Thursday, 3 May 2007

Blogging as a tool for museum professional networking

Hi, just wanted to get down my ideas about what Mel and I are doing in this internship. At the moment we’re doing blog experimentation looking at issues like:
* What does it take to establish and maintain a blog?
* Who are the current and potential audiences for a “professional”/specialist topic blog?
* What are the benefits and issues around blogging (e.g. moderating, publishing, posting links, etc)?
* What might a blog be used for that email can’t?
* Can you do a literature review through a blog?
* And other stuff...


LyndaK said...

I've already had some feedback from staff (perhaps they should have blogged it tho!). There is more on blogging at fresh+new. The PHM policy on blogging is essential reading i think. It has given me much food for thought.

Angelina said...

Hi Mel
Glad to see you're working with Lynda - she's great!

I'll be interested to see what your research turns up as the sustainability issues of social media are really important at the moment.
re: professional audiences - have a look at Museum 2.0 blog set up by Nina Simon from the International Spy Museum. She has started to categorise the '2nd wave' of social media and this incorporates usage and expected audience.
Also, I'll be experimenting with blogging and social networking tools over the next 6 weeks as I take a course in Research Methods in Design. I've set up a blog and will be doing all the lectures through there. I'm planning to evaluate it for changes in expectation regarding design education.
By the way, I consider blogging a form of literature review!
Good luck and no doubt we will meet soon!

LyndaK said...

Thanks Angelina, you're too kind! Really interested in your ideas - sounds like a joint paper coming on...

Mel, just some other thoughts that are coming into my head as issues:
* Do you think people need a basic knowledge of html? Based on my short experience I think so.
* Maybe we need an idiot's guide to blogging - a guide that covers basic html such as bold, italics, how to make links, how to upload fotos and things such as re-sizing them? maybe there's already something around?

Here's "">Nina Simon's blog. It's terrific!

Angelina said...

Yes I think there is something to be said for a guide to
managing your blogs
RSS feeds
filing content for future research
If you're interested in any of these areas Mel, it would be great to see what you come up with!

LyndaK said...

Umm, see what I mean about html?!! Was trying to be smart. I think I should have put the link to Nina's blog like this?

This is my last attempt. html is frustrating me at the moment!

Renae said...

What does it take to establish and maintain a blog? - initially I think curiosity is a large part of it, enthusiasm is what's needed to maintain it. I think the technology itself is very enabling. Consider blogger for a second - how easy is it to set up a blog without ever looking at a single line of code? There are help files to get you started and the internet is a wealth of information from generous, kind hearted inidvidiuals who are willing to share their ideas and accumulated knowledge with you. So, another thing that really drives a blogger on is a sense of community. Comments let you know that people read and care.

it's hard to know who are the current and potential audiences for a specialist blog - it's so varied, and global and always surprising!

I started blogging in 2003, using Blogger and really had no idea how long it would last. I specifically thought I would lose interest and run out of things to say but then the opposite occurred. I became addicted. There were many things to share and I noticed an intense readership had joined me for the ride. Initially they were people who already knew me in the flesh but it didn't take long to meet people online that I still haven't met in the 'real' world. Some of these people influenced me in ways unforeseen and valuable.

For example, in 2005 I embarked on an interdisciplinary honours project where I attempted to combine anthropology theory with new media practice. Since I was already a blogger, I decided to set up an online 'field journal' to document my processes - a kind of behind the scenes of an honours year project, told honestly and in the first person. My supervisor was thrilled and loved my digital experimentations. I didn't see this as anything 'new' as people have been doing this outside of academia for years before I even knew what a blog was. But what really engaged me was the way the platform faciliates contact with and feedback from people from all walks of life. During the year I reported on literature I was reading, community events I attended, things I found engaging online, even current moods (eg. today I feel defeated, today I handed in an essay and that made me happy, today I listened to the necks and found its great study music). That latter data never makes it into a formal thesis but it's the sort of stuff that others enjoy reading about. It makes you human.

Feedback came less from academics in my own school and more from academics with similiar interests in other universities. They were some of the first to read my drafts and provide feedback, to encourage me on with kind words and let me know they were proud.

I'm generally quite a social person but I found that honours year led me to retreat, demanding many hours of solitary work and living in the abstract. Having touch with this online community of other students, academics, indigenous people doing similiar family/history research helped me keep the balance tipped towards sanity :)

Listservs (email) can acheive a similiar purpose as a blog does for creating a sense of community but the technology is a little outdated and not as engaging in the way blogs can combine image, sound and text for example.

The issue of sustainability is an interesting one though. I have found that after the thesis was handed in there was very little reason for me to maintain the thesis related blog. I reported on a few things I was doing, like a new job and issues in the media but eventually I turned back to my personal blog and continued that for some time. Just in the last week I've made the decision to retire my online space, probably not permanently but for now I find I'm not using it enough to warrent the expense/effort of keeping it running. Web 2.0 applications have been a major force in this as they have offered communities and functionality that I would have once sort through my blog and own website. Now it's not longer the case. I have backed up all my databases and projects but they are currently offline.

Still, one more thing that may shock newcomers to the web, is that while the space seems temporal it is very permanent and it is important to be aware that some conversions just shouldn't be in the public domain - this is why we still have email.

Most of my 'offline' site is stull available on the wayback finder. It loses some of the design work but the content is still there intact.

here's some links if you are interested:

>Sharing Herstory honours blog

Sharing Herstory Project. Amazingly, I think the most of this still works, design and audtio files intact.

Isn't the web a wonderful, multifaceted thing?

LyndaK said...

Renae - thank you so much for sharing your experiences and project with us, much appreciated and your web archive is stunning. I was especially struck by your comment:

"But what really engaged me was the way the platform faciliates contact with and feedback from people from all walks of life."

That is so true, you never know who's out there and where the online road will take you and it never ceases to amaze me. For me that's what exciting and challenging at the same time.

LyndaK said...

Mel, Chris Lawrence from the NY Hall of Science sent me the link to their education section's wiki. It's really cool and I must say I'd never thought of using wikis as a professional development tool. I'm hoping that Chris and/or the folks from there might also share some insights into this project - why did they choose the wiki path and not a blog?

Chris Larry said...

Lynda & Mel,

Thanks for checking out our wiki. My colleagues and I in the "Ed Tech Rest stop" decided that a wiki would be the perfect way for the education department, which is large and includes school and public programs, to share resources, documents, update projects, host links and allow asynchronous conversations. "Its on the wiki!" has now become common in our department. It took our director awhile to adopt, but recently she has been posting and driving ideas and resources to the wiki.

In addition a wiki distributes authority to all users and can allow large groups to organically grow. A blog centralizes power somewhat and reserves ownership for a few.

In addition my tech head conspirators had a hidden agenda and that was showing the rest of the staff the value of these tools in a non-threatening and semi subversive way. Once they saw how well it worked, how easy it was to "create content" it opened them up to further tools.

We have also began a wiki for our "Green Team" which is studying ways our institution can become more environmentally friendly:

mel said...

Hi all
thanks for such quick comments, all of which have interesting/useful info.

Angelina it sound like we are doing very similar work here - i would like to see your course blog and follow its development.

Renae i have also been thinking about sustainability in the blog context - i guess it depends upon the duration of the project concerned, and then whether there is enough momentum generated to keep the blog going. The other issue is also important - what is appropriate content for an online journal is not necessarily the same as a private journal. I am interested in seeing what you considered appropriate content, and will have a look at your blog.

Regarding blogging and ease of use, i think it is an advantage to have some knowledge of html, though judging by the number of blogs in existence, it is not a big problem!
I have come across a Blogging for dummies site which has already been useful to me in image uploading.
I also had a look at your wiki Chris and found it very interesting, especially after setting up one myself as an experiment. It does seem a very useful tool for education, and i like the openness of authorship it offers.

mel said...

I have had a look at your honours year blog and it is very impressive. Congratulations 2 years down the track!