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Defining Open Authority in Museums
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Defining Open Authority in Museums


Slides from my presentation at MCN 2013 conference in Montreal. Introduction to the session and contextualization of the debate around open authority in terms of larger movements.

Slides from my presentation at MCN 2013 conference in Montreal. Introduction to the session and contextualization of the debate around open authority in terms of larger movements.

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  • This session tries to explore approaches to dealing with a dilemma. A dilemma is not a problem in the logical sense of the word. 2x + 4= y is a problem. There are solutions, values of x and y that will solve the problem and there are values that won’t. The former are “right” and the latter are “wrong.” Dilemmas don’t have any answer that solves every single need or want. With dilemmas, every possible outcome leads to something getting sacrificed.
  • How we respond to this dilemma will shape how our museums evolve in this new century. I think it’s a zero-sum game so raising openness and hanging onto old models of what authority means just aren’t possible.
  • William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake in Antwerp in 1536 for publishing an unauthorized translation of the Bible, using the new technology of the printing press. I’m not trying to equate what we’ll talk about today with the religious climate in Renaissance Europe. But, this tension between authority and openness, exacerbated by new technologies is an old, old dynamic. And we know how it turns out.
  • Tim BL was 16 when Gutenberg launched. 1971 was the year Ray Tomlinson invented a neat hack that let him send email from one server to a whole nother server! Internet email! The entire Internet at that time consisted of 23 hosts. You could draw a map of the whole thing on one side of a piece of paper.
  • Critics of openness, participatory design, experiential design, etc… usually posit a “classic”, timeless, changeless, ur-state of museums that is being destroyed by all this newfangled junk. It is a past that never existed.Any student of museum history can tell you that hushed reverential temple of culture that most big museums resemble today is a response to historical trends, and a reaction, often revolutionary, to a status quo that was perceived to be out of touch with the times. Letting women in, Impressionism, claiming photographs are art, providing enrichment to school children are all examples of these responses.
  • Do you really want to be in any of their shoes?


  • 1. Open Authority Image here aligned with MCN above and baseline of text next to it. CC-BY-SA 3.0 By Emily Litsey #mcn2013Open
  • 2. W y w ’r h r h e e ee Openness Authority Us Disruptive Technologies
  • 3. How we respond will shape how we evolve
  • 4. This isn’t a new thing PD-US image 1536
  • 5. It isn’t a Web thing 1971
  • 6. Getting it right is important Remaining vibrant and relevant actors in our communities will require change …just like it always has.
  • 7. This is bigger than us •The recording industry •The motion picture industry •The software industry •Newspapers •Publishing •Secondary education •and so on…
  • 8. Nobody can answer it for us
  • 9. We’re not in this alone
  • 10. Your mileage may vary And that’s OK.
  • 11. Brought to you by Live streaming and video recordings made possible by