Thursday, April 03, 2008

Web 2.0 for Museum Professionals Presentation

Tomorrow, I'm headed to beautiful Philadelphia for the MAAM Creating Exhibitions conference. I'll be speaking in two sessions, one on innovative uses of technology in exhibits and the other on Web 2.0 in exhibitions. (And if you will be there, please drop me a line and join me for a pigout on Sunday evening at Kingdom of Vegetarians, one of the best reasons to visit PA.)

I've been frustrated at a few conferences by the loose way some people throw around the term Web 2.0. At the last ASTC, in a session on "Museums 2.0," I heard just as many muddled explanations of doing the same old thing (and wrapping it in new words) as truly interesting, relevant projects. This non-rigorous approach leads skeptics to think we're b.s.ing and doesn't help those who are turned on understand what or why they should be pursuing particular goals.

And so, for this weekend's Web 2.0 session, I'm going to focus more on the what of Web 2.0 than the how--the definitions, not the products. And while that may make for a somewhat cerebral experience, i hope it will also open up some mental doors to the new and compelling innovations of this movement, as well as its connections to our missions, current activities, and dreams.

So here's my draft presentation. Please share your comments via the blog, or, better yet, on the voicethread itself. I will integrate any feedback I get into the final result, to be shared on Monday. Enjoy!
*Update: You can now download the final slides (no audio) here.

9 comments, add yours!:

Dianed said...

What a good idea this audio presentation ! Thanks a lot !
Are you planning to put your talk on your blog after ?
Good luck !

Dianed said...

Oh sorry ! I didn't see it "to be shared on Monday" ! :)

Paul Orselli said...

Hi Nina,

See you in Philly!

Is the notion of "perpetual beta" just Web 2.0's brand of marketing (or anti-marketing?)

Most museum folks acknowledge that their programs and exhibits are never "finished" in the sense that they can be continually improved and tinkered with, but we: a)don't put beta tags on everything (now a Web 2.0 website cliche), and b)just resolve to ourselves that something is "good enough" (or we have run out of time and/or money)and put it out in front of the public.

Nina Simon said...

paul,
good point about the sometimes nonsensical application of the word "beta." I do think, however, that in most cases we think of exhibits as products that are done when they hit the floor (whether they are complete is another matter). Contingency $$ get eaten up, designers move onto new projects, and the exhibits enter the world of floor staff. This is exacerbated in a world where so much work is done by contractors and museums have little desire to pay those folks to keep improving post-opening (except to fix pesky broken snags). I'd like to see exhibit project timelines that extend through at least half of the expected runtime of the exhibition, with design/dev/fab staff at 1/2 time once it hits the floor.

Christopher said...

Wish I could be there. As a private sector employee (haven't found my museum niche yet) and a poor one at that there are no conferences in my future.

Although, I was hoping when I clicked through there would be slides. Not audio. Which as a deaf/hh designer is not very helpful.

But all that aside, I'd like to also make a statement about what "perpetual beta" means.

It's not just that the project/software is in constant development, but that it is constantly evolving based on feedback from users (both direct feedback -- people writing in, developers submitting bug reports, extended online forums monitored by programmers/project managers -- but also indirect feedback -- feedback through analytics like who's using what browser, what search terms did they use to find our blog, are we busier after lunch, what error codes are we generating from within the software.

There is a finality to museum exhibitions. The capital "T" truth that comes from the voice of authority imbued by marketing and through precedent. The ideal of Web 2.0 is that their is a dialogue about the project through all phases, including that perpetual beta. And by announcing "beta," they are announcing to world that "we aren't done and we need/want your help here."

A few years back, there was an exhibit of the work of Bruce Connor organized by the Walker in Minneapolis and presented at the de Young in San Francisco. The title of the show was "2000 BC: The Bruce Conner Story, Part II"

I always liked that "Part II" aspect. It was tongue in cheek of course, but it also took away the power of the museum to be the definitive end. It suggested an unfinished future. I can't remember how it played out in the museum itself. (Not as cool as the name), but it's a start to having the museum announce that the dialogue is just beginning.

Nate Solas said...

Posted about this at our New Media blog. Just wanted to add here that I thought the presentation was not only organized and insightful, but also very inspiring. I'd lost sight of some of those original ideas about Web 2.0, and it was fantastic to be reminded of the goal -- and, unfortunately, how far we have to go in many aspects.

I find the piece sticking with me is the individual profile - I forget how you phrased it - and the power of seeing more than just the fact that someone commented (or collected, or owns a book), but to see who, and hopefully what else they had to say, or what other books they own.

Great stuff!

Unversity of Utah said...

This is a very clear presentation! My intro to Web & Museum 2.0 was just about a year-ago prior to last year's AAM. We have been exploring several of these issues at our Museum, both in our general web/electronic communication and audience development as well as within a new IMLS-sponsored program we call Natural History Now! Your four principles really helped me shape and organize our experiences over this year, and have embolden our internal efforts.

The perpetual beta, which is another way of saying "work in progress" helps me realize how this type of continual development work is different that the project-based work we normally do.

Lots to work with here! Good luck. Oh, and yes, the use of voicethread in and of itself is eye-opening. thanks!

Marketing Guy said...

Hi Nina,
Well, thanks a lot for sharing the presentation, since I will be trying (very poorly) to explain Web 2.0 at the Canadian Museum Association's Conference this week in beautiful Victoria.
Overall, I have two comments (use or discard at will): First, it is easier for social history museums and of course science centres to implement a 'social visitor network'. I can see this happening with, for example, Aboriginal teachings.
The second comment has to do with cost: you need man(woman)power and a good budget to become 'a platform'. Working with curatorial staff, for example, which in general like to CONTROL content (for very good reasons), is a particular challenge. Extreme question: Would you allow "Intelligent design' theories in your platforms?
My take on Web 2.0 for Museums has to do more with marketing-communications than anything else, so you are clearly way ahead of me both in thought and experience. Sorry for the lengthy comment!

Nina Simon said...

thanks for all the excellent comments--and never worry about length! I love meaty comments!

The presentation today went well, improved by your text and audio comments. I'll be publishing the full set of slides later this week as well as some related thoughts. Marketing Guy--your question about cost (in terms of staff time more than dollars) was key in the minds of today's audience and I look forward to exploring and discussing that more on this site.

Related to the ID question, my co-presenter was David Klevan from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. He has some very interesting points about letting in "the other viewpoints"--in his case, anti-Semitism--and where and how USHMM deals with that.

Christopher, thank you for raising the accessibility issue with voicethread. These are the slides I used--I apologize that at present I don't have any text version of the comments that go with them. Someday I will write a magazine article that I'm allowed to reproduce fully on the Web...