Museums and the Web 2013: Rewiring, Games and Computer Club

IMG_5443Museums and the Web was a bit of a blur and over a month later I haven’t really managed to process any of it.  I’m also recovering from over indulging in Voodoo Donuts.

I was speaking in the Rewiring the Museum, Part of the “Innovating the Museum” session thread with 2 other pretty nifty papers.

I was speaking with Carolyn Royston (IWM) about the Positives and Negatives of R&D in museums and the lessons we have learnt from the Social Interpretation Project. You can check out our paper titled ‘Visitors, Digital Innovation and a Squander Bug: Reflections on Digital R&D for Audience Engagement and Institutional Impact’

There were a massive selection of sessions, a couple of my favourites were the  ‘Let the Games Begin‘  or the Gamification smackdown session. the debate kicked off as soon as the panellists started speaking. Sharna Jackson from Tate Kids was  simply awesome on the naffness of badges for just rocking up to a museum. Visitors should be challenged before they are rewarded. Loved it.

I also really enjoyed the excellent  Professional Forum: Digital Strategy from Europe to the US which had 4 great speakers discussing the highs and lows of digital strategy.

  1. Kajsa Hartig (Nordiska museet) talked about:Communicating the Museum: From Digital Strategy to Plan of Action – Two Years Down the Road
  2. Sarah Hromack (Whitney Museum of American Art) told us about: Utopia Then, Reality Now: (Re)considering the Wiki Model in Museum Culture 
  3. Carolyn Royston (IWM) focused on Destination Success: Sustaining your digital strategy but really it was about initiating a Computer Club (with Stickers) within IWM Take the bull by the horns and make changes internally before expecting the public to understand. This created a real buss during the session, it will be great to hear if that buzz is replicated inside the museum when it launches.  I really do want me an expert sticker.
  4. John Stack (Tate) talked about embedding digital in everything the museum does. Tate Digital Strategy: Digital as a dimension of everything

They also launched a pretty nifty Institutional Strategy Digest zine.

Here are my top 3 tweets of the conference:

Danny Birchall @dannybirchall: “I want to make people uncomfortable, I want to make games about genocide” -@museumpaige #mw2013 11:27 PM – 19 Apr 13

Wil Arndt @warndt:Museums need to install a bar in every exhibit. Funding problem solved. #MW2013 11:43 PM – 20 Apr 13

sebchan @sebchan:Love that @caro_ft is setting up the Imperial War Museum’s Computer Club! Pocket protector awesomeness! #MW2013 12:28 AM – 20 Apr 13

Notes on Ross Parry’s Presentation: The end of the beginning: Normativity in the postdigital museum

Final set of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.  Ross’s talks always inspire and make me feel very insignificant in terms of theory in equal measure.

Ross Parry: The end of the beginning: Normativity in the postdigital museum

  • Based on new research into how 6 UK national museums
  • Are 6 national museums showing a national trend? Or just highlighting that those with money can play more?
  • naturalise ‘digital’ into their overall museum vision
  • Digital being naturalised within the museum…
  • 1980 paisley institute fox communication research- the museum in 1980
  • Connected museum
  • Normative
  • The duality of technology rethinking the concept of tech in organisations
  • Wanda Orlikowski – dynamic relations between information technologies and organizations over time
  • Has digital in museums become normative?
  • Structures of domination, structures of legitimisation, structures of signification.
  • Digital as a recurring motif
  • Digital being naturalised within the Museums vision and articulation of itself – once limited information on digital, forced to highlight ‘digital’ in strategies, organisational structures and projects has evolved to being incporated throughout.
  • A preparedness for a post digital org structure
  • Actively recruiting blended roles
  • The presence of digital thinking
  • Digital being part of the generative and ideation moment
  • Blended production
  • Strategising for a multiplatform future
  • No need for digital to be strategised separately.
  • post-digital museum is one where digital technology has become transparent: it has become so permeated into everyday activities that we no longer reflect upon or feel challenged by its digital character.  Personally I don’t think this is true in the practical and operational issues of museums.  It might resonate in Digital departments, but not throughout the whole of the museum.
  • What does post digital stance have for how we situate research?

New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: Notes 4

4th  post of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.

Rolf Steier and Palmyre Pierroux: Social Media and Interaction Design in Art Museums

  • InterMedia, University of Oslo
  • The role of the affordances of social media and visitor contributions in museums.
  • CONTACT project, exploring the design of digital resources and social media to engage visitors with the work of Edvard Munch
  • The ‘Myself’ interactive:  Pose like munch to recreate his self-portrait.
  • Pose, photograph, caption and share their photos on Flickr stream.
  • I love the In-gallery social interaction with social media element in Munch
  • What is the role of social media in interactive activities in museums?
  • Interaction Analysis Ferry et al 2010, Jordan and Henderson 1987
  • Visitor or Museum controlled content?
  • Perception of content ownership

Rosie Cardiff: Tate Visitor Generated Content

  • By 2015 Tate want to be more open and receptive to ideas and debate; diverse range of voices
  • Vistor generated content has formed part of Tate’s core strategy to be more open and diverse
  • VGC projects at Tate go back to 2000
  • But does inviting VGC really help fulfil institutional aims?
  • How do we measure success in terms of VGC? Numbers, quality, debate, what?
  • number; diversity of voices; quality; evidence of debate; numbers visiting physical tate?
  • The value of measurement of VGC
  • Motivation of visitors – what do visitors expect when they contribute?
  • kids project, tate tales, run from 2004-present. what did kids in 2004 expect for 9 years in the future?
  • visitor expectation – How long should VGC remain active. Days, weeks, months, years?
  • What do the visitors expect to happen to their contribution after they have taken part?
  • would you expect something you wrote in a museum as a child to be around now you’re an adult?
  • If we use Flickr are we saying, We don’t want it on our actual website?
  • Planning for archiving and maintaining content beyond lifetime of project
  • From Rosie’s Abstract: “Over the years, Tate has consistently underestimated the amount of time and money it takes to manage and moderate projects of this kind. The volume of user generated content we host is continually increasing and at some point we have to ask ourselves, what are we going to do with this content? Has it served its purpose? Will we end up simply deleting it?”

La Sapienza: Open Museum: VGC as an emerging solution to a design challenge and Before VGC: user experience research as a key methodology for the development of digital interactive services within museal context

  • mobile Pass: smoother transition between activities  inside and outside the Museum;
  • VGC available around the City.
  • Projecting artworks onto museum facades to invite people to visit and discover more
  • Highlighting what visitors are seeing & doing inside the museum projected onto the facade of the museum outside
  • User Centered Design Perspective.
  • UCD user ethnographic map (uem)

New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: 3 Social Interpretation and QRator

3rd  post of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.

My Notes on both Jeremy’s and Jack’s presentations are brief as I know both projects pretty much inside out.

Jeremy Ottenvanger – Inbound Communications as a catalyst for organisational change

  • A tale of two fiefdoms- who is responsible for responding to VGC
  • Characterising online contributions:
  • personal: emotional, opinion, personal information, anecdotes, family history
  • requests and queries: object info, valuation, family history, digitisation and licencing, offering material, access, history, general/website
  • informational: new information, corrections
  • online comments tend to be more thoughtful than in-gallery comments online commenters have sought out the content, so already have a deeper engagement with those specific items, rather than just coming across them while moving through the physical gallery.
  • important issue of sustainability of VGC. How do museums resource it in the long term?
  • IWM trying to find an internal workflow that was appropriately responsive to online comments
  • A gap between two departments – collections access and digital media
  • Sources of value:
  • External mission value- giving people what they want
  • Engagement through UGC contribution
  • Internal mission value- strengthening the missions values
  • Shaping future services
  • IWM don’t have a plan. Yet.

Jack Ashby: The Grant Museum and QRator

  • A turtle is a turtle. That’s a fact. How can visitors participate in Natural History Museums
  • For the Grant Museum the act of participation isn’t enough. It has to have a more in depth levels.
  • Are museum visitors unwitting guinea pigs?
  • allowing content to go live post-moderated
  • Both Areti and Jack raised issues about the subjective nature of moderating VGC.

New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: 2 Areti Galani and My Great North Run

2nd post of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.

Areti Galani and Rachel Clarke: “Run mummy run”: negotiating communicative tensions in the design and use of digital installations that facilitate visitor-generated content in public exhibitions

I met Areti a couple of years ago at Museums and the Web 2011 where she was demonstrating some of the technology used in My Great North Run by Newcastle university’s culture lab and GNM_Hancock.  Not only because it is set in my home town, and in my favourite museum but because I love how the project mixed up the nature of digital and analogue technologies.  It was an interactive museum installation designed to extend visitor participation through personal reflection and contribution and combined three kinds of interaction: touchscreens, digital pens and a website. During this presentation I was really shocked by the amount of contributions that were rejected during the moderation process.

  • Can interactivity antagonise participation?
  • How can accessible technology lead to inaccessible participation paradigms?
  • My Great North Run – 2. Contribution routes and multiple contribution forms
  • C.60000 in gallery users
  • 13,000 contributions in 93 days
  • 53 online contributions- all published
  • difference between quality of the visitor contributions in-gallery vs online (though of course ‘quality’ is a highly subjective term)
  • Balance between what is considered meaningful curated content with more open social network platforms that encourage active participation.
  • 93% rejected contributions! What moderation system was used?  8% of which made it through the moderation process and became part of the exhibition.
  • Could building in some delay in the process of contributing in-gallery lead to better quality contributions?
  • Will a doodle ever become a contribution? Why do we always assume that a textual visitor contribution is better and of a higher quality and therefore more relevant?
  • The novelty of the technology: ‘pen-happy visitors’ used the technology for the sake of interacting but didn’t know what to do after picked up the pen.
  • When does a contribution become part of the narrative?
  • Many interrelated emerging narratives
  • Temporary co-existence with museum narratives of celebration.
  • Empathetic, situated, embedded
  • 3 communicative tensions present in digital installations that encourage visitors to generate and contribute content in exhibitions:
  1. how lowering the barriers to participation through technological decisions may affect the quality of the contributed content as well as the experience of the contributors;
  2. how the tension between the curatorial desire to enable user-participation while maintaining a coherent and aesthetically consistent curatorial narrative is un/resolved
  3. how visitors negotiate the ‘private’ and the ‘public’ when contributing content.

Key Point to consider: Digitally-mediated participatory installations continue to occupy the ambiguous space between audience engagement and exhibition interpretation, with an impact on both how visitor-generated content is collected and archived by institutions and also how displays facilitating visitor-generated content fit with exhibition designs. 

New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: 1 Mia Ridge and Crowdsourcing

Last Friday I spent the day in Leicester for the 2nd day of  ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at the school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.

It was a fabulous conference, and perfectly timed for my PhD research, the organisers, Giasemi Vavoula and Jenny Kidd, did a great job on the conference programme with a great combination of academic papers and practical case studies.

Firstly to be honest, I haven’t really used the term Visitor Generated Content (VGC) before. I don’t really like the term User Generated Content (UGC) and swapping user for visitor doesn’t solve my dislike of the term. But I can see why as terminology both work.

Mia Ridge has already blogged her notes from both days of the conference and there will be lots on the conference blog, so these are my notes of useful concepts that I found helpful for thinking about my own PhD research. I’m splitting it into several posts other wise it will go on and on! Up first is:
Mia Ridge: The gift that gives twice: crowdsourcing as productive engagement with cultural heritage

I really enjoyed Mia’s keynote, she managed to fit lots in in a relatively short space of time. Mia focused on the different ways of thinking about crowdsourcing in cultural heritage, both in terms of the process and the outcomes.

  • Cognitive circus. The spare processing power of millions of humans brains. (edit – Mia has pointed out its cognitive surplus. However I feel cognitive circus is a much better term!)
  • Difference between VGC and crowdsourcing.  When there’s no clearly defined direction, shared goal or research question? This is not crowdsourcing – blurry definition.
  • The importance of creating a space for curiosity
  • The act of  looking creates a relationship with objects
  • Participatory project models -Contributory – the public contributes data to Aerojet designed by the organisation; Collaborative – both active partners, but lead by organisation and Co-creative – But who really has agency?
  • The ethics of crowdsourcing, Leveraging public participation driven by pleasure , not profit
  • Semantic gap, language used to describe objects, is not the same as the search and collection
  • Who participates in crowdsourcing? – Super contributors and drive-bys
  • Crowdsourcing before the web- 19th century natural history collection: 1849 Smithsonian
  • The OED was crowd sourced
  • Long history of crowdsourcing, but transformed by technology

Some useful Crowdsourcing Case Studies

  • Types of Crowdsorcing content: Images multimedia, game levels, research, object identification, family records, objects, documents, the list is en
  • Productive engagement
  • Definitions of engagement are a bit naff
  • What’s ‘engagement’?
  • attending
  • participating
  • deciding
  •  producing
  • Levels of engagement in citizen science –
  • level 1 participating in simple classification tasks
  • Level 2 participating in community discussion
  • Level 3 working independently
  • Crowdsourcing as a gateway to father activity
  • familySearch ‘stepping stones’ -Indexing and then can move to arbitration. Clear progression.
  • Motivations for participation -Altruistic, intrinsic, extrinsic
  • Validating procrastination and Enhancing the visitor experience

Can a Museum collect tweets? And should it?

Last week I was invited to a workshop at the Museum of London focusing on Collecting Social Media as a Museum Object .   It was a really interesting workshop with plenty of discussion and questions raised. It’s a discussion that I think would be well worth continuing with more institutions to see what practices are already undertaken when it comes to dealing with social media and museums.

The workshop follows on from a really great project between The Museum of London and the University of Westminster; citizen curators.  MoL are really interested in how social media can be collected as an object in its own right, if at all.

Hopefully there will be more discussion about this in the future; so these are just some of my quick notes that struck me during the workshop.

The main Interesting question of the day: What do you accession into the museum collection when collecting social media?

Peter Ride, University of Westminster – Citizen Curators

  • #citizencurators – a social networking project for London2012
  • What do you accession into the collection?
  • Experimental project
  • Can communities collect and curate without museum curatorial authorship?
  • Aimed to investigate how social media can provide alternative approach that supplement contemporary collections
  • Designed to result in knowledge about how you can collection born digital media.
  • Public call for citizen curator and Several blog posts about the process. See
  • #citizencurator project found that images are an integral part of the tweet experience. But accessioning social media images is difficult.  Museum of London collected textual tweets but not images. Due mostly to copyright issues. MuseumofLondon decided it wasn’t a viable option. They followed the Library of congress precedent: aka text is ok images are not.
  • But this raises issues relating to the place of images within visual culture. Particularly as images are an integral part of the tweet experience.
  • The outcome – over 7,000 tweets were logged by the Museum using the #citizencurators hashtag
  • But by far the most important issue was about working with Twitter – what could they do with the project.  It’s a scary thing for a museum to let go of content control. By its nature being an open project in a public forum the project had no walls, there was no control in management or in terms of the content. And for curators this raises complex issues. Authority, Trust, Control, Authenticity etc.
  • The Citizen Curator In what form can this media be best collected?
  • Is it best kept for future investigation?
  • Can it be made accessible?
  • Steve raised a point during the discussion that Twitter’s T&Cs have changed meaning there are now quite strict conditions on sharing raw data.  Which will make projects like this tricky in the future.


Catherine Flood, V&A – Flickr and the Olympics

  • V_and_A‘s Collect London 2012 Flickr project …
  • Aiming to create an archive of images of the Olympics
  • Collect the graphic environment at London 2012
  • Create an archive of images that will preserve a snapshot
  • How do you approach social media as a design object?


Helen Hockx-Yo, British Library – Archiving social media

  • Two strands as part of web resources archived in the uk web archive
  • British library collects Facebook data. Can only collect public pages, only as part of a special collections,  due to technical problems – pages dynamically generated via asynchronous JavaScript calls.  How do you archive dynamically generated pages?
  • British Library collects and analyse tweets with Twittervane which can determine which sites are shared most frequently … in order to build a web archive collection
  • Prototype/Investigatory project by the British Library to use Twitter to build a web archive collection
  • Current selection process is largely manual by a small number of experts
  • Explore automatic selection
  • Exploit the wisdom of the crowd

Common issues with archiving social media:

  • Copyright: who owns the content?
  • Technical existing technologies not adequate
  • No generic, scalable solutions
  • Will be more difficult as technology advances
  • Curatorial: how do we select social media content? Focus in events, themes or as much as possible?
  • Ethics: privacy and ethical implications
  • Access and usage: how will the archived content be used?
  • What search/discovery/analytics tools should be offered
  • Twitter offering personal archiving services.  Should you archive your followers? Is it not that that provides the context?


Ruth Page, University of Leicester – Twitter datasets: a linguists perspective

  • Twitter as a source for data
  • Relatively easy to harvest (see suggestions from the AoIR on scraping tools)
  • Small and large scale corpora
  • What does that [visitor comment] tell us about how they fit into the museum environment?
  • Computer mediated discourse analysis
  • LSE museum and social media
  • Challenges for research
  • Ethics
  • Archiving and usability
  • Longevity (is it just a fad?)
  • What is it for?


Workshop discussion and some Twitter chat

  • Why are we collecting?
  • Lack of the visual social media data in collection discussions
  • Twitter and photographers and the network and context. How do you evaluate and analyse that?
  • Visual aspect of social media. Authorship, network, context. Cat meme as an example.
  • There must be a way to solve ethical issues perhaps its a case of a Reserach projects in collaboration with Twitter itself?
  • Higher Education has vast ethical conditions in order to get clearance, can they apply to museums social media projects?
  • What ethical documentation/policies/guidelines do museums adhere to with regards social media?
  •  ‏@ernestopriego tweeted a useful  database of 196 social media policies …
  • question about ethical responsibility &displaying social media. Is it the application, the museum or the visitors ethical responsibility?
  • Do any museums include a clause in their social media policies about archiving and curating their own tweets?
  • Do we discuss social media in museums in silos? Should we be looking at the wider context, it’s interdisciplinary nature?
  • Bit of a meta debate about the difference between ownership and access of social media data.


The Art of Digital Project Management

image yoinked from Jane’s slides.

Last night I went along to the Photographers Gallery for my first Art of Digital London meet up. To hear some talks and meet some people. The topic for this month focused on Digital Project Management.

The premise was to understand:

How does an organisation keep all the plates spinning without losing the plot?

To find out we will spend this month investigating infrastructures, tools and systems that can help. They rarely receive top billing, but things such as Intranets, scheduling, task management and communication tools, as well as forms of project development (such as ‘Agile’), can make the world of project management a better place!

I have a background in project management and I don’t often get to flex my PM muscles now, so I do like to get a blast of project management speak from time to time, just to double check that it is still what I thought it was.

The evening consisted of three talks all considering slightly different aspects of digital project management within/for/about cultural and arts organisations.

First up was the lovely Jane who discussed her work as a digital producer.  Jane highlighted things cultural organisations need to be thinking about before starting a digital project:

  • What do you actually want to do? What content you have? Does it have to be digital? Jane despite being a digital producer has a fondness for non-digital things (her blog is full of pretty non digital ephemera), and hit home the point that you need to think carefully about doing digital. It’s not always necessary. Fitness for purpose.
  • How much money do you have? And what timescales do you have to play with
  • Brief writing, shortlisting agencies, and tendering are a faff, so it’s useful to have someone who can facilitate that for you.
  • The importance of a little black book of contacts. At the end of the day project management is 90% people management.
  • Recommendation for a project management tool: Basecamp.  Stakeholders love basecamp as a tool because they can spy on the project & get an overview, without having to be constantly updated.

Next up was Rachel and Katy from Caper.  They discussed there NESTA Digital R&D project Happenstance.  It was really nice to hear a bit more about another one of the Digital R&D projects (I work on the Social Interpretation project also part of this fund).

  • Being Appropriately Agile in a cultural environment
  • The importance of individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Happenstance focused on the potential of people and what happens when you put digital thinking at the heart of cultural organisations.
  • How to make seemingly small digital advances and upskilling in certain areas which will improve the overall running of organisations.

Up last was Chris Unitt from Made Media, who discussed project management from an agency perspective.

  • It’s about picking your battles, when you are choosing clients to work with.
  • Project Management methodology, whether its waterfall or agile, need to suit the type of project and type of organisation.
  • Some good project management tools: Basecamp, email, google docs, google calendar, ichat, skype.
  • Never underestimate the power of face to face meetings.  Even if it’s just a quick 5 minute catch up.
  • Chris highlighted Warwick Arts Centre as a nice example.

All in all a very nice night.

Update:  Chris has blogged his notes check them out for a bit more detail.