Interactive Media

Lovely (visual) summary of visualisation methods

Here is a wonderful summary (via rollovers) of many many different visualisation methods from Visual Literacy.

Developer tools Interactive Media

A study of museums and ‘digital accessibility’

Jim Spadaccini forwarded me Wendy Constantine’s thesis project looking at digital media projects in museums that also manage to be accessible to users with different levels of disability.

From the abstract –

This research explores the bridging of technological resources with user-centered design for the purpose of making online cultural learning more accessible and usable by diverse audiences. Two surveys were designed to reveal the perceived and real barriers inherent in accessible multimedia design within the museum community. Technical museum staff and external multimedia developers were surveyed to determine the extent of institutional policies for multimedia accessibility, familiarity with access standards and legislation, and how responsibility for accessibility is negotiated between the museum and developers. Three case studies provide specific examples of how these barriers to accessibility are being addressed by museums and the developers who create their multimedia applications.

Museum blogging Social networking Web 2.0 Web metrics Young people & museums

More on levels of participation / Forrester’s “social technographics”

In a most timely fashion for our recent discussions of ‘levels of participation’, from Forrester’s comes the ‘Social Technographics‘ report.

This is a very interesting and relevant report to all the museum sector. It breaks down user-types into several categories and then maps the differing proportions of each category as represented across different social media websites.

I particularly like their breakdown of users into creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives. Their call for companies and others to analyse how their customers might fit into these categories before creating their ‘social strategy’ is timely, post MW2007. I would expect that in comparison to larger corporate social sites, museums are most likely to have their major audiences less likely to be creators and that we should be encouraging a growth in critics – who most likely align with our existing strategies and long-time organisational strengths in encouraging and managing academic criticism.

Also, looking at their figures for the different user breakdowns between sites classifying as ‘entertainment’ (more participatory) and ‘family’ (less likely to be participatory), our sector needs to be conscious of how our sites appear to our audiences.

Those who have looked at our recent website for parents and young children – Play at Powerhouse – will notice we haven’t included any ‘social’ elements. We did an analysis of who the likely users of the site were going to be, considered their time constraints, and focussed on producing a site full of offline interactive activities (we’ve just added 4 new craft activities), and visit-related content. As the audience for the site grows, we will be adding social elements.

Museum blogging Web 2.0

Powerhouse Museum’s official blog policy – April 2007

Many museums have been asking about blog policies.

Our Executive has recently signed off on a museum-wide blog policy and so I’m happy to be able to share ours with you.

The policy document is presented as a series of points to make it a little more readable, and overall the intention has been to make the process of proposing and getting approval for a museum blog as quick and easy as possible.

Download as a PDF.

We are much indebted to the Walker Art Center whose publicly shared blogging guidelines formed the initial framework for our policy.

MW2007 Social networking Web 2.0 Web metrics Young people & museums

Levels of participation / community

I’m still waiting for the actual Hitwise figures to be released but Red Herring reports on Bill Tancer’s presentation at the Web2.0 conference/expo.

A tiny 0.16 percent of visits to Google’s top video-sharing site, YouTube, are by users seeking to upload video for others to watch, according to a study of online surfing data by Bill Tancer, an analyst with Web audience measurement firm Hitwise.

Similarly, only two-tenths of 1 percent of visits to Flickr, a popular photo-editing site owned by Yahoo, are to upload new photos, the Hitwise study found.

The vast majority of visitors are the Internet equivalent of the television generation’s couch potatoes―voyeurs who like to watch rather than create, Mr. Tancer’s statistics show.

We already knew this.

What is interesting is that the popularity of these sites and similar is not reliant on content upload-style participation. Indeed, the report continues,

Visits by web users to the category of participatory Web 2.0 sites account for 12 percent of U.S. web activity, up from only 2 percent two years ago, the study showed.

Web 2.0 photo-sharing sites now account for 56 percent of visits to all online photo sites. Of that, Photobucket alone accounts for 41 percent of the traffic, Hitwise data shows.

An older, first generation of sites, now in the minority, are photo-finishing sites that give users the ability to store, share, and print photos.

This reaffirms the importance of having different levels of content participation – and the primacy of content, the truism that has been around since the birth of the web. Most of your userbase will be lurkers, viewers – they won’t contribute – but if you can leverage and re-present the proportionally small amount of user-generated content you do get, then you are likely to be able to ride a wave of interest in your site.

At Museums & the Web this year everyone was floored by the efforts of the Brooklyn Museum who have managed to build a strong user community around their online presence (they even have a top level navigation called ‘Community’). Whilst a superficial look at the Brooklyn Museum might suggest that this is because of their use of technology – Flickr groups in particular, I’d suggest their success is a result of their existing strong ties with the local community, of which the Flickr groups and image upload participation is a logical extension of their mission. What Flickr offers the museum is many-fold. Firstly there is new traffic – leveraging the existing Flickr audience (much in the same way Ideum’s work with the Maxwell has); secondly Flickr’s API makes for easy presentation and integration on the Brooklyn’s own website.

Does that mean when I visit I will be uploading my photos? Probably not. Whilst I have a Flickr account (first barrier to participation overcome) and have a comfort level with Flickr (second barrier to participation overcome), I am not a part of the Brooklyn Museum community, I am just a casual visitor. As a result the incentive for me to participate is low. I am more than happy to lend my eyeballs to their site and browse at their pre-existing Flickr galleries though which results in the Brooklyn getting more of my attention and traffic (along with Flickr). Brooklyn is leveraging Flickr for Flickr’s community.

So, again I come back to the point that museums need to find ways of effectively optimising the network effects of what little traffic we get. One user contribution should spark the interest of one thousand lurkers, rather than requiring one thousand contributions from other users. This shouldn’t be surprising, but it is more difficult than you think. How can you make one Flickr image on your site be more powerful than an online forum on your site with just one singular post in it?

MW2007 Other museum blogs (from

M&W07 – Day four: Cell phones and bookmarking

Again the Walker Art have delivered some great notes to three excellent final day presentations evaluating the use of cell phone tours in galleries, and the actual use of bookmarking technologies.

Read the papers from Kate Haley Goldman or understanding the inhibitors to cell phone tour use in galleries, and Nancy Proctor on the differences between US and UK cell phone users. Then check out Silvia Fillipini-Fantoni evaluating the use of various bookmarking technologies.

Walker Art summaries of the slides are available from Justin documenting the cell phone tours paper and Nate documenting the bookmarking paper.

Interactive Media MW2007

M&W07 – Day four: Peter Samis on cross media evaluation of Matthew Barney

Peter Samis from SFMOMA is one of the long time innovators in the web and interactive space. His presentation today was fantastic and an essential examination of the different impact of interpretative media types on the visit experience across those with prior knowledge/experience and those without. It was a great way to end the formal part of the conference.

Read his paper then dig in with a nice cup of proper coffee (not the 90% watery milk that passes for coffee over Stateside) and read the in depth evaluation report by Randi Korn and Associates on which the paper is based. This should be required reading for new media designers and web people, but is equally essential for exhibition designers.

Justin over at Walker Art has done a good job of blogging notes to this paper as well as the preceding paper on evaluation by Stephen Brown which I won’t repeat.

MW2007 Web 2.0

“We just don’t have time” – the culture of busy-ness

One of the re-occuring themes in questions I’ve been fielding throughout M&W2007 is that of problems of the organisational culture of ‘busy-ness’.

This came up both in our workshop on Planning for social media as well as in other sessions on museum blogging and discussions of moving web projects out of just the web team. The “we just don’t have time” seems to be the clarion call of those who we most need to get involved in social media in our museums.

So, how to navigate this?

Andrew McAfee at Harvard Business School has written a lot about Enterprise 2.0 which is effectively about implementing social media into the internal workings of your organisation. Technology companies have been forging ahead in this area for a long time – IBM’s internal wikis, Microsoft’s internal staff blogs etc – there are plenty of examples. Often internal implementation of social media tools ends up in the organisation deploying similar social media tools externally, as the internal use makes everyone in the organisation aware of the benefits, as well as gives them a chance to come up with policies, procedures and solutions to some of the pitfalls and unexpected risks of such tools. Indeed, many of the museums I’ve been speaking to as well the Powerhouse Museum itself started with internal social media experiments first.

McAfee’s recent post on the subject is interesting as has application in the museum sector. McAfee, speaking to his MBA students finds that:

students bring up one specific concern: that people who use the new tools heavily — who post frequently to an internal blog, edit the corporate wiki a lot, or trade heavily in the internal prediction market — will be perceived as not spending enough time on their ‘real’ jobs.

and that,

Companies that are full of knowledge workers and that have built cultures that value busyness face a potentially sharp dilemma when it comes to E2.0. These companies stand to benefit a great deal if they can build emergent platforms for collaboration, information sharing, and knowledge creation. But they may be in a particularly bad position to build such platforms not because potential contributors are too busy, but because they don’t want to be seen as not busy enough.

And even if the leaders in such companies sincerely want to exploit the new tools and harness the collective intelligence of their people, they might have a tough time convincing the workforce that busyness is no longer the ne plus ultra. Corporate cultures move slowly and with difficulty, and it will take a lot more than a few memos, speeches, and company retreats to convince people that it’s a smart career idea, rather than a poor one, to contribute regularly and earnestly to E2.0 platforms.

I often look to high-tech companies to observe state-of-the-art work practices. Something about the intensity of both the competition and the war for talent in their industries makes them laboratories for workplace innovations. And even though technology producers face time pressures that are as intense as anyone’s, many of them have not developed cultures of busyness. In fact, some have tried hard to build in the opposite mentality in their employees. Google, for example, gives their engineers ‘20% time’ – the equivalent of a day a week ‘to pursue projects they’re passionate about.’

This is especially relevant in institutions where the ‘research’ is seen as the ‘real knowledge work’ – science museums undertaking scientific research etc. In these organisations it is understandable that staff who are focussed on peer recognition through academic publications and research might be hesitant to embrace social media tools simply because they aren’t valued outside the organisation where most of their academic peers exist.

Interactive Media MW2007 Web metrics

M&W07 – Day three: Usability lab

The Usability Lab sessions are fascinating dissections of museum websites. A potential user is taken out of the room whilst the website owner explains their site and suggests two popular tasks to be performed by the tester when they return to the room. Marty and Twiddle explain their rapid testing methodology behind these sessions over at First Monday.

I sat in on the testing of a fellow museum’s website and it was painful to see the semantic disconnect between the sort of common terms that the user might search for and the actual naming of menu items – surely a ‘discount ticket’ or a ‘multi-venue ticket’ would be called that rather than a name that sounded more like an exhibition title? Overly text heavy pages with embedded links forced the novice user to scan blocks of text for what they were looking for – as if they were scanning a print brochure – rather than offering quick links to frequently used and important sections.

In many ways the experience reminded me a lot of the pain of the old Powerhouse Museum website – where the organisation had defined its external presence using its own language, rather than the language of the users. And where we had a site that users had to navigate in the ways internal staff thought about the organisation (and what was important) as opposed to by what the users logically wanted to do.

(the Powerhouse Museum site back in 2001)

Museum blogging MW2007 Web 2.0 Web metrics

M&W07 – Day three: Radical Trust – State of the Museum Blogosphere

Jim Spadaccini and I have just finished presenting our mini-workshop surveying the museum blogosphere.

The detailed results are online at Archimuse, and the slides including updated data are available here.

(update – Nate at Walker Art has posted some discussion of the q&a at the end of the presentation)