Friday, November 28, 2008

NDF Conference User-Generated Content Session

This was a really cool session. Some points I noted for us to think about for our new site:

  • Te Ara
    caters to a traditional print-based audience as well as planning a play space for those who are more web-savvy
  • Found the blog didn't generate as much two-way engagement as they expected or wanted – reinforces the idea that you have to work hard to create and build community
  • I liked their simple interface for uploading stories (although they haven't had much success with this in terms of people uploading stories)
  • Our Space set up a Flickr group months ahead of launch to generate media interest and content (and build community too?)
  • Integrated an online and physical experience, an exploration and playful space with little instruction, which is new for museums (but based on constructivist principles which are not new!)
  • Originally user-generated content not part of the brief (same for Te Ara, we need to factor this in)
  • 'Generation C' – content creators
  • Focus groups with 15-24 year olds to help develop the brief. What did they find? Its' all about me now (therefore needs to be instantaneous); young people are digital content creators (they want control and choice and ability to share); they are used to making stuff digitally; curators really need to lose control (become moderators and facilitators); must also have something the web can't deliver (i.e. the exhibition space must be able to stand alone)
  • Applied principles of social networking sites to a physical exhibition
  • Provide visitor voice and platform to interact with the museum, losing their centralised structure and control – how to reconcile this with role of protecting national treasures? (I don't think they're mutually exclusive)
  • Are working with Maori now to get their involvement as a separate project
  • Institutional paradigm shift where hosts now encourage visitors to play and explore; think about viral distribution of information and bit more sense of collaboration within Te Papa now

A great session nicely summed up by Angelina who also ran the Q&A, which meant I didn't have to do anything!

National Digital Forum Friday 28 November

Well, I've left INTERCOM and arrived in Auckland at the New Zealand National Digital Forum conference. Am facilitating a fascinating session looking at Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand and Our Space – a new multimedia space at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. I have heard people (well, only Angelina!) rave about the latter installation so be really interested to see what the developers have to say.

In the afternoon I ran an audience research workshop and the slides from that can be found here.

Wasn't able to get to the first day of their conference (or indeed their conference dinner, probably a good thing given the way I feel today!) but you can get more information here.

Paul Gerhardt, Archive for Creativity (UK) talk:

  • By 2010 all the info on the internet will double every 11 hours, YouTube has broadcast more hours of movies in past six months than three major networks broadcast between 1948 and 2008.
  • Mentioned Video Republic report – Demos 2008 (this is a good read by the way)
  • How has media shaped the ways we communicate? Emergence of writing meant a skills barrier – need to know how to read and write, now we have a plethora of products we can use beyond texts, including audio, moving images and sound
  • The written word has been central to how we renew our cultures – why should it be different for moving images?
  • George Bernard Shaw wrote about the importance of cinema in 1914
  • Five forms of Digital Literacy
  • Where is the low-hanging fruit? In public service broadcasting, given that we need to open up access to 100 years of moving images
  • But – who pays for it? Who owns it? Who looks after it? Who has rights to distribute it?? The BBC worked on this in their Open BBC project, they established an advisory group form across industry, community, etc
  • Public value and commercial value
  • Showed an awesome film about the Open Archive and how to do stuff – can't find that exact film online but will keep looking. They did audience research all the way through the pilot and changed their program based on that. There is also a very interesting section – Teachers'' TV – with lots of online resources for teachers

Eight lessons from the project:

  • Design a future proof system
  • Coopt all stakeholders
  • Prove the concept by conducting a pilot
  • Open up to creator-generated content
  • Develop infrastructure with other partners
  • Demonstrate public value (plus two others I didn't get down in time)

But with funding restrictions and a new regulatory regime meant the project didn't go ahead – what a bummer! Good talk tho.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

INTERCOM musings Part 4

Today’s the busy day for me chairing the morning plenary (including managing a scary video-conference thingy!) and giving a paper, so won’t be able to blog much. Also just realised that the paper I’m giving is not only unrelated to the conference theme but that I will be speaking a language that many people may not understand, resulting in a somewhat minor panic attack! Not helped by me not having a watch to actually time the speakers... I think it must be time for me to be getting back home!
Anyway, my talk was based on the paper Angelina and I gave at Museums and the Web 2008, so you can download it from there.

INTERCOM musings Part 3

Had a lovely breakfast in the redwood forest, although a bit cold it was still a great venue. Once we got back to the conference had the first plenary session.
Russell Staiff (UWS) The Challenges of Cross-Cultural Translation in an Age of Global Travel:
* Dilemmas when dealing with interface between tourism and heritage sites
* Chinese tourists are on the rise, they have visited 132 countries, 34.2 million Chinese travelled OS in 2006
* Tourism and museum/heritage places have become entangled entities – both positive and negative effects, it’s a complex relationship
* Destinations and itineraries: heritage sites get put on itineraries by others not the site itself (e.g. in the guidebooks), you suddenly become on the itinerary whether you want to or not – both in print and on the web and museums usually get prominent mentioned [although this is somewhat different for Sydney as seen as more of an outdoor city with a few icons]
* Work of sociologist John Urry on mobilities: are symptomatic of our modern social lives
* Need to understand the complexity of the cultural encounter, enormity of translating cultural knowledge to those who do not share the primary cultural affiliation of the place
* Examples given of Buddha Si Chum, Sukhothai World Heritage site and Michelangelo’s David: if you come from the west the former needs as much cultural translation as David would to an Asian tourist.
* Most Westerners get their cultural knowledge from Lonely Planet
* Discussed translation theory as way to think about what meanings tourists are making at these sites. Often we just literally translate the texts which can be unsatisfying. Therefore they tried a visual form of signage rather than reading dense texts. However still as one-way exchange couched in art history model
* Tourists are having a ‘wow’ experience but not one that they can comprehend! Despite the fact they don’t understand the experience they are still incredibly satisfied with their experience
* Appiah – Cosmopolitanism book, looked at making cultural differences legible rather than illegible by looking at shared values based on local, lived experiences of all humans, looking at commonalities
* Build content across what we all share
* The future of cross-cultural translation lies with digital technologies
Great and provocative paper Russell.

Fascinating session in the afternoon called Dark and Dangerous Tourism. Didn’t take many notes as my computer ran out of battery but have had a chance to reflect on what was discussed. Four speakers talked about museums/places that dealt with the Holocaust and slavery as well as museums in Cambodia and Colombia. We heard many facts and figures on visitation and visitors which got me thinking about a quote I quite like – “it’s not how many people visit museums but how valuable are their visits”. I hadn’t really heard anything from these sessions that looked at what visitors’ were experiencing and indeed even anything that looked at the front-end and visitors’ needs when visiting these often difficult and inaccessible places. Our research has found that visitors want museums to be more controversial and a bit out there as long as they have the capacity to comment and engage in a two-way conversation. The common thread here is the shared human stories and spirit that Russell talked about and I couldn’t help but think that taking a visitor-centred approach in this session may have added to what the speakers were saying. Anyway, here’s the link to Paul Williams’ book that I promised to post – Memorial Museums: The Global Rush to Commemorate Atrocities.

We then gave our session on visitor research and tourism. My paper will go on the INTERCOM conference website at some stage. It seemed to go quite well, given that we’d all had a 7am start we didn’t get out of the room until 6pm! I also managed to get in my two cents worth by quoting my hero Benjamin Gilman...

The long day was capped off with a lovely dinner, good food and an excellent NZ pinot. (oh, and the company was OK too!).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

INTERCOM conference musings Part 2

After a rather extraordinary and moving welcome (and a very interesting and eventful journey to finally arrive in Rotorua!) we got straight into the conference theme museums, tourism, visitor experience.

Cheryll Sotheran spoke about the destination museum and national brand:

  • Move from mass-market model of 20th century to consumer niche market model of 21st century – a holistic environment where economic, social and cultural are intertwined and interdependent
  • Trends: decline of dominance of Western economies and rise of new Asian economies, with new kinds of values; move from a production to a consumption model which is market and values-driven
  • Innovative-driven production providing services and products to values-driven markets
  • What are these values? Sustainability, health and wellness, respect for authenticity, respect for culture and climate change
  • We shod be providing experiences that have integrity and authenticity, that are memorable, have a narrative approach using innovative technologies with a welcoming customer service ethos
  • Need to think about the new tourism demographic – demanding and needs-driven
  • Does hyper reality make objects obsolete [not according to our research – they can work together in my view]

What should we be doing:

  • Explore and understand technologies that exploit the gap between virtual and physical
  • Play an active and leading role in world affairs especially in areas of sustainability, climate change and social equity
  • No more 'business as usual for same old audiences', need to think more widely offering range of tailored experiences to a range of niche audiences
  • Museums need to collaborate, while still retaining their strong individual brands but an underlying sharing of resources, identify meta-narratives and perhaps a value-based regional offer using themes rather than physical locality?

Thanks Cheryll for a really inspiring opening address.

Then had a fun hook-up via videoconference to Dennis Barry who designed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the International Spy Museum. He discussed For profit business models for museums:

  • Chose Washington for the International Spy Museum as it is a great tourist destination, 100,000 spies work there, chose site off the Mall as felt they could get tourists there
  • Need to establish credibility in the world of espionage through creating an amazing board of experts and specialists
  • A $40 million USD project
  • Bought the iconic objects of their subject matter (mostly from the KGB who had a great collection of CIA and MI5 material!)
  • A 750,000/year, $20 entry fee in city where almost others museums free, store is a huge success, 2 restaurants (museum owns and operates these), frequented by celebrities, voted one of top ten museums in Washington
  • Feels you need to have a substantial marketing budget and long lead campaign. They had a lead of 18 months with stories in many, many magazines as well as usual media outlets of TV and news
  • Produces 20% profit/year [so it can be done] and 4 million visitors so far
  • Had to do lots of business cases and lobbying, realising they needed 400,000 visitors/year to break even – used private investors as no banks would lend to them and they have got their money back several times

Lessons from the 'for profit' museum sector to the non-profit – carefully picked topic, great location, great Board (and staff too I guess) and great objects interpreted in exciting and engaging ways with access to real people, while still keeping the exhibitions fresh and new.

The afternoon session was really hard to choose which to attend. A range of papers from across 11 countries demonstrates the diversity of the offer so I won't blog this but encourage you to go to the INTERCOM conference website to read the abstracts (and eventually the papers Greg hopes!).

INTERCOM conference musings Part 1

On the way to the INTERCOM conference dropped in on the folks from Auckland Art Gallery and gave a talk: What does the "visitor experience" mean for museums in a Web 2.0 world?, which I am also giving at the conference. We had a great discussion and they really got me thinking about the following:

  • How do we integrate online with physical experiences? We talked lots about whether we provide web-based information within an exhibition or even within spaces in the museum. We also discussed the potential of mobile technologies, which is one area I'm particularly interested in as I think it is one we need to keep an eye on. I'm imagining in the future that this will be a way we can provide layered information for visitors, whether they download it direct from the web as they're in the exhibition (through using something like QR codes for example) or access it when they get home. We also need to be aware of people's attitudes to their mobile devices, as an earlier study we did at the Australian Museum (Educational websites) found that students in particular did not want to download what they saw as primarily "educational" material on to their personal phones/iPods etc.
  • Who are the audiences we should be targeting? Although I reported on our studies with young people aged 18-30 and students aged 12-18 I still feel strongly that the segment we should be focussing on is older audiences. While the young are visitors of the future, I think the older demographic is both easier to reach, are interested in museums and have the propensity to be further engaged with museums as both online and physical visitors. We found this from our older persons study (where we targeted those aged 65+) but I would now focus on those aged 35+ who have young families/grandchildren or are cultural consumers. The other group I feel passionately about are audiences with disabilities who are looking for places that are interesting, welcoming and accessible and who are also positively disposed to the arts.

Anyway, thanks for having me and here's the links I promised:

Ciao for now,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Museum Learning Talk at Powerhouse Museum

Gave a talk at the Powerhouse Museum (PHM) today as part of their talks after noon seminar series. Was great to get back to the doctorate and remember why I got interested in this topic in the first place. My slides have been uploaded to Slideshare and chapters of the thesis are online here.

I co-presented with Helen Whitty from the PHM who gave a talk a titled Public programs: Snake oil merchants or Museum professional? Helen is always a great speaker and some points I took from her talk were:

  • Experience of the museum not just the exhibitions
  • 'Public programs are the links between the museum and its audience' (MacLulich, 1994)
  • Look at not what the public program is but what it does – for example is it a destination event; a signature program; a fixed/ongoing program linked to permanent exhibition; or special programs linked to temporary exhibitions?
  • Penfold, an early PHM Director, in 1939 was scathing about museums as 'dead places' and suggested museums should move to retail practices – he suggested that visitors should leave a museum having 'bought' something
  • What do the public actually want from a museum? Helen spoke about findings from a PHM study which found that half of those surveyed wanted 'learning' and half wanted 'pleasure' in their leisure time
  • Perceived dichotomy between education and entertainment is now an old framework, it's now about how we approach our learners and about putting our visitors at the centre (hear-hear Helen!! That's what I found in my research too)

All in all a good session and thanks for organising it Rita and Jana.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From Taipei, Part 3

Final day of the trip was Monday when I gave two papers:

  • The Role and Development of the Australian Museum Audience Research Centre discussing how the Australian Museum Audience Research Centre was developed using a series of evaluation studies as examples
  • How to be a professional audience researcher using a large evaluation of a Museum exhibition to illustrate how to do audience research

These papers can be found here on my Audience Research wiki.

Here are the other links I promised:

  • Museum professional development and training in Australia: my notes about this talk are here and the PowerPoint slides are online here
  • Older Audiences and Museums publication can be downloaded from the website here
  • Telling Lives exhibition: where visitors could video-tape their response to an exhibition which were then uploaded to YouTube (Inthink, it's been awhile since I looked here
  • Museum 3.0 social network: feel free to join up, ask questions and contribute to discsusions

Finally, thought I'd repeat a quote from my favourite audience researcher, Benjamin Gilman, as we started and finished the day with him:

To fulfil its complete purpose as a show, a museum must do the needful in both ways. It must arrange its contents so that they can be looked at; but also help its average visitors to know what they mean. It must at once install its contents and see to their interpretation. (1918, quoted in Black, 2005).

It's all so simple really...

Anyway, overall a successful trip and looking forward to working together a lot more in the future. Thanks for your hospitality and the poster (which I almost left at Hong Kong airport!) was truly awesome – I'll try find somewhere appropriate to hang it in my new office.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

From Taipei, Part 2

Spent a really interesting morning on Saturday with Wanchen' s students from the Fu Jen Catholic University. Their task was to read an evaluation report I had sent them, comment on it and raise questions. They did a really good job, considering that some of the reports were rather complex and long! The questions they raised came under the following categories (which I think I'll use when reorganising my website as part of the general Museum website rebuild project).

Planning an evaluation:

  • Working with those who commissioned the evaluation (for example, exhibition project teams, program managers, other staff and specialists)
  • Understanding the content of the program to be evaluated
  • Developing the evaluation questions – what do we already know and what are the gaps?
  • Determining the target audience
  • Designing the method

Undertaking the evaluation:

  • Different methods (questionnaires, online surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, tracking, observations)
  • Sampling – how to maximise sample based on target audience; determining the sample size; maximising response rates
  • Working with consultants

Analysing results/writing the report:

  • How to write reports that people will read (for example, layering information, including Executive summaries)
  • Mixture of text and facts/figures
  • Identifying what it all means

Applying the findings:

  • How to get findings accepted
  • How to use the findings in planning future programs
  • Engaging and involving staff in the evaluation (below are points from one of my Monday papers):
    • Include staff in planning the evaluation
    • Involve staff in the data gathering phases – attend focus groups, conduct surveys, undertake observations
    • Work through the findings together – the final report should never be a surprise
    • Include staff in debriefs – and have an open discussion at the debrief about what the findings mean both for the current exhibition/program and for future projects
    • Have an objective third-party undertake evaluation if findings may be of a sensitive or controversial nature, or when you need specialist skills
    • Use current organisational communication systems to publicise findings in usable ways
    • Use new media to disseminate information (for example make films or use sound bytes)

The session was a great and I thank you all for having me. Ended the day with visits to the Longshan Temple, Red Theatre Tea House and an awesome vegetarian restaurant including music, magic and kung-fu performances – thanks Tzu-yu, Yider and Cookie. (Oh, and also managed to buy myself a pair of nice brown boots for $41AUD!!)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

From Taipei, Part 1

Spending a few days in Taipei at the kind invitation of Dr Wanchen Liu, Director of the Graduate Institute of Museum Studies, Fu Jen Catholic University. The main objective is to talk to museum staff and students about audience research and trends in museums.

My first paper, Museum professional development and training in Australia, seemed to go quite well. The slides can be found here and I'll just quickly post some of the main points of my talk (with acknowledgement to Dr Jennifer Barrett, Museum Studies, University of Sydney).

  • There are a range of competencies for museum staff identified through COMPT (AAM) and ICTOP (ICOM)
  • COMPT note that: the "… education of museum professionals must enable them to meet current challenges and anticipate future needs of very complex organisations subject to ongoing, rapid change"
  • A good summary of tertiary courses available in Australia prepared by Museum Gallery Services Queensland can be found here
  • Weil (1990) noted that majority of museum staff with 'responsible positions' never had formal training in museology; sector is diverse; new types of museums mean need new types of skills and experiences needed; changing role of curator as no longer the single 'authoritative' voice
  • MacLeod (2001) suggested a "community of practice" approach is needed between museums, practitioners, universities and scholars to share resources, knowledge and expertise
  • Challenges facing museums: funding and sustainability; collections; change in role and authority of museums; globalisation; competition (for people's time and attention); climate change and staffing (attracting younger people as employees, Gen X and Gen Y attitudes to workplace and the ageing workforce, especially in capturing their knowledge and skills
  • The 'new (or not-so-new!) museology' (Vergo, 1989) looked at demystifying museums to reveal how they construct knowledge, while acknowledging the important role of the visitor
  • Worth revisiting the new museology in the 21st century as the imperatives of making money, being visitor-focussed, increased competition for leisure dollar and, in particular, Web 2.0 and social media mean that those museums who aren't becoming more open in their practices and engaging their various communities will become irrelevant
  • People are able to get information anywhere they want: '36% of online Americans consult Wikipedia ... [it is] is far more popular among the well-educated' (Pew Internet Report, April 2007)
  • "Web 2.0 puts users and not the organisation at the centre of the equation. This is threatening, but also exciting in that it has the potential to lead to richer content, a more personal experience." Ellis & Kelly, April, 2007)
  • My research has shown that that those who visit museums are more likely to engage with Web 2.0 tools that provide two-way interaction, such as blogs, wikis, tagging, discussion boards/forums – how are our professional development and training courses designed to meet these new and emerging forms of communication??

How might we be working in the future? Charles Handy, The Elephant and the Flea (2001):

  • Need to think about the business you are in: for museums I think it is generating and communicating knowledge and information in a variety of ways (physical sites, online, publications) through two-way interaction with a range of stakeholders
  • Workers increasingly want to believe in what they are doing
  • New models of organisations based on the information economy
  • Organisations will consist of elephants: those who are part of a structured organisation and have a defined role within it, supported by an increasing amount of fleas: workers who flit in and out of an organisation, mostly specialist skills based who are contracted by elephants. Fleas have an intense commitment to the project, not necessarily the organisation
  • Ageing, yet healthy, workforce mean there will be many more fleas available in the future
  • Gurteen (2006) Knowledge Workers: useful way to think about skills needed for the 21st century museum worker (I have blogged about this here)

What does this mean for museum professional development and training in the future?

  • Increasingly, museum workers are taking professional development into their own hands through social networking sites such as Museum 3.0 (now with over 400 members globally) and Facebook groups (for example Museum Professionals Unite Across Facebook; Learning in Museums and Galleries and Museums in the Digital age, to name just a few)
  • Who, then, is responsible for providing training and professional development?
  • Who's voice is being heard – scholars? practitioners? researchers?
  • Where are people getting information? Increasingly through online sources and less through journals and books?? For example there are now over 270 blogs listed on – many of these are written by professionals/practitioners working in areas such as management, audience research, Web 2.0 and digital media, as well as general museum practice.

Museology 2.0:

  • Need to train workers to be flexible, agile and respond to change, as well as in finding creative solutions to solve problems
  • Recognise that museums need to be sustainable in funding, resources and infrastructure, and in working with their communities
  • A Web 2.0 mindset means two-way interaction, importance of networks and sharing. Recognise different ways of thinking –those under 25 years of age think everything on their computer is public unless they choose to make it private, whereas those over 25 think everything on their computer private unless they choose to make public
  • Building community through using visitor voice; visitors as partners; not teacher-student model but museum as facilitator; community contributes and has a life of its own; issue of shared authority
  • Scope/quality of information and interaction – what does this mean for our institutions?
  • ?How well-equipped are professional development programs in Australia (and indeed globally) to meet these challenges and to train/develop knowledge workers of the future?

The diagram below shows these ideas as a diagram and I am still playing around with it so any comments are welcome!

More soon,