Yesterday I attended a conference about Crowdsourcing organized by E-land Mechelen. As crowdsourcing fits well in the theme of our cartoon museum conference (‘connecting through cartoons’ in this case with the public) I like to share some information and personal reflections about what I heard yesterday.
But before we start: What is crowdsourcing?
Jeff Howe defined Crowdsourcing as: ‘ the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.’
So crowdsourcing for museums means that not the cartoon expert but the public will decide on what to exhibit in museums.
So back to the conference. The day started with an introduction from Clo Willaerts (@Bnox) to the social media based on examples in the cultural heritage and museum sector. Did you know f.e. that YouTube is the second largest search engine (after Google), so it could be interesting to use this medium to promote your activities. If you use social media in your museum you have to be aware of the 1% rule. It’s simple: 90% of social media users are passive. They read your content and that’s it. Only 1% of the users really create content (they write a message on your Facebookwall, upload images or write a blog article). So if you like to use the social media for crowdsourcing you have to communicate broad before you will get enough response.
Nico Wauters is not convinced of the use of social media to crowdsource. He believes in social media as excellent tools to communicate about your activities and brand your museum. But he doesn’t think it has any added value for curating exhibitions. I do like the idea of inviting ‘critical speakers’ to an event like this, although his arguments were not strong enough to convince me.
The most inspiring presentation of the day was the contribution of Jasper Visser (Nationaal Historisch Museum of the Netherlands). He did some great experiments in his museum. What do you think about ‘Vending machines’ on public places: you can buy a gadget with explanation about its history and the most popular objects come into the exhibition? I like to refer also to an earlier post on this blog where you can see Visser in action at the Museum Next conference. Where most speakers did talk about the use of social media, Visser makes clear that crowdsourcing is not only about social media: ‘think beyond digital’ was one of the strongest quotes I heard that day.
When Jasper Visser tells us that museums are more than a building or a collection, I completely agree. And I think we all do, but how do we change the way we are working now? Perhaps Jan Seurinck (@janseurinck) gave an interesting tip about that: “think public, not collection!” As a museum or center we are too much busy with what we want. We want to show those cartoons that we find relevant, we want to teach our cartoon history … that’s normal. But to reach the public we have to think about what the public really wants to see, wants to know, what they like… We don’t exist for ourselves!
Kristof Michiels (@admkrm) talked about ‘networked transparent cultural heritage’. The public is a living archive and that’s why we need to engage with them. In his own museum (MHKA) he started the project MHKA Ensemble, a social network for artists and their works. For Michiels it is very important to make high quality virtual collections. It is not necessary to describe the whole collection, but to choose those works that are relevant to your public. The most important difficulty for museums is the copyright issue, especially for works that where made before the digital era.
“Why should museums use social media? It’s simple: you have to tell about what happens in your working field, if not others will do it in your place.” And so Jan Seurinck gave us a long list of do’s and do not’s in the use of social media. One of the most important challenges is to bring together all places where people write about you. It is more useful to link all those places, than to add a ‘comment field’ to your site, says Seurinck. Another useful tip to all communication by social media: tell a story, tell the story behind the exhibition BUT don’t forget to talk also about others. ‘You don’t want to talk in a pub with someone who is always talking about himself, do you?’, was the metaphor he uses.
Then the organizers of the conference presented their own great crowdsourcing projects. An important lesson there was to work together with existing communities. Why creating your own community, when there is already a good community. Working together, that’s how I like it.
It was a very inspiring day, and I was a little bit dizzy of all those great ideas. I wonder how we can transform all these ideas into the cartoon world. Do you use crowdsourcing in your museum? Like to hear your best practices and hope we can reflect on this theme together in September.
Some interesting links: