In this article, I would like to explore the social media space in the context of Museums, and investigate different critical challenges in bringing museums experiences to social media space exposed through the body of related literature.
Recently, there has been a popular trend to introduce museum institutions and their digital contents in social media space in order to reach more audiences and build an online social community which better establishes the relationship between people and museums.
However, emerging museums experience and contents in social media space has created several challenges such as privacy issues, cultural ethics, authority management, tailored experience issues, educational role preservation, and so forth.
Meanwhile different aspects of social media exposition needs to be addressed, such as using this medium for marketing (effective ways Vs branding techniques), building social communities, Creating active collaborative environment for creation, and socio-cultural exchange, and finally collective intelligence computation power.
First, I will introduce the main perspectives and challenges, and then I will summarize this week papers while trying to connect their perspectives with introduced subjects and challenges in former section.
Social Media and new Challenges for museums
Social media is playing an over growing role in humans’ everyday life, while trying to address different needs such as social awareness in social networks, and promoting new dimensions in human life, by providing a set of tools for collective creation, socio-cultural exchange, media sharing, online community management and etc. It will be beyond of this article to explore these different dimensions, meanwhile it worth to investigate how museums benefits from this medium to increase their accessibility, and addressing their audience needs through social contents, and building an active collaborative environments while addressing issues such as user privacies, cultural ethics and authority management.
Museums as institutions which tries to preserves history, tangible and tacit cultural heritages, are trying to be responsive to social media phenomenon and connect its content and educational plans with this over growing medium. One of major goals in using social media space is to benefit from its accessibility power to outreach a larger number of audience and communities. Mediums like Facebook, and Twitters can be very effective is this domain, meanwhile Twitter is getting used mainly for marketing’s paradigms which might makes museums promotions as brands rather than symbols of cultural and historical centers. This can make the museums sort of distant from its audience, meanwhile a good social media strategy can better initiate connections which are more reliable and trustful, This can be reach either through community ambassadors or tailored invitations sent from existing trusted social groups.
Furthermore building online social communities is quite a challenging problem, which does not necessarily can be reached only by increasing the number of followers or friends, and it demands a good level of trust for bringing people in and keep them motivated and engaged with interesting contents. Using social ambassadors and active group of content creators, and many to many communication models can be effective for this case though.
Finally, having an active and collaborative environments, which lead to a better dialog demands a good level of collective intelligence, which can be achieved either by story-making or crowd-sourcing techniques, while the latter one is more engaging and effective, However it creates a shift in authority of medium from the expected experience initiated by museum designers to personalized and collective experience by social groups.
In addition to mentioned perspectives, in connecting museums to social media, there are several concerns and questions raised by community of intellectuals and critics about the limitations, and potential problems of this new space, the following papers and their summaries address these issues:
Museum Management and Curatorship : Ethical issues of social media in
museums: a case study
Amelia S. Wong a
This article explores the ethical issues raised from intertwining modern museum practice with social media space through a case study of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It investigates how this new medium can create synergy by increasing the size of audience and bringing the museum educational practices in humans’ everyday life, while exploring tensions raised from ethical questions around transparency of goals Vs process, Censorship of socio-cultural comments, and privacy of end users.
The paper mainly address questions like: “Can we selectively delete comments, feeling the museum’s memorial function affords the people lending their stories to these videos respectful treatment? Or should we allow any comment to stand in the name of free speech, even when it is hate speech?”, and it tries to provide a context to better understand whether the social media is appropriate for every museum practice or not.
Finally it discusses that modern museums largely motivate the inclusion of visitors’ views in social space, without considering the level of privacy that their users might be interested to be involved.
My critical point about this paper is about the authentic nature of some museums like one explored in this case study, and the openness emerged from bringing the museum experience to everyday life of a large audience which might not share the same cultural ethics.
Question: Social media can create a diverse audience for a museum which can cross the geographic and cultural borders, Should Museums expect to preserve their cultural ethics which might not be common among different communities?
Enacting engagement online: framing social media use for the Museum
This article demonstrates museums’ uses of social media by analysing critical frames which their use is currently being configured. It inspects the intersection of social media space with museum practices in Marketing, Inclusion, and collaborative intelligence frames, and tries to address the problematic views in each different frame. For example, how using marketing techniques widely applied in social media like Twitter can create a distant between museum and its audience mainly because of this fact that museums are quite different than brands.
It also investigate methods like creative ambassadors, many to many communication models, and creating shared knowledge and believe as important factors to initiate and build an online social community for museums, which cannot be necessarily reached only by having a Facebook page, Twitter account, and a Youtube channel.
Finally it compares story making and crowd sourcing techniques for maintaining an active online community, while recommending the second approach as more effective one.
Questions: Why does a museum need to have an active and collaborative online community meanwhile the social media can play an effective informative role about museum events, and contents and encourage people to visit the physical space?
Can models like collective intelligence in systems like Wikipedia be a good suggestion for museums in domain of social space?
The Use of Social Media in the Danish Museum Landscape
Nanna Holdgaard, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark
The aim of this paper was to investigate how social media and their online communications has been used in museums in Denmark Content analysis is considered as their basic systematic and reliable technique to infer generalizations of representations and meanings of media content. Different museums have been explored by considering following categories:
Language (usage of Danish language or other languages)
Videos (moving images)
Games (interactive features)
Findings suggest that the majority of museums communicate with a low degree of user interaction, participation and engagement in social media space. While benefit from this medium in order to attract more visitors to the physical museums instead.
Question: Why museums only consider serious games (interactive and educational programs), while they can benefit from social gaming frameworks for a larger education, with better motivational derives. Is entertaining nature of these applications in contrast with new museum practices?
Thanks for summarizing the article so well, setting up some strong issues and giving us excellent questions for discussion.
I am going to be a bit provocative because I know you don’t mind it and you actually appreciate contrasting viewpoints.
First, in your discussion of the Kidd article, you write this idea extracted from her text: “how using marketing techniques widely applied in social media like Twitter can create a distance between museum and its audience mainly because of the fact that museums are quite different than brands.”
In what way are museums different than brands? True, there is no direct profit ($) motivating museums the way that one would imagine with corporate brands.
But the notion of branding has been extended and critically studied in social sciences (especially communication studies). Branding can also be ideological-driven for “indirect” political or economic motives. Corporations that advertise themselves as community minded or “green” are an example of this. What they are doing is beautifying their image, what they stand for, what constitutes their “identity” to gain exposure, authority and to attract people.
It would appear to me that museums are also brands and that they practice branding in the sense that they are an institutional entity that cultivates an image that is value-laden and ideologically-driven. Whether this indirectly leads to profit, I cannot say, but for sure it leads to reinforcing some ideas of history, culture, identity, power, and even, dare we say, reality…
When I think of the MOMA, I am under the spell of its “brand”, its authority in the art world, its association with “hight art” and a cultural elite, its location in one of the capitals of art of the 20th c., its prestige, its aura, etc. This to me, is a result of the “branding” of the MOMA as is discussed in communication studies literature today. And the MOMA not only self-publicizes this image (= brands itself) but it also brands culture by adjucating on what is and is not art.
So in my view, it may be more productive to place the focus on brands and branding in the context of museum studies on the museums themselves than on social media or technology.
And this in fact speaks to your first question: “Social media can create a diverse audience for a museum which can cross the geographic and cultural borders, Should Museums expect to preserve their cultural ethics which might not be common among different communities?
If we view the museum as an ideological agent, then how can it not defend, cultivate and want to preserve its cultural ethics?
Your point is well taken though, and I guess that makes me wonder beyond the economic logic of globalization, is there culturally or ideologically, a real possibility for free speech across geographical and cultural borders? Or to put it otherwise, if you use social media to try to achieve this, will people be more open to really LISTENING to one another, and to try to understand other people’s points of view, or will social media remain a forum where a great number of people express varied and conflicting ideas but no one really listens or cares.
Here is a quote I just read in an interview with Fred Herzog: ” Globalism, he explains, is a way for rich people to rob poor people of other countries with a good conscience”.
Is not the utopic picture we have of our globalized world, free speech and institutions that appear to promote openness, transparency and the public good for everyone on the planet an illusion?
If so, does the use of social media demystify this or does it perversely reinforce it?
True, as you point out, social media could work to attract more crowds, more eyes and more voices around museums.
But I have seen artists community literally erode and disappear slowly in the past 20 years, and I cannot help thinking that the culture that is “branded” by museums is a very specific selection of culture. It sure ain’t the people’s culture, or the artists’ culture or the counterculture (by definition, the latter resists institutions), so whose culture is it?
And if social media, like the mass media effects of the 20 c., mystifies a greater number of converts, is this a good thing?
I am not sure what I think about this myself, Bardia. I have mixed feelings about this. And this is why I wanted to consider this from a critical perspective in your blog.
Thanks for preparing so well for your presentation which I am looking forward to.
It has been a hell-weekend for me…my laptop died and I just bought a new one…I just finished configuring everything but I lost access to the direct PDFs of the required readings and was unable to acquire them for free from home…So, thanks Bardia for helping summarize the content. I did read the abstracts and some reviews of the readings and here are my thoughts/questions…
About Holdgaard’s Danish museum paper…I was surprised that Holdgaard claimed that Danish citizens had limited access to social media in 2007. As it is 2012 now, I wonder if the paper would look any different since I would imagine, the social media usage would be up to healthy levels?
Also, why is Youtube and Wikipedia considered “social media”? Sure, one can post comments underneath videos but just about any BBS or website can also do this…why not make the whole internet “social media”? Youtube by itself is not social media..when videos are shared, they are done usually through Facebook. I guess one could say that managing and sharing “playlists” count as marginally social media but this is a stretch. Also, Wikipedia is not that social either. Even though people can contribute to validating content and maybe snitch on someone who is posting false information, there is no social community that I can see.
However, it was nice to see the author employ a participant observer methodology although I guess this cannot be avoided with having to study social networking sites.
Ok, Bardia, I was wondering if you could explain more what Kidd meant by “frames” when “frames misalignment” was mentioned….which context is “frames” really being used here? Thanks to my AI class, “frames” applies to contextual scripts within an “ontology” but of course, this author is referring to something more Humanities focused than this.
Nina Simon’s Participatory Museum website was a bit silly to me…However, she seems on the money with focusing on a “Me centered” instead of an audience centered approach..However, it seemed like an excuse to talk about herself and her life that much more 😉 Her website does fit the me-generational paradigm of Facebook narcissism…
I do not blame her for her narcissism though…I suffer the same symptoms as I like to collect friends on FB and talk about myself a lot 😉
Ok, I hope these comments are sufficient, considering my circumstances.
See you all tomorrow,
Thanks Bardia for the great synthesis!
Jeremy – I agree that youtube and wikipedia are not really ‘social media’ per se, however I love the idea of collective engagement (is wikipedia the venue for devising shared or collective memories???). Would wikipedia become social media if you knew the virtual identity of people supplying information? (is it the people aspect that makes it social?)
Also – when flipping through Nina Simone’s book I came across a great section where she was asking people to ‘make strange poses with a variety of props’ that seemed awesomely performative, especially when the participant(s?) began removing their shirts. Totally unexpected in a museum environment?? But totally engaging in a funny live-social-media way. I suppose that to facilitate collective participation in an unusual setting though, it sortof has to be ‘me-centered’ to encourage anyone else to participate.
Sorry to step into your territory Bardia, but I will take the liberty of answering one of Jeremy’s questions. Kidd uses the term “frame” in the a similar sense as a framework (like a conceptual framework, for instance).
She is drawing on Ervin Goffman’s writings in sociology so in this case, the meaning of the word “frame” comes from a sociological tradition (= the social sciences). I am quite familiar with this term because it is used in communication and journalism studies to describe how media “frames” a news story in a certain way by placing it in a normative context, often in the form of a narrative.
So for instance, when Bush made his speech about the “Clash of civilizations” in reference to 9-11, he was “framing” the event in the context of bloody Crusade wars that were over a thousand years old, namely the Muslims against the Christians.
So I guess the easiest way to explain the concept of frame is simply to say that it is a value-laden context that often takes the form of an existing narrative (or set of preconceived ideas) that the reader will understand because they have been exposed to this “narrative” before (so people know about the Crusades and when Bush declares that 9-11 was the Clash of Civilizations, people immediately associated the Crusades to the event and thus say it as Muslims vs. Christians).
That’s how a frame works. It takes an information and turns it into something else that we already know by virtue of association.
Bardia, I hope it didn’t hurt too much when I stepped on your toes…
Thanks for clarifying, Claude.
It is not too different from the AI interpretation of Frames although in the AI-world, “frames” encapsulate stereotyped scenarios that can be easily computed…
…and I am off to bed….good night, all…see you tomorrow.
I’m really intrigued by the above comments about Youtube and Wikipedia, Re: Jeremy as echoed by Kristin–what exactly does “count” as social media? This seems like a dumb question, but the “explanation’ in the Wong isn’t all that clear. She says that the term denotes:
“the spread of online tools that facilitate ubiquitous and mass, yet personalized, communication. But, while the concept is commonly associated with blogs, wikis, and social network sites, social media is more fruitfully acknowledged as the current cutlrual phenomenon in which people throughout the world are adapting to networked digital media and its capacity to affect society by changing how and when we communicate” (99)
She goes on to refer to social media as “remediation”, “the making of new media forms out of older ones” (Bolter and Gromala 2003:83 in Wong, 99).
By this definition, most internet sites make new media forms out of others/older ones, and lots of digital media connect people via personalized ways.
She acknowledges that all sorts of other earlier technologies, too, might be considered social media, but I think the things she lists are of different sorts. 1) letters, telegraphs, phones involve direct communication from people at a “local” level whereas 2) books, television and radio involve a different kind of circulation via some (usually) more powerful entity.
Many people use facebook in much the same way that people used to use letters (I have lots of anti-facebook friends who use it only for “keeping in touch”), or party invitations via mail or phone. Wikipedia, because of the sort of mystery surrounding its authors, I think, is read not unlike old school encyclopedias, however hesitantly.
Your point, Jeremy, about the fact that Youtube is shared via facebook is interesting because, I think when Youtube was more focused on individual profiles and film production it probably resembled social media to a greater extent. It’s of course been co-opted by the corporate world (Re: Claude and Marketing!) where companies produce high-production commercials in hopes that they’ll “go viral”. If you have a Youtube (or flickr?) account, you can theoretically directly connect to other users, no? That said, we have to draw the line somewhere! I usually circulate Youtube videos via email, which I guess isn’t social media!
I’m also intrigued by this because the student focus group on Neon Vancouver were so excited about the idea of being able to share neon signs the way they post Youtube to eachother, and so I wonder what the extent of possibilities are here . . .
Thanks for the great summation, Bardia.
I have to say that I, for one, am very suspicious of social media in the context of museums, as it mainly seems like a marketing ploy. There is nothing wrong with this, of course all museums need to market their shows, but unless the museum intends to use social media in an engaged form that works back into the practice of the museum curation and direction, then it only creates a false sense of social—a unidirectional broadcast from the institution to their audience, who become shills for the generation of more page views. Thus the use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or whatever else is focused on sharing a photo, video or quote, not on a sustained dialogue between the museum audience and curators/staff of the museum. Lacking a focused attention to the generation of and participation in a dialogue between experts and audience would be the goal, presumably, but I have yet to see this.
As Diana points out, the use of social media often replaces older forms of broadcasting and communication. Creating a viral video is only generating excitement in the form of a new kind of press, the sociality seems to come from the audience sharing with their friends and colleagues. So, I would ask, if the social part of media is our social circles, are we being taken advantage of?
I agree with what everyone is saying…we will be having this discussion in class anyway in about an hour so maybe there is no point to elaborate further.
I agree with you Diana that Youtubes are shared through email or through the infrastructural umbrella of a social-networking service such as Facebook.
Tyler, I agree with you as well about the superficial incentive to become institutionally involved with social networking projects.
Perhaps a genuine networking community could form around a gated community if the institution was prestigious enough. I am reminded of The Well community from the 1980s/early 1990s. http://www.well.com/ The Whitney might make for a good online community. Saatchi and Saatchi tried to create a social networking site but most people (including myself) used it as a CV-dump 😉 http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/
Kristin, I think Wikipedia needs more than the removal of anonymity to be perceived as a social network…I think synchronicity is something sorely needed in social networking sites…even something as rudimentary as a wiki-space chat-room would be sufficient…agreed?