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Helen Graham Whose story is it anyway?: 'Public' and 'Ownership'

Helen Graham Whose story is it anyway?: 'Public' and 'Ownership'



Slide from a presentation given by Helen Graham to International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University 'Work in Progress' seminar and University of Leeds 'Museology Seminar' ...

Slide from a presentation given by Helen Graham to International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University 'Work in Progress' seminar and University of Leeds 'Museology Seminar' in September and October 2011.

Part of the AHRC 'Partnership and Participation: Intellectual property and Informed Consent' project. See www.partnershipandparticipation.wordpress.com



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  • Benkler – crispness of commercial exchange…social exchange much less crisp. To go back to the digital story tellers - For a contract to be a proper contract it has to offer something for something.   Museum assumed that while it was getting the stories (and therefore the aggregate value of the stories for government) in return it was offering the privilege of your story being kept forever. Which in cost terms is no insubstantial offer. It also assumed it was giving people value in terms of the reform agenda set out by funders and the CLMG report and other policies. Public value had therefore been secured – the money had enabled positive social outcomes indv. Copyright form – auditing the agreement to assign copyright as a way of solidifying understanding as if something for something (though not specified on the form) had been exchanged.   It was supposed to crisp-ish.

Helen Graham Whose story is it anyway?: 'Public' and 'Ownership' Helen Graham Whose story is it anyway?: 'Public' and 'Ownership' Presentation Transcript

  • Whose story is it anyway? ‘ Public’ and ‘Ownership’ Museums belong to everybody. They exist to serve the public. (Museum Association, Code of Ethics, 2.0) Helen Graham School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies University of Leeds [email_address]
    • Introduce my current project ‘Intellectual Property and Informed Consent’ (with Rhiannon Mason and Nigel Nayling)
    • Explore Museum Associate Code of Ethics – ‘public’, ‘ownership’ and ‘balance’
    • Locate Museum ethics within wider renegotiations of the relationship between individual and the state and between individual and individual through web logics
    • Introduce key issues of copyright – and how they are being challenged for digital objects
    • Explore technical expression of ‘balance’ through a museum Digital Storytelling project
    • Thoughts and questions coming out of the research
    • Lots of questions and thoughts from you!
    • But first… (audience participation)
    What this presentation all about?
  • It’s the museum’s object It’s still your object (and I should have a say over how it’s used)
  • It’s the museum’s story It’s still your story (and I should have a say over how it’s used)
  • Why IP and informed consent? Approaches ‘ property’ and ‘ownership‘ […] ‘conceals social relations’ (Strathern 1999 p. 144) AHRC Art on Tyneside project, 2008-2010 http://artontyneside.wordpress.com/ What is the Intellectual property and Informed Consent project about? (with Rhiannon Mason, Newcastle University and Nigel Nayling, University of Wales, Trinity St David) http://partnershipandparticipation.wordpress.com/
  • What is a museum? Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society . UK Museums Association A non-profitmaking, permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, and open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment. ICOM A public or private nonprofit agency or institution organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational or aesthetic purposes, which, utilizing a professional staff, owns or utilizes tangible objects, cares for them, and exhibits them to the public on a regular basis. US Museum and Library Services Act 2010
  • What is a museum? Objects (Safeguard, conserve, care for) Access for individuals On behalf of society ‘ Rival’ nature of museum resources – they need to be protected from users for ‘the public’ because they can be used up
  • Actors Museum Professionals Governing Body Society Public Community Users Audience Everyone Museums belong to everybody . They exist to serve the public. (2.0)
  • ‘ Balance’ Between generations Collections are a tangible link between the past, present and future. Museums balance the interests of different generations by safeguarding collections, which may include buildings and sites. Balance the duty of maintaining and enhancing collections for future generations with that of providing appropriate services to today’s public.
  • ‘ Balance’ Between specific individuals and the public Museums try to develop constructive relationships with people who contributed to collections, with representatives of these people, their heirs and cultural descendants, balancing responsibilities to a range of stakeholders. Gifts and bequests of items are usually made in the expectation that items will be preserved. Museums reconcile the wider public interest with that expectation. (7.0) Exercise caution when accepting conditions attached to acquisitions, particularly those involving gifts and bequests. Discuss expectations and clarify in writing the precise terms on which all parties are accepting transfer of title. Specify unambiguously to donors the museum’s intentions regarding such matters as: the long-term retention of items; display; storage and public acknowledgement. (5.17)
  • Public not crowd (or audience) Tarde (1901) – mediated / not co-present Warner (2002) – ‘social totality’ and mode of address, called into being Public isn’t manifest, it is an idea and a principle. Therefore, the MA Code of Ethics suggest that the notion of public interest needs to be interpreted by the museum. Museum as mediator calls into being the public which it then interprets in balance to specific individual and groups. Questions of legitimacy? You will need to exercise judgment in applying the principles set out in the Code of Ethics for Museums. A number of sometimes competing considerations may need to be balanced. An ethical decision does not usually depend on a choice between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ but between competing ‘rights’. P. 4 You will need to exercise judgment in applying the principles set out in the Code of Ethics for Museums. A number of sometimes competing considerations may need to be balanced. An ethical decision does not usually depend on a choice between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ but between competing ‘rights’. (MA 2008,p. 4)
  • Symmetrical ‘ public’? Consider restricting access to certain specified items where unrestricted access may cause offence or distress to actual or cultural descendants. (3.15)   Recognise that individuals or communities may have a stronger claim to certain items than the museum. (5.6)  
  • Public as centre Decision are made by museum’s governance structure in name of public for public Some individuals and communities rights are more powerful than the evocation of public accountability and transparency. Guardianship via ownership for public Public as centre is not holding Recognize ongoing rights of those offering donations Avoid reservations on donations Consultation with communities Restricting access if access causes offence to specific communities
  • Democratic deficit There is nothing ‘post’ about colonialism as a view of the world that persists. Encounters between museum professionals and external individuals, particularly those from Diaspora communities, still bear traces of coloniser meeting colonised. (Lynch and Alberti 2010, p. 14) Welcomed to the invited space, participants are subtly encouraged to assume the position of ‘beneficiaries’ or ‘clients’, which influences what people are perceived to be able to contribute, or entitled to know and decide. (Lynch and Alberti, 2010, p . 14) The conceptualisation of community that dominates in the heritage sector aids and reinforces the processes of insubordination and the affirmation of the status of expertise. Indeed, the way that ideas of community have become intertwined with heritage discourses and practice has rendered communities, as much as their heritage, as subject to management and preservation. That is, community or group identity becomes the object of regulation through the heritage management process, not only reinforcing the power differentials in community–expert relations, but also ensuring the legitimacy of essentialist notions of ‘community’ and their continual misrecognition. (Wateron and Smith 2010, p.11)
  • Democratic deficit Collaborative Museums (2011) (eds.) Golding and Modest Shared Authority/Radical Trust (2010) Lynch and Alberti
    • ‘ insatiable’ (Bennett 1995)
    • Rights and representation
    • Political rationality - reform
    ‘ redemptive’ (Dibley 2005) Paul Hamlyn Foundation, ‘Museums and Communities as Active Partners’ project http://www.phf.org.uk/page.asp?id=1125
  • New settlement? Individual and state New articulations of ‘ political rationalities’ for museums
  • Museums? Elites – Audit – Public Value Privatisation – services – consumers Volunteerism – associative democracy Self-determination/ self-expression Organisation plus more ‘ participation Professional Judgment?
  • Challenge to expertise and where it is located (wikipedia) New expectations of ‘access’ to content and use of content (Lessig 2008) Locales made up of participation where ‘reform’ is not a priority Web logics
  • Copyright ‘ [Property]…provides security of material context—that is, it allows one to know with some certainty that some set of resources, those that belong to her, will be available for her to use to execute her plans over time’. (Benkler 2006, p. 143) Copyright as a form of property. Incentives to produce – by the possibility of securing profit. (Lessig / Benkler) ‘ That is, we are willing to have some inefficient lack of access to information every day, in exchange for getting more people involved in information production over time’. (Benkler 2006, p. 37)
  • Copyright Value is produced in different ways than propriety (Google, Amazon) (Benkler; Lessig) Copyright laws treat every use as if it is commercial (it’s not and non-commercial use still can produce commercial value) Was an RO (Read Only) culture, now RW (Read Write) culture. (Lessig 2008) In the context of information, knowledge, and culture, because of the nonrivalry of information and its characteristic as input as well as output of the production process, the commons provides substantially greater security of context than it does when material resources, like parks or roadways, are at stake. (Benkler 2006, p. 146) As to information, then, we can say with a high degree of confidence that a more expansive commons improves individual autonomy, while enclosure of the public do- main undermines it. (Benkler 2006, p. 146)
  • Museums and ‘commons’
  • Museum as authority…not commons? Brand / central node Nina Simon
    • the power to set the rules of behavior
    • the power to preserve and exploit user-generated content
    • the power to promote and feature preferred content
    • the power to define the types of interaction available to users
    http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2008/10/future-of-authority-platform-power.html ‘ Value’ generated passing through museum as mediator…’public’
  • What is a digital story?
  • At their heart, museums are all about culture too: their bread-and-butter skills are in collecting artefacts and stories about cultures, discussing and interpreting them with the public and generating debate, learning, enjoyment and understanding from them: exactly the processes and skills we need to explore the similarities and differences of identity in modern society, and nurture the roots of citizenship and cohesion . (Cmlg 2006, p. 4) […]how to define (or create) a sense of belonging; what we mean by communities when we’re talking about culture; how do we get those communities to understand each other ; and how do we bend the parallel lines of different cultures to bring them together? (Clmg 2006, p. 4)
  • The Culture Shock! project has used the motivational power of museums and collections to make a difference directly in the lives of more than 550 people who have created their own digital stories as part of the project, and indirectly many thousands more who have viewed the stories online or at broadcast events across the region. In 2005, Culture:Unlimited (formerly the Campaign for Learning in Museums and Galleries (CLMG)) set out, in their manifesto “Culture Shock”, a vision for how museums could contribute to cultural identity, cohesion and citizenship , and how this was relevant to the core purpose of museums. The vision suggested that by collecting new stories and artefacts , and by storytelling and showcasing people’s experiences museums can ‘cross the barricades between cultures’ . My involvement – Art on Tyneside project http://artontyneside.wordpress.com/digital-stories/
  • Value
    • (Value)
    • The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something:
      • y our support is of great value
    • The material or monetary worth of something
    • […]
    • (Values)
    • The principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
    • (OED)
  • Museum Collections Management Individual Personal story Users New knowledge Engaging displays Citizenship Cohesion Self-esteem Audit/Public value Project Timeline End of project During project Future Museum Governance Policy Copyright Funder
  • Contract…not quits ‘ Something for something’? Crispness (Benkler 2006, p. 109)   The crispness is a functional requirement of the price system. It derives from the precision and formality of the medium of exchange—currency—and the ambition to provide refined representations of the comparative value of marginal decisions through denomination in an exchange medium that represents these incremental value differences. Similarly, managerial hierarchies require a crisp definition of who should be doing what, when, and how, in order to permit the planning and coordination process to be effective. Social exchange, on the other hand, does not require the same degree of crispness at the margin. As Maurice Godelier put it in The Enigma of the Gift, “the mark of the gift between close friends and relatives . . . is not the absence of obligations, it is the absence of ‘calculation.’. P. 109
  • ‘ I wish I was here in 100 years’ to see what’s happened to me [my story]’ (Participant) ‘ Oh! My God, I’m there! [in the collection of the museum service]’ (Participant) ‘ Leaving something of myself behind, that’s amazing; hard to imagine really that when these kids have grandkids and when they have grandkids, I’ll still be there talking about [my story]’ (Participation) (Culture:Unlimited 2011, p. 31
  • Culture Shock! has raised fundamental questions of control, participation, moral authority, democracy and trust between the organisation(s) and their audience/participants. For example, although each participant was asked to sign a copyright waiver, which in a legal/technical sense gave control over their story to the museum concerned, this was not the way participants saw it in reality. Their view, instead, was that they had given something of themselves to the museum(s), and that it remained precious and they held a strong stake it how it was used thereafter. This project created a community of stakeholders, rather than suppliers of stories and, rather like the transformation of the music and publishing industries, the old structures for protecting assets and controlling their use (copyright, licensing, loan agreements, legal ownership) began to dissolve. (Culture:Unlimited 2011, p. 7) Contract…not crisp
  • Museum Collections Management Individual Personal story Users New knowledge Engaging displays Citizenship Cohesion Self-esteem Audit/Public value Project Timeline End of project During project Future Museum Governance Policy Copyright Funder
  • Conclusions: public and commons? Digital Storytelling project – particular enmeshing of value/value. Can these lines of value be connected differently? Stories treated like an object as if ‘rival’ – assumption that it was this assigning copyright as equivalent of ‘transfer of title’ which created sense of the story being valued. Policy/Funder perspective copyright – limit indicators of self-expression/self-esteem/self-determination. Audit/Public value – record of understanding – danger ‘the form’ de-valuing personal nature of encounter (introducing crispness into social/gift exchange). Treated as zero sum. (Other options license to collectively accessed site retain control). Positive outcomes project treated like a public value problem – how to maintain relationships (not if web logics used). Potential to pluralise points of engagement – extending legitimization of interpretation of ‘public’. Pluralise logics to include both ‘public’ (rival) and ‘commons’ logics (non-rival).
  • Real things at stake…right now Democratic deficit – cannot be solved as such, it is core to what museums are. But…detail matters. What makes museums ‘public’ is being renegotiated right now through technical changes. (Copyright agreements, private hire, catering operation, consultancy….). How lines of value (importance and finances) connected will be key to future imaginings of the legitimacy of museums as interpreters of ‘public’.
  • Bibliography Benkler, Y. (2006) The Wealth of Networks . New Haven: Yale University Press. Available at: http://www.benkler.org/wonchapters.html Bennett, T. (1995) The Birth of the Museum . London: Routledge. Clmg (n.d. c.2006?) Culture Shock: Tolerance, respect and Understanding…and museums. London: Home Office. Available at: www. culture unlimited.org/pdfs/CS-Main.pdf Culture:Unlimited (2010) Culture Shock! Evaluation. Available at: http://www.cultureshock.org.uk/benefits-and-outcome.html Dibley, B. (2005) ‘ The museum ’ s redemption: Contact zones, government and the limits of reform ’ , International Journal of Cultural Studies 8 (1), pp. 5-27 Gannon, Z. and Lawson, N. (2008) Co-production: The Modernisation of public services by staff and users . London: Compass. Golding, V. anf Modest, W. (2011 in press) Collaborative Museums: Lessig, L.. (2008) Remix: Making Art and Commerce in the Hybrid Economy . London: Bloomsbury. Lynch, B. and Alberti, S. (2010) ‘ Legacies of prejudice: racism, co-production and radical trust in the museum ’ , Museum Management and Curatorship , 25 (1), 13-35. Merriman, N. (2008) ‘ Museum Collections and Sustainability ’ , Cultural Trends , 17 (1): 3-21. Museum Association (2008) Code of Ethics. London: MA. Available at: http://www.museumsassociation.org/ethics/code-of-ethics Simon, N. (2008) ‘The Future of Authority: Platform Power’. Available at: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2008/10/future-of-authority-platform-power.html Simon, N. (2010) The Participatory Museum . Available at: http://www.participatorymuseum.org/ Tarde, G. (1901) ‘The Public and the Crowd’ Warner, M. (2002) ‘Publics and Counterpublics’, Public Culture 14 (1): 49-90 Waterton, E. and Smith, L (2010) The recognition and misrecognition of Community Heritage’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 16 (1): 4-16