Policy Social media

Demspey on libraries, networked services and mobile communications

The latest First Monday contains a great essay titled Always on: libraries in a world of permanent connectivity. Written by OCLC’s Lorcan Dempsey it gives a broad overview of the changes in networked communication and service delivery and explores the coming issues for libraries (and by extension, museums) wrought by mobile communications and mobile patrons.

Here’s a few pithy quotes.

On how libraries ‘present’ themselves:

One clear development is a blurring of our social, business, learning and educational lives as the pattern of our communication and interaction across time and space changes. For example, the Blackberry has raised the expectation of anywhere, anytime availability in some work environments. Think of this in institutional terms. This blurring raises interesting questions about how libraries are ‘present’ to their users, and how their users see the library. The position of the library as a functionally integrated, discrete presence, whether on the Web or as a physical place, becomes diffused through various manifestations (a physical place to meet, a toolbar, a set of services in the course management system, a FaceBook application, a set of RSS feeds, office hours in a school or department, and so on). It also changes the relation between the library and other service providers on campus as organizational boundaries track less well to learning and research behaviors. As more activities move onto the network, and as the network becomes more diffused through mobile communications, then workflow and information management become pervasive issues which prompt interesting questions about how academic support services are best configured.

On ‘timely services’:

Participation in a shared communications space blurs boundaries between work, social interaction and leisure. This is related to our altered relationship to time and space, as it becomes possible to engage in different types of activity wherever we are and at whatever time. This may be both liberating and stressful, and poses interesting questions for service providers tied to ‘office hours’. If assignments are prepared at two o’clock in the morning, should reference services be available at those times?

On the centrality of network services:

As a growing proportion of library use is network–based, the library becomes visible and usable through the network services provided. On the network, there are only services. So, the perception of quality of reference or of the value of particular collections, for example, will depend for many people on the quality of the network services which make them visible, and the extent to which they can be integrated into personal learning environments. Increasingly, this requires us to emphasize the network as an integral design principle in library service development, rather than thinking of it as an add–on.

Grab your favourite beverage and read.

Conferences and event reports Interviews Social media

Transformations in Cultural and Scientific Communication 2009 conference and short interview with Shelley Bernstein

In early March at Melbourne Museum the follow-up conference to last year’s Social Media & Cultural Communication takes place. This time the conference has been re-named and slightly refocussed as Transformations in Cultural and Scientific Communication and has a great lineup of speakers from around the country and overseas.

Join leading national and international experts at the Conference to share their experiences of the Web 2.0 revolution – and how it is changing museum and library practice. The four conference sessions will explore:

1. How to communicate with non-traditional visitors, and capture new audiences.
2. How social networks allow audiences to form communities of interest.
3. How scientific knowledge can create and sustain cultural participation.
4. How organisational change is critical in a world of user-generated content and social media.

The Conference builds on the themes of the 2008 Sydney event by looking more broadly at how museums and libraries can contribute to the development of general understandings of science and culture by communities and publics. How is museum and library knowledge created and disseminated in the Web 2.0 environment?

Read the full conference information and programme and book your tickets.

I am doing a presentation as well as running a workshop on metrics and measurement for the cultural sector (which is an alpha version of the one I am running in April in the USA). If you are interested in the workshop then book in early as spots are very limited.

I’m very excited because amongst the speakers in the conference session I’m speaking in is Brooklyn Museum‘s Shelley Bernstein. I asked Shelley a couple of questions.

(pic courtesy of Shelley Bernstein)

Q: What are you going to be talking about at the conference?

I tend to be one of those neurotic presenters that changes and tweaks everything until the very last minute, so I’m not entirely sure at the moment. Every day changes my perspective just enough to keep me rethinking, so I’m still mulling things over and bet that’s going to be one long plane ride with me and my laptop. Generally, I’ll be discussing what we’ve found to be the rules of the road: community is not marketing; personal relationships are key; transparency is essential; personal face on the institution in social areas is vital; trust your audience, they rock.

Q: The Brooklyn has an enormously impressive online presence. I’m really interested in your 1st Fans initiative and also how the museum has been connecting the local community in the galleries *and* online.

1stfans is a membership program that Will Cary (our Membership Manager) and I started with the aim to lower the barrier to entry in terms of joining and supporting the museum. The idea is to engage two groups of supporters. Those in our local area who come often, but have not gotten on the membership escalator yet. Also others who may have seen what we were doing online the past several years and would consider supporting us from far away. The challenge for us to make sure the far away supporters feel just as involved with their membership as the local ones and we are experimenting with that.

For instance, during the Swoon printing event, we asked Swoon’s studio to make a handful of prints for the 1stfans we knew lived outside of the area. We knew they just couldn’t make it to Brooklyn and we wanted to go out of our way and surprise them for being early adopters, so we are shipping those prints which is pretty cool. For the next event at First Saturday, we are planning to video the event then do a Facebook Q&A with the presenter in our 1stfans FB group. I think in each case, it just requires us to think outside the box and say…OK, how can we involve the supporter half way around the world via the web? … and then perhaps go a little out of our way to create something special, so those far away supporters feel less like outsiders. Each time it will be a little different – it will depend on what each event entails and how best to adjust it for everyone…and we are learning as we go, so our 1stfans are learning with us and that’s kind of cool.

Q: Everyone is talking about how social media (and museums) will fare in the economic downturn. What is your view of this in light of recent events?

I’m obsessed with one of Surowiecki’s latest New Yorker Columns and think it’s an interesting example of how people may need to adjust their ideas of what is and is not sustainable. I’m going to be blogging about that soon, so stay tuned.

Q: Melbourne and Sydney, especially, are renowned for their diverse and well priced cuisine. Which Australian native animal are you most looking forward to eating?

Ha! Well, I’m a vegetarian, so I’m more hoping to meet a ‘roo than eat one :) I tend to raid the cookie aisles of the supermarkets in foreign countries, so I’m sure you’ll find me there endlessly fascinated by the differences in cookies Down Under.

Q: Given that you are visiting the country with the most deadly animals on the planet, which are you most afraid of – the spiders, the snakes, the jellyfish, the sharks, or the octopi?

Sharks, for sure! I grew up in the Jaws generation, but I will say I’m way more afraid of being on a boat than being in the water with a possible shark lurking about!

Read the full conference information and programme.

open content Social media

Community resilience – the emerging Commons community

Courtney at the National Library of NZ beat me to it but as she writes, Flickr staff and Flickr users have visibly self-organised to grow the Commons on Flickr.

There’s a new public Flickr Commons group on Flickr and today, a new Commons blog – Indicommons. These point of presence are acting as meeting places for Flickr users helping research and explore the images that have been placed in the Commons

This has been a very heartening response from the community to the unexpected departure of George Oates. It is also a very positive initial rebuttal to the early fears that the Commons might disappear (which was very unlikely to happen unless Yahoo pulled the plug on Flickr altogether).

But as we’ve seen with recent announcements from Google, AOL and others, niche projects – even popular ones – can disappear overnight in the current economic climate. It is also a reminder that social media platforms like Flickr, and user-generated content as a whole, pose a huge conundrum – being community-built assets under corporate ownership.

Whose data is it?

Whilst Paula Bray is engaging with this emergent community, I am particularly interested in how the geographic makeup of this self-organising community evolves. The majority of Flickr users are still from North America and there had been a focus on keeping a good balance in the Commons of material from other parts of the world.

At the Powerhouse we’ve been uploading more quirky photos from the Phillips Collection and there are still more to come over the next couple of weeks.

Interactive Media Social media

DIY museums on Not Quite Art Series 2 (ABC TV)

If you happen to live in Australia (or know someone who does), then you might be interested in the final episode of series 2 of Marcus Westbury’s Not Quite Art. This final episode is on ‘DIY museums’ and how cultural institutions are adapting to the digital environment. It screens on ABC TV on Tuesday night (october 28) at 10pm, and then is available for free download with the rest of the series and series 1 on the show website.

Marcus and I have known each other for nearly a decade now and his career to date has been about supporting and developing emerging Australian cultural work. He established the This Is Not Art annual festival, was the director of Next Wave in Melbourne, and is now working hard to convert Newcastle, 2 hours north of Sydney, from a former industrial town into a thriving creative space with flexible spaces for emerging artists of all persuasions.

What Marcus has done in the DIY Museums episode is look at how ‘memory institutions’ are dealing with the reality that they are no longer the sole arbiters of collective memory; nor are they necessarily well placed to collect the burgeoning diversity of contemporary culture and cultural expression. As one interviewee says “everything now is a niche, just the size of the niche differs” – and this poses enormous problems for those who job it is to collect. Fortunately, the same digital tools of production that are, in part driving this diversity, are also providing the means for others to collect and present – again, another challenge for established institutions.

Geotagging & mapping Interactive Media Social media

Dan Hill makes a modernism in Australia map for Modern Times (or interesting things clever people do when they have some spare time)

Dan Hill from Arup and the author of the wonderful City of Sound blog wrote a review of the Powerhouse’s Modern Times exhibition. In his criticism of the exhibition he wondered where the extra-exhibition content was – especially given the perfect fit between the content of the exhibition and specific places and sites. He describes the possibilities of architecture walks, downloadable maps, encouragements for museum visitors to go out ‘in the field’.

This approach also doesn’t limit the exhibition to Sydney. It enables the actual museum exhibit to take a more balanced view of the artefacts that don’t relate to the host city – as this distributed exhibition is already reaching out to the host city, by taking it to the streets. So the Powerhouse is experienced outside the Powerhouse, even outside Sydney, and the modernism exhibition likewise (when the exhibition tours, and other institutions host the exhibit, the plaques and exhibits can switch accordingly.)

An accompanying Google Map (or equivalent), detailing modernist places of interest, could be Bluetooth’d/SMS’d to phones and other mobile devices from the exhibition (or the exhibition’s website) as well as from transmitters embedded in the plaques mentioned above. Walk away with the map on your phone (current issues around accessing collaborative maps on mobiles notwithstanding.)

Then, with a group of colleagues he then went off and built a collaborative Google Map pulling together a ‘map of modernism in Australia’. (Zoom in to see the detail . . . )

View larger map in Google

Not only is this a lovely example of mapping exhibition content, it is also indicative of the new participatory environment that museums now find themselves in.

Visitors can now easily go and create their own media for our exhibitions and the walls between the museum and the outside world are becoming far more porous than ever before – and not because of what museums are doing, but because of what ‘the people formerly known as the audience‘ are doing. In part this is the rationale for Hill saying “that the design of the show isn’t simply about mounting a display; it is an exhibit, a cultural artefact, in its own right.” “Mounting a display” is now something that the audience does themselves, recreating their own version of the visit experience through their own digital media – images, videos that they capture during their visit – then sharing these semi-publicly.

Inviting these participatory interactions is no longer optional. And as museums we could be doing a lot more in encouraging, guiding and providing resources to these.

Imaging Social media

Modern Times exhibition on Flickr

Last week we started another experiment on Flickr.

At the moment we have an exhibition, Modern Times, which is about modernism in Australia. The exhibition is a quite spectacular mix of objects – including a lovely set of milkbar seats to sit on (!!) – and ends with a triple projector immersive audio-visual experience produced by our Image Services Department. The immersive pulls together contemporary photography taken by our Image Services team and presents them much like the immersive AV that was made for the Great Wall of China exhibition.

As these photographs are so integral to the exhibition, and we’ve been making a lot of new acquaintances in Flickr it made perfect sense to open up a Modern Times group on Flickr and invite exhibition visitors and Flickr users to contribute their own photographs of modernism in Australia to the group. The Museum is planning some interesting things with these visitor-contributed photographs and the Image Services Department is managing the project.

Take a look at what has come in so far and feel free to contribute.

Social media Social networking

Powerhouse on Facebook

We’ve kept this quiet so far but along with the start of the Sydney Design 08 campaign the Museum launched a small Facebook presence. Importantly this presence is managed as a joint effort between the Museum’s Marketing Department and the Web Services Unit, rather than just being a web project.

Sydney Design has a profile as well as the Powerhouse itself.

The Powerhouse profile is not getting a push at the moment but Sydney Design is being promoted through our email newsletters and it is gaining friends like a celebrity. That said, we’ve got a lot of work to do on these still and there are plenty of bugs. Time is always a challenge and you’ll notice that we’ve taken a minimalist approach to listing exhibitions and events so as to not have to struggle to keep everything up to date.

But, we’re very excited that these efforts are not being contained within the Web Services Unit, but are being run by marketing staff. This is an important strategic development, hopefully further embedding social media in the core of the Museum’s operations.

Come and friend us.

(And if anyone knows how to get the MyFlickr application working properly on Facebook Pages with different Flickr accounts then get in touch – we’ve tried everything!)

Folksonomies open content Social media

Re-ingesting Flickr tags from the Commons back into our collection OPAC

Today we completed the circle.

We have started presenting the tags that Flickr users have left on our images in the Commons on Flickr in their associated collection records in our online collection database. What this means is that the large number of tags added to our photographic collection in Flickr now are available in our OPAC to help others navigate the rest of our OPAC and connect with similar objects not available in the Commons and not in Flickr.

It is important to realise that almost none of the Tyrrell images were tagged in our own collection – even though the ability to tag was there. This means the effort that the Flickr community has made in tagging our collection in Flickr has a second life in our OPAC, reaching even more users and increasing their navigational and use value as metadata.

We first thought about merging the Flickr-originating tags with the tags submitted on our own site but realised that this could create confusion – especially because the Flickr tags couldn’t be deleted. Thus they now live in their own temporary tag space until our next redesign launches. After Luke did a bit of code tweaking we have managed to pull everything back in the correct character set (to accommodate all the double-byte tags in Flickr) and with spacing intact.

Here is the image in Flickr, and how it now appears in our OPAC. The same tags on both.

We now import Flickr tags each week (so don’t expect your latest tags to show up immediately!). The import script runs alongside the script that uploads our latest image to the Commons on Flickr each week.

Thank you again to all the Flickr-ites who are making such a useful contribution to the Museum’s catalogue metadata.

Geotagging & mapping Imaging Social media

The Commons on Flickr: finding the Mosman Bay Falls

Whilst we are collating the data to report on the Museum’s first three months in the Commons on Flickr, I’ll share one of the best stories to come from the project for us so far – the story of finding the Mosman Bay Falls.

Amongst our photographs we found two images simply titled ‘Mosman Bay Falls’. Here’s one of them