Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Museum Blog Survey for Museums and Web Conference 2007

December 19th, 2006 by Seb Chan

We are conducting the first comprehensive survey looking at museum blogs and blogging practices. If you write for, or operate a museum or museum-related blog, please fill out the survey on the Museum Blogs website.

Seb Chan (Powerhouse Museum) and Myself (Ideum) are the conducting the survey. The results will be presented in a session, Radical Trust: The state of the museum blogosphere at the Museums and Web Conference in San Francisco in April 2007. We will also link to our paper from both the Ideum blog and the Powerhouse’s fresh + new blog.

The purpose of the survey is to capture a snapshot of the technologies, aims, policies, uses, and impact of blogging in the museum sector. 2006 has been an amazing year for the field, what were 20 blogs back in January is now a community of nearly 100 museum-related blogs. The results from the survey will help organizations plan and justify future projects utilizing blogs and other social technologies. Please feel free to repost or otherwise pass this on.

Tags: 11 Comments

11 responses so far ↓

  • Hi, I have just filled in my survey but I really wanted to say more and share experiences so hope this is the right place to do it.

    I started an Audience Research blog in February this year after managing to work out the system and get it going. Then I totally changed all my email addresses and haven’t been able to email Blogger (you have to log in first and i can’t with old email addresses!) – so it’s still there and looking rather neglected because I can’t post to it or remove it!

    So, this leads me to wonder if anyone is looking at whether blogs are a good tool for museums or not? For those museum professionals who don’t work in the IT/web area I’m unsure about how much they will be actually taken up unless the free systems are made easier for those of us with skills not as developed as IT/web people? I’m also unsure about the use of blogging in the general community and what they get out of it so would be interested to see any work on that?

    For example, I have a great thread running about future trends impacting on museums on another blog I post to (see http://nlablog.wordpress.com/2006/12/08/trends-impacting-on-museums/ ). I have found that most of the people posting to that blog had never done it before and really needed lots of assistance (and reassurances!). I had to help them through it and in some cases post their response for them! They seemed very suspicious using what I consider an easy system. I even had to go in as administrator and delete one of the postings on their request as they totally botched it up! This is getting me to thinking what are the levels of technical expertise across the museum sector, and therefore how much of these new systems that Web 2.0 offers will be actually taken up by staff? Will they see it as just “another thing to do” or will it become part of embedded museum practice and one of the many the ways we communciate with audiences and each other? I’m unsure and, I guess as with many web things, only time will tell.

    Will this blog only be read by seasoned bloggers? And if so, how can we get views from other museum staff who are new to this??

  • Lynda,
    Thanks for your comments. I think the issues you bring up are important. How to get “non technical” folks involved with these technologies and what are the potential benefits are tough questions.

    Still, I think we do see better and simpler Web technologies along with an improved knowledge-base among users/authors. This is part of the Web 2.0 revolution. Many of us have now spent a decade or more using these technologies. While there are still newbies–many Internet users have become quite sophisticated. That’s not to say the problems you’ve seen first hand don’t still happen, obviously they do! But overall there has been a steady overall advance in ease-of-use of Web applications and the abilty of users/authors.

    Jim

  • Hmm, I guess the problem is that blogs are meant to be the solution to technical barriers, not create more. Blogs were designed so that people with little or no programming/design experience could use them with the same amount of ease they employ in using Word or Outlook.

    If blogging is to become an embedded. everyday experience of working in the museum then they need the same amount of attention afforded to them as other communicative practices receive. Until then we will be struggling to convince people to take the time to learn a new, relatively easy set of skills.

    My feeling is that is that the obstacle to blogging isn’t a technical issue so much as an ideological one. Afterall, would I be naive in thinking that we all take the time to learn things that are of interest/benefit to us? I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who *loves* web technologies, including all the challenges, troubleshooting and misadventures so perhaps I judge too harshly, but I understand that if there is no perceived benefit to learning new skills then why bother? “It’s too hard!”, sometimes means “I’m too lazy/busy/just don’t care enough” doesn’t it?

  • Thanks guys. I understand where you are coming from Jim and maybe my experiences are one-offs (although I’m not sure). As I mentioned, with my future trends blog the people I had asked to comment are quite competent people and high internet users, yet they still didn’t use the blog, preferring to send me long emails which I then posted for them. Why?

    The answer lies in Renae’s comment – it is an ideological issue. I think people need to be “forced” into it, just like to some degree they were forced into using email. I believe that the widespread use of email has meant that people rely on that form of communication, are comfortable and used to it, so I think we need to shake them up a bit and it’s not going to be easy. Some people who did email me I just told them to add their post to the blog (and although they whinged they still did it!).

    I also take Jim’s point about these technologies being developed over a long period to be user-friendly (which I still don’t necessarily agree with – has anyone done any research on this??). I guess I still remain skeptical about uptake when they are:
    a) perhaps perceived as hard to use
    b) not integral parts of the systems people use in their everyday work
    c) seen as just another thing to do

    I plan to do some further research on this issue when I evaluate the Australian Museum’s digital stories with audiences/potential audiences in the New Year, so that could be an interesting set of results to add to the mix.

  • Lynda

    I think you are describing the problems a whole host of business writers discussing ‘Enterprise 2.0’ have been talking about – Andrew McAfee, Charlene Li and others.

    Widespread corporate implementation beyond technologists and enthusiasts of Web 2.0 technologies within a large bureaucratic enterprise is a big task. Within the Powerhouse I’ve been building support to move our Intranet over to a wiki but these things take time and often take a back seat to more pressing public-facing work. Blogs within the Powerhouse have been spreading across departments and the Free Radicals, Dragon & The Pearl, and Sydney Observatory are all maintained exclusively by staff other than my team, except for spam filtering and extended setup.

    These blogs work at the Powerhouse because my team has been careful to present them as ways of integrating into existing workflows. Of course they open up new ways of public/organisation communiation but from an internal perspective they don’t seem as radical as they might otherwise be.

  • Yes, that sounds like a good approach and certainly after our Executive Planning Retreat yesterday (20/12/2006) this issue was raised and options discussed about how to better improve our understandings of what these systems can do and how we might start implementing them.

    One other question tho – again related to the recent experiences I had with my blog. Several people were reluctant to post as their views were their own and not necessarily the institutions’. They were wondering if, on a blog, their response would be seen as them commenting from their institutional position rather than as their own views. I imagine one could get round this by stating that explicitly, but is there an implicit assumption that it’s the institution voice if nothing else is stated? Has any been any thinking about this, perhaps from those business writers Seb has mentioned??

    I did a Google on Enterprise 2.0 and came up with these links http://blog.hbs.edu/faculty/amcafee/index.php/faculty_amcafee_v3/the_three_trends_underlying_enterprise_20/ and http://blogs.zdnet.com/Hinchcliffe/ – looks like even more reading for me!! Are these the best places I should be looking?

  • Seb & Jim,

    Are there any plans to hold an informal “meet the bloggers” session (happy hour, dinner, etc.) as I’ve seen at other conferences?

    If one of the things we are interested in doing as a community is developing a network of blogs, taking the time for some face-to-face at M&W might be a good idea.

  • Richard

    Definitely! I’m quite excited about M&W for that very reason – Jim and I met in the ‘real’ world for the first time in NZ a few weeks ago!

  • One other question tho – again related to the recent experiences I had with my blog. Several people were reluctant to post as their views were their own and not necessarily the institutions’. They were wondering if, on a blog, their response would be seen as them commenting from their institutional position rather than as their own views. I imagine one could get round this by stating that explicitly, but is there an implicit assumption that it’s the institution voice if nothing else is stated? Has any been any thinking about this, perhaps from those business writers Seb has mentioned??

    Lynda

    These sort of issues have been discussed very widely in tech circles and in the tech community for the last few years actually. There are plenty of examples – Scoble when he was at MS for example, where the tension between organisation and individual has been very public.

    Organisational change is people driven, not technologically driven – and I think that there is a lot of problems with getting ‘Enterprise 2.0’ beyond the latter. I know McAfee proposes a much broader conception of Ent 2.0 but many of the technologists who take up his and others ideas fail to make the jump to the actual ‘people’ issues.

    In government organisations though, there is a real policy opportunity to engage with citizens in new ways – ways which in a for-profit company may run counter to profit maximisation.

  • […] (12-19-06): There’s a a discussion forming over on the fresh + new blog where this story is cross-posted. Update (12-21-06): We have 31 responses to the survey and there is a running total of the […]

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