Updates from June, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Erin Milbeck Wilcox 7:55 pm on June 9, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    A few posts about us 



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  • Erin Milbeck Wilcox 5:42 am on April 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Music, platform, ,   


    Just to get in the mindset of choosing a direction for our group project, and to begin thinking about the individual project, I thought I would flesh out the concept of platform for myself once more.

    Essentially, the platform is the way your project works, kind of the backbone of your relationship building, as far as I understand from our conversations in class and from Groundswell. Taking a look at Last.fm, a social networking site that focuses on music, I just want to point out some key things that the site does for users.

    1. You create a profile with information that you provide, including photo, your favorite music, where you are, etc.

    2. When you listen to music on your computer it is synched to the site and it uploads what you’re listening to in real time (it does this with your mp3 player as well, and updates when you plug it into your computer). This is called “scrobbling” and is the focus of the site. These songs become part of the users “radio” and can be listened to by other users.

    3. You can have friends and search for strangers who have compatible taste to you, which you can see from their recent music queue and their listed favorites. You can see what they are listening to and find new music from them.

    4. You can also search for band profiles, much like myspace pages, where you can listen to their latest hits.  But for the most part, only songs that are scrobbled can be listened to by other users, which means that bands don’t just upload all of their music, i.e. they must have fans who want to share their music with others.

    5. Lastly, you can search for live performances in your area (or anywhere) for all bands or just those you list as favorites.

    Last.fm is focused around music and finding other people and artists with similar tastes. It is a community that needs joiners to create profiles, collectors to share what they already like and find new music, and spectators to watch it all happen. The activities are working online and in real life, creating a personalized, customizable space for visitors to list their music and share it with others, and allowing users to take control in suggesting music to each other. Hopefully I can stay focused when thinking about creating individual and group social media projects.

  • Erin Milbeck Wilcox 5:28 am on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    It’s the end of the world… 

    This week, New Curator made a troubling post about the future of the curator, and made a comparison between it and the fate of many journalists.  To summarize, he (Pete) believes that social technology and the use of polls/ratings will make the curator obsolete, much like youtube and online news sources have wounded the role of the journalist.  Pete writes, “Crowdsourcing the curatorial decisions of an exhibition. The process of museums has been brought to the lowest common denominator, pitched somewhere between reality TV and youtube’s most-viewed list. My point is about individualism in museums is entirely proved.”

    Groundswell deals a lot with crowdsourcing, especially in chapter 9, “embracing the groundswell.”  Li and Bernoff explain that crowdsourcing can be useful for marketing, but cannot replace the professional; the marketing team takes suggestions from the customer to make the product better in a fraction of the time it took before, if the marketers listened to the customer at all before the rise of the groundswell.  This makes the company more responsive to the needs of the customer, and therefore more competative and probably more successful.

    I think what might bother people like curators, and maybe journalists, is the idea of being humble enough to allow others a stake or a decision in their job.  Curators study like mad to become incredibly knowledgeable about their field and often become very territorial, so it’s no wonder they might feel threatened by the uprising of the common blogger/viewer.  Li and Bernoff write “muster up the humility to listen and tap into the skill to take what you’ve heard and make improvements.”

    No one wants the death of the curator; we need their expertise to understand works of art and objects, and to present them to viewers.  No one is trying to replace a curator with, I’ll say it, Joe-six-pack.  In class we discussed the clear labeling of news reports verse public opinion on the NYTimes website which aides readers in their search for “objective” reporting; readers want to know when they’re reading an article written by a reporter because they can trust it more than a blog post from a critic.  Museum-goers can trust an interpretive panel because they know that a lot of thought and studying has gone into that content.

    I find it surprising that someone who writes a blog, twitters, etc, would feel so negatively about the groundswell and basic web 2.0.  I would hope that Pete understands the opportunity curators have today; so many more artists to meet and things to learn. And I don’t think it’s wrong to ask curators to step into a new world that includes blogs, tweets, and tags.  Everyone else has to change something in their profession, too.  What’s the big deal?  The groundswell is really not the apocalypse. It can make us more successful at our job, sharing and preserving history and culture, if we choose to use it wisely.

    Maybe this all just relates back to museums being a place of informal learning that doesn’t have to come from a teacher or a book; learning in a museum can come from a curator, an educator, a friend, or a stranger.  Now that we have such a huge wealth of knowledge why not take advantage of it and appreciate it?

    • museologiste 9:21 am on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I sure hope curators stick around. I really do think its important to have people who have a great depth of disciplinary knowledge working for museums. And, not only are curators content experts, they steward collections and are equipped to cultivate them in ways that a Top 10 list could never even come close to doing.

    • Jais 2:19 pm on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Humility seems to be the key here. It’s really difficult to give up even a small amount of control and authority.

      I think crowdsourcing can be a definite blessing, especially as we’re trying to get visitors to become more actively engaged into museums. Even if it becomes an essential and viable curatorial technique, the authority of the curator remains not only in deciding what gets originally put into the poll in the first place, but also what specific information and messages will be conveyed by the chosen paintings. The crowds won’t replace the overall job of the curator.

    • Lace 3:14 pm on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Great post, Erin! I like how you capture the tension on this issue, but take a clear stand.

      I wonder if part of people’s fear about “crowdsourcing” is what they’ve seen in the past as a result of “groupthink” or “design by committee” in which a singular artistic vision can be sacrificed to consensus.

      I am curious about the specifics of how crowdsourcing brings about better/different results than groupthink.

    • Nicole 4:17 pm on April 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with Lace. I think people feel like we cave in to the lowest common denominator when we hand control to a group. Management by consensus is a challenging process! What we discussed in our last class–the importance of design and the kinds of control that museums keep over the platform– are critical elements in making this work. I actually think museums are gaining some control by setting up guidelines in how visitors engage or respond to their exhibits; looking at it that way this is real opportunity!

  • Erin Milbeck Wilcox 7:50 am on April 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , theories   

    Wheels keep on turnin’ 

    I’ve been thinking about the goals of social technology and networking people who might not have had contact otherwise, and doing it all through museums.  Why are we trying to do this?  What will it ultimately accomplish?  Are we learning or just having fun?
    We addressed this issues of “educational” social interaction verse any kind of interaction briefly in class at the beginning of the week.  I agree that social events in a museum do not always have to be a means to an educational end; people should be having fun in the museum.  But like many of the games and activities our class tried out at the zoo last week, these simple interactions do not always lead to deeper enrichment.  So how do we create meaningful social interactions?
    Kylie mentioned that museums might not be museums if they become more about people interacting with each other than about objects or cultural heritage.  I think this is a completely valid point.  Once museums attempt to offer too much social interaction, will the museum lose itself?  Will museums be torn apart by competing purposes?  Nina mentioned that most networking sites have a specific purpose that helps them attract visitors and grow.  Sites that are created with a weak sense of direction often fail for lack of purpose or interest.  I can only guess that the same would be true for a physical network as well.
    I don’t necessarily like talking to strangers, but I have worked in retail for a long time and I spend most of my time talking to people I don’t know.  But I have a very specific goal when I talk to a customer: to sell a product.  I think it’s helpful to have a very mission/museum centered agenda when we attempt to try to talk to strangers in order to make meaningful contact.  We talked about this in class a little.  Just like writing a mission statement, the social interactions and events of the museum should reflect the basic goals of the institution; visitors come to the art museum to talk with other people who are interested in Calder, or to the science center to chat about evolution.  Without the foundation of the mission, or the objects or stories, the museum is not reaching its full social potential.
    Finally, I think that creative, museum-centered social technology can, not only get people talking to each other, but also to the museum.  And as we’ve seen many times with community curated shows and other methods of presentation, having multiple voices tell a story is more powerful and memorable than a wall panel.  Through these social technologies, visitors might feel more comfortable telling their stories or might identify with others.
    I know that I’m just glimpsing the forest from a distance right now.  I’m looking forward to exploring the trees.

    • ninaksimon 3:13 pm on April 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I enjoyed reading your thought process through this. With regard to the educational component, I know that I am very much a social learner. If I’m in a museum with a friend who knows and loves the subject matter, I learn a lot more than if I just read the labels. I think some of my interest in social tech comes from this–the realization that I always have a better (more educational) experience in museums when I talk with others. I’m not the only one; studies show that interactions with staff are often the most memorable (though maybe not the most educational!) part of a museum visit.

      One challenge is figuring out how to sculpt the venue for conversation such that it encourages you to talk about the objects/content without being overly prescriptive. People have a high bullshit radar for teacherly questions like, “what do you think the girl in the painting is doing?”

    • kyliepine 7:00 pm on April 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I really like the way you framed the idea about museums’ missions being the driving force behind the social interactions they are seeking to engage. I think that is how we avoid museums loosing themselves in a sea of social interactions. It would mean that social technologies are a tool with which the mission is accomplished.

      I think this might differ logistically, but not theoretically from what Nina, you were saying about social technologies needing a clear purpose/direction. YouTube is about videos. This is the purpose for the technology. Its mission might be the same as its purpose or a bit different (promoting self expression), but the entire reason for being of the YouTube institution/enterprise is promoting this activity. When muesums are coming to the social technology table though, it seems to me like they are approaching it a bit differently. Their mission or reason for being may not be exclusively the promotion of social interaction. Instead of inventing themselves for a 2.0 purpose, they are adapting a 2.0 tool for a predetermined mission. I think adaptation/appropriation process has some serious cultural and social baggage that those people creating tools from scratch don’t have to deal with. Museums must determine both what the purpose of their appropriation of social technologies is, why its important, and why they, the institution is doing it. I think this adds an additional step to the list of things that should be made clear to participants in a 2.0 forum.

      Nina’s list of what should be made clear to particpants (per my notes so sorry if a little off):
      -What to do
      -Why you are doing it

      (And I would add)
      -Why you are doing it with this museum as opposed to somewhere else

    • Kelly C. Porter 7:20 pm on April 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply


      Similar questions plague me. I think it is very easy to give lip service to dialogue, especially in a museum setting where we are constantly at pains to catch up with the tantalizing platform possibilities of the internet. It’s a process and a tool that we have not wielded very well very often. My big question is not just “how do we get people to talk?” but “how do we get people to talk meaningfully about our content?” Often curators have surprisingly crappy solutions to this, and what they judge as a “success” in terms of dialog seems pretty ridiculous to me.

      Perhaps I am alone in thinking that there is no decided value on dialog–whether people talk to each other or not– because it is entirely possible to have completely hollow dialogue. We do this a dozen times a day, when we’re stuck in an elevator talking about the weather with a neighbor because the silence is awkward. It is frankly pretty easy to get strangers to talk about something, but for that dialog to flow deeper than our common practice of “small talk” is much harder . . . not impossible, but harder. I think I want to make sure that ‘success’ in our project (and in any future projects of my own) is not just judged by the presence of dialog or interaction, but by the quality, depth and originality of that dialog as evaluated by its participants as well as by us.

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