Can museums place an automatic value on their visitor generated content?

A quick ponder into visitor generated content and value classification.

Twitter has introduced new metadata for tweets; with the objective of helping developers filter out the most “valuable” tweets.  This immediately got me thinking about visitor generated content (VGC) in museums.  My PhD is grappling with the idea of impact and how you can go about measuring impact of VGC on museum experience.  Over the past couple of years working on QRator and the Social Interpretation project, it has become clear that VGC, impact and value are notoriously difficult to define, interpret and well basically study.

In essence, Twitter is going to be introducing new metadata for Tweets so that you will receive tweets tagged up with value levels; initially just no value, low and medium. No High value tweets just yet. The aim is to make it easier for developers to surface what is arguably the better and more interesting content from otherwise noisy or high volume tweet streams.

We had a similar problem with the Social Interpretation VGC in particular, a high volume of visitor comments, and no clear way of moderating, categorising or “valuing” the better quality visitor comments. As with most high volume unstructured data, finding and highlighting the signal out of the noise can represent a significant challenge.

The problem is that “value” is highly subjective and varies on the context within which it is being consumed. One visitor’s value is not the same as the next.  Nor is it likely to match what the museum defines as adding value.  The SI team at IWM experimented with gardening comments, but we didn’t come up with a criterion to work from, so it was up to the moderator at the time to decide. At the Grant Museum with QRator we are trying to come up with criteria to look at the visitor answers to the current questions, but this is after the point of visitor contribution, and is very much based on the museum’s perceived value of the response. Is value something you add in the post moderation stage? Who’s value? The visitors or the museums?

So, is Twitter’s new value algorithm something that can be used by museums to classify VGC?

If I’m honest, no I don’t think it is. Is it really possible to create an algorithm that can classify value of comments?  Surely value is judged by the reader?   Can an automated system really evaluate subjective factors and identify the most valuable conversations for each individual?  Doubtful.

But I will be watching how Twitter deals with concepts of value of tweets with interest.

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: 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