Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication

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Go tribal!

Archives, libraries and museums have their particular audiences that probably have stayed the same, in a demographic sense, for a longer period of time. However, looking closer at this group of cultural heritage consumers, they are changing their habits just like everyone else.

The people we’re trying to reach today have their own audiences, they are not at the end of the communication line. In fact their networks and audiences have in turn their own audiences, etc. And as people are acknowledging the responsibility of maintaining their networks, the messages passed on will be refined in each step. There is in fact a sense of curation going on.

Brian Solis reminds us, in an interview at 26DotTwo, that since traditional media is no longer central in people’s lives (they are instead focused on their Twitter-stream, their Facebook wall etc.) there’s a need to adapt the communication to this changing world. And the only way to really understand this change is to actually live it, be a part of social media. ”If you don’t live it and breathe it yourself you can’t necessarily get it.” He even says: Like an anthropologist, go tribal!

And as a passionate anthropologist I do get it. By going tribal we’ll learn how this (not so) new world of communication works, and we’ll learn how to communicate and how to reach new audiences. Last but not least, sharing the insights we gain along the way is vital to the development of the cultural heritage sector.

See the film clip: The new influencers. Does old school media ”get it”?


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Social media in the public sector

The other day I attended a conference on social media in the public sector, moderated by Erik Sellström (@eriksellstrom). A very rewarding conference showing that the Swedish public sector is starting to take social media seriously. (search #smios, for comments in Swedish)

Excellent talks were given by authorities and municipalities, and above all there was a willingness to share experiences, good and bad. Also, several questions were raised by the audience showing concerns that might grow into obstacles in the process of implementing social media, for those who are standing on the doorstep.

Some of these questions I meet when talking to colleagues in the cultural heritage sector. And one of the benefits of the conference was a great step forward in solving these issues:

How do we reach through to the audiences (don’t we need viral campaigns etc.)?
The Municipality of Borås have implemented social media in several areas of the organization. One surprising result was that by live casting budget discussions, the interest among the public for this raised several 100 %! It’s not always about creating entertainment but making things that are relevant to people available in a simple way.

Social media? I don’t have the time!
There was a time when e-mail was new. De-dramatize the use of social media. Focus on the easy parts, for example answering questions that would otherwise come by e-mail or through phone-calls. Introduce social media step by step, and show the benefits (and what happens if we aren’t really present online). One interesting example of inadequate online presence is the Twitter account of @polisen_uppsala. Very easily mistaken for a Twitter account from the police department of the town of Uppsala. However it is not an official account. It provides accurate information, from the website of the police department, but it is run by someone else, probably a private person with special interest in police work.

Above: A Twitter account that is easily mistaken for an official account, but is run by a private individual.

What if we get serious negative critique?
Deal with the problems when they come (a constant reminder from communications consultant Brit Stakston, @britstakston, who participated in a discussion panel). Using social media requires a readiness for unexpected problems. Learn by others. Many companies and organizations have already been there and dealt with the issues (as many speakers generously showed by sharing mistakes and how to deal with problems).

Should we use one Twitter account or Facebook page for the whole organization?
No. Both speakers and the audience agreed on that segmenting the communication is vital. Not only is it easier to speak with a proper voice, but also to listen and engage in a relevant dialogue.

But, communication is for the Marketing department!?
Again, both speakers and the audience agreed: Social media provide tools for everyone to communicate, just as everone has a phone or an e-mail account. This is an opportunity for the organization to reach out in a more efficient way, and to learn more about the target audiences. The tricky part is to distinguish pure marketing from everyday communication – they might use the same channels. (Or do we face a development towards a deeper integration of the Marketing department with the rest of the organization?). In any case segmenting communicative efforts is essential.

But what about legal issues? Can we do this?
In Sweden the e-Government Delegation is adressing the use of social media within the public sector. There will be a report, very helpful to the cultural heritage sector (and everyone else) in avoiding breaking laws and to further develop the use of social media. As for cultural heritage institutions, Lars Lundqvist, @arkland_swe, at the Swedish National Heritage Board, showed several examples of dealing with legal issues, for example hosting a community, www.platsr.se.

What if we make a mistake? Then it’s there for everyone to see?
As with negative critique, prepare for mistakes and problems. One of the most important things when implementing social media is to be there online, participating. It’s all about learning by doing. Also, by being present online there are several ways of building a positive web presence that will make up for mistakes in the long run. Show a willingness to solve problems and listen. There is no manual for social media, each company and organization must create their own strategy.

Can a leader and executive be personal in social media?
The head of the municipality of Katrineholm, Mattias Jansson (@kommunchef) showed that yes it is possible. He is present in several social media channels (blog, FB, Twitter etc.). And with common sense and drawing a line between his professional role and private life, though still sharing personal experiences, it’s possible to build a closer relationship with the target audiences. The conference moderator Erik Sellström asked the very interesting question: How many people in the audience have a blogging CEO? 10 % answered yes. The following question was: How many would like a blogging boss? Almost everyone answered yes. (Does this really mean that all CEO:s should blog? Or is it a sign of a need for greater transparency within the public sector?)

Everyone is talking about web presence these days. Don’t we need a website anymore?
To emphasize the importance of a broad presence online Joakim Jardenberg (@jocke) even stated ”it’s not a website”, the web presence of tomorrow. This does however not mean we shouldn’t make company websites anymore. Anders Kihl (@kihlanders) from Borås Municipality explained how the municipality website has 900 000 unique visitors per year. They are now using the website as a hub for their web presence, driving traffic to and from other channels.

Above: The website of Borås Municipality

Where do we start?
Almost all of the speakers mentioned in one way or the other that letting early adopters of social media take part in the implementation process can be rewarding. By showing the way, that it’s not dangerous, difficult or time consuming, it’s way easier to implement social media in the entire organization.

By analysing the benefits of social media (and having a strategy), you can easier implement new tools for communication, but also deal with issues and problems. During the conference there were a couple of statements made that it’s difficult to measure success within social media. But there are tools that can and must be used to show benefits. In the end, to motivate further allocation of resources towards the use of social media, measurable success matters.

It is only a year ago that many authorities, organizations and municipalities were just talking about social media: What is it? Why should we use it? This year many started to take action: This is how can we use social media! And next year perhaps we’ll see the evaluations. What excatly did we gain from embracing social media? And last but not least, I would like to see social media strategies that have been implemented, shared by the public sector.

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This is what museums are all about

Watch the Blériot fly at Youtube.

Yesterday, the Swedish Science Museum moved into the field next door, just outside Stockholm city, with their Blériot XI from 1918, made in Sweden, and bought by the Museum in 1929. The plane has been restored and is now in great shape, which was proven by the pilot Mikael Carlson who took the Blériot up in the air.

Such an event is en excellent way to communicate not only the museum object, and the story around it, but to communicate the entire museum.

> The Science Museum brought the museum object into an unexpected place (surprise, do the unexpected)
> They created a new contact point, a new surface where to interact with their audience
> They tell the story behind the plane (doesn’t have to be a long story, but it gives a context)
> They created drama ”would it really fly?!”
> They used evicence, ”Yes it can actually fly because we restored it”
> They used professional film makers, it’s not an amateur film
> They broadcasted the flight live through Bambuser
> They have made a beautiful short film available on Youtube
> They tweeted the event, and got retweeted by key figures who use social media

It is a great example of communication where social media plays an important role. Museums might be boring, but they don’t have to be. Let’s create more of this!

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Social media in the cultural heritage sector

And so, my contribution to the SSWC book, translated into English.

Imagine picking up your cell phone at the museum, you connect to the wireless network and download a picture of a pair of shoes that you see in the exhibition of the clothing fashion of all time. With the picture comes a movie about shoes, when they were manufactured, what they’re made of and a text about the previous owner. At the art museum then down load the portrait of the owner and at the library a book on shoefashion.

At home, upload the images, texts and movies onto your computer, use them in an essay at school, use them in a an article or paper, or just print a photograph and put up on the wall. Maybe you have already sent the picture of the shoes to your friend.

In the museum you can also rate the shoes – are they your favorites or just boring? Or why not rate the entire exhibition directly through the cell phone. You can see the exhibition that your friends prefer or which shoes are most popular. You can also contribute to the exhibit by uploading pictures of your own shoes on Flickr, and you see the picture being displayed in the museum just as you stand there. In your cell phone you can also watch movies with extras from the exhibit.

All this are pretty basic services that are technically possible today. And the possibilities are endless. Social media open for innovative ways to communicate and consume cultural heritage, ie. both social media as actual services but also as new ways of running a business – to share, keep an ongoing dialogue, listen and collaborate.

Still, many cultural heritage institutions, archives, libraries and museums, are in an exploratory phase, where they experiment with social media, staying in touch with users.

Museu Picasso in Barcelona, the Brooklyn Museum in New York, Museum of London and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney are some museums that are no longer merely experimenting. For example, using services like Flickr to strengthen the relationship with visitors, conveying news through Twitter, letting users comment on content, sharing their favorites in the collection, and so on. Other organizations use crowdsourcing to gather content and build relationships.

Why is social media especially interesting in the heritage sector? Museums have, by definition, collections. There are items (such as a suit, a plow, a stone ax or a photograph) which are traces that over the years we interpret and reinterpret to learn about our history and our contemporary society. Archives and libraries are accdording to Swedish law obliged to collect documents, sound, moving images and printed texts. They are, in other words, custodians of a huge body of knowledge. Their job is to manage and communicate these resources. And social media offers new tools and opens up new paths.

In all parts of the cultural heritage sector, institutions are able to streamline and develop their work with social media. But just as in other industries it requires a change in skill profiles, traditional knowledge has to change and evolve. Organizational processes must adapt to the new flow of information generated through the effective use of social media.

How do we get there? Through cooperation, openness (to have a dialogue with end users and colleagues), to learn from each other (including other sectors), and by not forgetting any part of the organization when moving into the new phase of implementation of social media. In particular, an overall strategy is necessary, not just about policies and guidelines for staff use of social media, but one that covers all parts of the organization. It is about changing practices and procedures so that social media contribute to the development, ie. provide visible, measurable results. Then it is possible to build a lasting knowledge and communication platform that becomes the foundation for further development of the museum, archive or library

So what is the next step? Once we have built a communication platform where the users / visitors are an integral part, the best ideas will emerge in the encounter between humans and the body of knowledge. Then it is necessary to be ready to take advantage of these ideas, to share and let other organizations take part in the development. Also not to hesitate to take advantage of others’ strategies and projects, remixing and further developing them, all in an ongoing process. This opens up for the cultural heritage sector, including the body of knowledge, to become a living part of society and no longer stay in large parts securely hidden in the museum, archive or library.

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A conference under cover? Or the biggest un-conference ever?

I am probably one of the last people in this world to share my experience from SSWC 2010, www.swedensocialwebcamp.se . But here we go:

Imagine 400 nerds camping in a field full of sheep, gathering in tents or on cliffs by the sea with laptops, iPhones and iPads everywhere (and a WiFi!).

Or imagine 400 social media experts gathering for the event of the year.

Both descriptions have been used by media about the Swedish Social Web Camp, that took place last weekend. The truth lies perhaps somewhere in between. All participants share a passion for social media, and quite a few represented the very elite of digital communication in Sweden today.  And yes, we did camp in a field (though the sheep wandered off to the other side of the island – most likely avoiding the invasion).

The great difference from f.ex. Dream Hack, is that these ”nerds” actually spend most (not all!) of the time – during the event– offline. And the main topic is communication, not technology.

SSWC is an un-conference that was organized last weekend for the second time ever, first time was in 2009. The site was the island of Tjärö, just off the coast of Blekinge in southern Sweden. The (un-)conference fee of 900 sek covered the boat trip and all meals.

So, the format was un-conference, and the content decided entirely on site by the participants. Friday evening a grid was set up in the tent. Anybody could pick up a pen and paper and announce a session (20 or 40 minutes long), spontaneously or prepared. And it worked!

There were plenty of opportunities to meet experts like Brit Stakston, or Johan Ronnestam, or Björn Alberts. And there were just as many opportunities to encounter new and upcoming companies, entrepreneurs and projects.

The sessions announced ranged from entrepreneurship and business development to social media in politics, media, schools, the use of Creative Commons or services like Flickr or Facebook and last but not least the development of strategies.

Me and Matthieu Hartig,  gathered 34 people for a session on social media and cultural heritage. It was more of an attempt to see how many of the participants who would be interested in cultural heritage, than to give a presentation. Only one of the participants in our session was actually working at a museum. The rest were involved, engaged or just interested in one way or the other. (We made great connections and this calls for a tweetup in Stockholm soon!)

Some practicalities around #sswc 2010: A huge tent with benches and tables housed the meals and a few sessions. An old barn next door served as a room for sessions. The rest of the sessions took place outdoors, in the fields and on the cliffs. All meals except breakfast were served outdoors, and the participants were seated in the main tent or outside on wooden benches.

There was a WiFi serving almost the entire island. Yes, even the camping ground was covered. But as with every conference I have visited, the WiFi was coming and going. However, considering the circumstances, I am still very impressed.

As for documentation, the conference committée was filming the event, the main parts were covered by national TV and news paper journalists. Mattias Boström, at the publishing company Piratförlaget, decided to make a documentation of the event. He asked the participants to contribute to a book, the SSWC-book. The result: 180 people contributed to over 600 pages, with blogposts, old and new. The book was both edited and designed by Mattias Boström, and then delivered straight to the camp site. For those of you who speak Swedish (or is interested in the few posts in English!) here’s the link to download the entire book! (Thank you Mattias for a great job!): The SSWC Book (Pdf).

The concept of an un-conference is excellent in this case. It opens up for personal meetings, the individual participants matter, not companies or organizations.

Social media covers a broad spectrum of services and methods, and is used in all parts of society. Still there aren’t that many people deeply involved with development and implementation. So for now it really works. It’s a unique – once in a lifetime – chance to learn from the experts in a very informal situation. The camp site calls for relaxed meetings and just having fun (as for having fun, check also my last blogpost on playing with cultural heritage)!

Still I hope that next year the event will have slightly developed towards a conference. There will be many more than 400 people wanting to participate. One issue is how to make a selection. This year they made two realeases of tickets. Some people didn’t make it since the website couldn’t handle the onslaught.

Also, to attract the very best in the business, I believe a call for papers will be necessary. The committée would then need to set some goals for the whole event, preferably covering some central areas where social media plays a vital role in society. The grid with un-conference sessions will still be one of the most important aspects of the event, and it serves as a great example of how to use crowdsourcing with a holistic perspective!

And as Jocke Jardenberg (another excellent expert) repeated during the event, we need to work hard this year and come back to Tjärö next year to share our new experiences and contribute to further development. I.e. everyone is obliged to set goals for the year to come. And here’s the most exciting thing: As with Museums and the Web, there is a growing community. The community rising from the un-conference SSWC is actually capable of growing and thriving in between the events, keeping in touch, meeting regularly at f.ex. Stockholm Social Media Lunch Club and other places. So there is no reason not to set high goals for SSWC 2011. And then we’ll see SSWC perhaps evolve into a conference, but definitely extend itself in-between-conferences.

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Play with cultural heritage – do you dare?

Visiting Minnesota Historical Society, S:t Paul, in 2000 I remember being shown a huge poster of a prominent historical person, an old photograph, that had been enhanced with a bright red clown nose.

Communicating the cultural heritage is a challenge, a creative and fun challenge. Communication is vital and should be a part of any curator’s or archivist’s competence. The cultural heritage sector is not the most creative business, but has a potential to be. I often look at the digital communication sector to get inspired.

I asked @matthartig: If I was to read just one book this summer, what would it be? He answered: F*ck logic 2 by Per Öhlin,2009 (ISBN 978-91-978374-0-8). So I did. It is brilliant. A manual of creative thinking, a handbook not to leave home without. It is aimed at the commercial market but is applicable to any communicating business and organization. Unfortunately it’s only available in Swedish yet, but here is a summary. My contribution is to bring – in short – these ideas into a cultural heritage perspective.

The main topic of the book is the fact that just exposing a brand, event etc. is not enough. You need to touch and affect the audience, reach into people’s minds. To do that you need to step out of traditional ways of thinking about communication. The author of the book, Per Öhlin has a ”simple” solution. To achieve successful communication you need to:

a) Play with the problems
b) Stay playful, be curious

(I love that! I.e. have fun! ) 🙂

So, being rational, the way we have been brought up, is in fact not the way to be creative. Per Öhlin, does not dismiss rationality, but sees it as a complement to creativity. And creativity comes first.

In every communicative problem there’s a need to answer the questions: Who? Why? Waht? How? When? Where? And Why not?

Who: As in sender and reciever.
Why: As in why do you even exist? What do you want to achieve?
What: As in do you know what to say? What do you have that is unique? Does it mean anything to the reciever?

(Here Per Öhlin reminds us to answer ”What?” at least five times. Having a five-year-old at home I get the point, the first answer is never enough!)

How: As in how do we communicate this?
Where and When: As in where and when do we communicate with the reciever? It’s all about timing.
Why not: As in why should we NOT do this, are there any hidden issues?

The art of seduction
Communication is all about seducing the reciever, to get through in the media buzz. Per Öhlin has plenty of advice to give but a few strike me especially: Be honest, personal, social and humble. And don’t forget to listen!

To actually reach out to the audience is a challenge and it requires creative thinking. The rest of the book, F*ck logic 2, is a detailed list of how to develop creativity. The challenge is to embrace all these step in every project, so it becomes more or less natural. Trying only one or two of these steps will definitely create shortcuts but at the cost of loosing great ideas.

I will not repeat the entire list of steps, but here are some advice from the author, which I will relate to the cultural heritage sector:

Know the product
Smell, taste, feel, listen and look. Do you know what a letter from the 19th century looks like, feels like and smells like? Have you felt the softness of a woven piece of cloth? Have you seen the details in a 14 000-year-old painted buffalo and it’s context – the dark cool cave? How can you mediate the dimensions you don’t know?

Use storytelling
Create drama and attention by telling stories. Here Per Öhlin uses an ad from Ernest Shackleton when the explorer recruited men for his expedition: ”Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.” (what a copywriter!). Storytelling can also be used to create drama when testing the product or service, prove that it works!

Use evidence
Let the audience have an experience of what you whant to communicate, see the difference in sizes, feel the weight, hear the sound. Recreate or create an event. (This reminds me of the wonderful possibilities of combining online with onsite experience). With evidence you will also be precieved as credible.

Use characters
Having a character telling the story can be great. I have seen less great examples, so be careful. If the character is percieved as annoying it will totally ruin the experience. But the character can also provide recognition and continuity.

Rethink your contact points
Where do you meet the audience? Create unexpected meetings (but don’t forget timing!). As for museums there is always a need to increase the number of meeting points and surfaces. The museum building and the website is far from enough.

Be entertaining
If you can’t create a unique product or service, make the audience think uniquely about it. Make them like you. Let the audience gain knowledge and insight, let them be excited, have fun and laugh!

Conclusion, according to Per Öhlin:

> Are you original? Can you reach through?
> Does the audience have the time to stop by your site/service?
> Is your product or service relevant to the end user?
> Is it good quality? Badly performed websites/exhibits etc. will silence the message.
> What is you ambition? What is the purpose of your communication?
> Is there human compassion? Are you a credible sender?

And in addition, I believe you should ask yourself:

> F*ck logic: i.e. play with cultural heritage. Do you dare? Are you ready to step away from rationality and play with cultural heritage? Start with the clown nose, it works!

Again, communication should be part of any curator’s or archivist’s competence. Reaching through to researchers in the reading room is just as important as reaching through to kids in an exhibition or online. F*uck logic 2, and the methods given by the author, is a great start towards communicating cultural heritage.


F*ck logic is unfortunately only available in Swedish so far, but hopefully translated soon. In the meantime check into Per Öhlin’s website for blogposts in English: http://www.minegoestoeleven.com/