Forget the objects, tell the stories

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A brief presentation about the importance of storytelling - particularly in the contexts of museums and museum objects.

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  • I actually woke up this morning and decided I wasn’t going to talk about this after all.\n
  • It’ll be good if I get through the session without ranting..\n...although there are places when this kind of object view is necessary, it’s been used far too much as a smokescreen for “GETTING OBJECTS ONLINE”. I’ve been responsible too - but it’s time to move on and recognise the real value of this stuff..\n
  • i.e. \nMUSEUM OBJECTS ARE BRILLIANT!\n
  • First: me.\nI wear lots of hats. These are some of them.\n
  • Lots of hats = inevitably ends up in a complicated and confusing hat.\n
  • ..my talk today is the product of a confusing hat. \nIt’s a bit of an amalgam of thoughts. And I only started it at 7am this morning, having killed off my previous idea while things were in my back-brain overnight.\nSo..forgive me if it’s a bit..random..\n
  • So here’s the challenge. A trillion (more) web pages and an audience who is fickle, social, attention-divided, time-poor and generally difficult to get hold of.\n
  • ..and from a “digital content owner’s” perspective. \nFor a shopping site, the action = add to basket\nFor cultural heritage, the action is often “engagement”...\n(I’m ignoring the high % of people who are just looking to see when you’re open...)\nEngagement is harder to measure\n
  • So the question becomes..\n1. how do you get people to your stuff? (a whole other talk about SEO n things)\n2. how do you get them to stay, to share, to engage?\n
  • So here’s my hypothesis...\n..I’m going to throw in a few heritage examples to try and illustrate what I’m going on about.\n\nIt may not work. But hey, fail quickly :-)\n
  • First up: personal, emotional, engaging content.\nThe people who do this well are those who are willing to open up and engage with their users emotionally\n
  • > George Cavan was a sergeant major in the Highland Light Infantry. \n> While away at training camp the orders came through to dispatch to France. \n> On 29th March 1918, the train he was on with his troops went through his home station but did not stop there. He threw out onto the station a matchbox containing a note to his family. \n> Someone picked up the matchbox and delivered it to the family. \n> George was killed just on 13th April 1918, a few days after arriving in France \n
  • “Dear wife and bairns, Off to France - love to you all, Daddy”\n\nThe object - the matchbox - takes on a whole meaning once the context is revealed\n
  • Held in The Great War Archive, University of Oxford.\nThe digital representation of this is pretty awful. \nIt’s badly designed, the usability is poor...\n\n..but - although the object is on its own almost nothing, the story it tells is immense\n
  • Personal, emotional content is challenging, especially for CH. \nI remember doing a panel session with The Smithsonian in about 2007. They’d just launched their blog, and talked about how they had a *7-stage* content sign-off to go live on a post.\nThe Brooklyn Museum were in the same session, and talked about how they just went live, typos and all.\nGuess who is generally recognised as being the more dynamic...? This is about risk, about being open, about recognising it’s ok to present unknowns.\n
  • Object stories is a fantastic example of personal and emotional.\nIt’s a project from Portland Museum which launched in 2011 (?)\nThe nice thing about it is that it has a gallery as well as a web presence.\nIt also intermingles museum objects with personal objects. \nThis makes the museum objects seem less foreign and remote, and more personal\n
  • \n
  • The categorisation shown by Portland is very human, and very emotive. \nIt reminded me a lot of Fray - launched in 1996 by Derek Powazek - this is a collection of stories categorised under criminal/work/hope/drugs. \nObject Stories has a similar - very personal - categorisation mechanism \n
  • Good stories - like good navigation - are often the end result of a known shape or formula.\n
  • The Hero’s journey was from the 1949 seminal book “The Hero with a thousand faces” by Joseph Campbell. \nIn it he discusses his theory of the “archetypal hero” found across the world’s mythologies.\nThe model is formulaic, but strikes a chord\nSee for example: Star Wars :-)\n\n
  • Sometimes, cultural heritage organisations are too clever (especially if curators are in control...)\n\nSimple analogies in storytelling often work best. \n\nMMW is a gallery in the Science Museum which tells a linear, “written on the floor” story of 150 seminal objects from 1750-2000. These include Apollo 10, Stephenson’s Rocket and the Apple I.\n\nThe framing of these stories in an incredibly obvious way - the timeline - gives visitors something very real to grab onto.\n
  • The analogy of the timeline is carried through onto the web.\nIf there is a criticism (apart from the fact it’s in Flash..), it is that the terms and labels are too curatorial...\n..but the linear nature of the navigation makes sense to most people. \nThis is almost like a navigational monomyth..\n
  • Here’s one of the stories and an example of the way objects are scattered throughout\n
  • Great stories are social, and all about a social framework.\n
  • Here’s Cory Doctorow talking about “stupid things to say about social media”\n\nThe point is: we don’t use social media (wholly) for the messages. We use it to *stay in touch with our humanity*\n
  • ..and ultimately, social media IS stories...\n
  • An example: stories powered by social:\nMuseums Sheffield: “Yorkshire’s Favourite Paintings”\nCollaboration between 27 museums and galleries \nPresence *everywhere* - great PR, etc\nA very simple, very formulaic idea - but very successful because of it..\n
  • The Science Museum do an amazing job of writing content that is topical and engaging, but also relates what’s going on the in world to stuff in their collections...\n
  • Sometimes the biggest challenge is that the stories aren’t YOURS...\n\nThis has been one of the biggest challenges of social: it’s about developing a platform for engagement (focused on user) rather than a site (focused on the institution).\n\nWalker Art have done this, to much fanfare. This is an art lover’s site which just happens to also be the Walker Art Centre site too..\n
  • Great stories change over time..\n
  • Maslow says this.\nSocial / web / connecting is from love/belonging upwards...\nThis is why social media isn’t just hype which will go away...\n
  • ...but the interesting point is the need to continue to change the story, to iterate.\nThis also calls to the fickle audiences we’re often trying to reach.\nStories need to change in order to be alive.\n
  • This is from the wikipedia page on storytelling, which I think is also interesting.\n\n(I have no idea what “drillable” means)\n
  • Another - cheap - example. Changing, rapid content - UGC. Huge success.\nTyne and Wear Museums\n213 images on Facebook, 260 images on flickr\nIn 6 months:\nflickr: 247,465 views, 1500 comments, 5000 favourites\nFacebook : 92,987 views, 405 followers / likes, 712 comments, 1078 monthly active users\n
  • Iteration is vital because people want to tell their *own* stories\nThis is the library of Congress on Flickr Commons. They use this information to feed back into their internal collections databases.\nWhen 86% of tags used by curators aren’t the same ones that users tag stuff with (Steve project) - we need the curatorial input of the crowd..\n
  • So there you have it :-)\n\n
  • Before I go: \n\nA final rant about how cultural heritage projects are budgeted: \nTypically there is capital budget which is BLOWN IMMEDIATELY. This totally flies in the face of iteration, usability, testing and scalability. \nWe need to get better at this by having resource and spend as we go.\nRant over.\n
  • Thanks for listening.\n
  • Forget the objects, tell the stories

    1. 1. Forget the objects,tell the stories“how can we live without our lives? how will we know its us without our past?” // John Steinbeck
    2. 2. You searched for: A thing Some old thing We have hundreds of these Not really much reason to Not really much reason to look at this, unless you’re a look at this, unless you’re a researcher or a curator researcher or a curator Some other old thing No idea why this is here Not really much reason to Not really much reason to look at this, unless you’re a look at this, unless you’re a researcher or a curator researcher or a curator More of the same Hey look, another thing Not really much reason to Not really much reason to look at this, unless you’re a look at this, unless you’re a researcher or a curator researcher or a curator An old thing Oh, never mind Not really much reason to Not really much reason to look at this, unless you’re a look at this, unless you’re a researcher or a curator researcher or a curator nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    3. 3. You searched for: A thing Some old thing We have hundreds of these Not really much reason to Not really much reason to look at this, unless you’re a look at this, unless you’re a researcher or a curator researcher or a curatorOi! No! Museum objects are Some other old thing No idea why this is here Not really much reason to Not really much reason to look at this, unless you’re a look at this, unless you’re a researcher or a curator researcher or a curator BRILLIANT! More of the same Hey look, another thing Not really much reason to Not really much reason to look at this, unless you’re a look at this, unless you’re a researcher or a curator researcher or a curator An old thing Oh, never mind Not really much reason to Not really much reason to look at this, unless you’re a look at this, unless you’re a researcher or a curator researcher or a curator nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    4. 4. Director, Thirty8 Digital Founder: BathCamp, Bath Digital, GDBF Creative Director, Bath Digital FestivalAuthor of book with unfeasibly long title Associate Lecturer, Digital Heritage, UoL ex Head of Web, NMSI
    5. 5. ..a complicated hat http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/euro-2012nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    6. 6. CAUTION!talk contains:- a hypothesis (43%)- opinion (27%)- some examples (30%)(may cause drowsiness)nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    7. 7. this is how most people see the web your site is here
    8. 8. the attention problem activity on “the web” % of people who look at your stuff % dropouts % “success” your web presence the action call to action nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    9. 9. ..how can you get people engaged?
    10. 10. good, engaging digital is like storytelling: • personal / emotional • sometimes formulaic • social, benefitting from network effects • iterative nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    11. 11. personal/emotionalnice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    12. 12. http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/fr/contributions/3948nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    13. 13. http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/gwa/nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    14. 14. nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    15. 15. “ If Im not falling, Im not pushing myself ” Nina Simon, MuseumTwonice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    16. 16. “Object Stories”“It has arecording booththat you sign upin advance to use,and you go in andtell a story aboutan object that ismeaningful toyou” objectstories.org nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    17. 17. nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    18. 18. nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    19. 19. (sometimes) formulaicnice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    20. 20. The Monomythhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    21. 21. Making the Modern World
    22. 22. nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    23. 23. nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    24. 24. socialnice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    25. 25. “I dont call my parents in Canada and recount the latest additions to my daughters vocabulary because they need to know that the kid can say ‘elephant’ and ‘potty’ now; I call them up to say, ‘all is well with your son and his family’, and ‘you are in my heart’, and ‘I love you’.” Cory Doctorow: “how to say stupid things about social media” The Guardian http://bit.ly/5WDjsAnice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    26. 26. “ Narrative Paradigm: all meaningful communication is a form of storytelling ” social (media) = stories nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    27. 27. Yorkshire’s favourite paintings nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    28. 28. Stories from the stores nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    29. 29. Walker Art Centre nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    30. 30. iterativenice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    31. 31. self actualisation esteemlove / belonging safety physiological
    32. 32. “..when a need is fairly well satisfied, the nextprepotent (higher) need emerges, in turn todominate the conscious life and to serve asthe centre of organisation of behaviour...Thus man is a perpetually wanting animal.”
    33. 33. • Stories should be drillable.• Each piece of the story should be enriching,but not vital to the understanding of the story (sothat a customer can still have a clear idea of thebigger picture even though he has missed a part of it)• Involve the fans in the creation process.• Build a world in which your story can evolve(such as Coca-Colas "Happiness Factory") http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storytelling nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    34. 34. nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    35. 35. http://www.slideshare.net/george08/uk-museums-and-the-web nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    36. 36. good, engaging digital is like storytelling: • personal / emotional • sometimes formulaic • social, benefitting from network effects • iterative nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    37. 37. nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012
    38. 38. thanks> mike@thirty8.co.uk> @m1ke_ellis engaged http://flickr.com/photos/timoni/452573099 nice people talking sense about the web | hello@thirty8.co.uk | 01225 58 44 44 | © Thirty8 Digital 2012

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