Web 2.0 Wikis

Googlepedia/Knol and Wikipedia

Open Culture provides a withering examination of Google’s Knol project and in so doing draws out some of the strengths of the Wikipedia approach in terms of collaborative production.

In the discussion of the Knol project, Dan Colman speaks of some the fundamental shortcomings in the Knol approach, shortcomings that Wikipedia’s approach has been able to get around. Whilst museums have been hesitant to engage with Wikipedia, the high volume ‘open’ approach to content creation holds a lot of opportunity for museums versus the traditional very low volume ‘closed’ top down approach.

Although the screenshot provided by Google nicely featured a Stanford University scholar writing on “Insomnia,” the reality is that few experts of this stature will take the time to contribute. Take my word for it. I’ve spent the past five years trying to get scholars from elite universities, including Stanford, to bring their ideas to the outside world, and it’s often not their first priority. They just have too many other things competing for their time. More often than not, Google’s knols will be written by authors with lesser, if not dubious, credentials. The mediocre entries will be many; the great ones, few. And this will leave Google’s content in a weaker position relative to Wikipedia.

To be clear, Wikipedia’s overall talent pool may not be much better. But Wikipedia’s model has an important built-in advantage. A community of writers focusing on the same text will correct one another and improve the overall product over time. The final text becomes greater than the sum of its authors. Meanwhile, Google’s model, which will produce a proliferation of lackluster entries on the same subject, doesn’t include any kind of strong self-correcting mechanism that will improve the entries.

(hat tip to Chronicle of Higher Education)

Folksonomies Social networking

Social media marketing in the performing arts

Beth Kanter and Rebecca Krause-Hardie have put together a good primer which appeared in Arts Reach magazine on some of the ways performing arts organisations are using social media to engage with their audiences in new ways.

Two things jumped out immediately. Firstly, that social media has seriously challenged the short-term marketing focus of many of the organisations interviewed. This limited focus has historically been the result of funding cycles. And secondly, that the ways that they are using social media are extremely varied.

The Atlanta Symphony’s use of tagging shows that the ‘semantic gap’ issue is by no means unique to museums –

“When audience members post their comments, they will also include “key word” tags to go along with them. This has multidimensional results. It is helpful in searching the site, and it informs the marketing department about the words and connections the audience makes, rather than the connections we as the institution guess that they will make. It’s free market research!

Young people & museums

Australian ICT use amongst marginalised youth and health service providers

Australian non-profit foundation Inspire has released a report on ICT usage amongst marginalised youth and health service providers.

Amongst many things it reveals that at least in the state of Victoria, a digital divide in terms of access is far less prevalent than is generally expected. Mirroring the findings of a lot of overseas research it unsurprisingly finds that “ICT also plays an important role in facilitating young people’s social relationships” and that cultural differences affect the selection of sites used by different cultural and social groups of young people.

The report has implications for museums and cultural sector agencies looking to engage marginalised young people in digital storytelling projects, and the use and selection of digital channels in reaching these groups.