Thursday, April 23, 2009

Connection Generation

Connection Generation is the first book written by Iggy Pintado. Connection Generation is a study of how connectedness affects our place in society and business and the challenges and opportunities this compelling development presents. As the Amazon Editorial Review says:

"We're all connected at some level. Whether you're a student, teacher, business owner, corporate professional, entrepreneur, manager, executive, or someone who is interested in how connectedness is changing our world, Iggy Pintado's Connection Generation is a must-read. A recognised leader in global connection technology and dedicated observer of societal and business patterns, Iggy believes that by understanding the attitudes and behaviours of individuals and groups, we can better manage the powerful link between communication and connection technologies to determine our individual and collective future. With nearly every facet of civilisation linked together, it is imperative that we understand how we connect into society and how this impacts on our capacity to adapt and grow. Consumer or leader, this book answers the vital question everyone is asking: Am I prepared for the lightning-fast connectivity changes taking place in the world?"

When talking with Iggy sometime ago we definitely shared views about how take up of social networking/connecting via Web 2.0 tools is not a factor of age, but of outlook. It is imperative in organisations, in particular, that we stop making excuses about how we cannot implement Web 2.0 thinking and actually do something about it. We have discussed some of these ideas on Nina Simon's Museum 2.0 blog: A simple argument for why museums and cultural institutions should care about social media.

Good luck with the book Iggy, and the Tweetblitz that is happening today. I'll be watching with interest.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

after you have done the research

I was alerted recently of the importance of the virtues of having a well-organised system for reporting research findings, and making it available throughout the organisation.

I saw a summative exhibition evaluation report produced by one organisation that was so short in its shortcomings that it highlighted many things we take for granted. It fell short due to poor resourcing in terms of staff skills and time, and lack of useful software for data handling.

The 'report' consisted of a spreadsheet with summary data and graphs (mostly pie charts) with all kinds of errors. As a result, some of the data was misinterpreted when drawing conclusions for the specific exhibition. But even more important, there was no attempt to dig a bit deeper and look at audience sub-groups (teens vs adults; men vs women; people with children vs those without, etc.). And most limiting of all, there was no opportunity to compare the audience profile of this exhibition with other exhibitions, or with general visitors. And no opportunity to compare audience responses to various exhibitions or programs.

Seeing this, I see the role audience research can play in supporting organisational learning, not just day to day reporting.

What is needed for organisational learning? At least some of the following things:
  • dedicated audience research specialist who champions the information and fosters use throughout the organisation
  • good filing system that allows staff to identify past research and access it; this might be a catalogue with key words as well as titles, topics and dates
  • standard report guidelines or templates that establish professional reporting
  • reports include comparative data where relevant.

I picture a simple library of resources that builds over time.

Lynda has done a great job at the Australian Museum of establishing and fostering just this kind of resource. Maybe she can add some other points about her experiences in setting up systems that make research findings available across the organisation.


Friday, April 17, 2009

NZ Conference post 4

Final day of conference today with focus on community, collections and innovation/technology.

I'm not blogging today – am tweeting insead and here's the feed. It's been a great experience and I even managed to buy some more wine goblets from the Tairawhiti Museum.

NZ Conference post 3

Spent an amazing day at Whangara Marae where we reconnected (or in my case connected) with Maori culture. A marae is a sacred Maori meeting place (see here for further information).

Reminded me how powerful the Maori language and culture is, as well as fun, funny and welcoming. Some points I gleaned:

  • Need to understand the culture before you begin to build the building (or, in our case, the exhibition)
  • People's life stories are interwoven with their work history
  • Importance of genealogy in Maori culture
  • Maori struggles for repatriation and recognition in museums mirror those of Australian Indigenous people
  • Cultural objects need to be steeped within the context of their culture and kept warm
  • What is the true version of truth?
  • Need to remember that we who work in museums are there to 'serve the people' (not the other way round, something wroth being reminded of I think)
  • Focus on the core business
  • Need to have and maintain good relationships – if people don't get on nothing happens

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NZ conference post 2

What are my views about what NZ sector could be doing (and should not be doing) in a combined visitor research program?


  • focus on what you need to know, not what's nice to know
  • always ask – what will I actually do with this data, if the answer is nothing or I don't know then don't do it!
  • a smaller amount of research well, not a large amount superficially
  • develop a couple of really good statements about what people learn/do/attitudes and use them over a time period (ala the Creative NZ model)
  • maybe try self-complete or online surveys to save on costs?
  • a pilot study in year 1 – see where it's taking you
  • think carefully about what you want to get from a non-visitor study – is it worth sampling them? (not really IMHO)
  • embrace the tools of social media – go where the people are (Flickr, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc) as this is where real opinions are expressed, plus it's free!
  • use students (they are great) but think about how will the findings be integrated, accepted and used (this can also be the problem with using consultants – need an internal champion in the institution who will nag staff into using this stuff)
  • ask – what do we want to focus on? Numbers and/or visitor experiences, learning and impact? (probably both)


  • get bogged down in definitions
  • just measure the measurable – find out what's important, then work out how t measure that, it can be done
  • think about visitor research as a cost – think of it as an investment
  • try and be all things to all people – a couple of key indicators in your regular surveys will do
  • use SPSS...or any complex program thingo where you have to rely on someone else to provide the data (unless they're good and there's a genuine atmosphere of team work and sharing)
  • forget the power of qualitative data – this is where you get the rich stuff you can talk to politicians/funders about
  • expect that everyone supports museums – remember that us and our friends are not representative of the population, so what we like/do is not where everyone else is necessarily at (and usually are not!)
  • be boring

Here's some resources for you:

culture – access – innovation: Museums Aotearoa Tairawhiti Conference

Kia Ora. Attending this conference in Gisborne as a guest of Museums Aotearoa (kindly sponsored by the NZ Ministry for Culture & Heritage – a big thanks). Program looks fascinating and really looking forward to catching up with old friends, meeting new NZ colleagues and sharing some great Gisborne wines.

Today am attending the Visitor Research workshop looking at the needs of institutions, regions and the sector across NZ and how we can develop a framework so museums can see where they fit in, as well as a lobbying tool. The workshop was attended by around 35 people discussing what they currently do and what they'd like to do.

So what am I doing here? Putting in my two cents worth! (but really helping them work out a plan from my experience I suppose).

Simon opened by talking about the bigger picture aspects of what's happening in NZ/Australia and raised the following issues:

  • Standardisation
  • Sharing information
  • ICT – using it to gather info, share info and also looking at how visitors are talking about you on social networking sites
  • Reducing costs (by sharing, using ICT)
  • When/where to collect data

Some of what's happening across NZ:

  • Te Papa: monthly surveys, motivations for visiting, as well as compliance reporting. Also mentioned key point that not only about gathering information but what we do with it
  • Creative NZ: concentrate on performing arts as well as visual and digital arts. Survey called New Zealanders and the Arts (three-yearly survey, 2K visitors aged over 15 + booster samples with specific cultural groups) – attitudes, attendance and artists themselves to look at the health of the arts broadly. Found general support for the arts by NZers
  • Massey University and non-visitor: defining this is hard, use social networks to define and research non-visitors (interesting idea, might pinch that one!), they can be eloquent about the purposes of institutions but when it comes to visiting it's about relevance, barriers (time and cost), some younger non-visitors felt too much emphasis on NZ identity and not broader, global issues (interesting observation, we have found this too)

Following general discussion, we then broke into small groups to look at four areas. Simon summed up with following key points:

  1. Need to build on the academia/museum relationship and strengthen. This will help reduce costs and foster innovation
  2. Need to focus on the impact of technology, both in user-generated content, reducing costs and as a way to disseminate information
  3. Need to identify both basic, quantitative building blocks of information, as well as the ,more 'fuzzy', qualitative areas of research to be done
  4. Overall a good start and will need to build on the forward momentum.

Notes from the session will be typed up and circulated via Museums Aotearoa. My next blog post presents a cautionary tale when embarking on a large program of sector-wide audience research...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Museums and Web 2.0

Giving a lecture tonight at UTS to a bunch of students about what museums are doing in the Web 2.0 area. Some points I'll make:

Some of the experiments we're conducting via the Engaging Social Media ARC grant at the Museum I'll discuss are:

  • All About Evil exhibition development and blogging
  • Facebook and museum 'characters' (Winny Saur and our echidna)
  • Museum in a Box and professional development
  • Using Flickr
  • Climate Change exhibition/program and Twitter

I'll also reference the Mattress Factory; Brooklyn Museum; IMA and Powerhouse Flickr commons and object of the week.

I'll also look at how to develop a Web 2.0 mindset as explained in the diagram below, which I've been playing around with:

I'm attempting to do this lecture only using the web (i.e. I don't have a set presentation) – in this way we can explore what's happening together and discuss as we look at websites. I hope like hell the internet connection works!