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I get your point Kylie, and I agree with it to an extent (I’m afraid my idea didn’t get conveyed too well over the phone this morning ^^;;).

      My problem with the idea of visitors as consumers is two-fold, one that’s personal to me, and one that’s more an institutional worry.

      The institutional worry is that if museums focus too closely on what it is the visitors want based on what audience research and the groundswell tell them, that the museums risk losing touch with their own mission and identity in order to give visitors everything they want. I do think that museums should connect with the visitors and the audience, listen to what they have to say, and allow visitors to engage with the institution directly, and they should for both practical ($$$) and ideological (mission-fulfillment) purposes.

      What it comes down to is, if a conflict between what the visitors are saying they want and what the mission of the museum and its workers is, how does that get resolved?

      My own personal objection is just to the idea that people should be identified as consumers first and foremost at all.

      • w h i t n e y 8:49 pm on April 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply

        Museums sere Niche communities to an extent. The visitors are interested in the Museum for what the museum can offer their sense of interest. In this way they are aligned. I don’t feel that the visitor population would take an institution so far from its mission and goals to fundamentally change the content of the institution, just the context.

    • Kelly C. Porter 4:21 am on April 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I think you make a relevant point, Kylie, about all of us breaking out in hives anytime somebody suggests a consumer model for our product (presumably education, or informative/transformative experience), but I think it’s hard not to talk about consumerism without talking about money, and furthermore it’s even harder not to talk about the standard model of free-market capitalism that you deploy in your toaster example. In the best (commercial) case-scenario, your toaster manufacturer does precisely what you suggest: they find out exactly what you want and give you all of this and more at a low cost driven by competition. Yet in the real world it doesn’t always shake down this way. Often you will get a crummy toaster because it was marketed well, or it was on sale, or because you didn’t have time to comparison shop. We must assume that all of these risks are equally present for the museum product if we employ the same model for it. If the chief goal is to make the consumer happy, then we must realize that the easiest means by which to do this are not always the most honest, respectable or educational. In this sense, it is mission and mission alone that dictates what a museum can and cannot sacrifice to please its consumers/visitors.

    • ninaksimon 4:04 pm on April 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      One of the museum planners I work with, White Oak, separates people into “visitors” and “customers.” He calls visitors people who show up to look at the exhibits, whereas customers may buy food, educational programs, shows, memberships, etc. It’s always a little weird to me, but I understand him to mean that a customer has a more ongoing, growing relationship with the museum than a visitor, who just shows up once and walks around. From a business model perspective, we want to cultivate customers. But we also want to cultivate them from an experience perspective, because people who “buy in” are more invested in the institution.

      There are real problems with this when you think about arguments for museums to be free and equitable (which I agree with). But treating people like valued customers is always a good thing, no matter how much they spend.

    • Nicole Robert 6:17 pm on April 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      This is an interesting discussion! I do think customer service business models are a resource we should draw from as we build our tool kit for a museum that invites both participation and investment from its visitors (or as nina describes, moving those visitors to customers). I have worked in customer service at all levels in several different corporations, and for me the biggest difference between a corporate business model and the museum as non-profit is the point where we determine the cost vs. benefit. For corporations, the intention is to provide just enough service to keep most customers happy, a few customers heavily engaged and even some customers not satisfied. The expense of providing service that pleases all or even a large majority of customers is too great and doesn’t yield enough benefit. The number often used for an acceptable level of customer satisfaction is 60%. Because museums are mission-based, rather than profit-driven, we have the challenge (and the opportunity) of defining our customer experience differently. We have to be really clear what our mission based objective is for visitors, and look at those goals in order to justify the financial investment. In this case, we may decide that having 1% of our visitors act as engaged content contributors is enough; or we may decide that we want 80% of the visitors who attend an exhibit to engage with the exhibit content in some way– the goals that we set will drive the acceptable costs differently than businesses. We need to read all business materials with this difference in mind.

    • w h i t n e y 9:00 pm on April 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Yes. Kylie, I am so glad you made this post.

      I feel as though I would be acting in a state of self righteous reverence if I were to believe that visitors were not customers in both a literal and conceptual sense.

      Museums are institutions. We provide content and services. We promote our content and services. We seek to make them more relevent to the people using them. The idea of seeing visitors as customers and providing them with what they want, and to an extent need, is invaluable to crafting a relevant institution.

      Without this mutual exchange, listening and interacting with the groundswell, our relationship with visitors become transactional and in essence prove to be more along the lines of a traditional business model.

      Its interesting that traditional models for both Museums and business are beginning to fail. Formerly it was expected that people wanted to come see what we had to offer because we were the authority. PEople wanted to buy our product because they had no other option. People now ahve more options than they know what to o with. They can choose NOT to go. They can choose NOT to buy.

  • kypine 7:49 pm on April 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Social Technolgies in Museums w/o the Technology 

    I think it is an important and inevitable fact that musuems will need to enter what our text calls the “Groundswell.” Post-modern, post-colonial, and revisionist (and post-revisionist) theories in academia that call for a re-evaluation of truth and scholarship are affecting and will continue to affect the way museums as educational institutions do things. I think new web-based technologies will facillitate this paradigm shift.

    But I’ve been pondering today how museums can build off of these new technologies and ways of thinking and use them for improving visitor experience for those for whom the web does not exist within their realm of conciousness or interest. In my limited museum experience, I have found a population of older people who cannot or do not want to engage in newer technological forms. There were different levels within this population, from completely computer illiterate to those that could use it, but chose not to. How can museums use the principles espoused by 2.0 technologies to reach this population of non-web participants in the bastion of traditional museum practices: the physical exhibit?

    I think our experiments started to address this type of 2.0-minded, phyiscal experience, but from our conversations they seemed to be very programmatic versus being spawned by the exhibit construction/design itself. This could totally be because of time/planning/facillities restraints, but I’m wondering if its something more than that, if its even possible to create that type of an experience without a monitor/moderator inside the exhibit.

    I think the biggest problem I’m having is that I’m not sure what this would look like if it were intentionally built into an exhibit. Would it be a table, courtroom, tv studio, type place where the social cues in the environmental setting promoted discourse. Web-based experiences have the advantage of a pre-set environment, where people know they are going to a blog and that conversations are welcomed there. Physical exhibits have don’t have that same history. If I was in a history museum and created a courtroom area and had instructions telling visitors to debate a specific issue (women’s suffrage for example) how could I create this experience without what the type of “bs” question cues, or encourage people to even engage with the object without having a person standing there modelling the behaviour?

    One of the great things about utilizing web-based social technologies is that they are inexpensive and often free. This seems to be a barrier to including these types of experiences in physical spaces, either imbedding expensive electronics to mimic a web-based experience or hiring staff to promote/facillitate/maintain(!) activities. Are there low cost ways of converting these theories into physical experiences?

    I guess my real question is, has anyone seen a really good example of 2.0 principles put into action in a physical exhibit space? How can we make it happen in a usable, relevant and low-cost fashion?

    • w h i t n e y 12:49 am on April 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I’ve seen them work a lot in exhibits, but like Nina mentioned in class a while back, they were often in “art” settings. Though working with designers/artists isn’t a bad way to go. Check out the NYT article on Art Installations in Kids/Science museums. Many new technologies being used in Art research can be applied to web 2.0 and exhibitions. There are works of art that serve as excellent examples of this, just check out some of the research projects done by local artist and UW professor James Coupe. If partnerships are available with artists it can help with finding funding as well.

    • emilbeck 5:47 am on April 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I think something as simple as allowing visitors to write down their reactions or perceptions about objects/ideas/themes, and then posting those somewhere for other visitors to read and comment on is an example. Computers are not mandatory for social interaction, but we’re learning and discovering new possibilities because of them.

      BTW, I think I understand what you’re saying about what kinds of interactions museum want to have with their visitors in terms of the mission. It seems like you’re really getting into Groundswell and the different methods available for institutions, ie, “Should we promote creation or critique? Should we let visitors choose favorite objects or are they more likely to just read our blog?” Am I understanding what you’re getting at? If so, I think that’s the next step for sure. Making the decision about where to take that interaction is critical, and it will be different for every institution.

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