Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yes! (think Orson Welles voice)

Ever heard the Orson Welles/frozen peas thing (link to audio)? It's very nice. YES!

But that is completely irrelevant to what I mean to write here.

Things are getting all shook up. My question has changed. The content will not change, but the slant from which it is approached will.

The original question was "Why? Why should museums blog?" And I was having a terrible time writing the justification for my thesis. But it's because my question is so biased. I can be biased, I'm going to write that I'm biased, but my question shouldn't be biased, or it's boring!

So the question has shifted. The overarching question being addressed is "Is blogging a good thing for museums?" with the two subquestions "How does blogging fit into museum theory?" and "How does blogging fit into museum practice?" with a ring-a-ding wrap up so the blog case analyses can be especially impactful.

It's another one of those things that seems obvious, but is hard to see when you're in the thick of it. I feel as if it will give a lot of coherency to the paper.

Even though I have only two months left, I feel capable and ready. YES!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007


That was the sound of my bubble.

I like to think of the Internet as a friendly, happy place where everyone is thrilled to take part. But I forget that the Internet is also a dark scary place where extremists of all kinds can find a friendly happy community for their dark and scary beliefs.

Let's back up.

I started to think about the user vs. visitor thing after Nina posted about it. I looked around and found Creating Passionate Users which is cute if a little more geared toward corporate things.

The last post on that site from Kathy Sierra really popped my bubble. POP.

Kathy has been systematically targeted with threats, misogynistic comments, and things that are just plain unconscionable. And it doesn't seem to stem so much from the things she says as who she is. A woman. A woman with a public persona.

I won't claim to know much about Kathy and who she is, but what has happened to her is disgusting. I wouldn't wish that sort of intimidation on my worst enemy. It really makes me angry. But I don't know what to do in the face of such raw misogynistic antagonism (I almost wrote terrorism. It amounts to the same thing.). The whole affair makes me want to use words that are unbecoming in my semi-professional blog.

So the bubble's popped. Kathy's terrible experience (and I expect it's not over yet for her) will serve as a reminder that not everyone sees the sunny side of an internet that lets you have a voice and converse with people near and far, likeminded and differentlyminded. Some use it as a place to scream, stab, and hurt.

I'm going to miss my bubble.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Tortoise and the Hare

Slow and steady wins the race. I've set small writing goals for myself each day on my Google Goals Calendar. After the next four weeks (one of which is blank due to MW2007), I have a big blank. I hope to fill this in based on when my committee would next like to see some writing from me.

And so far, so good. I wrote a methodology section that is probably 2.5 pages long once it's formatted to grad school specs. It's an encouraging start to my last quarter of school for a long time.

Tomorrow I hope to work out the justification portion of my writing (I don't know why I gave it two days on the calendar) and then start to outline/draft an actual blog analysis.

I think my issue right now is that I need a more solid argument. I need a stronger thread to hold together the bits of things I want to say. I'll work that out with the justification, I suppose.

Yay! This is exciting.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spring is here. Let's get hopping!

After my jubilant half point posting I sent my wreck of a first half-thesis off to committee and promptly hid from it for the rest of spring break. But tomorrow marks the first day of my last 10 weeks of classes (I've been in school for nearly 20 years now, I'm ready for something different, something with personal responsibility. Hire me?), so I am sitting in the Chocolati Cafe in Wallingford, sipping a delicious mocha frost (seriously, it is AMAZING) and trying to schedule out my thesis work.

But first I had to go through and make a list of institutions which had responded to my totally awesome and super fun survey. I think it's gone really well. I've had 10 responses from 9 institutions. And among those 9 responses are the institutions I had really hoped would respond. I would love to hear from many more of you museum bloggers, so please, help a grad student out.

One thing I find very interesting is the variety of ways that institutional blogs are created. In some places, a person starts a blog because they feel the museum needs one, and it's easy. In other places, there's this great long process where months of research take place before the blog is launched. I love it.

Although I know what needs doing and the timetable I have to do it, it is still extremely daunting. At this point, everything that is written is so unpolished as to be laughable. And I don't have my structure worked out for the second half.

Today is list making time. Time to make lists of what I need to do and time goals for accomplishing them. It is my sincere desire to complete and defend my thesis by June. It's doable. I just need to get cracking. I may post a giant list here and cross it off. Crossed off lists are so fulfilling.

And on a less thesis related note, I finally dyed my hair again. Nothing like a fresh coat of the blue to make a girl feel revitalized.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Stick a fork in me

I'm still not done.

But! BUT BUT BUT! I have a draft of my first half. It needs a lot of work. I probably need a lot more subtle and strong arguments, but I think my committee will help me to identify my weak spots (where I'm not already aware of them).

It's 26 pages with the 1.5 inch left hand margin required by the grad school and sans footnotes. Footnotes will be the next project, along with a read through/revision, and then it's getting emailed off to my committee. Because I do not have the drive with it to try and profoundly refine my writing at this moment. So it'll get a rest until my committee meeting.

In the meantime, I'll focus on the results of my survey, write up my methodology, write up the blog analysis for what I can manage. I'll also work on my blog spreadsheet. Basically, get a running start on the second half of things.

Feeling good. Except for the panic attack this afternoon reading someone else's related thesis and feeling like mine is all crap compared to it. But I'm not setting out to be revolutionary. I just want to say what I feel hasn't been said in depth, despite it's obviousness. Validate me.


Poo poo Microsoft Word

It's a little disheartening when Microsoft Word refuses to acknowledge the two words around which my life is revolving: museology and blog. Get it together, Word! Validate me!


Did I say that?

Did I imply something negative about mashups the other day?

Because I don't really understand mashups. If mashups are like collage art online or are like remixes, then maybe we'll stick with the negative perception. But if mashups are like TwitterVision and If I dig a very deep hole, where I go to stop? (okay, I don't know if that second one is a mashup, but it's just plain cool!), then I take back any negative sentiments. Well, I guess I would agree that they're not revolutionary. I would say that they are very neat and kind of steroid-up the sense of world wide connectedness that blogging and whatnot invites. Seriously. Go watch twittervision for 5 minutes. It's mesmerizing.

Okay. I need to go back to writing. Because I'm really writing!

ETA: Kittens! Okay, so it's stupid. It's also adorable, and I clearly have a penchant for this kind of sillyness (glances at header).


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lovefest 2.0

I am, at this moment, listening to Bruce Sterling's keynote address from SXSW. He says that he doubts anyone will use the term blog in 10 years. Robert Scoble disagrees, and is, as it happens, the reason I'm listening to this address.

It's good. Sterling is calling for a criticism. A criticism of these newer media forms. He's also calling fanart, deviant art, and mashups out as being not great, as having no potential for the development of greatness. I'm inclined to agree.

Sterling said that blogging could become something that could evolve its own form of greatness, but that it won't happen, because it's moving around too much. It's too wiggly and has too little ground to stand on because the ground keeps falling away.

He also introduced me to the term commons based peer production, which is a less than catchy term for the awesomeness that people are capable of. And speaking of awesomeness, have you been watching the Show with Ze Frank? Yes? No? Well, it's been an entertaining videoblog, but it's ending very soon. In the year Ze has been making the Show, a community has grown up. I haven't been part of the community, but all the people on this episode were part of that community. These people are who we all are, all of us who are, apparently, Time's Person of the Year (btw? Time, that was lame. So lame.). And it's cool. Most of us are the person who didn't send in a video, who didn't create a forum profile. We're just hanging out. And we're happy hanging out. When we find somewhere we like, we delurk. I read a bajillion blogs. But I lurk.

Back to Bruce. He mentioned folk culture. He then moved into calling it red neck culture. Maybe, maybe not. Internet hick culture=fanfic? I don't know. The negative connotation might be a little harsh. But down home production, making do with what you got, that's classic. I have a Folkways album of Kentucky Mountain Music which is amazing. But many of the tunes they sing to are, at their base, medieval music. Like, literally, it's an English renaissance song that is now (or was decades ago) all twangy and hick-ified. And I like it better. So all is relative. All is relative. High culture, low culture, how do you figure it out on the internet?


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

PR roadblock

Trying to write my PR section really has me blocked. I mean, my basic points are outlined:
Subfield of Communication
Shift from functional perspective to co-creational one
Relationship theory
Crisis management

But I'm having trouble moving forward. I've been trying to get some work done here at school (I'm in the basement of the Burke Museum (big building just south of the arrow. Go go google maps!), but it's not working. Grrr. Maybe if I work at home a little and have a different focus when I come back tomorrow. I need to figure out my introduction, which is currently a mash of this and that with no particular direction. Plus there's the mindless converting citations to footnotes that will make me feel productive. Just got to give it a little more time. Still hope to get a partial draft to committee by, let's say, Monday next week. Not unreasonable, I hope.

In other news, I got my volunteer assignments for MW2007! Woohoo! We also get to be a room monitor for one of the Workshops, if we want to, so I'll be doing that at Beyond Blogging. I'm excited. I'll also be at the registration desk that afternoon. Woo hoo San Francisco! (I've never been.)


Friday, March 09, 2007

Goal clash

I've said time and time again that what I am doing with this thesis is all about why museums should blog, because so much has been written about how museums should blog.

Yet it just kills me when I see museums blogging who I feel could improve their interestingness factor by many times if they just changed this, or that, or did this other thing. It's so hard not to want to delve into "How I Think Your Museum Should Blog." Actually, it's less difficult in writing than it is when I'm reading my SURVEY *cough* responses. And anything I say is inherently biased. But at this point, I'm a pretty experience blog reader. (I'm tracking 132 feeds: 49 knitting blogs (yes knitting blogs! Because yarn is like crack, and so is lace and fair isle and, oh my), 44 museum blogs, 25 museum related blogs, and various other blogs from all areas. Not to mention the 50 livejournal friends blogs I keep up with and the 30 livejournal community blogs I read, plus a half dozen people who only blog at myspace) I'm no Robert Scoble, following over 550 feeds that update way more frequently than most of mine do, but I have a pretty good idea what's up and what's going down.

So it's hard to resist that siren song of best practices. Maybe as an appendix. Maybe I just need to link to that 95 Theses (Doc Searles, not Martin Luther). We'll see. It's tempting to try and work it into my proposal for Rethinking Museums (which is becoming so big! It's just amazingly exciting, what's happening there.)

While I wrestle with my pedantic demons, I need to work out my public relations section. I'm realizing increasingly that it's false to separate communication, education, and PR in the way I'm doing it, but it seems so necessary if I'm to maintain some semblance of order. I have a full committee meeting set for early April, so I should be able to get some feedback on it then.

Hmmm.... I've got an idea percolating in mah brain. (MAH BRAIN HURTS! It'll have to come out!!) Would anyone like to be on my cyber-committee? Take a look at my draft bits, give me some feedback? I'm not quite confident enough to post my raw writing to the blog, still a bit too possessive of my ideas, afraid they're going to get stoled or bashed between two heavy bricks (Have you sussed this paragraph's theme yet? Two points for you!).

Before I devolve too far into the "cry for help, this thesis thing is hard" I wanted to make sure you all saw Nina's very cool post on museum blogs. She breaks down museum blog approaches in an understandable manner. Nina, I think you've just earned a bibliographic citation in my thesis! I can see using your break down in my spreadsheet of blogs and/or in my introduction to/explanation of blogs.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007


So much of the online world is based on trust. I trust that you're not going to read this and steal my words (not that I've written words good for stealing here yet). You trust that I am who I say I am and that that picture over there really is me.

I trust that when I participate in online swaps, my swap partner is going to come through and send me my part (and so far they always have).

I trust that wikipedia's information is as accurate as those writing it can assure. I trust that the people behind wikipedia are honest. This, apparently, is not always the case. Via the BBCnews:

Internet site Wikipedia has been hit by controversy after the disclosure that a prominent editor had assumed a false identity complete with fake PhD.

The editor, known as Essjay, had described himself as a professor of religion at a private university.

But he was in fact Ryan Jordan, 24, a college student from Kentucky who used texts such as Catholicism for Dummies to help him work.

He has retired from the site and his authority to edit has been cancelled.

It sounds as if Mr. Jordan was truly invested in making Wikipedia a good site, but he took on false credentials to make himself seem more, well, credible. But he betrayed the public trust.

Museums, too, hold the public trust. When we blog, we can not be false (unless we're purposely creating a new reality.

While I'm sorry that Mr. Jordan is not who he said he is, I still trust in wikipedia. My trust in people's representations is shaken slightly. I believe, as I think many believe, that most people are basically good and basically honest. Naive? Maybe. Maybe not.


Monday, March 05, 2007


I got my first survey response today! Hooray! And it was to one of the emails I sent out this morning. Thank you Hankblog for being so fast. It's a great start to my scramble for surveys, and I appreciate it. I haven't read the responses yet, but all in due time.

I'm currently trying to work on my education section. I've finished the constructivist background stuff and am on to more examples. First, I'm writing up something about blogs and the value of post-visit access to the museum using this article on an experiment that was, in the end, pretty much a failure. Not that it had to be, or even should have been. But that might not be an issue that is within my scope to discuss. We'll see.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

1 life, 2 lives! Ha ha ha! 2 lives! (ala the Count from Sesame Street)

WARNING: This post contains lots of parenthetical phrases. Proceed with caution.

In the interest of, um, exploring social networking possibilities for, um, museums, I created a Second Life account. (read: I was procrastinating.)

My computer is too slow. Apparently. I can move around fine, but the colors and texture never match up. My avatar's body is usually the texture of whatever is around it. Not the blue jeans and red shirt I customized. Which is very frustrating, since avatar customization is what I was interested in playing with (it's very difficult to create a plus size avatar, aside from the South Park Charater Generator (and my South Park avatar rather looks like me, here, look.) and Yahoo! avatars
which has a very limited selection of plus size options (plus it won't let me make my hair blue. (grrr...))).

From what I've seen (I'm only hanging out on Help Island, after the Orientation Island), it's pretty neat. It's like the Sims, but with agency. And social networking (I suppose Sims online might be the same thing, but I've never played with that).

Anyway, my second life name is Froggy Helgerund (everywhere else online I go by froggy_dear, and I think it's a fairly unique nickname), if you're into that kind of thing. I might play it a little more to see how it goes, but the texturing issues are really annoying.

Thesis: I am sending out invitations to my SURVEY tomorrow. So if you're a museum blogger, look out! Or, if I don't send you one (contact info is an issue on museum blogs, very interestingly), please help me out by following my links here. I'm going to keep mentioning this!

I also wrote up my research synopsis for MW2007 and found a couple more jobs to apply for. I have another phone interview on Thursday, which is exciting! It's all that gunninga business. :D


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Shaking things up

Molly, one of the lovely and talented first year students here at the University of Washington Museology Program, is shaking things up! She got the ball rolling on a conference to be held here this spring. While the timetable is insane (they got the grant in January and the conference is in May!), it's a really exciting undertaking. I'm not even really involved in it, I'm just a huge fan of it.

The conference is called Rethinking Museums. The website is brand spanking new, so keep checking back on it for more information. I think it's geared somewhat to the campus and Seattle communities, but the submission guidelines don't make that explicit. Check it out. And, if you're nearby, you should plan on coming.

Thesis? Blogging? What? Oh, oh yeah. I'm working. I'm writing. Slowly. It's very slow. So... I guess that means you have to wait a little while before I talk about it again. It could be hours, it could be days. Aren't you on the edge of your seat?