Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication

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Reflections from yesterday’s Wikipanel

Last night I participated in a panel discussion on Wikipedia’s future. It was quite an informal event at a the bar/club/restaurant Strand in Stockholm.

Invited were a couple of guests with various backgrounds: A writer, a poet, a politician, a journalist, a political scientist, a web entrepreneur and myself from the cultural heritage sector.

All, except me, are frequent participants in public debates and arenas. The panel thus attracted an audience that was exceptionally large and trendy for a Wikipedia event. This event was also coorganized with a PR and communication agency Skugge & Co which was a great success for Wikipedia Sweden, who has had some difficulties reaching out to a larger crowd with their events.

At least half an hour late we started the panel discussion led by Axel Pettersson, press contact at Wikipedia Sweden. He had prepared a few questions to get the discussion going and then the panel contributed with a few questions, anecdotes and opinions.

The Wikipedia representatives were few, and worked hard all evening keeping the event going. They did an excellent job, but there was some critique from the audience. First of all it was percieved to some extent as not a very coherent discussion. From my point of view we covered a broad aspect of Wikipedia, but needed perhaps to stop and put focus on certain issues. Also there were no questions from the audience, mainly because they weren’t really invited into the discussion.

This strikes me as one of the weaker points of Wikipedia, there is a large crowd of just ”users” of Wikipedia. It’s just there when you perform a search on Google. There is a need to market (I am not sure if it’s the right word to use) Wikipedia as a crowdsourced organization and service, where you’re never just a user, but a contributer in one way or the other.

Then we have the interesting meeting between Wikipedia and the trendy and very demanding audience, who attend the top social media and communication events and expect nothing but perfection (technichque, content etc.). They want to be entertained by the best. To succeed and prosper, Wikipedia Sweden will need to not only get the attention of this crowd but also an active commitment (this is a lesson I bring back to the cultural heritage sector as well). Also, I believe larger Wikipedia events would benefit from a more focused programme adressing current issues of interest for segmented audiences.

I truly enjoyed last night and I believe Wikipedia Sweden all in all did a great job. Important questions were brought up, and a few things were brought to my attention:

  • The young politicians are very interested in solving copyright issues, but they are also concerned and a bit frustrated that these issues aren’t taken seriously by the government, i.e. they feel there’s a lack of understanding of the real problems and how important this new culture online is to the younger generation
  • A recurring issue is the poor user interface of Wikipedia (both for users and for contributers), this seems however be taken seriously by the Wikipedia foundation who are now giving scholarships and employing Wikipedians around the world to find solutions
  • For the cultural heritage sector it’s important to look outside the sector for input around collaboration with Wikipedia (in the sense of contributing to digital inclusion, making a difference in society and finding new ways of mediating cultural heritage online)

Today, Wikipedia Sweden are having a meeting at Nordiska museet. They are also making time for a meeting around the collaboration between Nordiska museet and Wikipedia Sweden, which I am particularly looking foward to. Yesterday’s panel discussion was a great occasion for reflection and networking and this weekend the celebrations of Wikipedia 10 years continue.

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Wikipedia 10 years old

Wikipedia 10 årThis Thursday I will particpate in a panel discussion here in Stockholm, about Wikipedia turning 10 years old and about the future of the organization. My perspective is ofcourse the one of the museum.

Having quite recently participated in GLAM-Wiki UK, I am convinced there is a future for further collaboration between GLAM:s and Wikipedia. The challenge is to shape this collaboration in the best possible way.

There are several concerns from both GLAM:s and Wikipedians about collaboration. Some concerns were expressed on the blog Social Media and Cultural Communication, after the 2009 GLAM-Wiki conference in Australia: http://nlablog.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/feeling-glum-after-glam-wiki/

In June 2010, I organized a full day event, in Stockholm, focusing on Creative Commons and Photographic Collections within the cultural heritage sector. This was my first real encounter with Swedish Wikipedia, who kindly co-sponsored the day by giving presentations and inviting Liam Wyatt, at the time a digital volunteer at the British Museum. The day was a success and in many ways a small but profitable starting point for collaboration between Swedish GLAM:s and Wikipedia.

I believe collaboration with Wikipedia can give GLAM:s great advantages, among others:

  • Reaching a larger audience
  • Reaching target groups where they are
  • Building relationships with new audiences
  • Training the staff in communicating the cultural heritage in new ways
  • Challenging the institution to develop in a positive direction

Since contributions to Wikipedia are made under conditions other than those common in museums (texts aren’t attributed, they can be changed etc.), museums have to rethink and challenge a lot of conventional methods and ways to mediate cultural heritage, and even their role in society. Not all social relations should be monetized, instead there are questions to ask: By participating in Wikipedia, can we make a contribution towards a greater digital inclusion? And contribute to a more open and creative internet? And with this I don’t say we shouldn’t look at ROI, just have an open mind when thinking about collaboration.

At the same time GLAM:s need to understand how the world ”out there” (online as well as offline) works, and assess if they are willing to adapt to these new game rules or not. I believe it’s vital to a museum to include social media participation in the operational plan, and to understand the consequences of participating as well as not participating. Collaborating with Wikipedia is a way to, in real time and step by step, leave the theories and strategies behind and implement the action plan.

To Wikipedia there is the challenge of not only collaborating with individuals, but with organizations and institutions. Also, I believe Wikipedia has to develop in the same direction as successful social media services as Facebook and Twitter, as far as user experience is concerned. The issues with contributing to Wikipedia (technical difficulties) can eventually put individuals and organizations off.

So there are challenges on both sides, but the possible benefits should definately be taken into account. This is one of my job assignments for 2011 as a Digital navigator at Nordiska museet, Stockholm. More about this in an upcoming blogpost.

For those interested in collaboration between GLAM:s and Wikipedia there is more to read:

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Can marketing kill social media?

In a recent blog post on Mashable, Douglas Rushkoff is concerned that social media will evolve into social marketing, ie. social P2P relationships are threatened by the need for new marketing channels.

In the blog post the author claims crowdsourcing is really a corporate friendly variant of open source. And viral media has evolved into viral marketing.

Perhaps we’re not all there yet, but we might be heading in that direction. I believe it’s in place for the cultural heritage sector to be aware of the risk of contaminating social media methods with the demand to make money out of every single social relation.

It is a thought-provoking posts. How do we want social media to develop? How do we separate marketing and the thriving culture that social media enables? How can the cultural heritage sector contribute to a more sustainable development of social media?

Read the blog post: http://mashable.com/2011/01/06/marketing-threatens-social-media/