Digital storytelling Interactive Media Social networking Web 2.0 Young people & museums

Gordon Luk on avatars in games and social media sites / stickiness and museums

Gordon Luk has, post-SXsW posted some well illustrated examples of avatars and the types of available customisation that can be done in various MMORPGs and social media sites.

Luk is looking at the differences between ‘explicitly controlled’ and ‘implicitly controlled’ customisations. The former being those that are created by the user/player (initial picture, autobiography) and the latter being those that are generated or altered by the game engine itself. What he is interested in is how social media applications can learn from game environments,

avatars can play a large role in improving participation in games and social media, and can arguably go a long way into transforming one into the other. Building these layers into a community system can definitely result in game dynamics, and I’d bet that it would improve network engagement.

From using a lot there it becomes apparent that part of the pleasure and stickiness of the site lies in the ‘implicitly controlled’ customisations. In these are the automatically logged track and album charts that generate as you play and ‘scrobble’ music into their system (game), and the ‘neighbours’, ‘radio stations’ and ‘recommendations’ the system generates as a result. Through pleasure and stickiness comes an investment from the user in continuing to maintain their (in this case musical) identity on the site.

One of the things I am looking forward to in San Francisco at Museums and the Web this year is hearing how museums are encouraging stickiness and user investment in their proposed and in some cases, already developed, post 2.0 era websites. I expect it isn’t always going to be a ‘build it and they will come’ situation unless museums can get the ‘stickiness’ factor right with their target audiences. This is where I can see great merit in Jim Spadaccini and others work with smaller museums and non-profits, choosing to harness already existing, and already ‘sticky’ social media rather than try to develop their own (competing) ones.

Fundamentally the question is “why does someone spend so much time in a game world customising their avatar?”. And, “how can we get them to do that on our site as well?”

Digital storytelling Web 2.0 Young people & museums

Sub groups of consumer co-created content

From the marketing world comes this quite useful subcategorisation of ‘consumer generated content’. Indeed, seeing co-created content through the lens of marketing can itself be quite revealing.


Consumer-generated media (CGM): At its core, CGM represents first-person commentary posted or shared across a host of expression venues, including message boards, forums, rating and review sites, groups, social networking sites, blogs, and, of course, video-sharing sites. It’s commonly influenced or informed by relevant experience with brands (e.g., “I’m so angry with Jet Blue,” “I love Target”).

Consumer-generated multimedia (CGM2): This subset of CGM is more anchored to “site, sound, and motion” components, each with the potential to dial up the effect and persuasiveness of the consumer storytelling. Visualization elevates drama, emotional resonance, and the ability to prove one’s case through documentation (one big reason TV commercials have been so hard for advertisers to shake).

Consumer-fortified media (CFM): Unilever’s Dove Evolution is a classic example of CFM. The advertisers created the spot, but its meaning was shaped, or fortified, by the conversation, commentary, and debate that wrapped around the content.

Consumer-solicited media (CSM): The term that most commonly captures this form is “co-creation.” Others loosely call it “participatory advertising.”

Compensated consumer-generated media (CCGM): This is when marketers outright pay consumers to do certain things, or when publishers compensate artists or content creators for submissions.

Paid media: This is exactly as it sounds. Marketers buy media, usually in the form of impressions, to affect sales. Some call this “marketer-generated media” (MGM), but the old description works just fine.

Digital storytelling Interactive Media Web 2.0 Young people & museums

Jenkins on ‘crud’ in participatory culture

There is an excellent recent post by Henry Jenkins titled ‘In Defense of Crud‘ in which he examines some of the recent debates around fan fiction, YouTube etc. Jenkins’ response to some of the criticisms of ‘participatory culture’ is wonderfully distilled into seven precepts which can be broadly applied.

1. We should not reduce the value of participatory culture to its products rather than its process.

2. All forms of art require a place where beginning artists can be bad, learn from their mistakes, and get better.

3. A world where there is a lot of bad art in circulation lowers the risks of experimentation and innovation.

4. Bad art inspires responses which push the culture to improve upon it over time.

5. Good and Bad, as artistic standards, are context specific.

6. Standards of good and bad are hard to define when the forms of expression being discussed are new and still evolving.

7. This is not a zero-sum game. It is not clear that the growth of participatory culture does, in fact, damage to professional media making.

What is the opportunity cost for museums of not engaging with participatory culture? I’d wager that the issues we face when we do engage are significantly less problematic than if we do not engage. Our audience are already engaging in a participatory culture – its very hard not to do so in a mainstream life – even our television shows are forcing us to vote or their outcomes.

Digital storytelling

Simple gender determination from linguistic analysis

The Gender Genie is a little text analyser that suggest the gender of the writer based on the frequency and occurrence of particular words. (via Gizmodo)

Digital storytelling Interactive Media Social networking Web metrics

Shirky (and boyd) on problems of reality in Second Life

Typical – the day I go on internet-free holidays is the day Clay Shirky posts on Second Life.

Shirky’s examination of Second Life bores through the hype generated by ever increasing media coverage (yes, even in Australia) of Second Life. He asks, pertinently, what is the churn rate of users – that is, how many people try and then never log back on? Comparing churn rates is the secret metric that is never discussed enough by those on the outside of social sites like Second Life (or MySpace or or whatever). Those on the inside, that is the investors and business owners work hard to talk about users, sign ups and those sort of ever-increasing figures, whilst churn lies buried and undiscussed.

Someone who tries a social service once and bails isn’t really a user any more than someone who gets a sample spoon of ice cream and walks out is a customer.

So here’s my question — how many return users are there? We know from the startup screen that the advertised churn of Second Life is over 60% (as I write this, it’s 690,800 recent users to 1,901,173 signups, or 63%.) That’s not stellar but it’s not terrible either. However, their definition of “recently logged in” includes everyone in the last 60 days, even though the industry standard for reporting unique users is 30 days, so we don’t actually know what the apples to apples churn rate is.

At a guess, Second Life churn measured in the ordinary way is in excess of 85%, with a surge of new users being driven in by the amount of press the service is getting. The wider the Recently Logged In reporting window is, the bigger the bulge of recently-arrived-but-never-to-return users that gets counted in the overall numbers.

I suspect Second Life is largely a “Try Me” virus, where reports of a strange and wonderful new thing draw the masses to log in and try it, but whose ability to retain anything but a fraction of those users is limited. The pattern of a Try Me virus is a rapid spread of first time users, most of whom drop out quickly, with most of the dropouts becoming immune to later use. Pointcast was a Try Me virus, as was LambdaMOO, the experiment that Second Life most closely resembles.

He also problematises the whole idea of 3D environments which danah boyd picks up in inimtable fashion (meatspace! so 90s!).

I have to admit that i get really annoyed when techno-futurists fetishize Stephenson-esque visions of virtuality. Why is it that every 5 years or so we re-instate this fantasy as the utopian end-all be-all of technology? (Remember VRML? That was fun.)

There is no doubt that immersive games are on the rise and i don’t think that trend is going to stop. I think that WoW is a strong indicator of one kind of play that will become part of the cultural landscape. But there’s a huge difference between enjoying WoW and wanting to live virtually. There ARE people who want to go virtual and i wouldn’t be surprised if there are many opportunities for sustainable virtual environments. People who feel socially ostracized in meatspace are good candidates for wanting to go virtual. But again, that’s not everyone.

If you look at the rise of social tech amongst young people, it’s not about divorcing the physical to live digitally. MySpace has more to do with offline structures of sociality than it has to do with virtuality. People are modeling their offline social network; the digital is complementing (and complicating) the physical. In an environment where anyone _could_ socialize with anyone, they don’t. They socialize with the people who validate them in meatspace. The mobile is another example of this. People don’t call up anyone in the world (like is fantasized by some wrt Skype); they call up the people that they are closest with. The mobile supports pre-existing social networks, not purely virtual ones.

Quite a few very experienced people have made a strong case for museums in Second Life and with a flythrough demo it is easy to get seduced. But I do wonder about the churn factor that Shirky focuses on, and I agree with boyd about the actual use of social technologies.

My team here at the Powerhouse Museum has been toying with the idea of a Second Life trial too – we’ve had quite a bit of experience with 3D environments and reconstructions in the past. But a museum is unlikely to have the resources of a Dell or IBM to do a media friendly product launch type event quickly enough in SL to make a significant splash – these things in the museum sector take months (if not years) to develop properly and by the time they are done (maybe) the hype will have moved on.

Digital storytelling Web 2.0

Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Captured Koala

Adam Cadre’s story Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Captured Koala is an amusing look at authority and authenticity on Wikipedia and is based on those Encyclopedia Brown books that you may have read as a youngster . . .

Digital storytelling Web 2.0

New public facing blog at Powerhouse Museum

Photo by Brendan Fletcher.

In conjunction with our upcoming Great Wall of China exhibition the Powerhouse Museum has launched a new public-facing blog called Walking The Wall.

The Walking the Wall blog is an online travel diary being written over the next 6 months as Brendan Fletcher and Emma Nicholas walk the 3000 kilometres of the Great Wall. Using a mobile phone connection to the internet, Brendan and Emma will be posting images and diary entries every few days as they progress. In regions with little or no coverage they will use other technologies to connect and write.

The blog allows readers to send them comments and ask questions along the journey.

It is also proposed that it will be available in the gallery during the exhibition for physical visitors to browse through their journey and communicate with them as well.

It is envisaged that the blog will not only give readers an insight into the the experience of the Wall right now, but also drive interest in the exhibition by reaching Great Wall and China enthusiasts who may not otherwise be reached through traditional channels.

Add it to your RSS feeds and keep up with the travels along the Wall.

Digital storytelling Interactive Media Web 2.0

Gamer Theory / MacKenzie Wark

MacKenzie Wark’s new ‘interactive’ book called Gam3r 7h30ry (yes, l33t speak), is now online at Future Of The Book. Written as a range of short chapters it invites participation, comment and play.

Digital storytelling

Powerhouse Museum’s Hedda Morrison photographic collection website online

Today we launched a new project, the Hedda Morrison photographic collection.

In 1992 the Powerhouse Museum was donated a large collection of photographs taken by Hedda Hammer Morrison (1908-1991). These photographs, numbering some 350, were printed by Hedda Morrison and featured in exhibitions held in Canberra and Sydney in 1967, 1970 and 1990. The collection was donated by her husband Alastair Morrison soon after Hedda’s death and formed the basis of two exhibitions organised by the museum: In Her View: the Photographs of Hedda Morrison in China and Sarawak 1933-67 (1993, Sydney and Canberra) and Old Peking: Photographs by Hedda Morrison 1933-46 (2002, Sydney and Beijing).

Over the past fourteen years the Powerhouse has developed an important collection of Hedda Morrison photographs and memorabilia – once again largely through the generosity of Alastair Morrison, who was made a Life Fellow of the museum in 2002 – including rare photographs taken in Germany, a camera, personal papers and photographs, as well as objcts collected by Hedda and Alastair during their years of residence in Asia. Significant collections, assembled by Alastair more recently, including Hindu and Buddhist bronzes, Japanese netsuke and a large library of books relating to Peking, the photography of China, and Chinese culture, as well as Hindu and Buddhist iconography, have also come to the museum.

In 2005 work began on a website that would allow members of the public permanent access to the Hedda and Alastair Morrison collection. Rachel McMullan, an intern enrolled in Museum Studies at the University of Sydney, entered images and exhibition research information into the museum object database EMU. The website is a work in progress and information continues to be added and updated as time and resource allows. It is our goal to make the entire Hedda and Alastair Morrison collection accessible online.

Digital storytelling General Web 2.0

More on the Prod-User

In the digital driven ‘Developmental Space’ of contemporary cinematic form whereby the relation and distinction between User and Viewer, between Viewer and Participant, between Player and Watcher is inceasingly thin there is the new noun we’ve heard much about and been kicking aorund – Prod-User. This noun is really growing on me as usuful and function in re-thinking viewer/audience/creator relationship. Obviously it also relates to a great deal of our discussion on Web 2.0

Dr Axel Bruns gives a thorough picture of the new role of the ProdUser in contemporary media. His blog has both a downloadbale MP3 podcast and the powerpoint slides from the Mojtaba Saminejad Lecture – Anyone Can Edit’: Understanding the Produser.

“Recent decades have seen the dual trend of growing digitization of content, and of increasing availability of sophisticated tools for creating, manipulating, publishing, and disseminating that content. Advertising campaigns openly encourage users to ‘Rip. Mix. Burn.’ and to share the fruits of their individual or collaborative efforts with the rest of the world. The Internet has smashed the distribution bottleneck of older media, and the dominance of the traditional producer > publisher > distributor value chain has weakened. Marshall McLuhan’s dictum ‘everyone’s a publisher’ is on the verge of becoming a reality – and more to the point, as the Wikipedia proudly proclaims, ‘anyone can edit.’”