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Web technologies & cultural communication

Web technologies & cultural communication






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  • Yes exactly - what a bright future it is for cultural collaboration without traditional gatekeepers.
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  • Thankyou for inviting me to speak here today. I work in the online area at the National Film and Sound Archive. I’m a content producer / manager and this talk has created a brief but welcome opportunity for me to stop and think abut the environment I work in every day. I’ll look at some examples of social media that I think work well, and also about some of our experiences at the National Film and Sound Archive which hopefully you might be able to learn from.
  • But before that, it’s worth looking at the big picture of what change the web is bringing into our lives, in the political, economic and social contexts.   There’s no doubt there’s been rapid change. This 1961 IBM computer is a far cry from the PC’s and mobiles of today.   http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_virginia/2898506631/
  • This is a visualisation of the internet by a group called the Opte Project. It is a real representation not just a pretty picture.
  • Described variously as devastating, an explosion, a digital deluge, a revolution, and likened to the Enlightenment, whatever change the web is bringing, it’s here and there’s not much point saying whether we like it or not, whether we should ‘adopt it’ or not.   Adaptation, innovation and experimentation is the rule in a period of rapid change. “We’re experiencing the biggest media petri dish in four centuries,” says Paul Saffo, a visiting scholar at Stanford University who specialises in technology’s effect on society.
  • But to adapt to change you have to accept the change before you can redraft your map. It’s a little bit like Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grief. And if your response to web technology is any further up this list than acceptance, you might be experiencing difficulty not just adopting new tools and adapting, but retaining relevance.
  • Late American writer Susan Sontag said, “Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past present and future Sontag, Susan, 1966, Thinking against Oneself: Reflections on Cioran , in ‘Styles of Radical Will’. Picador, NY, USA.
  • Some of the changes to the traditional political and media landscapes are exemplified by this website (slide of Ushihidi) http://www.ushahidi.com/ . Ushihihi was developed spontaneously in response to reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. The traditional lines of communication through media and government had failed. A group of web developers, some working in Kenya and some in Europe, built the platform, in collaboration with Kenyan citizen journalists.
  • The website mapped incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country based on reports submitted via the web and mobile phone. It had 45,000 users in Kenya and ensured the attention of the world outside.
  • The initial group of volunteers has become an organisation. that continues to develop the platform as a free, open source application that anyone can use to collect and visualize information. To use their own tag line, they’re democratising information, increasing transparency, and lowering the barriers for people to share stories.   There’s clearly an opportunity here for the mapping of cultural heritage sites and enabling people to share their stories.
  • The web is also transforming our economy, even if it’s still hard to measure. To take one example, technology research group Forrester estimates that online retail sales will hit $28 billion this year, up 17.5 per cent from last year, with one quarter of those sales - worth an estimated $7 billion - going overseas (Zappone, 2010). http://www.smh.com.au/business/retailers-face-hit-as-shoppers-go-online-20101013-16if9.html?autostart=1
  • In economics , disintermediation is the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain : cutting out the middle person. Buyers skip wholesalers and retailers to buy directly from the manufacturer and presumably pay less. It’s been argued that the Internet modifies the supply chain due to the market transparency it provides.
  • It also changes the retail experience, completely. I bought a washing machine recently. I bought a new one online in twenty minutes from start to finish: I researched brands and prices, found a supplier, read the reviews of other customers, made the payment and organised delivery for 7am the following morning. In the time I would have taken to locked up the house and got in the car it was done. There may be some people who prefer navigating a shopping centre car park, trying to find floor staff in a goods store and then putting up with their spiel – which may or may not tell you what you want to know -while you’re trying to compare prices in your head and smile at them at the same time. Back at home, I could compare features, brands and prices with a click of a mouse
  • and quickly check customer ratings and comments for each one. Some of them were quite detailed and very useful. There’s a saying in the film industry “ Everybody wants to be the director!” (throw hands, roll eyes, pull hair). And now they can be. When I bought my washing machine I was directing my own retail experience, I felt more in control than if I had gone into somebody’s shop and listened to their version of the product description. I controlled this experienced and I liked it, a lot.   And I recommend you visit this site and others like it as they exemplify a quality of user experience that we should be aspiring to whether you are offering cultural heritage or washing machines.
  • The web is also changing how we do our jobs and what jobs we do. Internet and social change commentator Clay Shirkey noted that the printing press made reading so valuable to everybody that it stopped being valuable as a profession and put the scribes out of work. Shirky describes this as the first case of mass amateurisation. This is an article about how YouTube and other self publishing social media sites has enabled disintermediation – the musicians from anywhere in the world could auditioned by submitting a video on YouTube.
  • This is most challenging to those who feel their jobs are threatened and their professional skills are being undermined. I’m calling this cultural disintermediation. As expressed here – it’s not always a positive – they feel ‘under siege’.
  • There is debate everywhere about the positives and negatives of who gets a voice and how to balance that with the traditional voices of authority – broadcasters, editors, authorship, curatorship.
  • As Marcus Westbury responds here, ‘despite the risks, the case for the more inclusive approach is overwhelming. It doesn’t come from within the museums but from the changing world outside. ‘ So these significant new communication tools are inextricably entwined with social change that is about people wanting to be the participant, the creator, the centre of it.  
  • What exactly does web technology ‘do’ to cultural heritage? In an online environment, collections become content;   Historic houses, science museum artifacts and audiovisual archives all become digital media assets (images) and some text held together by html. A web developer I work with calls text ‘lumpy bits’ or ‘text chunks. It’s a technical term.
  •   The benefit of digitisation is that a collection item or artifact, in becoming content, becomes infinitely replicable, and more accessible, sharable and communicable. It emphasizes replication and transmission rather than uniqueness. Digitisation also shifts the emphasis from the material object or physical collection or site to information and ideas.  
  • Because people like creating dichotomies, I’ll offer this one – “Data versus narrative”’ I find it useful to think about the two key ways that you can put to use your digitised content. Use your warehouse – the data – or build a boutique – the narrative. I think we need to do both. Some people might prefer this (stories website SLIDE) to this (SLIDE open data)
  • individual cultural organisations have stories to tell about their collections that are unique and finite and not at all flexible but rich and engaging as all good stories are.
  • But as a major archive our collection database is a powerful tool that if offered as open data online could enable a million more uses than we could offer by building expensive websites – uses we’d never think of ourselves, uses that could create and enable invaluable new ideas and works.
  • This guy might have a few Kubler Ross stages still to work through in adaptation, but I think it’s true that the best web experiences and use of web tools is when the online offer is well designed to be aligned with and in service to the offline experience, because at the end of the day that’s the one that’s real. How well the two interact and are aligned is often the cause of a web project’s success or failure.
  • In 2008 the Brooklyn Museum mounted Click ! - A Crowd Curated Exhibition’ which connected the online exhibition process with actual physical exhibition beautifully. ‘Click!’ gave the public the job of ranking photographs for an in-gallery display in 2008. The exhibition was inspired by the critically acclaimed book The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki who asserts that a diverse crowd is often wiser at making decisions than expert individuals.   The project began with an open call to artists for photographs on the theme of ‘‘Changing Faces of Brooklyn.’
  • An online forum invited people to evaluate the works submitted; when you registered you were asked to rate your own knowledge and expertise and invited to rank the works,
  • The ranked photos were then installed in the exhibition with their size reflecting their ranking. You can still view the results online, in a kind of data visualisation. I think this worked so well because both the online elements and offline could be experienced totally independently of each other but still as completely satisfying experiences and clearly completely connected. Also, the theme of the exhibition - which through the photos emerged as being about gentrification of inner urban areas – was one that the many people – not just Brooklyn locals - could relate to and have been affected by or have an opinion on. In other words they have probably already had a discussion about it somewhere else and could bring this to the experience. This is really important. If you’re not starting with this you really need to factor in something to lower the barrier to participation in your exhibition or online experience.   I participated in the online component. It was a well managed pleasurable experience - thought provoking, satisfying and addictive.
  • Then I heard Shelley Bernstein from the Brooklyn Museum talk about the onsite component and it sounds like it was a huge success as well by every criteria (numbers, engagement, feedback). Shelley has left a blog post that describes exactly how they designed and ran the exhibit and I recommend you make use of it as valuable information well worth a read.
  • Crowd Sourcing Crowd sourcing is a way that curators and interpreters can collaborate with subject experts using social media.
  • A major Australian crowd sourcing project was the newspaper correction project run by the National Library. It was an enormous success and the project manager has produced some very useful information about running a crowd sourcing project. The results surprised the National Library and the world. In Nov 2009 over 6000 users have been actively correcting text each month and have corrected 7 million lines of text. They have also been using the other features especially tagging to further improve the quality and depth of the article information. By Oct 2010 – 20 million lines corrected.
  • It was an enormous success and the project manager has produced some very useful information about running a crowd sourcing project. I recommend you access her presentation on Slideshare for the full story.
  • COGNITIVE SURPLUS Clay Shirky in his new book Cognitive Surplus’ is about how the web can enable grand projects such as this one and Ushihidi using untapped potential of volunteers. He estimates there are a trillion hours a year available that could be employed on such projects.
  • User generated contribution on your website can take many forms and include tagging, comments and adding descriptive information of metadata. The Powerhouse Museum has an online collection database, which like most, has some incomplete records. In April 2009, a scientist found a record for a collection item described as an ‘‘H7507 Inclinometer, (also called dipping compass or dip needle), made by Gambey, Paris.’’ The notice said that the object record was ‘‘currently incomplete”. The scientist could identify the object and complete and update the information record.
  • From publishing their collection database online and allowing people to contribute, the Powerhouse have learnt a lot about their own collection including how people see their collection and that what others value is quite different to what their own curators value in the collection and how they might describe it. Unexhibited items have proven to be the most popular online, and people’s tags differed from curators’ descriptive terms. The Powerhouse’s Seb Chan says it has changed how they write our own collection records.  
  • In our own collection, tthe National Film and Sound Archive discovered a piece of film that was actually older than then oldest known film taken in Australia. We digitised it and put it on the australianscreen website, asking our web audience if they had any information about where the film might have been taken and who the vaudeville performer might have been.
  • We had an enthusiastic response, with some useful information offered.
  • Open data lets people do things with information that is interpretive and thereby bring more layers of meaning and aggregate records  
  • Trove was launched early this year by the National Library and has aggregated over 90 million records from deep linked collection information from Australian libraries museums, archives and galleries.
  • Trove was designed to: provide a single point of access to the resources of the deep web facilitate access to a significantly greater range of resources from major sources, including selected digitised material freely available online support searching of, and access to, full-text content enhance ease of discovery by providing improved relevance ranking, refinement by facets, grouping of all editions of the same book (this is known as FRBR-like grouping) and exploitation of thesauri engage with communities and individuals through annotation services ensure that relevant information is not missed in a search by reducing the need to search material-specific discovery services separately provide a platform for niche services to query a vast resource of Australian metadata and adapt if for their own needs.
  • It would be fantastic if records about cultural heritage sites were added to this search tool to add another layer and provide further context.
  • The History Wall is an example of merged data – still in Beta, it is part of an experimental project exploring ways of representing history online. Starting with a curated set of 100 'defining moments' it assembles a contextual cloud drawing together date-identified data from a range of sources including the National Library's People Australia and Australian Newspapers projects, the Australian Dictionary of Biography , the collection of the National Museum of Australia, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Flickr collections of the National Archives of Australia and the Powerhouse Museum, and the discussions of a historians' workshop held at the Museum in November 2009. Just like history itself, no two views of the History Wall are ever quite the same. Random elements are built into the selection and display of the content. Just reload the page for another perspective. Once again – if a resource like this was also drawing on broader historical information about cultural heritage the richer and more useful it would be. Interpretation is about context and merged and aggregated data can provide unexpected context and juxtapositions.
  • Information overload is a serious problem in the social web, and there are a lot of companies trying to tackle the problem. One of them is Paper.li, a service that organizes the links shared on Twitter into mini-newspapers. With just a few APIs, Paper.li has figured out a way to curate the most popular links on the web. The application connects to your Twitter account or you choose a keyword or Twitter list as the basis of your new newspaper. Paper.li can generate a summary of the most popular and relevant links based on your keyword or friend list, and it is updated every day, week or month, depending on your preference.
  • Digital Humanities Now works in a similar way – it’s a real-time, crowdsourced publication for the digital humanities community that selects articles, blog posts, projects, tools, collections, and announcements worthy of attention. It’s automatically generated - created by ingesting the Twitter feeds of hundreds of scholars followed by @dhnow (a list of scholars taken from this digital humanities Twitter list ), processing these feeds through Twittertim.es to generate a more narrow feed of common interest and debate, and reformatting that feed on this site, in part to allow for further (non-Twitter) discussions. Digital Humanities Now was created by Dan Cohen , assisted by Jeremy Boggs , and is a production of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University . If you work in digital humanities or a related field and would like to join the editorial board of Digital Humanities Now , send a reply to @dancohen on Twitter and he’ll add you to the list. For more on the thoughts behind the creation of DHN , see “ Introducing Digital Humanities Now .”
  • Blogs are an easy way to provide a lively, informal source of information with the opportunity for a two way communication through comments. Blog interfaces are easy to use, so anyone can post and maintain their own content. They’re easy to update and shareable through RSS feeds.
  • You can blog about how you engage with the issues of your business – Powerhouses’s Fresh and New and Brooklyn’s Blog provide a rich source of information for people in the same business and an interesting behind the scenes look for those who aren’t.
  • There’s also the collection blog – photo of the day and object of the week.
  • Or there is the knowledge blog - organisations broader theme or mission and bring insights to it that are more external looking such as the Paley Centre’s blog from its curators, on broadcasting and media. Their curators have specialist knowledge and the writing skills to share it, it’s a strength and they use it well.
  • Like with all these new web tools, Twitter just depends what you do with it. Yes there are plenty of trivia. But it also seems to me that the most generous people in my professional areas of interest are on there sharing valuable information – sometimes via a succinct but insightful 140 character comment, but most often via links to other content – their blog post, a conference paper, a new report, a news article. Annabel Crabbe suggests looking at like a newspaper put together by your friends – and your Twitter stream will reflect the quality of the people you choose to follow so if its full of rubbish, un follow them and search for the people with the goods.
  • Don’t underestimate the power and use of some networking tools to build communities and share information. low cost and rapid or real time sharing of ideas, knowledge, and skills has made collaborative work easier. Internet allows groups to easily form
  • This website is not only a great resource for people working in the area of cultural communication but Nings are a great tool for cheaply easily and rapidly building online networks and collaborations.
  • People are afraid of what happens when the masses arrive. Will they steal stuff, say rude things? Generally behave badly. In my experience, getting people to come is the hard bit and when they do come they are incredibly well behaved. But really, the hard bit is getting the participation happening. You need a strategy and clear purpose to entice them. Its ‘pretty much the same as designing an exhibition, making choices, creating a pathway for people, or a story to tell that gives them an experience of something like CLICK! the Brooklyn Museum exhibition – you’re exercising your knowledge but also letting people share theirs.
  • NFSA kicked off a lot of its first social media activity with a project based on its Sounds of Australia registry. We have a wonderful sound collection and we wanted to promote it. Nice idea but not the easiest starting point. Promoting anything for its own sake rather than what it offers people in a specific environment is wrong. On top of that, the sound collection is diverse and esoteric - not all rock music and arias. There won’t be an global audience with pre-existing knowledge of or engagement with the collection material and there is no central idea or theme behind it to pull it together. Like there was for the theme of gentrification for the Click exhibition. The registry of recorded sound as the unifying concept is also a hard concept to communicate. It is a curatorial, archival concept not easily understood among the general population. So we achieved many worthwhile things individually -
  • Publishing sound titles on australianscreen for the first time
  • Setting up our first blog
  • A YouTube Channel with a video sampling the registry sounds
  • And some beautiful photos from the artifacts collection which we published on Flickr because there was already a community on Flickr around ‘vintage sound equipment.
  • we developed our Facebook and Twitter presence,
  • using both to send people to the material we were posting on Flickr, YouTube and the blog. But there was no narrative, or theme to bring it together in a connected experience for audiences. It needed to be designed just like an exhibition. There was enormous value in the individual outputs but an opportunity lost to really be interpretive and offer an overarching narrative to hold it together.
  • The web is measurable in many wonderful ways.
  • One you put content on the web, you can measure it very easily. Using Get Clicky, Google Analytics and many other cheap or free tools, we can find out who is coming, from where, what they look at, how long for and where they go to from here. You can click through to see IP address, how many schools, how many from overseas, by following where they came from we discover blogs and forums and pages we never knew existed that we share interests with. Snowy hydro forums, roller skaters club in Russia. Your audience is not who you think they are. This poses plenty of challenging questions – who are you doing it for? What do you want to communicate? Your knowledge? Just showing off? Or giving people what they want? Web metrics can inform your outcomes, and help justify and therefore resource your efforts.
  • On a final practical note I want to mention this paper by Tim Sherratt who is currently at the National Museum working on that history wall I showed earlier. This paper, which can be found on Scribd, despite seeming archive orientated is worth a look as he describes many web tools with lots of simple and practical information about how to use them, with lists of further resources.

Web technologies & cultural communication Web technologies & cultural communication Presentation Transcript

  • Web technologies & cultural communication Kate Stone Online Manager, National Film & Sound Archive @kate__stone @NFSAOnline
  • I IBM Machine, City Hall, 1961. Library of Virginia. - sourced from Flickr Commons. http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_virginia/2898506631/
  • L’espace du Internet, Musee de la Communications, Berlin. Source: Flickr user dalbera
  • Photo source: Flickr user zebramaedchen
  • The virtual revolution Map of the Internet, the Opte Project, project creator Barrett Lyon http://opte.org/maps/
  • “ The biggest media petri dish in four centuries” Paul Saffo, visiting scholar at Stanford University Devastation Explosion Revolution Enlightenment Rapid change Digital deluge
  • Change requires acceptance in order to adapt and adopt
    • denial
    • anger
    • bargaining
    • depression
    • acceptance  
    • Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief
    • “ Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past, present, and future.”
    • - Susan Sontag
    • Sontag, Susan, 1966, Thinking against Oneself: Reflections on Cioran , in ‘Styles of Radical Will’. Picador, NY, USA.
  • Ushahidi means “testimony”
  • List of projects
  • Democratising information Increasing transparency Lowering barriers for people to share stories
  • Economic change http://www.smh.com.au/business/retailers-face-hit-as-shoppers-go-online-20101013-16if9.html?autostart=1
  • Disintermediation Time poor = cut out the middle person It’s what the web does.
  • Retail economy online
  • Cultural disintermediation
  • Death of gatekeepers
    • “ This has left the cultural gatekeepers – the television executives, newspaper owners, book publishers, record companies and movie producers – under siege like never before.”
    • – Nick Galvin October 10, 2009, Sydney Morning Herald
    • http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/the-death-of-a-gatekeeper-20091010-gra9.html
  • Who gets to judge? Who gets a voice?
  • Museums: Cathedrals or Town squares? http://www.marcuswestbury.net/2010/09/30/cathedrals-vs-town-squares/ “ The idea of uncontested authority is evaporating”
  • Museums: Cathedrals or Town squares?
    • future museum-goers won't be satisfied by simply looking at art, but rather prefer to participate in it or interact with it.’
    • "You never lose the curatorial voice. You add other voices.”
    • - Judith H. Dobrzynski, Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2010
    • http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704554104575435823569073064.html
  • ‘ Collections’ become ‘content’
  • ‘ Visitors’ become ‘users’
  • ‘ Research outcomes’ become ‘search results’
  • Data v stories
    • “ The two cultures of the contemporary world are the culture of data and the culture of narrative.”
    • – William Germano
    • http://chronicle.com/article/What-Are-Books-Good-For-/124563/
    • ‘ No one can have a "museum experience" without stepping foot in a museum. Let's just get that out of the way.’
    • - Curt Hopkins, Read Write Web, August 10, 2010
    • http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/i_dont_know_much_about_art_but_i_know_whats_online.php
  • Exhibition – online & onsite
  • Crowd Sourcing
  • Crowd sourcing example
    • Aucnxmz,xc
    National Library of Australia – The Australian newspapers project Text correction, 6000 users a month have corrected 7 million lines of text. Also adding tags to quality and depth of information. By October 2010 – 20 million lines corrected
  • Motivators Enjoyment, interesting and fun, personal goals, group outcome. Work that matters in the big picture.
  • Crowdsourcing Strategies for Archives Rose Holley, NLA 8-12 November 2010 Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/RHmarvellous/naa-archives-20-week-roseholleycrowdsourcingnov-2010
  • A trillion hours a year for crowd sourcing
  • User Generated Contributions
  • Merging and aggregating
  • Trove
  • Trove search ‘Melbourne Cup’
  • National Museum of Australia’s History Wall http://labs.nma.gov.au/wall/
  • Paper.li Collection Fishing Daily http://paper.li/tag/collectionfishing/
  • A real time, fully automated, crowd sourced publication
  • Blogs
    • Informal
    • Easy to use
    • Two way communication
    • Flexible
    • Challenges: developing readership, not just being a marketing tool.
  • Blogs
    • Fresh and New – information about the business http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/dmsblog/
    • Brooklyn Museum http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/community/blogosphere/bloggers/tag/click
  • Powerhouse Museum Blog
  • http://www.paleycenter.org/blogs
  • Twitter
    • Less demanding of time
    • Generosity in community with information
    • A gold mine of links
    • sometimes significant moments of community – Twitter events.
  • Twitter wealth: search & link
  • Technical/web tools make collaboration easy
    • low cost and rapid or real time sharing of ideas, knowledge, and skills has made collaborative work easier.
    • Internet allows groups to easily form
  • Low cost easy collaboration tools
  • NFSA’s experiments
  • Be prepared to fail
    • Need to experiment because it is new
    • Need to be allowed to fail because its new
    • We don’t really know what works yet
    • Start with some cheap quick experiments
    • Get to know your online audience
    • Then find them and let them know you’re in the space
  • Facebook
  • Most powerful web tool of all metrics
    • - By Dr Tim Sherratt, October 2009
    • Source: Scribd,
    • http://www.scribd.com/doc/24402148/Emerging-technologies-for-the-provision-of-access-to-archives-issues-challenges-and-ideas?in_collection=2678771
  • Thank you