Museums and the Web day 3 (or day 1..)

April 10, 2008

Ok. It’s opening plenary time here at Museums and the Web 2008. I didn’t manage to do any blogging yesterday – that’s what an entire day of workshops followed by immediate dinner and wine does to you…

Michael Geist is the guest speaker: “technology advocate and trouble maker”. I like him already 🙂

Michael spent his talk going through a number of sites and examples, some of which will be very familiar to us web types; others a little less well known. The examples which particularly jumped out for me (for two different reasons) were the Facebook group Fair Copyright for Canada which was started by Michael, and his example of opening up the book “In the Public Interest” for free download.

The Facebook group example was particularly powerful because it caused demonstrable change in the real world. This was actually a running thread through many of the sites that Michael showed: virtual experiences are one thing, but “real” world responses to these virtual experiences are happening too, and that’s a hugely important thing to focus on. I’ve used this to defend Twitter recently (yes, I know the irony, having said bad things about lifestreaming before…) – Twitter has recently got me back in touch with people out here in the real world, and that gives it a legitimacy and power that it doesn’t necessarily have “just” online.

The “In the Public Interest” example demonstrated (although Michael didn’t give any actual figures) that free download actually increased sales. I like this because it continues to support the Scarcity vs Scale argument which I’ve pitched on this blog previously. It’s a very pertinent discussion; Brian and I are giving a paper on Openness on Friday at which we’ll be focusing on open content (among other things). Already this week – and in my experience, always within the sector – this discussion rumbles alongside most things we try to do on the web: API provision, Web 2.0, UGC or getting collections databases online. The more evidence there is that this approach works (or not!), the better.

The overriding message from Michael for me is that online activity causes, extends, pushes “real” activity in very valuable and increasingly tangible ways.

3 thoughts on “Museums and the Web day 3 (or day 1..)

  1. Re: twitter… GIven my recent conversion to twitter, and rapid ascension to ‘addict’ (i.e. check it more than facebook), I’ve been considering the ‘Hugh McLeod’ approach in the last couple of days; i.e. giving it up cold turkey.

    I’m finding it *extremely* distracting, mostly self-indulgent, and highly-polarised (it’s full of people like exactly me, rather than nicely rounded people who don’t harp-on about copyright, APIs and social media). In fact, it could be dangerously misleading, like reading Slashdot as your daily newspaper.

    Do you not think it’s a passing phase, and in 3 months, you’ll have forgotten about it (if nothing else, because of the energy it takes to participate)? Or do you honestly think it’s going to be a long-term part of your toolkit (whether for networking, PR, comms, news, or some other purpose)?

  2. @Dan I don’t know about Mike, but I’ve been using Twitter for over a year, and have found it usefuil to keep in touch with people I met at MW 2007.

    And I have to admit that I go to the pub with people who might have similar interests to me. But Twitter, like real life, also reveals diversities – who would have guessed, for example, that Mike is a cider drinker.

  3. Dan, I dunno, I guess the jury is still out. It is true to say that when I’ve got a lot to do, the Twhirl application is the first to get binned and I’m not an SMS Twitter user for much the same reason.

    I originally posted on the timesink tendency of Twitter and although I’m now a fan, I’m still concerned at the noise, certainly on a day to day basis. But that’s true of lots of stuff – again, I’m finding I’ve got 700 feed items unread; again, I’m likely to just say “screw this, I’ll bin them” – which is ironic given the promise of RSS to simplify and hone your areas of interest…

    I really admire you, actually, for not following feeds, and it probably proves to me the sense of unease I feel when *not* keeping up is unfounded: you, after all, seem pretty well in touch with what’s going on, and that’s without a massive feed subscription base.

    One last thing on Twitter: I have found (re-meeting with JennyB being a recent example) that Twitter allows me to connect with people in the *real* world, and *that* to me is the lesson we should be learning from it as a tool. I don’t know about whether it’ll hit “real” people, but the value is in the real world and not necessarily in the virtual.

    re cider: I can’t possibly comment 🙂

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