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MW2010: D. Peacock, Putting Mallala on the map: Creating a wiki community with Now and Then

MW2010: D. Peacock, Putting Mallala on the map: Creating a wiki community with Now and Then



A presentation from Museums and the Web 2010. ...

A presentation from Museums and the Web 2010.

The Now and Then community heritage wiki was initiated to research the potential of Web 2.0 technologies to engage and sustain interest in local history and heritage collections. The aim of this action research project is to explore whether wikis can provide a low-cost, sustainable way of increasing interest and participation in the preservation, interpretation and enjoyment of local history and heritage collections. The target organisations to use the wiki are generally very small and are often staffed solely by volunteers. The pilot implementation in a small rural community has been well received and is generating significant levels of interest and participation. This paper aims to share the learning from this project about the potential and implications of wikis as the basis for sustainable knowledge communities around local history and heritage. It explores how collaborative knowledge-making practices such as crowdsourcing present new challenges and opportunities for museums, their information management paradigms, and their relationships with communities.

Session: Wikis for Content Management [content]

see http://www.archimuse.com/mw2010/abstracts/prg_335002330.html



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  • The full text of the paper accompanying this presentation at Museums and the Web 2010 is freely available online:

    Peacock, D., Putting Mallala on the Map: Creating a Wiki Community with Now and Then. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2010: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2010. Consulted June 9, 2010. http://www.archimuse.com/mw2010/papers/peacock/peacock.html
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  • Thank you.Welcome to the land of the Panda.I’ve been asked to talk to you this morning to talk to you about a new project- The Now and Then community heritage wiki.I will shortly describe the project and briefly demonstrate the website, but what I would like to do, rather than just provide a project report, is to contextualise this project within the wider challenge of new web technologies in cultural heritage, which for convenience sake we tend to group under the broad heading ‘Web 2.0’.I’ve titled this talk Web 2.0 for beginners, because many of the people participating in the Now and Then wiki project are first time Internet users: they are beginners in every sense, with computers, the Internet and Web 2.0. T
  • I’ve titled this talk Web 2.0 for beginners, because many of the people participating in the Now and Then wiki project are first time Internet users: they are beginners in every sense, with computers, the Internet and Web 2.0. Yet in some senses, we are all beginners. Even though the term is rapidly become cliché, the technologies, opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0 are far from mainstream in cultural heritage practice. We are still groping in the unknown, still tethered more or less to the known and just a little awestruck by the possibilities.As Clay Shirky, one of the foremost thinkers on Web 2.0 argues:Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technology, it happens when society adopts new behaviours. And this is true also of our practices as cultural heritage professions and institutions. Technology alone doesn’t shift the paradigms of our practice, it is how people and organisations use technology that starts the shift. 
  • So, how do we as cultural heritage professionals, make sense of the opportunities made possible by Web 2.0 technologies, the bewildering array of bright lights and shiny things that beckon? For many of us it feels like a bombardment of new technologies, new options, new approaches. How do we choose which to pursue? What priorities do we set? How do we evaluate usefulness and effectiveness?
  • Michael Wesch, in his brilliant four and a half minute video response to Web 2.0 on YouTube challenges us to rethinkmany of our assumptions about technology and life. Hopefully today is also such an opportunity not just to describe how we are using new information and communication technologies in cultural engagement, but to reflect upon the changes in practice, organisation and relationships that might also be required to realise the potential of new online technologies.
  • What we need for that task are open minds, and a clip board for observing and taking notes. After all, Web 2.0 is as much about anthropology as technology.As we are still in the experimental stage of Web 2.0 projects that test our assumptions and hunches offer the best chance of pointing us forward in a rapidly shifting technological environment.We need to undertake such projects with an analytical focus to build our understanding and to critically reflect on their implications for cultural heritage practice and institutions. But it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. The rest of my talk is about the joy of learning through practice., with hopefully a few insights that might suggest some talking points for discussion today.
  • Now and Then is an action research project exploring the potential of Web 2.0 technologies to enable small collecting organisations to improve local engagement and participation in cultural heritage documentation and preservation.The project has been managed by the Collections Council of Australia with the assistance of a grant from the .auda foundation, the Australian Domain Name registrar. I have been the project manager for the past year. We are undertaking this project as a form of action research to try to understand what are some of the possibilities and constraints for small, volunteer run organisations to make use of these technologies.The Now and Then wiki website is where and how the research is taking place. The site was launched in September after 9 months of preparation.Our pilot implementation is in a small community in South Australia, called Mallala, an Anglicisation of the Kaurna word for the tree frog that inhabits the area. Mallala today is a small farming community of around 500 people. During World War II It hosted a major Airforce training base. The Mallala Museum, which was the SA finalist in ABC radio’s Regional Museum of the Year is a great regional museum. And it’s also run by a marvellous bunch or volunteers, many of them older and retired, but with boundless energy and enthusiasm for their community.But you’ll be hearing more about Mallala and its museum community throughout this presentation. Perhaps more than you ever imagined possible.Let’s take you to the Now and Then site.
  • Hopefully the demonstration of Now and Then has given you a sense of the dynamic knowledge building that can take place in a wiki environment. Don Tapscott author of Wikinomicscalls them ‘weapons of mass collaboration.’ low-cost collaboration infrastructures which allow millions of people to create and exchange knowledge and information. Wikipedia is the best known example of the power of wiki technology to create a global network of collaborators with more than 10 million registered users of the authoring and editing software.The aims of Now and Then are avowedly local rather than global. But nonetheless you can see the same effects at work.[click] This tag cloud has emerged from the efforts of the museum to upload collection images to the museum’s Flickr site. It is a byproduct of their effort to describe and tag their image collection, but also an interesting window on what matters in Mallala.
  • Tapscott observes that Peering succeeds (in wiki environments) because it leverages self-organisation- a style of production that works more effectively than hierarchical management for certain tasks. P 25.Certainly, one of the most interesting issues we are working through is the etiquette of authoring and editing in a collaborative space. The wiki principle that anyone can edit anyone else’s work is liberating for some and intimidating for others. However it is working through these barriers and fears that builds up trust within the user community and produces genuine collaboration.We are also promoting new open licensing standards such as creative commons, which is a particular challenge for a small institution, but after some discussion is now museum policy. But I am sure Jessica will have more to say on Creative Commons later this morning.
  • One of the things which really distinguishes the Now and Then approach is the deliberate focus on Mallala and on the things that are significant and memorable to people living there. This is grass roots history, grounded in the rich local knowledge of the people who have lived there for decades and generations, whilst not excluding the perspectives and experiences of more recent arrivals.Mapping is a great tool for anchoring this kind of history. When we launched the wiki at the primary school the first thing the Year 7 students wanted to do was find ‘their place’ on the interactive Google map.Place is integral to history and to memory. Now and Then puts a map at the centre of the community home page and locates all the content articles with geo-coordinates. It’s a great way to browse the site and the area.
  • Peer production brings a number of challenges and tasks.
  • One of the criticisms of local history is that it can be narrow, parochial and banal. Yet in a digital world of niche interests and communities - ‘the long tail’ economies might prevail. Just because the number of people interested is small, doesn’t mean the level of interest is low.In his book the Deep Economy, Bill McKibben suggestsWhat we need is a new trajectory, towards the smaller and more local. 141.While McKibben is talking mainly about how we organise the economy, the same principles might equally a pply to how we create and organise information.Significance and notability are more constructs that might need rethinking in a Web 2.0 world. In a world of multiple viewpoints and mass participation, local and global need not be seen as polar opposites.
  • People can participate in many ways. They can be authors or editors, researchers, photographers , videographers, or bloggers. They can be any ages and Internet skills need not be a barrier. Here is one of our key museum volunteers, Margaret, sitting alongside the Local MP at the launch of Now and Then in the Mallala Primary School.Margaret and others older than her, many who have never used computers before are finding ways to contribute to Now and Then. One man, who is almost 80 has been working with his daughter to add and edit articles. Others are using email or dropping into the museum to contribute information.One of the interesting upshots of the project in Mallala has been the number of museum volunteers buying computers and upgrading their internet connection speeds because of their involvement in the project.I’m not sure how the National Broadband Planning taskforce is planning to tackle the question of local content for the National Broadband Network, but Mallala is certainly now churning out a wealth of really local content.
  • For collecting organisations, both large and small, wikis clearly demonstrate some new paradigms for information and knowledge management emerging from Web 2.0 technologies.In some ways disconcerting in the way they decentralise and democratise the traditional knowledge management paradigms underpinning libraries, archives and museums, they are also very exciting in the ways they open up possibilities fore access and participation. Ultimately, the kind self-managing knowledge ecologies that wikis support are more likely to sustainable over time than dispersed repositories.Since their foundation collecting organisations have been preoccupied with gathering and organising information.Given that Google is making rapid headway in its stated mission to organise the world’s information, it might be timely for collecting organisations to rethink their own role and priorities. Facilitating knowledge communities might be a more sustainable digital future for collecting organisations than managing repositories.
  • Thank you for your time and interest. I look forward to sharing the rest of the day with you.

MW2010: D. Peacock, Putting Mallala on the map: Creating a wiki community with Now and Then MW2010: D. Peacock, Putting Mallala on the map: Creating a wiki community with Now and Then Presentation Transcript

  • Putting Mallala on the map: Creating a wiki community with Now and Then:
    Darren Peacock
    Sweet Technology
  • community
  • user community
  • knowledge community
  • community of interest
  • community of practice
  • Community is people
  • The project
    The wiki
    The people
  • We are all beginners in the Web 2.0 world.
  • How do we make sense of the opportunitiesmade possible for cultural heritageby Web 2.0 technologies?
  • Web 2.0 invites us to rethink and to experiment with our practices, our relationships, our priorities.
  • Now and Then-an action research project
    • How can we support the work of small volunteer-run museums with Web 2.0 tools?
    • Could a small local history museum independently sustain an online community?
    • What benefits might emerge from the existence of a community heritage wiki for a museum and its community ?
  • The long tail of cultural heritage
    Collection items
  • The short tail of heritage funding
    Collection items
    Funding 90%+
  • Now and Then is an exploration on the new web frontiers of participation, collaboration and peer production. And in the familiar territory of no money.
  • Wikis create living knowledge communities.
  • Wiki communities are open and self managing.
  • Now and Then is all about the local.
  • Information, knowledge and tasks are shared.
  • Meet the locals
  • A local focus provides for history on a human scale.
    Dr Myrna Fernandez,
    resident doctor
    at Mallala
    1969- 1996.
  • Volunteers are an untapped resource for online cultural heritage
  • After six months….
    157 wiki articles
    250 images on flickr ; 8 videos on YouTube
    3 active blogs
    70 registered wiki users
    300 hours of IT skills training delivered locally
    Margaret has her own flickr site.
  • People are bridging digital divides, making new connections, joining past and present.
  • Mallala Football Premiers, 1912
  • Mallala Football Premiers, 1912
    I. Howard
    (Goal Umpire)
    F Jenkins
    W. Letton
    N. Louden
    T. Irish (official)
    S. Pillar
    R. East
    A. Jury
    S. Want
    A. Harvey
    M. Cullen
    N. Irish, Captain
    S. Irish
    H. Huxtable
    A. Huxtable
    S. Williams
    F. Traynor
    P. (Jack) Huxtable
    B. Moody
    H. East
    G. Angus
  • Building social capital (Putnam)
    Bonding social capital
  • Building social capital (Putnam)
    Bonding social capital
  • Building social capital (Putnam)
    Bridging social capital
  • History is social capital
  • Knowledge ecologies are more sustainable than information empires.
    Images by: Amadeus Ex Machina, curious expeditions and LAARCmanager on Flickr
  • Next steps
    (more) Skills developmentPartnershipsContent sharingRecruiting new communitiesAggregating across wiki sites
  • Now and Then demonstrates the potential for local volunteer communities to create living online spaces for their history and heritage.
  • www.nowandthen.net.au
    Thank you.
    Darren Peacock