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  • shinyupai 6:56 pm on May 29, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: publics, social technology   

    I’m wrapping up my RAship at the Simpson… 

    I’m wrapping up my RAship at the Simpson Center and have been going over my files for teacher development seminars that the Center sponsored this past year. One session in particular had an interesting syllabus and reading material that ties well with the social media aspect of our class.

    Crispin Thurlow is a professor in the Communications School who conducts research on youth and social technology. Check out his article “Fabricating youth: New-media discourse and the technologization of young people” in Youth, Identity, and Digital Media (MIT Press, 2008) as supplemental reading for our social tech coursebooks. Crispin applies a scholarly analysis to constructions of youth (and therefore adulthood) through perceptions of social technology. Another good article by Thurlow is “Wired whizzes or techno slaves? Young people and their emergent communication technologies” which covers the range of social technologies discussed in Born Digital and talks about notions of risk.

    There is also a good article by Susan Herring called “Questioning the General Divide: Technological Exoticism and Adult Constructions of Online Youth Identity” that examines the contextual factors and social motivations shaping human behaviors, continuities, and technological trends. Like Thurlow, Herring also addresses the exoticizing of the internet generation through constructions of youth.
    Finally, my favorite reading from Thurlow’s syllabus is Danah Boyd’s article “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” – also from the MIT volume Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. Boyd’s article has a great theoretical discussion on the different meanings of public, types of publics (social networking sites), and some discussion on the implications of being socialized into a culture rooted in network publics.

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