Conference supporters

Social Media and Cultural Communication Conference 2008
Museum of Sydney and Australian Museum, 28-29 February

The inaugural Conference and Masterclasses were a great success, with over 120 attendees from cultural agencies around Australia and beyond. Click here for a special issue of M&GNSW’s publication the MAG, based on the conference findings.

Copies of the conference presentations can be downloaded from the presenter biographies below. Please address further enquiries to Conference Chair, Associate Professor Angelina Russo

Update: since the Conference, the Cultural Ministers Council has committed to the development of cultural indicators to assist policy development. The Council released The Building a Creative Innovation Economy report which documents the growing contribution of the creative sector to the innovation economy and the digital environment.

The 2008 Conference feedback is of relevance to the report’s suggested range of practical methods to strengthen the prospects for the creative sector in the digital environment and to continue the further development and growth of the creative innovation economy. Of particular interest are recommendations such as:
– increased production of creative and cultural content for application across a wider range of digital platforms;
– taking up opportunities to develop the commercial potential of cultural services and products; and
– brokering better partnerships in the creative sector.

The CMC report defines cultural organisations as part of the creative industries and stresses that ‘audiences are creating demands for greater online interactivity with the creative sector, giving rise to the increased significance of an online presence through which organisational, commercial and personal goals can be realised’. The report defines a broad range of opportunities in the creative innovation model. Those of particular reference to our research are:
– Improving access to culture in the digital environment
– Access to cultural material and experiences
– Increasing production of creative digital content
– Cultural identity
– Community participation and user-created content
– Commercialising the creative innovation economy
– Market research
– Improving access to culture in the digital environment
– Strengthening creative sector partnerships

The Social Media and Cultural Communication Conference 2008 was presented by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation; with the support of Museums & Galleries NSW; the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales; the Museum of Sydney; and the Australian Museum.

Read this blog for further information on the Digital Cultural Communication 2009 event. 
Session 3
Co-Chair Angelina Russo presents to Conference

Conference Program Friday 29 February 2008
Museum of Sydney, AGL Theatre, Sydney NSW

SESSION 1 The World of Social Media
Presenters: Kevin von Appen, Ontario Science Centre
Sebastian Chan, Powerhouse Museum
Chair: Jerry Watkins, Swinburne University

Leading web exponents Kevin von Appen and Seb Chan presented a world tour of current best practice in social media and cultural institutions.
Session 1
Kevin von Appen and Sebastian Chan respond to audience questions

Kevin Von Appen’s overview of social media and cultural institutions:

Communication – 230 museum-based blogs
SFMOMa – Artcasts – sponsored by AT&T
Redshift Now – Ontario Science Centre
Science Buzz – Museum of Minnesota

Collaborating, connecting, collecting
Exhibit Files – a community site for exhibition designers and developers
I Like Museums – a guide to North East Museums
Steve Art museum social tagging project; Powerhouse Museum electronic swatchbook

Climate X Change – Questacon; Collection X; Redshift Now; Instructables

Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles – My Space page; Science Museum of Minnesota – Facebook
Brooklyn Museum – Flickr; Canada Agriculture Museum

Parting comments regarding social media:
– What do we value?
– What are we looking for?
– How do we measure it?

Sebastian Chan on social media
Social media are hard! Engaging with social media means that we need to make strategic choices about how we’re going to collaborate, recombinate. Web sites are becoming web applications; web visitors are becoming users and forming communities.

Visitors talk about us – the new way, they blog about us, they talk to each other and visually communicate experience to their families. They share these images or put their own videos up.

Why does this matter?
Your visitors can find it!
Word of mouth is the best marketing
It is high volume

Do we listen?
Is it a threat to ignore? Is it an opportunity to change?
Visitors describe their visit to the museum in ways which are different to the ways we want them described, or the way that curators or marketers might describe them.

Our audiences are excited when we engage with them, when we acknowledge their contribution
Jonny Bentwood – Distributed influence: quantifying the impact of social media 2007
Social media are not cheap – resources increase and change; community / persona managers need to be developed.
If your community strategy is right, the community will respond and continue the discussion (see Sydney Observatory). An active community will reduce resource requirements as they will maintain conversations around your content, but you need resources to make communities emerge. Verification and follow-up require resources.

Bridging the semantic gap
By viewing the relationship between terms, collection records, people and collections through navigation
Popularity of themes

Strategic choices
A social media strategy is not a web strategy
Social media don’t necessarily draw in physical visitors without work
Situational relevance of social networks
Social data = business intelligence = return on investment
Can social data work for museums? e.g. the SAATCHI Gallery is of value because you can see what people are looking at.
SESSION 2 Social Media and Informal Learning
Panel: Tim Hart, Museum Victoria; Brett McLennan, Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Chair: Dr Lynda Kelly, Australian Museum
This expert panel discussed how social media can provide powerful tools to enhance connections with learning communities.
Session 2
Lynda Kelly, Tim Hart and Brett McLennan present to a full house
Lynda Kelly summary
Majority of adults who visit museums have higher education.
Overwhelming interest in content and the visual aesthetic.
Data suggests that those who visit museums are engaging in two-way communication.
What will museum visitors bring in their physical visits?
Web 2.0 gives us access to people with common interests, e.g. Getup – Action for Australia – 3,000 people gathered to create a people’s agenda for the new parliament. 32,000 voted on the strategies
Museum 3.0: does the physical space engage the physical and the web environment the intellectual?

Tim Hart summary
Theme: voice of the museum vs. voice of the curator
Tim showed a thoughtful and provocative piece: Shift Happens and discussed the differences in 21st century museum learning:
Authentic learning experiences, both online and physical.
Engage personal and social behaviours of students, and encourage interdisciplinary skills.

Tim talked briefly about the Learning Federation / Museums and Collections Online. This pilot project seeks to develop a standard mechanism process for museums to feed content in the correct formats into state learning systems.
We have good solid information about social media approaches, why is it so hard to get involved and engage with museum audiences/ visitors/ users/ – what is the fear?
Library of Congress has put 3500 record items on Flickr and asked users to help to help catalogue them.

Brett McLennan summary
Educators are worried about how to engage the ‘new learner’.
They require goals that incorporate defined tasks and expectations, activities which engage technology, collaboration and teamwork, equality in treatment.
Museum programs do not necessarily take this ability to work together in the programs which they create.
New generation learners think differently – they multi-task particularly well between ideas and concepts – but the downside is that they don’t remember things particularly well.
But this is ok because we need to know how to find information – how to search – rather than retain information.
So why are educators having problems?
Students are changing, engagement is changing, and exposure to content is unprecedented. Students are downloading and exchanging content.
Brett showed an extraordinary example of animation created by two 15-year old students to highlight the profound results which can be achieved in informal learning environments.
SESSION 3 Re-imagining Cultural Interaction
Panel: Louise Douglas, National Museum of Australia
Lea Giles-Peters, State Library of Queensland
Frank Howarth, Australian Museum
Caroline Payson, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Chair: Assoc Prof Angelina Russo, Swinburne University

This high-level round table debated whether social media can or even should evolve the business of museums and libraries. Can the authoritative cultural voice be extended and maintained by wider popular engagement? What part will social media play in the twenty-first century institution?
Session 3
Frank Howarth, Lea Giles-Peters, Caroline Payson, Louise Douglas and Angelina Russo
Panel summary
– Take risks
– Develop connections
– Create platforms
– Have courage

These CEOs and senior managers are active participants in ongoing research projects by the Co-Chairs in digital cultural communication in cultural institutions.
Interviews with staff within their organisations and beyond reveal many concerns around:
– Authenticity of online information
– Maintaining the instituion’s voice and authority in the digital environment
– Online visitation challenging onsite visitation
– Mediation of social media sites

Lea Giles Peters summary
Lea highlighted the Queensland Memory project, an actual and virtual site where Queensland identity, culture, history and information is stored, created, celebrated and shared.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural assets and knowledge form a vital part of Queensland Memory.
To facilitate creation and development of these assets and knowledge the State Library has developed Keeping Culture Strong, a cultural heritage project which uses new technologies to facilitate greater access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to information and cultural heritage.
The concept of the ‘4th’ Museum is central to the aspirations of Keeping Culture Strong. This initiative builds capacity within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, allowing communities themselves to meet and manage their own cultural and knowledge assets.
The following projects are examples of how Keeping Culture Strong enables cultural interaction to be re-imagined.
– On-line Indigenous Language Resources: this project provides online resources for Indigenous communities across Queensland. Training in digital recording and digital standards has also been delivered to remote Indigenous communities to enable further development of on-line recorded resources.
– Virtual Books for Children: one of the outcomes of the Indigenous Language Resource project has been the development and on-line publication of bi-lingual virtual books. Created by both children and adults in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities, these books have been digitised and made available on the State Library’s website. Pages can be ‘turned’, aspects on the page can be enhanced and some of the books have downloadable recorded audio.
– Margaret Lawrie’s Myths & Legends publication: this project will digitise the work of anthropologist Margaret Lawrie who recorded the myths and legends of the people of the Torres Strait. Another project will produce a virtual book. iI is envisaged that communities originally depicted in Lawrie’s work will develop an on-line publication and create social media material that can be discussed and shared.

Louise Douglas summary
– Social media challenge some traditional management paradigms and philosophies
– Social media are about relationships with audiences, and the role of audiences’ voices in the institution
– The collections or intellectual landscape of cultural institutions must be at the basis of relationships developed with audiences via social media
– Our ambitions for social media and our capacity to be agile with such new forms of communication and engagement will always be tempered by the historical trajectories of our institution and the extent to which we can imagine our futures.
– It’s important to manage the brand of the museum while reconfiguring our cultural interactions

Frank Howarth summary
Museums need to be asking more than ever “what are the collections for?”, “how do they make the world a better place?”
To do this there needs to be dialogue with actual and potential users of collections, with an emphasis on dialogue. We need to be fostering debate, seeking opinion
The museum needs to stop being the “authoritative voice”; historically we have tended to speak to (or at) audiences, now we need to engage in dialogue, debate with them, or provide places for them to debate each other. We need to establish debate forums in places and ways that suit the interest groups we seek, not in ways that just suit us.
The booming area of social media offers us the huge opportunity of new forums, and access (potentially) to a wide range of interest groups, either through our own websites or third part sites such as Facebook and YouTube. To take advantage of that we need to let go of some (or all) authority.

Caroline Payson summary
The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum has a very small proportion of its collection online. Due to its national mandate to reach out and educate the nation about the value of design, it has developed cultural interactions which cross-boundaries from the traditional museum ‘through the door’ visitor to young people who have very little if no connection with the museum.
Reimagining cultural interaction via social media is possible because of the authority of the museum. Reaching out through social media initiatives creates new audiences.
Outreach and interaction – 80% of the ‘through the door’ visitors to the Cooper Hewitt come from within a one mile radius of their museum. Yet the museum’s mission is to reach people across the country. Strategic social media initiatives enable cultural interactions previously unavailable to the museum.
SESSION 4 Social Media: The Future
Panel: Kevin von Appen, Ontario Science Centre
Fiona Hooton, National Library of Australia
Carolyn Royston, National Museums Online Learning Project
Damien Tampling, Deloitte Corporate Finance Advisory group
Chair: Ms Kerry Cody, Queensland Museum

The final session summarised the main findings from the conference and used these to explore new directions in social media.
Session 4
Damien Tampling, Kevin von Appen, Carolyn Royston and Fiona Hooton
Fiona Hooton summary
The current open source, online community is proving that utopian ideals and passion for social, political and artistic change is continuing on the Internet. Like all counter-cultures it is challenging the status quo and attempting to free up culture for access, distribution and debate. The use of ready-made found material has also been strongly embraced by this new counterculture as content for sound and image mash ups. The social and political movements driving the push for Creative Commons licensing, open source access and user led input are akin to the libertarian spirit of earlier avant-gardes. The advent of the Creative Commons license is a subset of this movement and is again asking borderline questions about what are our rights to be able to engage, play and utilize our own culture as a ready-made?
Overview of Picture Australia’s Flickr project:
– Picture Australia: People, Places and Events’ group is seeking images of social, political, contemporary and or historical events of national significance.
– The ‘Re-Picture Australia’ group provides public-domain images for you to ‘mash-up’ into new artworks by sampling these historical images and incorporating your own illustrations and photographs to create new montages and meanings
– Picture Australia: Ourtown group is seeking your perspective on Australia’s rural and urban spaces and work places. Assist us to keep the national collection current by taking contemporary location shots of historical images already in Picture Australia. Benefits:
– Massive new audiences
– Contemporary images
– Extending collections
– Accessing private collections
– Updating collections for us (using public knowledge)
– Intensifying the public’s concern for the care of public collections
– Opportunity to engage with and interpret Australia’s pictorial history

Future challenges
– developing relationships with creators to create new models for creation of quality metadata
– providing the Web 2.0 community with preservation service
– new IP models

Carolyn Royston summary
Social media and cultural institutions have informed the development of Creative Journeys – National Museums Online Learning social media application:
1. Provide tools that enable users to actively engage with museums they love
2. Provide a space where users find inspiration and explore ideas with other like-minded people
3. Share ideas via a variety of media, using tools that they are already familiar with
4. Improve web literacy to support development of web skills including:
– scaffolding activities (wizards, instructional video etc)
– searching (federated search)
5. Enable users to engage creatively and critically with the collections and other users
6. Personalise their relationship with the collections in ways that are meaningful to them
7. Provide different routes into often deep-lying content, as well as a variety of ‘calls to action’
8. Supported by dynamic cross-media marketing strategy to build user base and create a ‘buzz’
9. Help museums to develop an understanding that they must also take an active role in supporting social media activity on their site, and build 2-way communication with users
10. Linking to other 3rd party applications in the wider web
11. Trusting users enough to let them put their content on your website

Kevin Von Appen summary
Kevin showed an image of an exhibition produced 12 years ago – about the Internet!!
He presented three trends for social media:
1) Mobility meets accessibility: DIY web

2) From social sites to social mesh

Damien Tampling summary
Damien rought a ‘grounded view’ of social media from the commercial world.
He discussed a number of initiatives and expressed the ‘untapped’ nature of user-generated content:
– Focus on those social media areas which are financially viable.
– Differentiation between social networks and how they succeed in the sector
– Designing your own search online – used the example of BBC Olive Magazine
– ‘Mapping’ will be a large growth area in social media
– Digital spectrum – biggest issue is content
– Legal rights – geocoding of rights, see Iplayer

How do we mix the old and the new – and should we care?
– Integration of ‘old world’ distribution in the commercial world is a big issue.
– Change management is the biggest issue.
– Inter and intra organisational projects not used to working in this way
– Silo practices can’t continue in social media initiatives
– Is it serving a niche or serving volume?

Where to next?
– A bit of what has happened in the past but in new ways
– Common language – tagging and folksonomies
– How do we collaborate to come up with new collecting models?
– Social media – are they still media-specific?
Blog responses to Session 4

Lynda Kelly, February 29, 2008 at 9:10 pm
The discussion today reminded me of something a colleague said to me the other week: “the ethic and culture of the new connected age is not about age or generation, but fundamentally about attitude and outlook.”

Lynda Kelly, March 2, 2008 at 7:22 am
Here’s a book a colleague of mine put me oin to which may be relevant to the voice/authority thing – The Future of Reputation

Janet Carding, March 4, 2008 at 9:24 am
Congratulations to all concerned for last week, a great few days, especially Friday’s conference.
Just catching up on the links the speakers mentioned, and so far I’m particularly looking forward to the day 8hands is available for macs. Photophlow looks good too. Will check out Museum 3.0 on Ning next. I hope you will be pleasantly surprised too Lynda. Cheers

Kerry Cody, March 6, 2008 at 1:43 pm
Hi Thanks to all for the “grand meet” it was extremely useful to me in our current “refresh” of the QM website. Following up on the “theme” of federation and sharing initiatives in some institutions, especially nationally, (Picture Australia). I thought the demo of the idea and functionality of Europeana: connecting cultural heritage. Not so much for the technicality but the venture of cross country/institution initiative.
More details regarding the initiative: Creating Cross-Domain Consensus for the European Digital Library Consistent with the i2010 digital library initiative, this thematic network will build consensus to create the European Digital Library. It will find solutions to the interoperability of the cultural content held by European museums, archives, audio-visual archives and libraries in the context of The European Digital Library.” By the way you must see/hear the boot video!
It would be great if Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums could all cooperate across sectors on such a national initiative or for that matter globally. I understand with our individual budgets it is had to gain momentum/focus on the national, so interested in a nationally funded initiative. I have lost track of where GLAM is with the Digital Summit recommendations from late 2006. Maybe it is already happening!
I would like to hear of other national cross sector initiatives.
Masterclass Program Thursday 28 February 2008
Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW

Transforming Visitor Engagement
This masterclass by Kevin von Appen – Associate Director of Daily Experience Operations at the Ontario Science Centre – invited participants to imagine new possibilities for social media inside their own organisations, using the Rapid Ideas Generation technique.

Participants collaborated to select a program, exhibition, collection or program from one of their organisations, and extend or recast it using the tools of social media. The groups exchange initial proposals for a second round of ‘re-works’ to refine ideas.


6 Responses to “Kevin von Appen on Transforming Visitor Engagement”

1 Molly, February 28, 2008 at 5:52 pm
Hi Kevin, Thanks for the session today. For me the biggest challenge was working in 3D. I find that ideas usually come fastest with pen in hand. I also thought that some of the stories seemed to be created around, or tried to legitimise, the use of particular props.
I was hoping to hear a little more about the Western Families Innovation Centre. Are you able to share any information on the flow of this new audience through the other two thirds of the museum? (ie. is this new audience discovering the rest of the offerings, or are they sticking to the creation zone?)
Would love to have heard more at the seminar tomorrow, but unfortunately it’s completely booked out.
Feel free to drop by the Gallery if you have any spare time.
Cheers, Molly

2 Cath, February 28, 2008 at 10:12 pm
Big fun session this morning – excellent. As an archives person I wondered how it would go, being in a group of museum and library people and trying to come up with ideas that worked across all these different types of collecting institutions. But I agree with Kevin’s idea that RIGs are good for the big picture thinking, and at that level the details of implementation and particularity really don’t matter. The vision is paramount, and a vision is something that anyone can appreciate. For me, wanting to inspire institutional change, that was a useful understanding to come to.

3 Lynda Kelly
February 29, 2008 at 5:56 am
Glad it was good – for those who weren’t there (like me!) a reminder that RIG stands for Rapid Ideas Generation. Seems a really useful way to get feedback in a creative and fun way. I know that those I spoke to really enjoyed it.

4 Kevin von Appen, February 29, 2008 at 7:57 am
Hi all: Thanks for the kind words and constructive comments – I’ve also observed that sometimes the “prop” can guide the idea in a RIG, mostly that’s helpful in suggesting unexpected directions, but sometimes it does get in the way ie “So, what can we say about these cute stuffed koalas that we grabbed simply because we like stuffed koalas”?
I found the groups in both sessions yesterday remarkably flexible, creative and willing to take risks (even when those risks involved illustrating an “explosion” of ideas by throwing pillows in the air or pouring leftover tea into bowls of water to show how visitor contributions through social media can enrich a museum’s offerings.
Happy to follow up in more detail about the physical experience of the Weston Family Innovation Centre anytime, Molly, either through this blog later or in more detail if you want to contact me direct. In the meantime, thanks again for yesterday, guys. Aussies rock!

5 Angelina, March 3, 2008 at 2:07 pm
Thanks to everyone who participated in the masterclass. Each time I went into the room I was reminded of the value of ‘making’, particularly as it provided such a great networking opportunity! We’ll be uploading images and podcasts over the next few days and I hope these too are of value to you!

6 Cath, March 3, 2008 at 9:03 pm
One more note of thanks to Kevin: I was also very grateful that you kept getting us up offa da seats. Bloodflow is good…
Building and Maintaining an Online Community
This masterclass by Caroline Payson described how the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s online Educator Resource Center has provided a testbed for creating and sharing knowledge. Caroline provided pointers for any organisation seeking to build its own online communities.

This session attracted a great range of professionals interested in the use and value of social media in cultural communication. One of the highlights was the clarity with which Caroline described the educational strategy of the Educator Resource Center initiative, how this has evolved over the past 18 months, and the traction it has received within the education, design and funding community.

3 Responses to “Caroline Payson ‘Building and Maintaining an Online Community’”
1 Cath
February 28, 2008 at 4:53 pm
Thanks much to Caroline, for such rich descriptions of how things work at HCDM. I really appreciated finding out about the impact of organisational structure on the success of the programs (eg, the fact that the Ed Director is also Co-Director of Website; the Director’s direction to curatorial staff that they may sacrifice other work in order to blog; the PR person dedicated to education (OMG!!!). All very useful…

2 Angelina
March 3, 2008 at 2:08 pm
Thanks for that Cath! Yes, the organisational change issues were certainly intriguing to us all!! I hope you get a chance to become a member of the Educator Resource Center – it is a great resource.

3 Janson Hews
March 4, 2008 at 11:19 am
Thanks to Caroline for such an insightful session. As a design education officer at the Powerhouse Museum, I was highly interested in the ways in which The Cooper Hewitt has become such a strong resource for design education not only in America but world wide.
As a former Design and Technology teacher I think it is an innovative and effective way to generate learning content for the Museum through utlising the knowledge base of design teachers nationally.
I really enjoyed both days and the opportunity to hear stories from such a cross section of people.
Thanks again



Kevin von Appen is Associate Director of Daily Experience Operations at the Ontario Science Centre. He directs the Centre’s internet initiatives, publications, science writing and translation, and knowledge management. He has developed creative web-based projects for AOL Canada,, MSN – Microsoft Network, Bell Emergis and
Session 1 presentation
Session 4 presentation
Sebastian Chan is Manager of the Web Services Unit at the Powerhouse Museum. He has a background in social policy, journalism and media criticism as well as information technology, and has been building and producing websites and interactive media since the mid-1990s.
Fresh+New – digital media in museums blog.
Kerry Cody is Head of Information Management and Information Technology at Queensland Museum where she is is currently coordinating the redevelopment of new media services.
Louise Douglas is General Manager, Audiences and Programs at the National Museum of Australia. Louise has worked in cultural heritage management for 20 years at senior and executive management levels at both the Powerhouse Museum and the National Museum of Australia.
Lea Giles-Peters is State Librarian at the State Library of Queensland. Previous positions include Director, Northern Territory Library and Information Service; Assistant Secretary, Northern Territory Department of Housing and Local Government; and Manager, CSIRO Library Network and Information Services.
Tim Hart is Director of Information, Multimedia & Technology at Museum Victoria. He has worked in museums for the past 18 years in collection management, policy development, project management, IT and new media.
Session 2 presentation
Frank Howarth is Director of the Australian Museum. He is passionate about the natural world, and passionate about Sydney and its cultural institutions. Frank’s general interest is policy, with a particular interest and expertise in science policy and management of science based programs.
Fiona Hooton is Manager of Picture Australia, an online pictorial database hosted by the National Library of Australia. Fiona has worked as an artist, educator, community worker and arts administrator.
Session 4 presentation
Dr Lynda Kelly is Head of Audience Research at the Australian Museum. She has extensive experience in planning and conducting quantitative and qualitative research for a variety of programs and clients.
Session 2 presentation
Brett McLennan is Screen Education Manager at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). His portfolio covers ACMI’s screen education programs, which includes the oversight and alignment of ACMI education programs to both ACMI core business and current and future government initiatives.
Session 2 presentation
Caroline Payson is Director of Education at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, a Smithsonian Institution in New York. Payson has an extensive background in arts education, and was formerly Director of Educational Services at Maryland Public Television.
Carolyn Royston is Project Manager of The National Museums Online Learning Project, a significant new partnership involving 9 UK national museums, led by the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Session 4 presentation
Associate Professor Angelina Russo leads the research project Engaging with Social Media in Museums at Swinburne University, which brings together 3 Australian museums and the Smithsonian Institution to explore the impact of social media on museum learning and communication. She also leads the research project New Literacy, New Audiences which examines the development of user-generated content in collaboration with six major Australian cultural institutions.
Damien Tampling is a Partner in Deloitte’s Corporate Finance Advisory group in Australia and specialises in providing business strategy and M&A advice to organisations in, or investing in, the media, digital media and technology space. Damien leads Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications industry group in Australia.
Jerry Watkins has a 20-year track record in commercial communication design and multimedia production. He has provided creative consultancy to some of the world’s leading brands. He is a researcher on the projects New Literacy, New Audiences and Engaging with Social Media in Museums at Swinburne University.

7 Responses to “Conference 2008”

  1. 1 majave March 2, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Hi all,

    Thanks for this great event. I am a 28 year old female working in lending and reference services and on the Emerging Technologies team at a regional public library. I feel fairly comfortable in the new world of social media, and hope best practice is taken up by the cultural services industry to broaden delivery, build online communities and market services/collections. I am thrilled and inspired to take some ideas and ‘how tos’ back to my team.

    There are a couple of issues though which I am feeling a little lost/concerned about…

    1. Access. ABS says “…46% of households were using the Internet at home by 2002. However, there are substantial differences in levels of access between different groups of the population”. Working in a public library I see this everyday. Who are we ignoring? What about the ‘have nots’? Lea’s brief comment on the panel on Friday about ‘abolishing reference services’ brought this home to me.

    2. Quality. A lot of what I see on the web is great. A lot is narcissistic “pseudo communication” between avatars (v real people) -many of whom aren’t well informed but all of whom are opinionated. (Thanks Brett for the Duchovny/Rollins clip). Does this matter? I think so if what we are trying to do is build real communities. The rampant individualism dominating the www is a problem for me – my job is to locate and direct others towards *quality* resources.

    3. Digital overload. What about the tangible world? The online world is a little disconnected from reality. My everyday life is quite disconnected from my virtual self. The rows of people sitting in the public library accessing our www pcs aren’t looking at or talking to *each other* – and many of them are members of the same family! The reification of Web 2.0 has me a little worried. I would hate for second life to become first.

  2. 2 Angelina March 19, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Hi Majave
    Thanks for such a thoughtful response to the conference. It’s great to see that the library you work with has an Emerging Technologies team. This is very encouraging for the sector!!

    In response to your concerns:
    1 – Access
    Access remains a driver for both digitisation and the use of social media. While digitisation has its own complexities and is often discussed within the context of national standards for collection, registration and access, social media is a relatively small bandwith exercise. Social media software is open source and the user interfaces are particularly good. We see social media as a mechanism through which to draw audiences to cultural institutions. For those without access at home, social media provides a simple tool which can be used within public places. We’re waiting to see how the statistics change over time.

    2 – Quality
    Jennifer Trant talks about creating ‘trusted cultural networks’ – a situation where cultural institutions themselves take a proactive stance in linking together to provide authoritative information. The Musuems Online Learning Project in the UK which Carolyn Royston talked about is an excellent example of this.
    Pseudo communication and narcissism will always be around and we can’t do anything to stop that, what we can do is promote genuine networks around cultural knowledge exchange -something our organisations are expert in!

    3 – Digital overload
    I get a reality check whenever I watch teenagers who have access to the internet and mobile phones simultaneously. They can msn, text, make phone calls, download videos, listen to music and talk to others in the ‘real world’ with them simultaneously. They might not do any of it particularly well but their primary objective is communication. I am always encouraged by this need to seek out others and exchange knowledge. Perhaps those early images of kids playing computer games on their own were more indicative of disconnection from the real world but even these are now networked.
    Perhaps ‘remote communication’ will continue to evolve as another form of communication in our daily lives. Perhaps over time we will come to see this as a more natural extension of our desire to communicate!

    Thanks again!
    Please feel free to let us know how the Emerging Technonologies team goes!

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This blog examines social media, cultural institutions and digital participation. It's based on the research projects Engaging with Social Media in Museums and New Literacy, New Audiences. Regular contributors are Angelina Russo, Lynda Kelly and Seb Chan


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