Sunday, April 15, 2007

Revelation and Reflection

I mentioned an Aha moment on Day 3. I know you're dying from the suspense.

2007April9 - San Francisco.1 040

I've been missing something basic, something I should have been completely aware of from the get-go: my audience.

I don't remember exactly what was said, but I suddenly discovered this. I need to be writing my thesis for museum staff who need something coherent to bring to their administration to demonstrate that blogging is in line with mission and has benefits (and this could be extended in argument to all social technology really). This gives my thesis a purpose. It gives it a reason more than me telling my committee things I already know. It's fantastic!

The things I took away from this conference are:

- not all museums are ready to blog or should blog (for *blog* read *embrace social media*)
- museums need to be ready (and willing!!!) to connect with their audiences if they do blog
- speaking of audiences, museums may have to face the fact that a blog will not draw in a crowd, but might make the few already paying attention more highly invested, or cause a new small crowd to gain interest. These are valid reasons for a new project.

- very few museums have embraced radical trust. They're edging that way, but the fear is strong with them. And fear leads to the dark side. (Who has the fear? The Smithsonian, for one, which leads to many people saying it doesn't really feel like a blog.)
- to blog most effectively, radical trust is essential. The Smithsonian is the Smithsonian and people are going to read them because they are the Smithsonian. Reverse order time stamped entries do not a community make.

- microaudiences are key to utilizing the social web. Geocaching has loads of committed cachers. If museums started pulling in the GPS/Geocaching community, it would be amazing. I'm sure there are other communities offering possibilities to museums which can be connected with.

- the language of use has to change. Museums are talking about getting their visitors to do this or that. "Our visitors will rate the images" or some such. Museums need simply to create and facilitate the opportunity for engagement. Not everyone wants to have a museum as part of their social life. Sometimes they just want to be casual acquaintances. Or window shoppers. Sometimes I felt like museums are waiting to pounce on/exploit their visitors. It was an uncomfortable feeling.

- museum blogs are no longer going to be special and unique snowflakes. There is a snowstorm brewing. In the end, some of those snowflakes are going to melt away. Others are going to become parts of glaciers and be with us a long time. (okay, maybe glacier is a bad metaphor to use here, especially for the agility blogging offers, but this is what I got folks)

- And it's not about the technology, it's about what the technology allows us to do. This should have always been obvious, but sometimes it feels like some are getting caught up in a stampede toward social media when it may not be appropriate or useful for that particular institution.

Two final things, real quick I promise:
1. I don't believe in Second Life. What institutions like the Exploratorium are doing is way cool, but I don't feel as if Second Life has the same potential as other social media. I feel that, in a lot of ways, SL is too prohibitive in costs and technology for a lot of audiences. I'm usually pretty hip to the jive, but SL is hard.

2. Optional tagging for collections ala the Powerhouse Museum is AWESOME! It really does give a purpose to digitization, lets museums know what visitors are interested in, and, importantly, democratizes collections and curator speak. OMG awesome.


Nate said...

Great post, and great Aha moments! This is a great summary of some of the best points from the conference - I'm just now trying to get my thoughts together and I think you've already hit a lot of the big stuff.

Great to meet you in person, and now I'm really interested in the thesis!

comfypants said...

Why on earth would anyone who isn't being paid for it want to tag a museum's collections? Or did I misunderstand what you meant by that.