Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication

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A changing workplace: Part I #Blogg100

Browsing around looking for interesting reading on digital transformation I stumbled upon the report New Ways of Working, by The B-Team. It addresses drivers and key changes at the workplaces. One of the key changes concerns learning:

Previously, employees would be invited to training sessions at a certain time where learning was ‘pushed’ upon them, and then sent back to work. For generations who are growing up sourcing knowledge through search engines as and when they need it, and accessing Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), this will seem unnatural.

Allowing for a more flexible learning in the workplace is just one of many key changes. Another is the need for digital skills. Skills aimed for the social digital era are listed in the report:

  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Cognitive Load Management
  • Virtual collaboration
  • New media literacy
  • Design mindset
  • Sense making
  • Novel & adaptive thinking
  • Cross Cultural competency

The list is an important reminder that New media literacy is just a part of newly required skills. And that digital transformation, requires several other skills and competencies that have to be acquired across time. And as new skills are required and even expected, the more important the flexible learning environments that encourage and reward key-changes.

However it isn’t only about employees’ skills. It is also about a new leadership that supports innovation. Digital transformation has to take place throughout the organisation (which isn’t surprising of course), and to achieve that it is important to map all the areas in need for digital transformation. The ‘New Ways of Working” report is a great start.


Blog post 12/100 #Blogg100-challenge




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Playing by some other rules #Blogg100

Regardless of what business you are in content marketing and storytelling is central. This is just as true for museums, that are natural storytellers, and where producing content is at the heart of the business. The difference is that now museums have to compete with any brand for attention using the same tools and methods.

The era when museums were primarily talking with an authoritative scientific voice is over. The connection to academia and science is still a founding part of museum knowledge-making, but the rules by which we disseminate knowledge, and connect to museum audiences have completely changed over the past few decades.

Instead museums have had to let themselves be influenced by marketing and communication, by the rules set by the marketing industry.  Which in turn are transformed by the digital social target groups and audiences.

To keep up with the need to produce content for the digital ecosystems museums are now shifting from only, or mostly, producing content for websites, exhibitions and printed books, to a broader spectrum of digital social and online platforms. Moving a huge step closer to the audiences is a consequence of going social digital and the demand for real time communication grows.

Three specific challenges for museums are:

1) Learning the new rules, what works and what doesn’t
2) The need for reliable sources online is growing, especially e-publications that can be referred to from social media
3) Learning how to fit the knowledge-making of museums into the social media platforms on an every day basis

There are of course more challenges, some of which I will return to in future blog posts.


Blog post 5/100. #Blogg100

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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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Download textbooks through iTunes – schools and ICT #Blogg100

Students with iPads

Students with iPads. Photo: Brad Flickinger, CC-BY.

Using iPads in school, getting all relevant study material for classes downloadable through iTunes curated by the teacher is becoming reality at the Stephen Perse Foundation school in Cambridge.

Teachers at the independent school are making their own online library of lessons and course materials for GCSE, A-levels and International Baccalaureates. These are interactive resources, with video links and lesson notes, customised for the specific needs and speeds of their classes. There are extension exercises and links to further reading and ideas.
BBC News Business

This successful school is also planning to share its online resources for free. The need for skilled teachers is also discussed:

”…such online courses depend on the quality and the skill of the teacher, it’s not a plug-and-play education.”
BBC News Business

The same discussions are emerging in Sweden as well. The Swedish National Agency for Education delivered a report in 2013 ICT use and technical excellence in school.

The report shows that access to computers has increased dramatically for both students and teachers in the last three years, but that the technologies are not used more widely in education. ICT skills are in general low. More computers have not meant that ICT is used more in teaching. The use of ICT is almost equally low in several subjects as it was three years ago . It also appears that many teachers feel that there are large gaps in the ICT support and equipment. The report concludes that there is a great need for professional development of both teachers and principals.

As in my previous post it is interesting to once again conclude that introducing technology in itself does not automatically make an organisation or a community more digital.


Blog post 14/100 #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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Digital literacy – or just literacy #Blogg100

Blog post 013/100 #Blogg100 challenge

Literacy. Photo by Janne Moren, CC-BY-NC-SA.

Photo by Janne Moren, CC-BY-NC-SA.

In October I wrote a short blog post about how we should stop making the distinction between digital and non digital. I am not alone having these thoughts. The Twitter discussion that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post emerged from a Norwegian blog post on this very subject.

Let us realize that this is now part of our everyday life and if you don’t master it you are illiterate.

June Breivik writes on her blog about the need to stop using the word digital as a prefix. I agree. As long as we distinguish digital as something special, we will never really achieve a museum (or library, archive, school etc.) where digital tools are fully integrated.

At the same time we are still in a position where both tools and the changes brought about by them (need for transparency, participation, dialogue, co-creation) are considered disruptive. Most museums are still struggling to fully understand and embrace digital.

For indivduals, the early adopters, and younger generations, digital is as natural as breathing. While for older generations and ”laggards” (see one of my earlier blog posts on this subject) digital is something extra that has to be figured out and is perhaps even seen as intrusive and difficult. Even more dangerous, digital tools might not be seen as useful more to more than a small extent.

One can discuss, like June Breivik does in her blog post, if school kids will benefit from digital tools if they aren’t literate to begin with. The great point made by June Breivik is that we need to remind ourselves that digital, or online, is no different from the physical world. We need our skills regardless if we are on- or offline. An from that perspective I agree, drop ”digital”.

Do I think we should then completely drop the prefix e- or the word digital? Not yet. I say somewhere in the (hopefully not so distant) future. When the borders between digital and physical have been blurred enough, yes then maybe.

While waiting for that moment digitally savvy people, strategists, early adopters, social media experts etc. will keep ahead, monitor and continue to share knowledge and guide colleagues, students, clients, family and friends. ”Laggards” will gradually pick up digital tools as part of their everyday life.

For most parts this will evolve at its own pace. A pace that cannot be forced. But I completely agree with June Breivik that we also have to try to speed up this process and demand more from employees by expecting digital skills not just for people in New media departments but for people all over the organization.

In the end I don’t think museums can fully integrate digital tools yet for some time, a) because it does take time for digital to settle and become standard/natural choice and b) because most organizations aren’t prepared to speed up the process, or they simply don’t have an efficient strategy.