Compliments of Wikipedia, these are the wheels of change: they always seem to be moving too slowly for some, and too fast for others. Others complain, quoting Alphonse KARR, “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.”The only thing certain, is that they are turning – “only thing certain in this world is death, taxes – and change.”But the museum world is often perceived as being resistant to change. Why is that?
Is it because our museums are full of dinosaurs, scaring visitors and staff alike?The Queensland Museum & Sciencentre reopen[ed] on 20 January  to celebrate Queensland Museum’s 150th birthday. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjYgboXIWGEUploaded by RussiaToday on Jan 27, 2012The reopening of an Australian Museum of Natural History has been a real thrill for visitors. Some of the delighted and rather frightened guests however think the animatronic creatures greeting them at the entrance were "a little too realistic". The Queensland Museum of Natural History in Brisbane chose to mark its reopening after renovation with an unusual party. It invited several animatronic dinosaurs.
Is simply our perception – that makes us mistake our colleagues for scary monsters…
…when in fact, particularly when viewed from the right angle, they are revealed to be something else entirely!
Or is it because of this: the cycle of technology hype and despair. Probably a bit of all three. But today I’d like to talk a bit about the kind of change represented by this graph. I have come to call it revolutionary change – revolutionary because ultimately it goes around in circles; one miracle cure for the museum’s ills follows another. Today it might be QR codes and apps; tomorrow it might be a blockbuster exhibition on a hip new topic. We all want to believe that there are quick and easy solutions, so we eagerly sign on to the cult of the latest shiny new thing – until the next one comes along. Change happens in this model – yes – but it is not long-lasting and often doesn’t leave much of a mark when it fades away.see Colleen Dilenschneider on “blockbuster suicide” http://colleendilen.com/2012/03/27/death-by-curation-why-the-special-exhibit-isnt-so-special-anymore-case-study/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle
There is also radical change: that is, change that reaches all the way down to the roots of an organization. It crosses all departments, touches everyone in the organization, and is connected to the organization’s past as well as its present and future. Indeed sustainable, radical change often originates in the grass roots of an organization. In contrast to revolutionary change, radical change does not simply repopulate the same structureswith different faces in power.Rhizomehttp://allisondawnpr.com/blog/tag/grassroots-public-relations/
Radical change has the power to rewire the museum, move it away from models in which the power remains concentrated in a single center…
To a new model in which museums listen as much as they speak…
To distributed networks, where the power in the system lies in the nodes, in the connections, rather than in any single center.Sustainable because the system does not stop working, the conversations do not cease if the network sustains a loss in any particular area.
How do we refashion the museum as a distributed network? How do we bring about radical change? Weclearly cannot be exhaustive in the time available to us today, but here are three key principles for rewiring the museum for a more sustainable and radical future, and how I’ve tried to implement them in my work on mobile at the Smithsonian.
Know your mission; make sure everything you do supports it – not some hot new technology, or fashionable blockbuster topic, be that the curator’s or your own. The single most powerful strategy for getting out of the cycle of hype and despair is to tie everything we do to our missions – they are what drive us forward.Know where you are going: have a strategic plan for delivering on your mission, with goals and tactics for achieving them. I don’t mean a 100 page document that takes 2 years to write; I mean a simple and short set of goals that help you determine which projects are priorities. They will change, frequently, but if you don’t know where you are going, it is certain you won’t get there!Know where you come from: As Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, famously said “Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.”We need to know our histories, as individual institutions and as the museum industry as a whole. In times of revolution it is all too easy to ignore or forget the past. For sustainable change, find the radical roots of your mission in the origins or your museum.“…adaptation is a process of conservation as well as loss. The question is not only, “Of all that we care about, what must be given up to survive and thrive going forward? but also, “Of all that we care about, what elements are essential and must be preserved into the future, or we will lose precious values, core competencies, and lose who we are?” As in nature, a successful adaptation enables an organization or community to take the best from its traditions, identity, and history into the future.”Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky, in Adaptive Leadershiphttp://managementhelp.org/blogs/leadership/2011/03/30/conserving-our-best-during-change/The Life of Reason (1905-1906)Vol. I, Reason in Common Sensehttp://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Santayana
This practice led to some radically useful discoveries about the origins of the Smithsonian…Louise Rochon Hoover,"Secretary Henry Posts Daily Weather Map in Smithsonian Building, 1858.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megatherium_Club
So I discovered that the tactic of “crowdsourcing” – perhaps one of the more challenging ideas to have come out of recent technology practice - has in fact been employed by the Smithsonian, avant la lettre, since its founding days. This reference makes it a lot easier to talk to colleagues who may be concerned about change and adopting what seems to be a radical new practice. It is also a reminder that chances are any really good idea we have has been done before, and those precedents offer useful guidelines and caveats for subsequent implementations!To me, a department of one at the Smithsonian, tasked with developing a mobile strategy and serving as a consultant and advisor on mobile initiatives across 19 museums, 9 research centers and the Zoo, crowdsourcing is not just a nice idea. It’s the only practical solution I have for a very real shortage of resources and staff. And whether or not there is an economic crisis happening, we will never have enough money, time and staff to do all that we could, should, and want to do at the Smithsonian or any other museum. So our vision for mobile at the Smithsonian is to “recruit the world”: to use mobile radically, to create a more sustainable organization, one which is not just limited to the ideas and work that its paid staff can realize, much less to just putting our content and interpretation in people’s pockets on their mobile devices. Rather, we want to recruit the world to help us deliver on our mission. And we want to make the future and success of the Institution co-dependent on that collaboration.
As Forrester reminded us when they collaborated with us on our mobile strategy, understanding our audiences and their mobile habits is the first step towards building a mobile strategy or product.
We need to understand the context of their visits – and if they are visiting at all.Falk’s categories: Explorers. Facilitators.Experience seekers, Professionals/Hobbyists.RechargersAndrew J. Pekarikand Barbara Mogel, CURATOR 53/4 • OCT 2010The context of the “visit” may be from home, school, during a commute or walking down the street…
And finally, “meet them where they are” by understanding what visitors want to know – what questions leap into their minds when they walk into your galleries, or look at a collection object. We tried this in the Luce Center at the American Art Museum through question mapping… These are the starting points, the hooks, that enable us to “take them somewhere new” – to questions and topics that they may never have thought to ask about. This conversational approach marries the best listening techniques from social media with the expertise of the curator or subject expert – truly the best of both worlds.
Here, of course, I’m inspired by Clay Shirky’s work, both Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus, as well as Jeff Howes’ formulation of “crowdsourcing” and the many projects that have developed that concept. In Cognitive Surplus, Shirky quotes physicist Philip Anderson, saying, “’More is different.’ When you aggregate a lot of something, it behaves in new ways, and our new communications tools are aggregating our individual ability to create and share, at unprecedented levels of more.” He cautions against the ego-centric view: just because I as a lone individual can’t or won’t even dream of doing something, does not mean that is true for people in the aggregate. For sustainable change, we have to learn to go beyond our own limited perspectives and – yes, if you’ll forgive the Star Trek reference – take advantage of the hive mind to diversify and energize our ability to think differently.
Scaling up our concept of “the museum team” to include not just staff but also the museum’s core audiences and targeted new audiences does two things immediately:If it doesn’t remove or even alter our traditional, hierarchical org charts, it at least puts them in perspective – rather like seeing the Earth’s relative size and position in the Milky Way galaxy (Image from NASA http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/scitech/display.cfm?ST_ID=2246 via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com/5271710/how-do-you-avoid-hitting-stars-at-warp-5-a-pulsar-positioning-system)It dramatically increases the expertise and labor resources available to the museum to deliver on its mission.Now, this may sound a bit fanciful and metaphorical – the sort of thing we say at conferences, get all energized, and then forget it all when we go home to our work-aday lives.
Chris Anderson also suggested this tactic at the Smithsonian 2.0 conference, calling it the “crazy idea” of working with citizen curators to turn the Smithsonian into a Wikipedia of the Physical World.
Wikipedia’s contributors author on average 247 articles apiece…
To tell how something or someone is doing, you have to have some standard or benchmark to compare against. Quality is, as Chris Anderson said, largely in the eye of the beholder and relative to its contemporary context. But against what scale do you measure “recruiting the world?”There’s one benchmark we can use to set the bar – Wikipedia. You’ve probably all seen some version of this pyramid, or an “engagement ladder” like this. It tells us that in fact the majority of that work is done by a tiny number of people at the top of the engagement pyramid: the specialists and enthusiasts in niche subjects.
Interestingly, the audio tour, the most common mobile product in museums, turns this model on its head.
For some time, I had been wondering how the new network-connected mobile devices that now, as of last week I believe, represent over half of the mobile phones in the world, offered new ways of thinking about the mobile museum experience. Without wanting to avoid audio tours and similar mobile experiences at all, I have been asking how we can expand the museum’s mobile toolkit to take advantage of the new power of mobile platforms and the kinds of social activity that so many of us use them for. How can we, as Chris Anderson put it, go from “we do the talking” to “we help you do the talking” – and beyond?
At the end of 2010, I had the good fortune to come across a mobile project that I think exemplies this ideal, and also offers some important approaches as well as tools that can help museums radicalize their mobile practice. Scapes is an interactive art installation by Halsey Burgund at the deCordova Sculpture Park in Boston…So, other than the great museum experience it offered, what’s radical about Scapes? How does it help transform mobile – and thereby the museum – into a more sustainable structure that enhances the museum’s ability to deliver on its mission?Bear with me as I take a brief detour through audiotour history to look at the roots of the museum mobile experience, so we can ask how their transformation in Scapes offers useful models for a museum mobile future. I am trying to practice what I’ve been preaching about not forgetting important lessons from the past!
Whether given by live guides, broadcast, or prerecorded on tape, the first museum tours were linear: ----------
From starting point A to end point N, the exhibits interpreted on the tour were strung along the tour's linear route like pearls of wisdom on a necklace: -o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-The value of the tour was measured in stops: oe.g. “The Louvre’s tour has over 1,500 stops!”
The messiness, but also the magic, happened in the spaces between the exhibit commentary or 'stops' on the tour: -
People got lost in the interstitial spaces, uncertain of where to find the next stop (o), or lost track of where they were in the audio tour tape: -o-o-o-?
Or they got bored, or distracted, or tired of following the herd, or simply decided to get off the tour before the last stop:-o-o-o~§
Fear and impatience with the messiness prevailed, however, and the digital generation of audio tour technology introduced 'random access' tours. Visitors could choose which exhibits they saw and hence which stops they listened to absolutely at random. But we also lost something by “thinking online inside the audio tour box” – such as it was then: we lost the space and time and means for connecting those dots, for sustaining a narrative over time, and for immersing people in the museum experience. o 0 o o o o o o oo o o
New screen-based devices, of course, offer the possibility to offer both soundtracks and soundbites or stops in a single interface. Here is one of my favorites, and it also offers links out to relevant third party content and experiences.
What fascinates me about Scapes is how it takes these very traditional museum mobile content modalities – the stop and the soundtrack – and transforms them, radically.
The Smithsonian currently has more than 20 mobile apps and websites, and more than that number again of podcasts and other downloadable audio, video and text content that people are using every day on their mobile devices. But today I want to focus on three in particular in which we’ve attempted to integrate some of the radical ideas from Shirky, Howes, Burgund and others: Smithsonian Mobile, Stories from Main Street, and Access American Stories.
Practical problem: no budget for creating content or maintaining app.
100-200 downloads per day35,000 downloads, of which over 20,000 have updated their app since Sept 12, 2011Android:5,169 total user installs; 2,569 active device installsiOS: 29,20686 unique threads have been created (that is, 86 unique events, objects, highlights or other entities have comments).181 comments have been made across these 86 threads.52 comments have media attached to them.111 comments have been deleted (most were likely test comments during the early phases).3 comments have been reported.
Lifetime downloads: 16,593, over 9,000 with the newest versionHighest rank: #24 in the Education categoryAverage review=3 starsCountries: 87.2% United States; 6.0% Canada; 3.2% Brazil; 1% Mexico; .8% South Africa; .4% Qatar
228 available for playback through the app Tennessee and West Virginia have been our most active states where the exhibition is on tour. We had a single contributor talking about the town where she grew up in upstate New York over ten entries!
Soft launched with opening of the exhibition last week. None of these apps has had a dedicated marketing budget, but are actively trying to organize events to solicit contributions to AAS.
Amy Sample Ward usefully identifies two different kinds of engagement of mass audiences:“Crowdsourcing invites diversity by encouraging anyone with an idea or interest to participateCrowdsourcing levels the playing field so it isn’t just your “favorites” or those you already know that get to play”http://amysampleward.org/2011/05/18/crowdsourcing-vs-community-sourcing-whats-the-difference-and-the-opportunity/
In the Wikipedia example, the base of the engagement pyramid is very broad, 400m visitors per month, compared to the 85,000 people contributing articles nearer the top of the pyramid.
In community sourcing, we are not aiming at such a huge and faceless mass. We know these people, so working with them produces different strategies, calls to action and outcomes.As an example, last year a team of ichthyologists sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History performed the first survey of the fish diversity in the Cuyuni River of Guyana. Upon their return, they needed to identify the more than 5,000 specimens they had collected in less than a week’s time in order to obtain an export permit. Faced with insufficient time and inadequate library resources to tackle the problem on their own, they instead posted a catalog of specimen images to Facebook and turned to their network of colleagues for help.In less than 24 hours, this approach identified approximately 90 percent of the posted specimens to at least the level of genus, revealed the presence of at least two likely undescribed species, indicated two new records for Guyana and generated several loan requests. The majority of people commenting held a Ph.D. in ichthyology or a related field, and hailed from a great diversity of countries including the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil.
Here the community base can be much narrower and still achieve the project’s desired results. The community has special skills and interests as well as a very well-developed network, so a smaller number of individuals in the eco-system get the job done.
So clearlynot all crowdsourcing or community sourcing projects are created equal. They will not all have the same ratios of participants at the different levels in the engagement pyramid. But I’m starting to track this data for the Smithsonian’s mobile projects so we can measure and report our success in “recruiting the world.”The Smithsonian Mobile app, launched in August 2011, is a modest project by comparison…
Here’s another mobile crowdsourcing project: Stories from Main Street. I was corresponding with David Anderson, a crowdsourcing expert from Berkley, about these metrics and how to read them. He had an interesting comment:“…downloading Stories from Main Street (I'm guessing) impliesan interest in supplying a story,whereas downloading the Smithsonian Mobile App (I'm guessing)doesn't imply an interest in contributing comments.So of the two, it's possible that 288/16000 is worse(i.e. reflects a worse user interface or wording) than 70/35000.”
In addition to understanding the metrics of success in crowdsourcing, our challenge now is to learn how to set goals for the numbers of “watchers” we need in order to have an engagement eco-system with a healthy number of contributors and even “curators” at the top of the pyramid. Further audience research will tell us how best to engage users at all different levels on the pyramid. We will need content for the watchers as well as compelling activities for the producers, and everything in between to have a healthy crowdsourcing eco-system. It is starting to look like in addition to figuring out how to serve both on-site audiences and remote “visitors” who might download our apps but never visit the museum, we need to learn how to combine an appeal for both the “mass market” and our niche audiences – the communities who identify most closely with museums’ niche collections, content, and subject-matter expertise – in the same mobile experience and product.
Radical practices like crowdsourcing – not to mention huge ambitions like recruiting the world and changing the museum – are hard to pull off. If they were easy, presumably, our museums would not have to hire such a bunch of smart, creative, hardworking individuals as ourselves, and they’d have to pay us even less than they do now! ;-)But going deep to understand our history and the roots of power in our organizations is the only sustainable way to create meaningful change – the sort of change that outlasts dotcom booms and busts, and ensures the survival of cultural institutions that are - in contrast to the majority of the world’s businesses - decades if not hundreds of years old. This is not to say that we don’t need a few revolutions along the way too! Yes, we need free public wifi in all our galleries, and a great website and mobile app and probably a QR code or two as well. We definitely need AR and image recognition and location-based services ;-) But these technology innovations in and of themselves do not yield real change; if not coupled with a radical strategy they risk becoming yet another example of “The King is Dead; Long Live the King.” “Plus ça change…”Revolution and radical strategy are in fact two of the gears that make the museum world go round. Without the revolutionary technologies that produced the Internet and social media as we know them today, there would be little if any potential for museums to deliver on their missions with niche audiences on a global scale. But the extent to which the impact of these revolutions has endured in the museum experience is thanks to the extent to which they have been put in the service of the museums’ mission. To paraphrase Rob Stein’s argument in his paper for Museums and the Web this year, the way to win over dinosaurs in the museum is not by pointing out the sex appeal of some shiny new gadget, but rather by aligning the power of the new technology with the overarching goals of the museum’s mission, which (should be) shared by all staff, Luddite and technophile alike.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “We must become the change we want to see.” Wikipedia wrote, “…the linear speed at the rim is the same on both gears.”My call is for museum revolutionaries everywhere to put their energy in synch with the gears of radical change in the museum. As Wikipedia tells us, lthough that big wheel will turn less quickly than the technology revolutions we live and love every day, it is much more powerful and, fueled by our missions, will be the vehicle that takes us into the future.
Change and innovation in the Museum through digital participation Or “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” With apologies to Gil Scott-Heron Nancy Proctor, Smithsonian Institution Barcelona 24 May 2012 email@example.com @nancyproctor
To the Museum as Distributed Network Edward Hoover, 2010, from Flickr.
OKSo how do we do that?
1. Know yourself• Know your mission• Know where you’re going (for now)• Know where you’ve come from
Know your history as well as your present and future
SI Mobile’s Vision Recruit the world to increase and diffuse knowledge by using mobile platforms to enlist collaborators globally in undertaking the real and important work of the Institution. Put the Smithsonian not just in the people’s pockets, but in their hands.6/7/2012 Nancy Proctor, firstname.lastname@example.org 14
2. Know your audiences
What are your audience’s mobile habits? Increasing mobile sophistication Mobile Technographics • Use mobile Internet weekly • Visit social networks weekly • Consume news and information SuperConnecteds • Stream music or video 20% • Purchase music tracks • Purchase mobile content Entertainers 9% • Send or receive email • Use maps or navigation Connectors • Use mobile Internet less than 15% weekly • Use no data service except: ─SMS, MMS, or IM Communicators ─Email less than monthly 21% • Only use voice Talkers 34% • Do not own a mobile phone Inactives 11%
CONTEXT: Why are they visiting? Are they visiting at all? Whom are they visiting with?
What do visitors want to know?Question mapping in the gallery: • Semi-structured interviews • FAQs and comments cards • Questions posed to staff…
3. Invite everyone in
“A Wikipediacrazy idea? A of the Physical World” http://smithsonian20.si.edu/schedule_webcast2.html
Wikipedia …400 million visitors monthly as of March 2011. There areThat means the average contributor works on ~247more than more than 85,000 active contributors working on articles?! 21,000,000 articles in more than 280 languages.
Wikipedia’s World 1,487 85,000400 millionper month http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/4294119350/
Mobile Habits Talking Texting Email Gaming Weather Maps Search Social Media Music News Entertainment & Dining Video Mobile Tours
Thinking outside the audio tour box From headphones to microphones “From interpretation to conversation. From we do the talking to we ArtAnderson, IMA,June 2010Steward, and Converse”, – Max The “Gather, help you do the talking.” Newspaper, 8 – Chris Anderson, Wired, Smithsonian 2.0 Conference, 24 Jan 2009 http://smithsonian20.si.edu/schedule_webcast2.html
In the beginning: Early Soundtracks and Soundbites ->->->->->->->->->->->->Nancy Proctor, ProctorN@si.eduHandheld Conference 3 June 272009
Pearls of Wisdom -o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-Nancy Proctor, ProctorN@si.eduHandheld Conference 3 June 282009
The magic happened in-between -o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-Nancy Proctor, ProctorN@si.eduHandheld Conference 3 June 292009
But many visitors got lost in linear space -o-o-(o)-o-o-?Nancy Proctor, ProctorN@si.eduHandheld Conference 3 June 302009
Or simply abandoned the herd -o-o-o-o-o~§Nancy Proctor, ProctorN@si.eduHandheld Conference 3 June 312009
Random access was supposed to liberate uso o o o o o o o oNancy Proctor, ProctorN@si.eduHandheld Conference 3 June 322009
Stories from Main Street .01 288 16,000http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/4294119350/
The Museum’s Market Niche Markets MassMarkets
Product, or Process?The process of crowdsourcing projectsfulfills the mission of digital collectionsbetter than the resulting searches [withmetadata enhanced by crowdsourcing]. – Trevor Owens http://www.trevorowens.org/2012/03/crowdsourcing- cultural-heritage-the-objectives-are-upside-down/ 49
Two meshing gears transmitting rotational motion. Note that the smaller gear is rotating faster. Although the larger gear is rotating less quickly, its torque is proportionally greater. One subtlety of this particular arrangement is that the linear speed at the rim is the same on both gears. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gear6/7/2012 Nancy Proctor, email@example.com 51
Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, “We have done this ourselves.” – Lao Tzu, 600-531 BCE6/7/2012 Nancy Proctor, firstname.lastname@example.org 52