11 October 2008
02 October 2008
James Nachtwey: Photojournalist
Photojournalist James Nachtwey is considered by many to be the greatest war photographer of recent decades. He has covered conflicts and major social issues in more than 30 countries.
He is the winner of the 2007 TED Prize, awarding him $100,000 and one wish to change the world. This was his wish: "I'm working on a story that the world needs to know about. I wish for you to help me break it in a way that provides spectacular proof of the power of news photography in the digital age."
James Nachtwey's Homepage: www.jamesnachtwey.com
11 September 2008
- Boston Public Library's "free to all" statement that is carved in stone & that of the Carnegie Library "Free to the People" (do we really want to be different when we push our content online?);
- producing the best we have to offer;
- not sending stuff you love to India for scanning (we didn't either);
- aiming at US$0.10 per page, or as he says the same cost as Xeroxing;
- not scanning pages that will end up looking like a fax (or worse still a print-out from microfilm) - scan in colour for the look of the book;
- the convergence of, on one side the library world (starting with out-of-Copyright and out-of-print material) and on the other side the publishers (eg. Amazon) starting with what is currently in print; and
- favouring public (free, universal access) over private (locked up) digitisation programs (me too).
09 September 2008
I've uploaded the presentation (using Apple's Keynote for the first time) to SlideShare, but as they are still sorting out a new way to bring hyperlinks with uploaded presentations, I thought I'd shove a quick post in my blog along with all of the URLs and some explanatory notes, so here it is (I've even corrected most of the typos!).
http://www.awm.gov.au/diaries/ww1/ This is our current major project and the diaries of all of the Australian units that served in the First World War are being uploaded progressively as we complete the scanning and checking.
http://www.awm.gov.au/database/collection.asp This is our online collection access system and users can search it for almost 300,000 digital images and catalogue records for art works, photographs, relics, and personal manuscripts in our museum collection.
This slide highlights a few examples of the ways we’ve started using Web2.0 features to "tour the web" and put our content out well beyond our home website, reaching bigger social networks and engaging new audiences at the curatorial level.
http://www.awm.gov.au/podcast/index.asp RSS underpins much of Web2.0, by allowing the public to select their subscriptions and then have them delivered to them on a regular basis. The links takes you to our podcasts page. Podcasts were our first foray with Web2.0 and RSS.
http://apps.new.facebook.com/artshare/ We have just gone live with ArtShare - a program developed by Brooklyn Museum to allow for selected art works to be featured on Facebook profile pages.
http://blog.awm.gov.au/awm/2008/03/19/hmas-sydney/ The blogs have been the simplest, easiest to use model that has allowed our curators their own voice on the web about our collections and their work. Previously all content was much more formal, using institutional voice. WordPress is used by the Memorial and some of our staff use Blogger (externally, eg. this blog).
Facebook plunges us into growing social networks with more reach than we have and allows us to communicate with those who are more comfortable in that space. People seem more comfortable and relaxed in their feedback.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/awm/ & http://www.flickr.com/photos/australianwarmemorial/
Flickr is also a two-way process allowing us to share images with everyone and to learn from the public’s visual pointers to their interests in us.
http://www.youtube.com/user/AustWarMemorial YouTube is another vital way to engage a large audience interested in the moving image. We think it is important to re-use our content and provide interpretation of it on that large network.
http://www.pictureaustralia.org/ We’ve long been a major contributor to Picture Australia, a fantastic portal to cultural images from NLA. It is a great model for further collaborative projects along the same lines.
http://www.ning.com/ We use Ning internally as a social network platform to share ideas, learn about social media, discuss proposals and to help move projects forward.
http://www.awm.gov.au/research/browse.asp And we’ve started using del.icio.us social bookmarking to leave "muddy footprint trails" across our large website for content that isn’t well exposed or that easy to find. We are still learning what del.icio.us can do for us.
http://www.flickr.com/commons We have been in touch with Flickr Commons and images from our collection are likely to be added on 11/11/08.
http://creativecommons.org/international/au/ We are seriously looking at CreativeCommons attributions to cover content that we’ve developed for our presence on the web, so as to enable its appropriate re-use.
http://buddypress.org/ As we use WordPress as our blogging platform, we will probably take a good look at BuddyPress when it goes live later in 2008. It may extend our blogs to become more of a hosted social network.
http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Home_page Your Archives (from TNA in the UK) might offer us a good model to facilitate public contributions and a bit of personalisation relating to our archival collections.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_Code QR codes might be used by us in several ways to facilitate the provision of packets of information to mobile devices with cameras in and the required software. We are looking at this now.
http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/index.asp Currently we maintain our own military history encyclopedia and it is a pretty big drain on our own resources to keep adding new content, so maybe migrating the content to Wikipedia.org (and helping to manage it) or hosting a wiki where the community could contribute will work for us.
http://go.footnote.com/thewall/ We really like this mash-up that is related to the US Vietnam Veterans Memorial and we are trying to trial much the same thing with our Roll of Honour. Our trial will probably focus on the Korean War panels.
08 September 2008
Firefox is currently my browser of choice. I use it at home on my Macs and at work (as I managed to get in before the IT crowd started regulating use of it because like many social networks, Firefox might cause chaos, anarchy and the collapse of civilisation as we know it).
Anyway, I have started using the Yoono add-on to see whether it has any benefit in "socialising" my browser to manage feeds to my networks and perhaps to other stuff like news feeds. You too can try it here.
I'll let you know how it goes for me as I'm a really new user and still haven't explored it much. It sounds appealing and I agree with this post from ReadWriteWeb that it might enable me to keep track of a few things that have started to clutter up my Google Reader.
There have been a lot of posts about Google's Chrome browser, but I liked these early reflections best, from the wonderful JOHN TANgerine.
18 August 2008
Image above: Italy's Giovanna Trillini (L) competes against Cuba's Misleydis Company during the Women's individual Foil elimination round of 32 match on August 11, 2008 at the Fencing Hall of National Convention center, as part of the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. Trillini won 15-7. (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images).
This post will by dynamic. I will keep adding my observations as they come to mind. Oh, this definitely has an Australian bias. I wasn't going to get too interested in the Olympics this time, in fact I really didn't four years ago, but there were so many brilliant surprises and historic moments this time. These events can only be positive for China.
Opening Ceremonies. Zzzzzzz. Who cares? I do not think that we should need armies to run or entertain us at big sporting events, wearing uniforms or not. Hopefully they will not try to do it in the same way in London. I would rather see the money devoted to sport itself.
Inane morning TV programs. Yum Cha, the lowest of the low. Why? They occupy time that could have been used to show delayed telecasts or at least highlights of events that could not be broadcast live the day before. Mostly they are full of stooopid comments from assorted B-grade idiots who do not understand any sports and seem more interested in self-promotion than anything else. Their only saving grace is that (hopefully) they provide canon-fodder for the acerbic SMH journalist and TV-reviewer Ruth Ritchie. Please Ruth, pleeeeeaaaassseee!!!!
Inspiration. Michael Phelps, Stephanie Rice, Drew Ginn & Duncan Free, the Australian hockey teams, the Australian female swimmers, Emma Snowsill, Jared Tallent, both 470 crews, Sally McLellan, Steve Hooker and perhaps above all the others Matt Mitcham . . . (more to be added I hope). They stood out to me from the sports I managed to watch. Phelps is a complete legend, almost too good to be true. Jared Tallent pushed himself so hard that he threw up twice in the finishing straight, then he backed up with 2nd in the 50 km walk. Their results are not just from four years of work. To do what they do usually requires many more years of extreme devotion and more hard work than any of us have ever done. They showcase humanity almost at its peak. We can't all be Olympians, but their efforts can at least inspire us to overcome inertia, resistance and sheer incompetence in our daily work. How many of them have said that nothing is impossible so far? Did Matt Mitcham and Steve Hooker choke under enormous pressure when the gold was on the line before their final jump? I don't think so. What fantastic mental strength and belief in their own capability. I was so impressed. Matt's win was unexpected and certainly against all odds.
Hope. I hope that those we find inspiring are "clean" and that more honest-looking and talented hard workers like all those Jamaican sprinters continue to beat the heck out of all of those big-headed, loud-mouthed, steroid-fed show-offs from you-know-where. And I hope we continue to see more inspirational efforts in the last week. I also hope we never have to see Happy Daddo and his stooopid side kicks associated with serious sport ever again. I hope Jo Griggs continues to be associated with sports broadcasting. She knows what it means and doesn't try to steal the limelight from the real stars, nor does she feel the need to remind us of her own sporting glory.
Entertainment. The Australian womens' water polo team coach; all of the gymnasts and divers; Phil Liggett (the doyen of cycling commentators, who could make paint-drying sound exciting); the laconic Mike Turtur (84 Olympic cycling gold medallist and commentator); and Steve Moneghetti whom I will always remember for his impartial, objective and highly technical call of the final moments of the 5,000m event won by Andrew Lloyd at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland: "LLOYDIE, LLOYDIE!!!!!!". And the brilliant association of fantastic sporting images and drama with Massive Attack's Teardrop during the final night's coverage on Seven. It worked for me!
The Olympics and Social Media. For me this was one huge distinction between this and previous Olympics. You didn't need to donate to Telstra to send a personal message to athletes who had the brains to set up social media profiles. As soon as Sally McLellan won her silver and spread joy to athletics fans all over Australia, I was straight onto her Facebook profile and sent her congratulations. She even mentioned receiving the messages in her post-race media interviews. With Matthew Mitcham I could go even further as someone had set up a fan page for him on Facebook. Within about 36 hours of him making the 10 m platform diving final the total number of his global fans had increased (from memory) by about 4-5,000. This indicates a few very powerful aspects of Social Networks: their viral power, world-wide reach and spread; community (in this case probably strongly GLBT or GLBT-friendly); and the need people have now to express themselves or engage when they feel strongly about something. Whilst those of us in cultural institutions might not always be able to compete with such popular figures and events such as the Olympics, there is nevertheless a lot for us to learn from this.
In conclusion, I would like to add here that I think Matthew's final gold medal was very important for Australians. His attitude, emotion and his open, honest and very articulate responses to the media left all of us in a very positive frame of mind post-Olympics. I take nothing away from the efforts of previous medal winners, but I feel and I have heard it said elsewhere, that some of the swimmers' interviews were just too well-drilled and unconvincing. Perhaps Ian Hanson does too good a job with them and now their responses just don't have half the credibility and spontaneity that Matthew and Sally did. The media just lapped them both up.
06 August 2008
These notes come from a talk I attended earlier today at the National Library of Australia on building online communities. The speaker was Chrystie Hill, Director of Community Services at WebJunction.org, from
It was interesting to hear about her journey as she spoke using stories, and didn’t just regurgitate facts.
She spoke of the shift in services for things like reference – both physical and in the virtual world. She experienced this when being educated. She has worked in the Seattle Central Library and says that the space is now much better to work in. Then she introduced her four seminal realisations (my term, not hers):
See The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg is about connections between people: pubs build communities.
She also spoke of John Seely Brown and The Social Life of Documents (on FirstMonday): documents build communities.
And Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam and the decline of civic engagement & social capital in US: capital and networks build communities.
Is your library relevant to you (& your needs)? She said hers wasn’t (at the time) and her most important need was to know what her friends were doing: individuals build communities.
Libraries were not accepting their role as community builders (maybe they still don't understand that role at all?). But US public libraries became carriers for public Internet access in the 1990s. Eventually home and work use of the Internet also grew. People soon began to find themselves on the web – publishing, subscribing & sharing. It became a story of communities and collaboration on a scale never seen before. Now libraries (& librarians) have to be involved to stay relevant. It is about conversations. It is about people who are saying “here is what I am doing”. People sit behind all the tools and experience. It is also about what your friends are doing. So many tools are now available that it can seem overwhelming, so step back and look at what is behind it all.
So, where is the library?
People are finding their own answers easily on the web themselves. Library use is going down while use of email, online bookstores and search engines is going up!
Can libraries cope where the stuff isn’t completely organised or controlled? Probably not. Many public libraries are closing in the
Do libraries just = books? Do our users think of us for other information needs? Do we just stop making it feel like church?
She then went back to the new Seattle City Library (image appears above in this post) and said it is what a library should look like (if only!). Real visitation went up 300% in its first year. Public access computer use quadrupled. Its spaces are very inviting and its services are very innovative: multi-lingual programs; online assistance; teen services (via MySpace) – with 50% boys participating!. They are building communities daily and get 1,000s of teens involved.
She said we must do better jobs in all libraries. Online tools help us to see our roles as connectors, facilitators, and community builders.
Currently, Chrystie is writing a book and blogging (one of several). She spoke for a while about the work of Webjunction.org – helping to build relevant vibrant, sustainable libraries in every community. Most content comes from members and partners. All of it is wrapped around social engagement. Public access computing and personalisation services were key to this and to building real communities.
What do they do?
They connect, create and learn:
Connect: using wikis, del.icio.us (others follow this without it being promoted, they just find it – they just use one tag to share stuff for all, eg. we could use AWMWSG or AWMRC), micro-blogging (they use Twitter), phone, Flickr groups, Facebook groups and events, and alternate spaces (eg. LinkedIN, engaging widely!)
Create: blogs and wikis, blip.tv (I suspect schools might find this easier to find than our content on www.awm.gov.au or our blocked content on YouTube), and staff are encouraged to contribute elsewhere (blogs, publications, etc.)
Learn: active learning is encouraged, staff/members are surveyed - What was your greatest achievement last year? (part of bi-annual member survey on webjunction.org – results were visually presented in a tag-cloud), speaking engagements, blogging internally and externally encouraged for all staff.
So what does this mean for us at the Memorial? I think we are heading in the right direction. We are not there yet, but we've made a good start and even though we might complain about some restrictions placed on us by out IT staff, they have already facilitated much more freedom and innovation in our organisation than many, may others (judging by the tone of questions asked of Chrystie). Our management too have been both supportive and visionary. How many national cultural institutions can boast that they now have these words as their first listed corporate priority for the 2008-2011 period: "Enhance online access through use of emerging web technologies and improved web content"?
30 July 2008
I found this to be a very interesting video on the future of the web from Kevin Kelly on ted.com.
Kevin is a publisher, an editor at Wired Magazine and a writer. He is known for his fresh perspectives on technology and its consequences.
For those too busy to watch and listen here is my quick summary.
Kevin begins by throwing up some astounding numbers and statistics about the web that even he admits are too large for us to comprehend. He estimates that now the web matches the processing power and activity of one human brain, but by 2030 it will match six billion human brains (it is doubling every two years) and it will exceed humanity's processing power by 2040.
He postulates three major changes for the future web or its next 5,000 days:
- re-structuring, and
All will be connected through the web and become web-based. Software and phones are already moving to be web-based and soon the same thing will happen for items (eg. "chips with heels and wheels"). There will soon be one media platform and media will be "free" in the sense of restrictions on its use (not necessarily cost). Humans will become extensions of the machine or the one web platform.
He refers to the emergence of the semantic web. The web began with people sharing information on their web pages; then they linked to other web pages; and now we are linking to open data and ideas everywhere. So we will see more of XML; RSS; APIs; RDF; and OWL . All of this will assist in the linking of data from everywhere. Data must be open for it to be shared. It will become an Internet of "things" (physical things).
Here he refers to the total personalisation of the web IF your data is transparent. Google could serve as much of your own memory and Google is moving towards AI. WE are the web and become one "machine".
Kevin says the differences with the web will be that it is:
- smarter (anticipating more needs);
- personalised; and
- ubiquitous (for all devices become portals into it.
Even if we don't agree with everything he has to say I think there are a number of very important and strong messages in this talk.
25 July 2008
A friend asked me via Facebook what social media tools we've been encouraging staff to play with at work. (I used to say Web2.0 tools, but have now ceased using that term after reading something on Peta Hopkins Innovate blog .)
We could have gone with anyone of a dozen existing programs ranging from 16-43 "things" but decided to quickly tailor a program to our needs and our endorsed strategic directions for our website. Liz (our Web Manager) and I put it all together in super quick time by collaborating on the one Google Doc. It seems to have attracted enough keen participants and we are happy with the result so far.
So, here are our "ten things" (actually there are nine because thing #1 is an internal thing - applying for extended network access to Firefox browser, Facebook, YouTube, etc.):
- iGoogle and a Gmail account (I know Yahoo is another alternative, but to keep it simple we selected Google);
- Blogs & blogging (duh);
- RSS and feed readers;
- social bookmarks (we picked del.icio.us);
- sharing presentations (eg. SlideShare);
- social networks (Facebook & ArtShare, LinkedIn);
- social media "things" (including: Flickr, YouTube & Podcasts);
- wikis and Wikipedia.org; &
- "other" tools and applications we invited participants to find and explore themselves (Zoho, Google Docs, Open/NeoOffice, CutePDF, Rollyo, LibraryThing, Last.fm).
To facilitate all of this we are using Ning. It is another social network and we think it has been very helpful in facilitating: forum discussions, user profiles, blog posts, the formation of groups for projects and the hosting of videos. It isn't perfect (yet), but it is almost free (we pay a monthly subscription to get the adverts removed). Hopefully they'll eventually introduce a spell checker and some easy way to export useful discussions. It hasn't been made compulsory, but so far we've managed to get 52 staff involved - almost a fifth of our total staff. The groups we've set up focus on progressing small sub-projects such as Flickr Commons, ArtShare on Facebook, Copyright, our Digitisation Steering Group and Marketing. Just participating in our internal Ning network is itself a learning experience for some people.
If you don't have the time to listen, these are the main points that I picked up:
- they are mainly using it for a current exhibition and also to feature the work of some of the artists in their collection who have been filmed at work in their own studios;
- they have a multi-use approach with delivery of the same material via many platforms using their YouTube channel, RSS, iPods that visitors can check out, a wifi network in the museum and as audio files on their website;
- they were originally using video iPods in "notes-only" mode, so they were locked down for use specifically in the museum;
- they are now using iPod Touch devices because they offer a better interface and more possibilities including the upload of user comments (not quite there yet);
- they deliver all content to visitors via a wifi network or website only available in the museum, so that saves synch-ing or updating 20-30 devices for new or changed content;
- if you don't have an iPod or iTouch you can check out one of 20 they have now and they will eventually have 30;
- other US museums experimenting in this space include MoMA (NYC), SFMoMA, Denver, but Chris says a lot of museums are looking at using the same technology;
- he said the URL for their online iPod content was sjma.mobi but on a computer terminal it comes up as http://www.sjmusart.org/m/#_home;
- Chris said they go into the artist's studio and film them working, but only one in 30 has declined their suggestion to do this and some of the artists have embedded their YouTube vids on their own sites too; and
- again he mentioned their intention to use the devices to allow users to upload their own comments about their experience.
SJMA's home page is here: http://www.sjmusart.org/
18 July 2008
Have a look at these fantastic images of the drama and spectacle of the Tour de France. They come from the Boston Globe's blog The Big Picture. As a friend of mine said they've been given the prominence they deserve on the web.
Now read this interview on waxy.org with the blog's creator, Alan Taylor. In this interview he explains why he it is important to see these images in (nearly) all their glory. He also talks about the dimensions of the image and how it would not scale up for print resolution that well.
I think we are far too conservative with our images in cultural institutions and we have a lot to learn from this interview. The Big Picture blog has proved to be extremely popular and engaging.
13 July 2008
As a fan of Apple (two Mac laptops and three iPods, including a Touch) I am very disappointed that I won't be able to by an Apple iPhone to replace my VERY old Siemens ME45.
Here is the link to Paul's post about iPhones in Oz.
11 July 2008
19 June 2008
I think we are blessed with pretty enlightened leadership at the Memorial, because we have embraced the potential of web 2.0 at a reasonably Early stage and we've been allowed a pretty free hand to experiment and innovate. Without this, I'm sure an initiative like this is doomed.
So, here is a bit of an outline of the early progress. We have started by getting some volunteers or nominees to join our online forum and set up some basic groups on it for special interests like our historians, education and two projects to progress our presence on Facebook's ArtShare and the Flickr Commons. The Ning forum or network also has several blog posts running to some pretty inspiring online presentations by people such as Clay Shirky and Mark Pesce.
The idea is to get each of our internal "communities" to bring forward their own suggestions and initiatives, rather than generating them centrally. First, we need our staff to become familiar with what is out there. What we needed to do was gather a small group around a set of terminals and set them up with the relevant accounts.
Firstly, we arranged access to the Firefox browser and Facebook from their work account. Some of the tools we want you to start playing with don't work very well in IE7.
We started by setting them up with some useful tools in iGoogle. So, they were asked to go Google and register to set up an account. We then asked them to play with their iGoogle page, setting up some useful "widgets" that appear every time you login.
Next was Google Reader (because that is the feed reader I use!). It provides an easy way to automatically subscribe to blogs and other website that are updated regularly, like newspapers. Blogs of interest can be found on Google Blog Search. Most of our staff are already pretty familiar with blogs as we were one of the earlier museum bloggers.
After that we moved to set up a social bookmark account on del.icio.us. We networked the participants with a set of bookmarks that I use and briefly covered how to make the best use of it. I think we can really do some very useful things with del.icio.us to gather together useful and little know areas of our huge website for certain interest groups. (More on this idea in a later post.)
After that we quickly covered SlideShare, a rich source of shared presentations from various sources on virtually all subjects. It is very easy to set up an account, search for and then save your faves.
Finally, we set everyone up with a Facebook account and asked them to add a couple of friends.
The training session took 90 minutes. In our next phase we will tackle more tools like LinkedIN, You Tube and wikis. I think I'll also add in OpenID because we are setting up so many different accounts.
23 May 2008
Preservation, Web 2.0 and chamber orchestras (2) - following the lead of the Australian Chamber Orchestra with our cultural digitisation programs
This is most of the text for my recent "provocative paper" at the 2008 Museums Australia Futures Forum in Canberra. The rest of the text was made up as I talked to the slides I used, so if you wanted to hear them you should have come the the forum. My slides are now up on Slideshare (see the post above).
The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) brings old music to life with their live performances. Sometimes they challenge the audience with new interpretations or even "mash-ups" of old and new music. Museums succeed in giving their own well-interpreted performance when they go beyond just shovelling huge amounts of scanned material on the web. I think it is a bit like the ACO breathing new life into old music.
Parallels (does anyone know a neater way to include a table in Blogger?):
Exhibitions & curatorial interpretation
| || |
Touring exhibitions and content on new online networks
I think there is a further parallel in what the public expects from both orchestras and museums: a professional, engaging and enthusiastic performance. I think the ACO is a better example than a full scale symphony orchestra as it is easier for curators to identify with the artistic leadership given by Richard Tognetti, who usually leads the ACO from his violin, than the more formal orchestra conductor waving a baton from a podium.
Museum curators need to manage and care for the collections resulting from our digitisation programs just as we manage our physical collections and museum curators need to be interpreting our online content by playing "our own instruments". That interpretation needs to be delivered in many different ways. I don't think we can just assume the public will find and use it on our rather static websites. Blogs, Flickr groups, social networks and applications like Art Share on Facebook, You Tube videos, podcasts or downloadable audio guides are just a few examples of the relatively new means curators should be using to draw attention to our digitisation programs and collections. They're a little like touring exhibitions or broadcast performances, on the internet.
We need to recognise that digitisation of cultural material for preservation is also good for access. Digital assets created and acquired by digitisation initiatives must be managed and preserved. I believe that the provision of free and open access to the digitised collections of public cultural institutions is also an essential part of the process.
Using new online technologies, we can now facilitate the addition of public descriptions to these files. We can even collaborate with the public in the development of online exhibitions. But, I would not go as far as to say that simply allowing our users (or the audience to use the orchestra analogy again) to generate most of the supposed content of our websites is going to please anyone. If we use the new technologies and social networks primarily to allow users to make comments all over our online catalogues then that is the same as the ACO (or any orchestra) inviting those who have paid to attend a concert to get up on stage and have a go themselves. I believe the public want and deserve more from us than just engagement and conversation. We are being paid for our professional skills in museums, libraries and archives and have an obligation to digitise our collections and provide well-interpreted access to them online as well as other rich content for our websites, just as the ACO performs its music on stage.
I am certainly a keen advocate for social networking and going beyond “metadata” and traditional forms of museology, but there is something more fundamental to do before that kind of "window-dressing" becomes the top priority. We still need to be developing and interpreting fundamental digital collection content.
Some of my colleagues attended the first national
What do we need now? I believe we need some kind of national centre of excellence that is capable of encouraging us in the digitisation of cultural materials. But it should also provide research, advice, and facilitate collaboration, cooperation and training. Perhaps it could also coordinate a shared digital repository service (like CAN) for the poorer institutions who cannot afford their own digital storage.
Much of the advice and research is also available online from
There are many examples of individual Australian digital initiatives that would be the envy of many overseas institutions. A quick list includes the National Library’s Pandora web archive, the Stable Tasmanian Open Repository Service, the Victorian Electronic Records Strategy, Picture
Maybe we just need to set up an Australian partner centre under one of the international organisations, but we also need some local presence or we will all just keep moving forward in an uncoordinated manner and using vastly different file formats, standards, and even different preservation metadata. Sadly, I think too few institutions are planning for their digital future by setting up trusted digital repositories for their growing collection of digital assets. In the end, if the world decides that the only real digital repository is a certified “Trusted Digital Repository”, that is audited to standards being developed in the
06 May 2008
01 May 2008
SPERA Conference 2008 Keynote Paper (draft abstract)
Creative use of new and emerging technologies at the Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial is busy preparing itself, both via its website and within the museum itself for the Mobile Generation. Digital content consumed on our website and available on new wireless networks within the museum (coming soon, not there yet!) will increasingly become platform independent and much richer, moving beyond simple text and images to include sound and video files. We are also changing our own approach and attitude to be less institutional or didactic and more engaging and collaborative with our community.
Our role as one of Australia's oldest national cultural institutions and the experience we have gained in our recent history with new and emerging online technologies is certainly relevant to the education sector, families and the personal development of both teachers and students. Compared to some other institutions, we have a small amount of didactic content specifically related to certain curricula, and have plans to increase this. Generally, our content and information is designed to be accessible to all and we are now making it easier to find, use and re-use, which will also be of benefit to teachers, students and parents. So, it becomes valuable content from the social history, literacy and cultural perspectives and, we may also be seen as a useful model to teachers and students with some imagination and initiative.
I will discuss and demonstrate some of our most recent and somewhat brave initiatives to expose our content and to engage with new and much larger social networks such as blog readers, Flickr, You Tube and Facebook. I will also cover our initiative to migrate our in-house Australian military history encyclopedia's content to Wikipedia.org, in an attempt to engage with an audience of “produsers”. We believe that many of our younger audience are now more reliant on some or all of these more social platforms and networks for much of their information and knowledge that older generations used to gain from traditional media such as TV, radio, newspapers and printed magazines.
Some of these initiatives may be seen as simple on the surface, but for a large and somewhat conservative national institution with a trusted reputation to protect, they can be seen as risky. Many of our colleagues in like institutions are watching us with some fascination as some have not yet been able to take the same steps. We believe that it is becoming increasingly important for us to learn more about these new “many-to-many” conversations and developing “viral” networks. Our experience has been that we can only learn through involvement, experimentation and innovation. All of that obviously involves some real risk management, as distinct from risk aversion. So far, the returns have been overwhelmingly beneficial and sometimes surprising.
The challenge for us in all of this is to maintain our advantage. We are seen as and need to maintain our position as a trusted provider or credible and authentic, high quality content.
29 April 2008
I guess one aspect not covered is that currently the focus within the arts sector in Oz is still all about the performing arts. Those on the other cultural heritage side (museums, libraries, galleries and archives) are still very much the poor cousins. There are well-funded pockets, but generally we fade into the background, especially when compared to sport!
16 April 2008
The only limits to what we might be able to use this for in museums are the bounds of our imagination.
14 April 2008
It is a really interesting and stimulating article. Read it for yourself as it explains simply many mysteries about "freenomics". What you get here is my take on that article and my attempt to put it all into a "what might this mean for museums or cultural institutions?" context.
Chris captures the attention of anyone with anything to do with money-making in an online venture with his statement that:
. . . the trend lines that determine the cost of doing business online all point the same way: to zero.The economies of scale that can be achieved on the web give us the chance to spread the costs of business over increasing audiences, but the emerging business models are more complex than just bigger scale and decreasing prices. He cites three examples of completely free services now provided to users online: unlimited storage (Yahoo Mail); bandwidth (YouTube); and processing power (Google). As he says: "The Web has become the land of the free". And this has resulted in the spread of two trends that are driving free business models across the web economy:
- Giving away goods or services to some customers while selling other things to others; and
- Anything that touches digital networks is affected by falling costs.
So, if we (in cultural institutions) are to look at ways of recovering our costs or making money from e-sales or even measure the value of what we do online, we need to understand those trends and what they mean to us.
Chris also points out the stark difference, from the consumer's perspective, between the cheap and free economies. He says the psychological gap between a price or market that is free and one that is almost free is why micro payments fail. It is why Google does what Google does for free. Even a small fee charged would fail. As Chris says: "The winners made their stuff free first."
So how do they make money then? He begins by explaining the traditional "free to air" media model where the media owners are not selling their products to an audience. Instead they are selling their audiences to advertisers. He says that this model has simply been extended on the Web, but advertising isn't paying for everything and he offers six broad categories for the web's priceless economy, some of which seem more relevant to cultural institutions than others:
- FREEMIUM: Stuff like software, services and some content is free to users of the basic version. We already do this with some pretty decent free content on our website. If, however, you need a higher resolution image for publication or some other reason, you need to pay a premium. Or, if you want something digitised for you, you'll also pay for jumping the queue. But is there a better model or even a different one we could offer for certain services?
- ADVERTISING: Yahoo, Google and Amazon use advertising big time. Chris says that: "these approaches are based on the principle that free offerings build audiences with distinct interests and expressed needs that advertisers will pay to reach". The Australian War Memorial now has an advertisement on Facebook! For cultural institutions, however, there is something we probably need to do before we approach potential advertisers for our own sites and that is to build bigger audiences. So again, delivery of popular content that is easily found, searched used and re-used is kinda critical to this, but that's a whole other ball-game that I won't get into here and now.
- CROSS-SUBSIDIES: This relates to the provision of free or cheap products or services that entice you to pay for something else. Maybe those annoying "interest free payments until 2025" advertisements also fall into this category. The money is free (for a while) as long as you buy one of our products. I'm not sure we'll go there, but perhaps there is something for us to learn from musicians who are providing free online music as simple and cheap publicity for the more lucrative tours they run? Maybe the equivalent for us are free online content such as podcasts, images and even film that relates to our real exhibitions and serves as an enticement to come and see them in the flesh (regardless of whether they are free or paid entry). For many museums the generation of actual visitors is still more important than any form of revenue from the sale of its goods and services. I know, I know, I've really twisted Chris' category this time, but hey, cultural institutions aren't really competing with Kmart (or Wal-Mart).
- ZERO MARGINAL COST: I know, scary economic terms, but stay with me. (I think that the main difference between this category and #6 is that this one is more about zero cost to distribute the item.) Chris gives us a great description that the force to make the price zero : "is so powerful that laws, guilt trips, DRM and every other barrier to piracy the [music] labels can think of have failed". Many creative artists like musicians, visual artists and even short film makers give away their content online for free, sometimes as a way of marketing other things they do, but as Chris points out, many have just accepted that for them their art is not a money-making business. The altruistic provision of free content, (especially when there is no cost of distribution to consider) like the sharing of knowledge, experience and real wisdom, is growing exponentially on the web (IMHO), so perhaps cultural institutions are more part of that side of the web, than a new dot.com push?
- LABOUR EXCHANGE: This happens when users either improve a service or contribute something to it (like a wiki). Another example that I've used recently is Linkedin.com. I set up a quick profile, asked a question about collaborative or forum software to assist in networking for some colleagues of mine and was overwhelmed with answers provided freely by other members from all over the world, within a few hours. Some museums are now playing with user added tags or "folksonomies" that give a new perspective to our online catalogues and descriptions of our collections. I think that is only the tip of the iceberg and much deeper user-collaboration could be facilitated online to generate content. See a previous post here on "produsers".
- GIFT ECONOMY: Everything is free: to everyone. Here the web can be used a platform that gives individuals global impact. Altruism comes in again as a motivator, perhaps by becoming more important as a motivating factor and reason in this economy than a price, a cost or a simple monetary value. Maybe for cultural institutions we need to look for better ways of measuring online success than simple commercial revenue targets. It is a bit conceptual, but nonetheless a worthy ideal.
Later on in his article, Chris goes on to suggest that reputation (metric=PageRank) and attention (metric=traffic) are two non-monetary values or "scarcities" that can in turn realise better advertising (as I suggested in point #2 above). Cultural institutions already have an advantage here because we are seen as reliable sources of credible information and content and this is very important in an environment almost overwhelmed by the abundance same. It all gets back to how we best use that advantage and what we want from this new free web. Allowing users to collaborate with us and to generate some of our content will help, but ultimately the audience will also look to us for the qualities we can deliver from our collections such as: uniqueness, rarity, quality, credibility, authenticity and dare I say it, accessibility.
10 April 2008
I am reading about a May 2007 interview with David Weinberger's (author of Everything Is Miscellaneous, May 2007, Times Books) in which he referred to the fundamental change that is taking place (online) as being the "externalisation of meaning". I read about this on Seb Schmoller's blog Fortnightly Mailing. When he referred to there being no one right way to order the world, particularly digital stuff, I immediately thought the same thing about our vast digitised collections (both images and documents) that are now online and not always that comprehensively described.
So here is my take on Seb's summary of David's talk and what it means in the museum world:
- it is now simpler for people to organise or search digital things (content or collections) as they decide, rather than for them to be classified for them (eg. museum taxonomies which are not always that easy to understand);
- the links between digital things, and the tags (or folksonomies) and other attributes that people give them create a rich layer of meaning that can be drawn upon by others - and they may be better understood by others than the taxonomies we use in museums to describe our digitised stuff;
- the difference between data and meta-data is disappearing (I've not thought this one through fully, but will add some more when I do); and
- through Wikipedia and blogs and similar there is an increasingly public negotiation of knowledge, via a conversation, in which experts (curators, historians and the creators of digital collections) are decreasingly the arbiters of authority, solely through the addition of our own context.
So, if what this infers is a step along the path towards facilitating and building a better, open online community that is relevant to museums like the one I work in, perhaps this quote from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark (in an interview with David Weinberger) is also something we could well heed:
Somehow we've worked with people in the community to build an online community. We're not certain how it happened, except that we really do listen to people. We try to treat people like we want to be treated, and somehow we built a culture of trust.In the same interview Craig compares the similarity between Craigslist and Wikipedia and again, I think there is relevance for us:
The two go on from there to stress the critical importance and benefits (from unintended consequences) of doing good by paying attention to real customer service, listening to people (those engaged in the conversation) and following through (not just lip service).
The big similarity is that both sites are built by the people who use them. Both have a culture of trust, and both are part of an historic trend where power is flowing from small groups of powerful people to much larger, but still small, groups of people.
The Memorial now has a Facebook page, a YouTube page and a presence on Flickr. And we now have a page on our website with links to them all: find it at http://www.awm.gov.au/aboutus/community.htm In doing this we've followed the fantastic example set by Brooklyn Museum and their Community page. We may not be as funky as Brooklyn have managed to be, but we are a war museum and our community will be different from theirs. All of this is an attempt to expose our digital content (or collections) to much larger networks. We are now also looking at the facilitation of tags (or folksonomies) and even deeper descriptions of some of our digitised content by this new community. That will probably have to wait until we've implemented our massive new Enterprise Content Management system as it will lay the foundations for many programs including digitisation, web publishing and improved federated search on our site across all collection management systemn and other databases containing digitised documents.
We also continue to use the AWM Blog to draw attention to our collections and the work we do on them as well as to engage the community on topis of particular interest. Some recent examples include posts from conservators, curators and historians on: Aircraft Conservation, our catalogue programs in the Research Centre and also the recent discovery of HMAS Sydney, which has attracted a great deal of interest and many comments from the community.
07 April 2008
Mark's rules might at first seem only relevant to journalists and such, but the mere fact that museums are now engaged in online communications using their websites means that the rules also apply to us in a general sense. So, what I'll do is take Mark's rules and offer a museum perspective on what they mean for us more specifically. (Apologies to both original sources for a tad of borrowing.)
1. The Audience Knows More Than the Journalist: Rather than being a one-to-many broadcast, museums now must understand that they are just part of a much larger conversation that is networked and constantly evolving. So, replace "Journalist" with "Curator" (or historian, etc.) and you get the message. Our audience probably also has something valuable to contribute. A great topical example is the post we put up regarding HMAS Sydney’s recent discovery and the community’s contribution to that story. It has proved very popular and offered a perspective that we simply could not provide alone.
2. People Are in Control of Their Media Experience: The people are taking control and watching, and listening to what they want when they want. Making sure that we, in museums, provide content that is suitable for multiple platforms and entry points is critical. Increasingly, we will need to provide an option for content suitable for consumption on mobile devices.
3. Anyone Can Be a Media Creator or Remixer: But it still takes skills to use those tools and stand out from the millions of others who are doing the same thing. In a way, museums already do stand out as trusted sources of high quality content, but we need to balance what we do with regard to Rule #1 to ensure our position is not compromised here. As I've said here before, the big advantage we have is the content we can generate and provide online, particularly through our digitisation programs. Just facilitating conversations using fancy new technologies probably isn't going to be enough for us to sustain an audience.
4. Traditional Media Must Evolve or Die: The evolution that traditional museums must make online is not just in adding new features; we must change our mindset, ideas and methods to new ways. Many of our old processes are now completely irrelevant or redundant in this environment and hanging onto them has seen others bypassing us and finding new ways to search our content and collections, describe it, promote it, provide access to it, etc. Many traditional research journals are now either dead or dying and in Australian we’ve seen the death of the formerly popular Bulletin magazine. Maybe we need to look at some of our more traditional publications and move them online too. We also need to think up and use different methods for commerce in the online environment if we need to charge for services provided.
5. Despite Censorship, The Story Will Get Out: This isn’t just about censoring news stories; it also applies to new technologies like peer-to-peer file-sharing. Maybe we need to see these new technologies more as potential friends, than enemies. A good example is LOCKSS which uses peer-to-peer technology (as I understand) to safely share and store digital assets.
6. Amateur and Professional Journalists Should Work Together: The reality now is that professional curators/historians and amateur collectors, enthusiasts and historians can learn from each other and the new social media platforms not only allow this to happen, they facilitate the conversations much more readily.
7. Journalists Need to Be Multi-Platform: Museum professionals need to learn how to make best use of a host of skills to reach different audiences. I think most of us need to be familiar with digital cameras, scanners, digital recording equipment, and online technologies such as wikis, blogs, social bookmarks, RSS, tagging, mashups, social networks & collaborative technologies. We can’t just expect to engage with physical visitors nor those who come directly to our web front page.
I reserve the right to add more examples and thoughts to this post as they arise.
Keep in mind that there are 38 slides, but they were used over an entire day, so there is a lot of discussion you are missing. The slides are best read in concert with the Slideshow Transcript that appears at the bottom of the Slideshare screen - a feature often missed by new users. Also, Slideshare appears not to have been able to pick up all of the embedded hyperlinks used in some slides. Again, they are included in the Slideshow Transcript at the bottom of the screen.
04 April 2008
- DYNAMISM: digitisation is a dynamic field and there are no set or concrete answers. While I was researching new research papers emerged on the use of JPEG 2000 and the digital curation cycle and I had to touch on both of those.
- PRESERVATION: There are some who don't believe or understand the essential link between any digitisation program and preservation. But it is there and it is there in two forms. Firstly because we do digitise as a preservation strategy. In our institution we have preserved documents and images that could only have been saved using digital techniques. Thermal papers meant historic documents were disappearing before our eyes and acetate syndrome was destroying rare photos. There is also an often disregarded preservation benefit in giving access to digital surrogates which prevents or minimises the risk involved in allowing physical access to rare, fragile or unique collection items. Secondly, whatever you create through digitisation programs or projects needs to be preserved: through a curatorial life cycle, just like other collections do, but with different requirements as applicable to digital objects and collections.
- Learning by PLAYING: Adults learn best by doing (at least in my experience) - sorry, but I think it is true and this is my blog. I've also been involved in digitising archival and museum materials for a long time now and I reckon we've learned more through our projects than any courses any of us have ever undertaken. So my motto would be "start now and learn by doing". The chances are the authorities will probably go for hardened criminals like mass murderers before they come after you, so you've got a bit of time up your sleeve.
- MANAGEMENT & PLANNING: A lot of useful material of late about digitisation has been indicating the importance of abiding by sound project management principles and using appropriate planning methodologies in your initiatives. This greatly assists us when the authorities (decision makers and purse holders) come after us or don't understand what it is we are doing and why we are doing it.
- COMPROMISE: This comes up continually in our projects and you won't see it in any of the theories emanating from academia and various standards organisations. The fact is that hardly anyone I know in this field meets all the criteria and principles that are mapped out for them or even mapped out by them. All the practitioners have made compromises somewhere, whether it be in metadata, file formats, digital preservation, QA, storage, evaluation, reports or many other critical elements of digitisation.
That's all for now, but you can check out my del.icio.us bookmarks (see the tags on the right of this post) for some new an other really useful sites on the same subject.