Kajsa Hartig

A blog about Cultural Heritage and Digital Communication


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Thoughts on museums and digital in 2016

Selfie. By Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC-BY-SA https://flic.kr/p/nk9b1w

Selfie. By Patrik Nygren, Flickr. CC-BY-SA

Instead of wrapping up 2015 I decided to make a list of topics that will get special attention from me in 2016. I don’t mention specific methods or technologies like AR, VR, Big Data, mobile solutions, Makerspaces, 3D-printing, etc. Instead I look at a few areas that are essential for digital transformation. To merge analogue and digital work practice presents the biggest challenge for museums in 2016, and if done successfully will enable the transition towards the postdigital museum.

(Ed. Jan. 12, extending section on ecosystem, Jan. 15 adding to last section The Big Challenge, Jan. 19 link to HBR).

Mapping the visitor ecosystem – and walking the last mile

Illustration: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY.

Illustration: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY.

Where physical meets digital and paying attention to the last mile: Mapping (and understanding) the visitor experience, and the ecosystem in which the visitor encounters the museum, will move museums one step towards the postdigital realm. As the visitor experience now has to be delivered through multiple channels in a coherent and relevant way, digital and physical must be considered as one:

”Understanding visitor journey also means understanding that a visitor’s experience doesn’t start and end with a physical visit to the Museum. The visitor’s experience starts before they arrive, exists during the visit and extends after they leave. It starts with anticipating, planning and discovering. The experience doesn’t end when the visitor leaves.Thinking about extending the visitor journey with digital channels also requires understanding where your visitors physically are at various stages of the journey, and the digital channels and content types that make the most sense at each stage. A journey may comprise many digital channels, designed to fit specific stages and information needs and types and contexts. They do not expect multiple digital experiences, but one seamless experience with information that hands off from one channel to another and that makes sense for what they need at each stage. Visitors expect information when they want it, how they want it, and specific to the purpose.”
Catherine Devine, The Museum Digital Experience: Considering the Visitor Journey

In this effort to embrace and to deliver the omni-channel experience, an experience that might not ever involve a visit to the gallery space, museums will need to re-think organizational structures and competences. They will have to move towards multi competence teams that master digital as well as physical spaces as well as social media, storytelling and extraordinary user experience design. In this team educators have to be involved.

And most important, mapping the ecosystem will identify the last mile, the end of the museum supply chain, where the visitor (or user) experiences the museum. ”While systems of records are key as they form the backbone of information and data activation, systems of engagement and the last mile of the information process are critical.” This is also where disruptive innovation needs to take place.

Challenge: Museums will have to think carefully about who will lead the omni-channel experience productions.

Rethinking photograph collections

Analogue and digital work practices collide: Photography today is conversation. In the age of social media it has become distanced from its predecessors, the material objects closely associated with memories, as it has spread across different platforms with complementary functions. As Professor Daniel Miller states it:

”Snapchat is the culmination of a movement more generally in photography from memorialization to communication.”
Daniel Miller, Photography in the Age of Snapchat, Anthropology & Photography No. 1. 2015.

When these conversations, public or private, make their way into museums there are several challenges arising. One is to preserve the character of the photographs in the new context, the formal social memory as it is created by the museum. A museum that strives to preserve the cultural objects in fixed forms ”as a way of maintaining its historical accuracy and authorial integrity…” (Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito in Re-Collection, 2014).

And given that ”Records and archives are devices used in the process of transforming individual memories into collective remembering” (professor Laura Miller in Rinehart & Ippolito, 2014) the problem becomes clear. The digital infrastructures of the museum, the databases harbouring our collective social memory and preserving digitized physical objects, are constructed to maintain fixity, ”the world in a bottle, separated from mundane worldly time, in which philosophical objects hand like stars in suspended eternity.” (Rinehart & Ippolito, 2014).

Preserving the social media photographs requires museums to revisit their collection policies, extending documentation and preserving this information in the collection databases, and understanding what needs to be preserved (and how) to accurately present photographs in the future (and then I haven’t even adressed, technological, legal and ethical issues, that will be for upcoming blog posts).

Here are some of my previous blog posts on photography, digital and museums:

It’s a visual world (2014): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/its-a-visual-world-blogg100/

Remixed photography awarded and on display (2011): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/remixed-photography-awarded-and-on-display/

Photography matters! (2011): https://kajsahartig.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/photography-matters/

Challenge: Museums will have to re-think collecting, as well as preserving and disseminating photograph collections, an effort that will inform other fields within the museum. Please read more about topic at the website of Nordic project Collecting the Digital: From a Photographic Perspective.

Content

Prepare for omni-channel: Take content strategy seriously. When approaching the omni-channel world of museums, that require content adapted for physical, print and digital to be presented as a seamless experience, there is a strong need to prepare for new editorial efforts and skills. This area is important when moving towards the post-digital museum, as it requires skills that span across digital (social, mobile, web), print and physical spaces indoors and outdoors.

Challenge: As more content and skillful multimedia storytelling is required for omni-channel experiences, museums need to scale and coordinate their editorial efforts.

Organizational change

Moving towards a postdigital museum inevitably brings us to the topic of organizational change. Only by looking at the three areas mentioned above, user experience, collecting/disseminating photograph collections and content production we see several challenges, the need for new skills and competences when bridging physical and digital, the need to create and distribute content more efficiently etc. To withstand increased competition and to become a more flexible and responsive museum, adressing organizational change is a must in 2016.

Challenge: Identifying which parts of the organization that need restructuring, and implementing the changes.

The Big Challenge

For the past few years I have paid extra attention to the need for digital transformation in museums, and the rigid structures that prevent this change. Sensing that museums in many ways still are far from a strategic and sustainable response to technological changes, as Simon J. Knell concludes in Museums in a Digital Age (Ed. Ross Parry), 2010, the need to identify the road to success becomes even more important.

Spending the Christmas weekend reading Re-collecting by Rinehart & Ippolito I got more confident in my opinion that the challenges for achieving the postdigital museum lie not so much in the lack of catalysts, or competence or even strategy as in the built-in fear of change:

”…an institution’s plasticity is measured not by the sweeping innovations promised in its mission statement, but by the habits o fits everyday operations staffed by ordinary people.”

It’s about organizational culture, and acquiring a strong digital mindset. Rinehart & Ippolito come down quite harshly on organizational cultures that punish any missteps contradicting the museum’s often ad hoc rules, rules that prevail professional standards.

They even go as far as saying that the employees striving to ”climb up the ladder of their institution’s organizational chart…tend to reinforce the most conservative interpretation of their jobs.”

Supporting this theory are Harvard Business Review who in a recent post state that: ”The very best strategic leadership helps the entire organization understand that all of its choices result in the strategy that customers experience, creating a framework by which every person in organization makes the choices he or she needs to make.” Again, choice is here referring to the individual choices, among staff.

There is a point worth considering here. Many brilliant digital efforts have come from bottom up rather than top down, by individuals who have done outstanding work for their museums in terms of embracing digital. Indeed it has been in many ways, and still is, a path of ”…creativity, diversity, individualism and opportunism.” (Knell, 2010).

Which means that even though many museum leaders today do understand the importance and complexity of digital, truly moving towards the post-digital museum requires moving away from individual efforts (that can be supportive or not to the digital transformation), challenging rigid structures, changing work culture and embracing a digital mindset, perhaps some of the biggest challenges ahead in 2016.

Predictions for 2015

Last year I wrote this short blog post to highlight a few important areas for museums. They are still highly relevant.

 


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Rijksmuseum campaign on No Photography Allowed – some thoughts

Photo: Rijksmuseum.

Photo: Rijksmuseum.

The ongoing campaign at Rijksmuseum, banning photography (in a humorous way) and encouraging visitors to draw art, has caught the attention of media:

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam wants visitors to enjoy its collection of artwork the way it was appreciated in a pre-cellphone era, by leaving their devices and cameras at home. Through their #Startdrawing initiative, they’ve “banned” technology, encouraging people to bring their sketchbooks and draw the beautiful paintings, prints, and sculptures in front of them—as opposed to quickly recording it all on their phones.
My Modern Met

Rijksmuseum believes that media has devolved a visit to a museum into “a passive and superficial experience,” according to its website. “Visitors are easily distracted and do not truly experience beauty, magic and wonder. This is why the Rijksmuseum wants to help visitors discover and appreciate the beauty of art and history through drawing, so #startdrawing!
Huffington Post

An argument could be made supporting the claim that the curse of this generation is that in an effort to stay more connected, we are actually less connected than ever. As we busily doodle on our phones, we are missing the world around us and the present moment. Being so focused on our phones means we are distracted by our surrounds, by life as it passes us by.
SLR Lounge

So does this campaign achieve it’s goal? To encourage people to truly look at art? I am sure this will be a great success, by drawing attention to the art and the interaction with art. It’s a brilliant idea, in several ways. By adressing a much discussed topic of mobile phones, selfies, photography and museums, and by showing a different way of interacting with art.

However it is at the same time unfortunate to actually target people’s desire to take pictures in museums, a desire that obviously is very strong considering the amount of photos taken in museums every day. I am also afraid this will give support to anti-photography opinions.

To take pictures in museums, to walk around using the mobile phone, is one very important way of interacting with the museum. As I have looked into the Instagram photos taken by visitors at Nordiska museet it is clear that these photos are just one part of the personal Instagram feed. A feed that is in itself a narrative, the story of me. 

Depending on what kind of story the visitor wants to share with his or her audience, the photographic trail from the museum visit will look very different. Some take many pictures, some take one. Some put great attention to details, tell a story with the photos and sometimes include themselves through selfies, and others just take a picture of the building.

For museums it should be of great interest to further look into the Instagram feeds of their visitors, and into the photos taken and tagged at the museum. Which objects or exhibitions catch most attention of the visitors? How does the visitor include him or herself into the narrative? For the visitor’s own narrative is perhaps the most important aspect of the museum visit. So ask yourself: How does the museum fit into it?

The only story I am consistently interested in is the story of me, the one that I am “constantly writing, rewriting, editing and conspiring about.” It’s the one story that I am constantly tuned into all the time.
Sapient Nitro, India 

I think offering opportunities to interact with the museum in several different ways, like drawing the museum art, is a necessity. But don’t confuse visitors by removing their own tools for creating the story of me.

 

 


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#MuseumWeek is approaching #Blogg100

MuseumWeek2015 (kopia)

March 23 to 26 more than 1 000 museums from 44 countries are participating in the Twitter event #MuseumWeek. I encourage all museums to join, for the following reasons:

  • To get better at managing a Twitter account
  • To get to know the Twitter audiences
  • To test the museum organisation and the readiness to participate online
  • To have a dialogue with curious online museum audiences
  • To think twice about the museum’s digital identity
  • To be inspired and find new ways to communicate and mediate heritage
  • To increase the museum’s readiness to produce online content
  • And most of all: The break daily routines and have fun 🙂

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Blog post 14/100 #Blogg100-challenge


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Content and storytelling – are museums ready for it? #Blogg100

I think we all agree that museums are made for storytelling. The endless first hand sources of passionate, tragic, engaging and joyful stories cannot be found outside the heritage sector. Objects, documents and images are there to authenticate and enhance the stories. And digital isn’t new to museums, on the contrary. Today there are museums in the front line of digital innovation, and there are museums that aren’t quite yet there.

Regardless, the path to successful cross media storytelling is more challenging than anticipated. It’s about a number of things:

  • Digital and visual literacy
  • Communication skills across the organization
  • Social media skills
  • Storytelling skills
  • Knowledge-making – producing new knowledge from original sources
  • A clear overall communications strategy
  • Transparency and honesty
  • Regular and timely posting

And a few more things. Then it is also about:

  • Image editing and visual communications skills
  • Knowledge of copyright and Creative Commons
  • Long term planing for campaigning
  • Re allocating resources within the museum for content production and communication
  • Experts – whose expertise is communicated
  • Reallocating money for sponsored posts and premium services
  • Evaluation

But the most disruptive changes are probably:

  • Rethinking exhibition processes – to tie the stories across media together
  • Knowing the audiences – I mean really knowing (embrace Post Demographic mapping of audiences)
  • Mapping and mastering the public facing echo systems
  • Transforming the organization to better face the challenges of outreach in a social digital world
  • Working in cross departmental groups with many different skills
  • Real time communication – dialogue and responsiveness, not just scheduled content
  • Creating seamless experiences between online and onsite
  • Staying ahead – to be prepared for changes

Museums are storytellers, but in a traditional sense, primarily through exhibitions and printed books. The step towards truly mastering digital within the organization seems always almost out of reach, though tremendous progress is being made. What will it take to adapt to social digital? And is it an ongoing process that will never end, only evolve?

These are some first thoughts on the subject, that I will return to in some up coming blog posts.

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Blog post 9/100 #Blogg100-challenge


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Transmedia and immersive experiences, the key to rethinking museums? #Blogg100 #museweb

Oculus Rift at Dreamstage.se. Photo: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY-NC.

Oculus Rift at Dreamstage.se. Photo: Kajsa Hartig, CC-BY-NC.

On Day 6 of this Blogg100-challenge, 100 blog posts during 100 days, it’s time to write a few lines about transmedia and immersive experiences. These methods have been a buzz for quite some time, and are evoking a growing interest from the museums sector.

Immersion is the experience of losing oneself in a fictional world. It’s what happens when people are not merely informed or entertained but actually slip into a manufactured reality…..
…The current taste for immersion is largely a by-product of the digital age. Video games and the Internet have taught people to be active participants rather than passive observers; just looking is no longer enough. People expect to dive in, and companies as disparate as Disney, Facebook, and Burberry have been scrambling to oblige them.
http://www.strategy-business.com/article/00308?gko=92656

Immersion can be tactical (sensory-motoric) and involve skills, it can be strategic (cognitive) and offer a challenge or it can be narrative (emotional) where the audience invests in a story (source Wikipedia). Immersion is about creating a user experience, and so is transmedia storytelling:

Transmedia narrative thrives in a networked culture. Stories are now told across multiple media platforms, relying on readers to connect the dots. Popular fiction is increasingly organized around immersive story worlds.
http://blogs.cccb.org/lab/en/video_henry-jenkins-la-imaginacio-transmedia/ 

And to further quote Henry Jenkins:

Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction gets dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.

Mapping your museum’s digital eco system is important for many reasons. But mapping the museum’s entire eco system of communicative efforts, channels, platforms and strategies is just as important.

Planning for transmedia storytelling requires rethinking the museum, in order to create an authentic and relevant story world where the audiences immerse themselves in stories, or face challenges. The seamless experience where online is as important as offline or in gallery, has to be a priority. Perhaps it is the transmedia project manager who will lead the change?

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Blog post 6/100 #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.

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Blog post 5/100. #Blogg100


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Stories and emotions #Blogg100

”We need new narratives that connect with peoples’ deepest motivations and promote more radical action. Stories engage people at every level – not just in their minds but in their emotions, values and imaginations, which are the drivers of real change.”
http://positivenews.org.uk/2014/positive_perspective/15464/whats-special-storytelling-social-change/

Content is a recurring theme for museums this year. I will try to spend a couple of blogposts writing about the challenges that come with producing good content today. Like knowing your ecosystem of digital channels, planning long term for content, practical issues like using digital images and learning how to identify stories worth telling.

Storytelling in itself is worth a few blog posts. The quote above pinpoints some of the most important aspects of the method. Storytelling engages on an emotional level. With emotional connections people are more inclined to invest in a long term relationship with the museum. Emotions are not just about getting attention from visitors, it’s about engagement.

Objectivity and rationality are puny in the face of the emotionally based associative capabilities of real people, living real life, real time. People are not wholly rational, objective, or linear machines. People are makers and gatherers of meaning.
http://www.fastcocreate.com/3039565/for-success-in-social-media-conversation-is-not-enough-you-need-narrative

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Blog post 4/100 #Blogg100