Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Article summaries, part deux

Now that I have the mystery of the "Read More" thingy solved (seriously, it should not have been as hard as it was), I can post in ways that are much more eye friendly to anyone visiting directly. Because, for serious, I write really long posts in this thing.

I am sitting in a coffee shop in Seattle, listening to hip music, and posting with my handy dandy laptop computer. How hip am I? So hip I have trouble seeing over my pelvis. (Two points for those of you who can name the reference.)

And now, I present to you, summaries of four more articles that I have read recently. As in, just before I started typing. And here's the tag:

Seitzinger, Joyce. "Be Constructive: Blogs, Podcasts, and Wikis as Constructivist Learning Tools." Learning Soluctions e-magazine. July 31, 2006.

Mmm.... Constuctivist learning. How juicy, how delicious, how absolutely essential to any critical thought about why we should blog. This article, ridden with painfully forced references to Star Trek (mixing the Borg with the TOS references, harrumph!) is nonetheless a good elementary break down of constructivist principles. It's something that I'll be looking back at as I delve deeper into constructivism. Although I am still having trouble understanding podcasting as fitting into the constructivist framework. I suppose I can simply ignore that as it does not concern me. Two of my fine classmates are writing on podcasting, perhaps they will be able to illuminate me. Not written for museums, this article contains much of what many other articles that introduce the reader to the magic of Web 2.0 do, but, like I said, good elements of constructivist theory.


De Moor A & Efimova L. An argumentation analysis of weblog conversations. Proceedings of the 9th international working conference on the language-action perspective on communication modelling (LAP2004), Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.

Conversations take place in the blogosphere. These conversations are different from non-online conversations and are unique from other forms of online conversation such as chat and message boards or listservs. Um. Yeah. They call blog conversations "blogosphere stories" citing from a different source. My reaction? "For serious?" written in the margins. I know it's not the innovation of de Moor and Efimova, but I'd never heard it before and laughed right out loud at it.

Some of the choices made by the authors seemed weird to me. In a case study of a conversation that took place over several blogs, they choose only to include those posts that included a quote from a preceding post because they "assumed that quoting a post means that it had a major influence on the thought formation of the poster." Well, that's probably true, but what about others who didn't quote because they didn't see the value in adding to what they figured everyone already knew. They admitted later to have difficulty inventing criteria as to what to include, so there's some slack for them, I guess.

The article did introduce me to the idea that a blogger is involved in both a conversation with herself and one with others. It seems true enough, but is rarely included in the definitions of blogging.

Overall, my impressions were that this article was interesting, but dated. Yes. Dated. 2004. Old. I find myself thinking that of a lot of articles. If I'm looking at literary criticism, anything within the last 20 years goes, but with blogs, anything older than a year and a half is suspect. Madness.


von Appen K., Kennedy B. and Spadaccini J., Community Sites & Emerging Sociable Technologies, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2006: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 1, 2006 at http://www.archimuse.com/mw2006/papers/vonappen/ vonappen.html

Yes. yes yes yes yes yes yes. Yes. If you're interested in community online and especially in regards to museums and have somehow not read this, go do so now. It's the first paper I've read that says important things. It was the first article I read to broach learning theories (I originally read it two-three months ago) and thank you. If this had been one of the first things I read after thinking up this topic, I might not have felt compelled to move in this direction. Oh, there are things for me to say, but this article gets points for awesomeness. How about 12? That sound fair. ^5 guys. Which, according to the article, means "High Five." I have never seen that in my life before.

So no real summary here. Just gushing.


Wang, Minjuan, Rhea Fix, and Laura Bock. "Blogs: Useful Tool or Vain Indulgence?" E-Learn 2005. World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education. October 24-28, 2005.

I read this and wrote one word at the top. Lame. Maybe that doesn't reflect what the article is, but I was disappointed at the sell they used. I wanted to know about blogs being a vain indulgence! They only gave me the useful tool sell, and I've already heard that a ton of times. There are three paragraphs on "Doubts about Blogs." It bored me. And I want articles to excite me, to open my mind to possibilities. Move along. Nothing to see here.


No more articles. I think it's time to move from the general reading and move into specific readings. Because the general readings are getting tedious and repetitive. Better concentrate on that communication theory book I've started.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Personal Technology History. Or How I Became the Most Famous Girl on the Internet with Her Clothes On

Yeah, so I'm not the most famous girl on the internet with her clothes on, but, well, we're getting there.

I've had an inkling to do this for some time now - sit down and trace my history with technology, especially computers and the internet. It's primarily a reflective exercise. I don't think that it will lead to anything of thesis interest, but, hey, I wanna do it. So let's get down to it, shall we?


It was a dark and stormy night when my first computer came into my life. That's a lie. It was probably a relatively sunny Friday or Saturday morning when my mother bought our first computer at a garage sale. The year was probably 1995 or 1996. The computer was a Tandy Color Computer. No printer. Hooked up to a small tv set as a monitor. No real programs, just a few game cartridges. Most notable were the hours I spent playing Dungeons of Daggorath. Good times.

Eventually the time came when we moved up in the computing world, perhaps a year after the Tandy. Again, from a garage sale, we were the proud owners of a Commodore 64 computer. It was awesome. It came with a dot matrix printer (Sears brand) and more programs (on 5.25" floppies) than you could shake a stick at. We must have bought it in 1996 or 1997 because I remember fighting the word processing program to write out papers for my eighth grade english class. That computer is still in a box somewhere in my mother's house, though I know not where.

Finally, in the summer of 1997, we got with it. A Gateway computer system with MMX technology. It was the first home computer we had that was internet capable, had decent word processing programs, and the games. Oh the games. They were so shiny and special. At last the family had entered the computer age proper.

Unfortunately, despite getting a Really Cool Computer, we did not get the internet. My parents were overly cautious about the internet. It took at least another 6 months, maybe it was even a year, before the nagging of my brother and I finally got through and we got dial-up, with our Very Own E-Mail Accounts. My very first email was penguingirl@[isp-provider].net. It was the next year that I got a boyfriend who introduced me to the world of instant messaging. ICQ was a revelation. Talking back and forth in real time with my friends and not needing to use the phone. It was way cool. I connected with people across the world using the random chat feature, although no lasting connections were made. I still have my ICQ account, Unique ID 62002450 (which I can tell you off the top of my head).

The 1997 Gateway system is still in use at my mother's house, though it is no longer the prime computer. In 2001, as a graduation gift, I got a desktop system of my own. Another Gateway system, it was better and faster than the one at home. I named it Molly.

Molly came with me to college. It was on Molly that I discovered the world of file-sharing, and went through my first major reaction to easy access broadband. Broadband was awesome. The ethernet was amazing - so fast and accessible - and I didn't need to share my computer with anyone. Molly went through a lot with me. I still have her, though I am finally contemplating letting her go before my next move.

It was in my junior year of college, October of 2003 to be exact, that social networking and blogging came into my life. I was on Livejournal, and that was back when you needed an invite code to start a journal there. Livejournal allowed me to keep up with the lives of some of my friends I might have otherwise fallen out of touch with. I soon made contacts through the community features of livejournal, and by searching for random journals. It was muy cool.

In 2005, before I moved to Seattle for grad school, LJ allowed me to connect with some others who were in my program, making the transition to a new place somewhat easier.

2005 was also the year of the laptop. As a graduation gift, I was given money toward a laptop computer. I bought the Compaq affair on which I am now typing. It is known as Beeker, though I don't refer to it as such as I do with Molly. As Molly was still fully operational when I got my laptop, the laptop didn't see much use until November of 2005. In Nov. of 2005, it rained from the ceiling of my apartment, concentrating its wrath on my computer desk. I was displaced for well over a week, and the laptop got a lot of use during that time. I was very thankful for it. (Side note: Magically, Molly survived the flood. I was worried she wouldn't when I turned the keyboard upside down and water gushed out of it, but everything still worked.) It was a turning point. The laptop is my primary computer now and Molly is hardly ever turned on.

And those are the computers that I have known.

2004, moving back a little in time, was when I started knitting. Knitting, you say? But knitting is so very.... not digital. Knitting itself is not, but knitting on the internet is huge. Massive. I taught myself how to knit using videos and instructions found online. My first real project was from an online pattern. Pretty soon my hobby became a major part of my life and I began a knitting blog. I discovered the the world of blogging knitters is huge. I started taking part in knitting communities both on LJ and off. This past year, I hosted what is known as a knitalong. This is a group blog wherein a group of knitters all working on the same pattern can have a community. That blog was my first real interaction with Blogger.

In the past year I have started accounts at flickr, facebook, technorati, bloglines, myspace, del.icio.us, and perhaps more. This year I've become really integrated in and interested about what is known as Web 2.0. I feel as if the social potential of the internet is way more fascinating than the repository of knowledge that I understood it to be in those tender times of 1998. Now, I have AIM, Yahoo, and MSN messenger accounts in addition to ICQ (although I manage them all with Trillian. I talk with my mother using instant messaging. She has even branched her business out into the online world, which is funny to me knowing how resistant to the internet she was initially.

I understand myself in relation to an online world. This may or may not reflect meatspace social failings, but it is what it is. (This marks my first use of the term "meatspace;" I'm not sure I like it. It's descriptive and seems pejorative, in the same way "breeders" is in certain child-free rings. But it's useful in not calling it "real life" thus implying that my computer mediated experiences are a "fake life.) I am invested in the fluid online world. I have perhaps more connections online than I do offline.


And that's all I've got for now. Though really, it's quite a lot I've said. And as I expected, I don't think it's moved me forward. Interesting exercise, though.

Edit: I fought long and hard with Blogger so I could have cut-away entries. Victory is sweet.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007


As I sat in the library cafe drinking my second very caffeine loaded drink of the day, reading my book on communication theory, I had an a-ha! moment.

I figured out my question.

Now it's my belief that most really good research is answering a question. And I've had this topic now for some time, but hadn't found my question. But I have it now, and it's ridiculously simple.


Why? Why should museums blog? Why do museums blog?

That's what I'm answering. I never claimed to be a rocket scientist and I never claimed to be attempting rocket science, but this is a question that deserves a more thorough answer than I've yet seen. With any luck, I should have a nice long answer for you by the end of May.

How am I going to answer these questions? The "Why Should They" question will be addressed through research and theory and observation. What are people saying about blogs, public relations, and people? The "Why Do They" question will be addressed by, I hope, a survey I will to link to on this blog once I get the go ahead from the Human Subjects review in a month or two.

*** A big thanks to Walker's Off Center blog for linking here. It's super cool. And this blog is now listed on museumblogs.org. I think it's a hoot seeing my title line up there with all the other, much more sober, titles. Also, and this is a sentiment perhaps better reserved for a less topical blog, I really get a kick out of my title line. I don't understand the phenomenon, but I enjoy it. /immaturity


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


One of the few objective metrics I have when attempting to determine the reach of a particular blog is to look at its stats. What stats?

Blogline stats. Bloglines, while a nice and usable aggragator, doesn't give a lot of stats about the blogs. Of course that's not its function. It does tell you how many people are subscribed to a particular blog through the service. It tells me that no one subscribes to this blog. But 47 people subscribe to The Food Museum Blog.

Technorati. Technorati offers a few interesting things. It offers a ranking system, but more importantly , it offers a way to see how one blog is connected to others. For example, The Food Museum Blog is linked 54 times from 31 blogs. Unfortunately, this metric isn't current. It hasn't been updated with Technorati for 16 days, and the site actually lists 110 links to the blog when you click a little further. This blog has two links from one site. That site is my personal journal, so.... that's not a good stat. That would be an example of a blog with a very limited reach. ;)

The only other service I've checked for metrics so far is Google Reader. Google Reader doesn't have anything I can see.

This comes to mind, because I'm using Google Analytics to see what kind of attention this blog is getting. Not much, but it's getting a little. That is, there are more folks than just me and my friends checking it out. Not many. But. Hi!


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Blogs as Wunnderkammer

What I read last week - Dibbell as quoted in the Genre Analysis article by Miller and Shepherd - has really been growing on me.

A Web log really, then, is a Wunderkammer. That is to say, the genealogy of Web logs points not to the world of letters but to the early history of museums -- to the "cabinet of wonders," or Wunderkammer, that marked the scientific landscape of Renaissance modernity: a random collection of strange, compelling objects, typically compiled and owned by a learned, well-off gentleman. A set of ostrich feathers, a few rare shells, a South Pacific coral carving, a mummified mermaid -- the Wunderkammer mingled fact and legend promiscuously, reflecting European civilization’s dazed and wondering attempts to assimilate the glut of physical data that science and exploration were then unleashing.
Quote from "Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Man." Hey, it's online. Google and you shall find.

And I think that this is really cool. The traditional version of the blog as a reverse chronological collection of links with commentary really make sense when thought of as a collection meant to be taken into account against each other. I might have some issues with the whole "a blog is a collection of links with commentary" definition, but, even if you have just a personal blog, there are usually some links in there. So let's roll with that definition for now.

Just as Wunderkammer were almost always personal collections, so are blogs. But if what we want to talk about are institutional blogs (and believe me, I do), then where does that leave us? Can a museum have its own Wunderkammer? Well, yes. Yes it can. A fellow student in my museum education course demonstrated the way in which the Burke Museum is in touch with its Wunderkammer roots. The Burke has a 'Treasures' case in the lobby. This case holds minerals, nipple topped mauls, a narwhale horn, stuffed birds, blades, and much much more. It also holds them all in close proximity with minimal interpretation. So for the physical, yes, museums dig the Wunderkammer.

But let's go back to institutional blogs. When I think of museum blogging Wunderkammer, I think of the Walker Blogs. Specifically, Centerpoints from the Off Center blog. Centerpoints highlight three or four things going on that are interesting or cool, but may not warrant an entire post of their own. Recently several of the other Walker blogs have picked up on this format and I love it. I think it's great bite sized blogging. What makes this Wunderkammer? Well, it's like the funny shaped cornflakes that folks might collect. It's cool, and somehow worth keeping, but maybe not worth devoting a whole lot of time to. If cornflakes were around in the 15th and 16th century, I bet ones that looked like the head of a pope would have ended up somewhere in a Wunderkammer. Especially if cornflakes were naturally occuring.

I ramble.

I don't think that I have this comparison fully worked out, but it's definitely sticking with me. What do you think?


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Article summaries

What better way to keep track of what I read than to write it all down? What better way to scare off anyone who might be interested in reading this? No, please don't go, you hypothetical you, you.

Smudde, Peter M. "Blogging, Ethics, and Public Relations: A Proactive and Dialogic Approach." Public Relations Quarterly. 2005. http://users.marshall.edu/~stewar49/pages/461092/links/ethics/3.pdf

Smudde is interested in discussing how a corporate public relations blog should behave ethically. My initial reaction to this is, wa-haa? It seems to be that ethical PR blogging consists of be careful of sounding too much like an ad, disclosing confidential info, paying for bloggers endorsements, and controlling content. These things seem pretty obvious to me. But maybe PR is another world? Smudde does remind us nicely that a PR created blog will be suspected of bias. And rightly so. In a nutshell, PR bloggers need to be 'virtuous professionals.'

Tinapple, David, and David Woods. "Message Overload from the Inbox to Intelligence Analysis: How Spam and Blogs Point to New Tools." Proceeding of the Annual Meeting of Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. 2003. http://csel.eng.ohio-state.edu/woods/data_overload/papers/messageoverload2003.pdf (*note: 80% sure of citation)

These fellows are suggesting that blogs can be used in place of some emails and, indeed, provide a central and easily referenced information location. Blogs make clear the relationship factor of things. Emails sort by arrival time, not relationship import. I buy that. Good example of centralized blog in place of email? Tacoma Art Museum Docents Blog.

Beler, Alpay, Ann Borda, Jonathan P. Bowen, and Silvia Filippini-Fantoni. "The Building of Online Communities: An Approach for Learning Organizations, with a Particular Focus on the Museum Sector." EVA 2004 London Conference. http://arxiv.org/ftp/cs/papers/0409/0409055.pdf

Community is key. That's the idea here that's important. That and that museums have a magnificent resource in the internet and its networking/community building potential. Honestly, I skipped the case studies. I read the beginning of the first one (www.ingenious.org.uk) and the description read like it was a kind of myspace for museum sites. Looking at that site today, it's clearly not true. Message boards, like Museophile, provide a kind of community, but not the kind that creates stakeholders in the museum. Also, isn't it amazing how outdated 2004 can be? I'm on some email list-serves, but I consider them archaic, despite being very useful. Just another product of my age that expects everything in shiny packaging? Maybe.

Miller, Carolyn R. and Dawn Shepherd. ‘Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog’ in Gurak et al. (eds), Into the Blogoshphere. Rhetoric, Community and Culture of Weblogs, (2004),http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogging_as_social_action_a_genre_analysis_of_the_weblog.html

Copy and paste citation! Woo! Okay. Blogs as a genre. It's interesting. Sadly, this doesn't take into account corporate or organizational blogs, so it's mostly talking about individual endeavors. It provides an interesting family tree of blogs, a discussion about voyeurism and exhibitionism, and, again, relationship building. More importantly, it gave me the best comparison yet: that of the blog to a Wunderkammer, or Cabinet of Curiosity. It's not actually a quite from the article, but is quoted from We've Got Blog. The idea of assembling separate interesting objects or links and placing them in proximity to be interpreted next to each other. Yes! How perfect! Interesting article.

Two news articles. Not going to bother citing them unless you're interested. Mostly good for nice quotes from museum professionals.

Tom Kelleher, BarbaraM Miller (2006) "Organizational Blogs and the Human Voice: Relational Strategies and Relational Outcomes." Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 11 (2), 395–414. Looong link.

It's hard for me to read stuff read by public relations professionals, but you know what I loved about this article? Experiments! Empirical evidence! Someone is actually testing something. The tiny scientist in me loves it. And, it turns out, people can tell when it sounds more like a human voice than the voice of an organization. Again, this is something that seems painfully obvious, but getting it proven get 3 bonus points. You know what's good about having a human voice for an organization? A human voice is open to conversation! Yes. And conversation leads to community and community leads to an interested and invested public which is what museums need and want.

*Too much coding effort is required to hide portions of this long post, so neener, neener. Maybe another day.


Blog list ahoy!

In the sidebar, you'll now see the list of blogs that I have identified as being either the official blog of an Institution, or in some way institutionally sponsored. Did I miss any?

I'm leaving out those museums with blogs on Myspace. Why? Right now my non-academic answer is that Myspace is weird, and while using it (and using it effectively, like certain museums I could mention) is an interesting tactic, it doesn't sit nicely into how I'm perceiving this work. I should, at some point, make you all a list of the Myspace and Facebook museums I've tracked down. It's really fascinating. Myspace and Facebook being real social networking sites, where the goal is networking instead of having your voice heard. Very cool stuff. Very cool.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Go Go Google Scholar

Why is it that Google Scholar has proven more fruitful in terms of yielding a lot of interesting looking articles, whereas JSTOR and more scholarly and traditional databases have been.... lean? Thanks to Google Scholar I am down in ink and up about 80 printed pages today.

The articles speak primarily to organizational blogs, which is ideal. Some even speak to museums and social connectedness. Score! I haven't read them yet, but that's partly a project for tomorrow.

It's time that there is a statement about why museums should be doing this, about why it's a good and valid thing. That's the statement I plan on making. If Jim doesn't do it first. And if he does, then, well, I'll expand. :D

Now. I need to get my links up in the sidebar and get this place noticed. How else am I going to entice busy museum bloggers to take my survey (once it makes it out the other side of human subjects review (no seriously, the university does not want me abusing you or exposing you to undue amounts of radiation (no seriously, radiation exposure falls under the same level of risk as interviewing professionals and asking for their real names)))?

This post is not a model post. I thought I was going to make posts that were musings in the subject area of my thesis, posts that I could draw from further down in the writing process. Not yet I guess.

- Article summary/discussion. What's being said, what's been said, who's saying it, and what's not been said yet?
- Blog reviews. That's right. I'm in ur museum website, readin' and analyzin' ur blogz. I'm going to write done observations about several museum blogs I find especially interesting and/or easy to get the story behind. Prime candidates: Hankblog, the Burke Museum Blog, Dear Miss Griffis, Creation Museum Blog, and The Dragon and the Pearl. I think at least three of these blogs listed are simply amazing examples of what can be done by a museum with a blog. The other two... well. I haven't decided yet.

*New blogger has a tagging function! Did old blogger have that? I don't think it did.... But I'm a livejournal girl at heart. But blogger's where you gotta be if you want respect. Despite its inferior social networking set up. And lack of simple custumizability. Seriously. You don't need to know much html on LJ to make things the way you want it. Here.... well, you see my default template. I can get my links in there and maybe do a couple things, but.... it ain't no LJ.

Edit 1/16/2007: Okay, so new blogger is a little bit customizable. Putting those links in the sidebar? Fast and easy with their shiny new "upgrade your template" bit.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

So it begins

Actually, it began over the summer, when I decided that the realm of museum blogs was extremely interesting and warranted more investigation. Enough investigation that it was worth doing my Master's Thesis on.

And now that I'm getting closer to the actual writing, I decided that having a thesis blog is the best way to do so. That way I always have access to my writing, even if I forget my flash drive, I have access to a huge community of people who can give me input.

I've found that so much of what's written about museums and blogs is about the How. How do we do it? And we're so busy forging ahead and keeping up with the cyberJonses that we're not thinking about Why. It is my aim to find out Why museums should participate in the blog conversation. Based on the Whys that I find, I'll write a little bit about How I think they should do it.

I am currently seeking out contacts of folks who blog for a museum. I'm currently putting together a survey that I will make available to museum professionals who are involved in their institutional blog.

I'm excited about having a blog for this. I find that, when I have a public forum to do my work in, with the chance of feedback and conversation, I am more motivated to do it. Not that my MA isn't a good enough motivation.