Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication

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Why wouldn’t we go digital? #digitaltransformation


Two men on Northwest Airlines aircraft, one using typewriter, with female flight attendant in background, ca 1965.

Two men on Northwest Airlines aircraft, one using typewriter, with female flight attendant in background, ca 1965. University of Washington Libraries Collections, Flickr Commons. No known copyright restrictions.

”…keys to strong work motivation in three Ms — mastery, membership, and meaning. Money is a distant fourth”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, HBR Blog Network

During several trips this year to present at conferences, seminars and workshops I’ve had to take time to think about what would prevent an organisation from transforming to digital. For example, some professionals still see transformation as a threat. Therefore a risk assessment is central when planning for digital transformation, and here is my list so far of things to adress:

Lack of digital transformation within the museum

First of all, digital transformation has to be adressed. It is possible to just tag along with digital change and to wait for things to happen. But being in charge of the transformation will save time, money and be a lot (A LOT) less stressful to the staff. To enable this we need allocated staff to help the organisation navigate and transform, and yes they can absolutely have the word digital in their job title! Further I strongly believe social media can be a great way to start digital transformation because it requires most things a digital organisation needs in terms of awareness, knowledge, flexibility and readiness.

Fear of losing authority

This is particularly common among staff who’s job it has been so far to build up authority, to argue for their research and to show the audience the strong voice of the museum. It is difficult especially for scientists and academics with a higher degree to have to spend time discussing their work with non academics, amateur researchers etc. To find a common language and a common platform is necessary to bridge this very old and traditional gap. Why not compulsory tweeting?

Fear of popularizing the museum collections

In 2000 I visited Minnesota Historical Society and one thing I strongly remember is a poster with, I think Abraham Lincoln, or some other important historical person, with a red clown nose attached to his nose. This is a great reminder of that we can’t decide how the next generations will come across our collections, what their first encounter will be like. By now we (digital staff and most of our colleagues) know this doesn’t reduce our abilities to enable learning, on the contrary it opens up for new audiences. It’s all about attention and engagement. Again some staff might not see the benefits and thus chose not to participate.

Not sure about the actual value and benefits

This is a highly important problem, since evaluating the benefits of digital and social media is diffucult, it takes time and it’s more than just counting numbers of published items. This is of course something that most museum staff engaged with digital already know, but when working specifically with digital transformation this is central. If we can’t communicate the benefits to our stakeholders, they will neither set aside time nor staff and money.

Lack of funding (or re-prioritizing the budget)

Social media might be free (almost) to use, but working seriously with the digital tools and channels requires reallocating money within the organisation. To boost digital transformation we have to communicate the need for a budget to the management.

Be left in the old museum practice

To work with digital transformation we need to analyse our museum practices. Are they compatible with the digital and social world? Can we change them to be even more efficient in our work. For example when working with museum collections, digital infrastructures were originally built to support internal needs. Not to be the foundation for a social digital online presence. It is about licensing collections, making them available and relevant to online audiences, but also about connecting the digital collections with the different interfaces of today, whether it may be mobile platforms, touch screens in gallery or on web services like Wikipedia.

It’s also about looking at the collections as a resource for the museum work. Social media is completely visual, and this means for example that we need look at the photograph collections as a possible new interface to the online audience. And of course at the same time think in new terms of presenting the collections online to get attention, to engage the audiences and to enable an active and inspiring encounter between the audiences and the collections as well as with the museum.

Requires new skills

To understand and embrace social digital tools and services requires new skills. Both how to use the technologies, and to understand how they are relevant at work, in the museum. Many of us have learned this out of pure passion and interest, further education, endless talks with peers and encounters with new technologies. To those who don’t seek this new knowledge it has to come from the museum management, that enables internal training and mandate to spend time discovering and learning. We also need to think about what skills we require new staff to have. Are digital skills mentioned when recruiting new staff, all over the organisation?

Rigid inflexible organisational structures

Digital transformation requires transparency and flexible collaboration across departments. It’s easier said than done, but social media is one arena where people from all over the museum can meet and work together on a common platform. Social media is also here and now, it requires action 24/7, and it requires quick decision making further down in the hierarchies as well as open and instant communication with management. If you want to stress test your organisation, launch a social media project!


All this is well known among digital staff, but is something we need to adress when enforcing or enabling digital transformation. Everyone is not onboard. It is somewhat easier when one or two colleagues refuse to use smartphones or to learn about social media. But when the staff not onboard is found within management, or among middle management, we do have a problem. Digital staff need to communicate this within the organisation, talk to colleagues and to the management, to be able to take the next step in transformation.

Of course there are more things to add to the list above. What do you think is most important?


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Digital inclusion and the elderly population #Blogg100


Photo: Kajsa Hartig.

The central organisation Uppsalas Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd (UPS) acts on behalf of 63 associations to represent and defend the interests of the senior citizens in Uppsala, Sweden. Uppsala is Sweden’s fourth city with its 200 000 inhabitants, 70 km north of the capital Stockholm.  UPS recently analyzed the report Digidel 2013 – Increased Digital Inclusion. Digidel 2013 was a campaign (2011–2013) to increase the part of the population actively using digital services. The campaign was formed by a network of NGOs, libraries, companies and authorities.

UPS’ findings and conclusions are relevant in many ways even if you are not working primarily with elderly people, but if you are about to implement digital tools in your organisation.

In Sweden, less than 10% of the population never use the internet. Unsurprisingly, most of these non-digital citizens are seniors. The reasons for elderly not to be online are many, from cognitive and physical difficulties to pure disinterest. Another major obstacle is to start learning how to use complex technical devices. The interesting question raised by Uppsala Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd is:

To what extent is this lack of IT-proficiency a problem for an elderly population who’s lived all their life offline?

Most of those without access to the Internet already feel they are missing out a lot, from opportunities to live a less isolated life to fully enjoying their democratic rights. It is a fact that most authorities in Sweden expect all citizens to be using their online services, which have silently replaced their traditional, offline ones. Being part of the online community can also lead to better healthcare as well as a sense of inclusion, networking with people in different communities, etc. The list of situations where offline seniors are missing out is already very long and it won’t stop growing. Even worse for these seniors the digitization of services are seen as improvement and progress by the society in general.

On a national level a direct consequence of the quasitotal absence of seniors in social media media is that they are not getting the attention that they deserve in broad cast media, especially during this years national elections.

One major issue when trying to get elderly people online is that they can’t be reached through usual training programs. They don’t see the benefits of using internet to the extent that they will want to overcome technological barriers. As Digidel states in their report:

”More than seventy percent of those not using the Internet in 2013 specify ’lack of interest’ as the main reason . It may also be that the Internet is not commonly used in the environment they live in. Just less than twenty percent say internet is too complicated. The rest thinks it is too expensive or that they are prevented from using internet by practical difficulties or disabilities.”

This report and the analysis made by Uppsala Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd shows that when reaching out to elderly people, the focus should be on making everyone understand the relevance of internet (including social media) in a person’s everyday life. There is a need for computer classes, but this is not enough to attract the quite large number of elders that lack interest for Internet and new media. To put it simply, technical training initiatives won’t reach their goals if the very purpose behind this training isn’t understood by participants. I believe this approach is applicable in any organisation when implementing digital tools and services.

I will return to the subject of digital inclusion and the relevance of social media and internet to individuals in an upcoming blog post.

This blog post was written i collaboration with Matthieu Hartig, communications strategist at Uppsala Pensionärsföreningars Samarbetsråd (UPS).


Blog post 13/100 #Blogg100-challenge

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Mind the gap #Blogg100

Blog post 018/100 #Blogg100 challenge

MInd the gap. Photo: Riccardo Bandiera. CC-BY-NC. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thewhitestdogalive/540622678/

MInd the gap. Photo: Riccardo Bandiera. CC-BY-NC.

This blog post will add some reflections on the digital literacy gap. As I wrote two years ago, I believe digital inclusion is an important task for cultural heritage organisations. However, in my experience the gap between early adopters and so called laggards or digitally excluded, looks somewhat different today than only two years ago.

I must admit that I was much more concerned then about the gap between those who fear or avoid digital, and early adopters, than I am now.

So what has happened? I believe the evolution of digital in cultural heritage institutions, at least in Sweden, is moving ahead though not as fast as I had perhaps anticipated. It’s an slow and efficient evolution, not only driven by organisations but by the entire society.

With a whole new generation of young digitally savvy kids, and an emerging digitally connected school, we are all affected. Facebook has been around long enough for most people to see the benefits of it, from one perspective or the other. It’s an infrastructure here to stay, as Brit Stakston recently stated in a blog post. Media and public service are keeping up with changes in society. Public service TV and radio are all digital and streaming online. Newspapers are gaining more subscriptions online.

Digital is everywhere. It is very hard to avoid. This brings the large masses onto the digital arena, in one way or the other, whether they do so willingly or not. This makes me less worried about the gap. There will always be people excluded from the digital arenas. But this is not primarily a digital problem, it’s a matter of exclusion in many other ways (poverty, language barriers, age etc). For these categories we need to be much more aware of what other issues are causing digital exclusion.

So in some ways the gap is not as wide anymore, and it looks different than only two years ago. What will it look like two years ahead?

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Opening Plenary at MW2011

Opening Plenary at MW2011, by Kristen Purcell, Pew Research Center

Opening Plenary at MW2011, by Kristen Purcell, Pew Research Center

While attending the conference Museums and the Web, in Philadelphia, I try to take some time to reflect on the presentations.

My impressions are so far that I enjoy the conference just as much as previous years, and that it has taken us participants again one step further in the development of museums and the web.

I truly appriciated the Opening Plenary by Kristen Purcell, from the Pew Research Center in Washington DC. The title was Grounding Internet Information Trends, and was based on research in the project Pew Internet.

Kristen Purcell presented a few groundbreaking changes in the evolution of internet:

  • access to broadband
  • development of mobile devices
  • wireless internet
  • the evolution of social networking

Kristen Purcell also sees a growing use of geo-location services even if there are still only 17% of all adult internet users in the US who claim they use such services.

Another big step is the evolution of apps for mobile devices, according to the Pew Reaserach Center study. They are especially useful when they bypass search, answer questions, solve problems and help accomplish tasks. However, as Kristen Purcell pointed out, it’s difficult to ask these questions in the research study, since many people don’t even know if they own a smart phone or if it has apps installed.

Not knowing what an app is, or not having access to internet, is a sign of The digital divide, a topic that was constantly recurring in the Opening Plenary. At the same time information today is – as Kristen Purcell put it – portable, participatory and personalized. Both of these aspects of the internet and the way people recieve information, affect the way museums need to adress their audiences.

Kristen Purcell finished the Opening Plenary by giving some very good (and to some extent challenging) advice on how to keep up with the evolving internet and the changing demands of the audiences:

  1. Be a filter, a trusted expert (very much needed in the age of abundant information)
  2. Be a curator, a one-stop-shop and an aggregator
  3. Be a node in a network (your audience have audiences)
  4. Be a community builder, create new networks, share and respond
  5. Be a lifesaver, provide timely information
  6. Provide tour guides, use geo-location services to connect your content with real world locations

Perhaps the most challenging, as I see it, would be the one-stop-shop approach. I believe this will set museums off in a new direction. The audience expectations are already constantly changing, but this will demand for more creative and innovative strategies by museums. Being a one-stop-shop is also connected to being a lifesaver, that is – as I see it – being relevant to the audience to a much greater extent than we are today.

The advice for museums presented by Kristen Purcell is one of the things I will bring back home from MW2011. I am also looking forward to see how other will respond to the challenges in the year to come.

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Early adopters vs laggards?

I believe digital inclusion is part of the mission at cultural heritage institutions. A lot of work is going on in Europe right now to raise awareness about and to prevent digital exclusion.

In Sweden there is a whole campaign, Digidel 2013, run by the Swedish adult education in its broadest sense, that is, libraries, learning centers, adult education, adult education colleges. The campaign was launched December 3, 2010 with ”The appeal of digital inclusion”. The campaign aims to decrease the digital gap by half a million persons by 2013. The goal is for these people ”to start using the internet”.

So what is digital inclusion. The fact is that 1.5 million Swedes are excluded from the internet, mainly because they don’t have access to the internet in their homes. The term for these people is ”non-users” according to www.digidel.se.

Starting to think of the correct term for the people who actually have access to internet in their homes, but chose to not take part of the communities and conversations going on, I dropped a question on Twitter: What do you call the opposite of ”early adopters”? The English term is apparantly ”laggards”.

Laggards is a term quite impossible to translate to Swedish. It’s in any case rather negative. I find it excluding in itself (in it’s Swedish translation) even though it might be a common term in English.

In general I got quite excluding answers. I sense quite some frustration among my early adopter-Twitterfriends about these ”laggards”.

Communications consultant Brit Stakston at JMW Communications has with great persistance recently emphasized  the need to take into account the people with ”analogue values”, who are unaccustomed to life online and how to use the internet. And this is what I am after. Maybe I won’t find a final term to use, but this is close enough.

And why does it matter? Well, trying to mediate cultural heritage online it’s ofcourse vital to know who is online and who is not, and to learn what ”being online” actually means. This is surely an interesting topic in itself.


The consumers of cultural heritage could perhaps, very roughly, be described as follows:

  1. Non-users (15 % in Sweden)
  2. People with internet access, analogue values, unaccustomed to live on the internet
  3. Early adopters (how many?)

I am still exploring the terms and the ”classification” and will surely return with new insights further on this year.

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