What is Social Media?


No longer satisfied to be consumers of content, today’s audience creates content as well, and is uploading photographs, audio, and video to the cloud by the billions. Producing, commenting, and classifying these media have become just as important as the more passive tasks of searching, reading, watching, and listening. Sites like Flickr, Odeo, YouTube, Google Video, and Ourmedia make it easy to find images, videos, and audio clips, but the real value of these sites lies in the way that users can classify, evaluate, comment upon, and add to the content that is there. Using simple interfaces, visitors can build shared collections of resources, whether they be links, photos, videos, documents, or almost any other kind of media. They can find and comment on items in other people’s lists, sharing not only the resources themselves but information and descriptive details about them.

As a result, over the past few years, the ways we produce, use and even think about our media have undergone a profound transformation. Literally billions of videos, podcasts, and other forms of social media are just a click away for any Internet-connected user. As the numbers and quality of user-produced clips have increased, our notions of what constitutes useful or engaging media have been redefined — and more and more, it is a two- to three-minute piece designed for viewing inside a browser or on a mobile phone. That same phone is often the device used to create the media in the first place, with surprisingly high quality when viewed on a small screen. Tools for assembling and editing clips are free or extremely low cost and make it easy for amateurs to get good results without investing in expensive equipment, software, or training.

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - Sam Sam Jul 21, 2011


(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • - holly holly Aug 20, 2011Is Facebook mature enough to be a portal solution?http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/student_affairs_and_technology/is_facebook_mature_enough_to_be_a_portal_solution
    Eric Stoller a regular blogger asked this question of the Higher Ed community earlier this month. Museums use Facebook in a lot of different ways--is it time to be considering a best practices or should we just not spend the time and effort for a tool that might be gone tomorrow?
  • Social Media will continue to expand. Using the platforms the public is intensevely using, museums can better communicate with their audiences. So far truth is that most museums have been using social media primarily as a broadcast channel. Efforts will move forward to really engaging and intertwinning of conversations in a more direct and transparent way. Museums can both tell about their daily life and get the insight from the public, thus building together, co-creating an enriched experience for visitors, be them physical or virtual, and for museum professionals as well. - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 26, 2011
  • Facebook is certainly a useful portal for connecting with, and building, a museum's audience. Especially in densely packed urban areas, announcements of events and programs on Facebook is a must. It is also useful for broadcasting small amounts of collection-based (or collection-derived) information. However, museums need to keep a balance between using social media platforms that are widely accepted (like Facebook), and from spreading themselves thin over multiple platforms (Google+, MySpace, etc.) Eric Stoller's article is very interesting; if Facebook isn't mature enough to be a multiuse portal, then something will come along that is. - jason.trimmer jason.trimmer Aug 30, 2011
  • More and more of my peers are discovering and communicating about new exhibits on Facebook and Twitter. People are already using social media platforms to see what their friends are doing and where they are, so it makes sense for museums to have a presence. It's also a great to way to build a real community and garner new "followers" which can translate into new museum-goers.- Sam Sam Aug 30, 2011
  • Social Media is a great channel for initiating innovative ways of reaching/sharing for information and knowledge. See the Global Amphibian Bioblitz FIND EVERYONE that was featured last spring during the virtual AAM Houston Conference: it is a brilliant way of using social media for a great cause: wild life heritage and conservation.iNaturalist.org · Global Amphibian BioBlitz- guy.deschenes guy.deschenes Aug 30, 2011
  • - jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011In the social media world, Museums can actually prove that they are relevant contributors to cultural dialogue. Museums can use social media to actually give something to the user (an image, audio, written content) that can be shared. Social media can have an impact on your content pages (eg – your collection pages), but good content is good marketing. If branding and marketing are necessary components for a museum’s viability, then social media is extraordinarily important.
  • Museums can use social media to combat the impression that they value collection above all else. Lifting the veil and revealing how museums work and the people behind that work is always a good idea. Engaging in true dialogue with visitors (and potential visitors) and not simply spouting evergreen marketing messages lets everyone know that there are real people behind the conversation, not robots.- adrianne.russell adrianne.russell Aug 31, 2011
  • important for museums to consider how they integrate their own position and 'authority' and marry that with an active dialogue with visitors, who is managing that dialogue, and also to consider the reliance on individuals who just already have a personal interest in social media taking that responsibility rather than it being a strategic decision - lorna.obrien lorna.obrien Sep 1, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • I think one of the most important themes that could be brought up in several of these topics, but seems most relevant here, is the awareness that while these platforms are often "free" in the sense that they do not charge for their services, they almost always have an element of corporate "branding" or outright commercial features that need to be considered. For instance, YouTube now includes popup-style commercials prior to many, if not most, of the videos posted to the site. Museums are generally so careful about how corporate sponsorship is denoted in real life, that it seems worthwhile to take this into consideration online (either by hosting sites on one's own server, or using a platform less intrusive). - jason.trimmer jason.trimmer Aug 30, 2011
  • I think the above description could have more of an emphasis on the social aspect. There's a lot on the media and not enough about how people -- namely musuem patrons -- can communicate with each other. It's really about community-building.- Sam Sam Aug 30, 2011
  • - jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011Social Media is changing the job responsibilities and expertise needed within a museum. Out-sourcing this type of work is troublesome because it requires highly valuable institutional knowledge.
  • Building on the above comment, museums benefit from seeking contributors from throughout the institution. Additionally, crafting a social media plan and having someone administrate it keeps everyone on task and makes the social media presence more cohesive.- adrianne.russell adrianne.russell Aug 31, 2011
  • Social media has been one of the key drivers towards greater transparency at many museums. When people have instant access to you, and you start to open up about your processes, decision-making, etc. you begin to approach your audiences and you begin to think differently about the role of your museum in public discourse. We still talk a lot about dialogue, and two-way communication, via social media but many museums are still using these technologies largely as a distribution platform--focusing on reach over true community interaction. The current state of social media for museums seems to be moving beyond the experimental phase and grappling with tougher questions about what we're trying to achieve with social technologies, what is it that we want people to do, who are they, and what do they actually want us to provide platforms for? In addition, museums who are not used to asking questions--or are good only at asking shallow questions--are struggling with how to help frame a truly meaningful conversation. As social media becomes the responsibility of museum staff beyond the Web/IT department, new questions also arise about how big of a role this kind of outreach should play for staff who don't normally devote themselves to public interaction. Finally, museums could do a much better job sharing with one another what they learn about best practices--how do we move what we know about great exhibitions, successful events, inspiring fundraising, and apply it to the social sphere? And how can we maximize the energy of the web to help us spread enthusiasm and carry out our mission? - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011
  • Just as mobile is now fundamentally a social media platform (even when it's just used for audiotour-like narrowcasting), increasingly it seems that the web IS social media too: everything is networked, so potentially social now. This may be a term that will fade away as the distinctions are blurred, much like "virtual worlds". - nancy.proctor nancy.proctor Sep 1, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • -great potential in enriching the museum interpretation via user-generated content.
    -Twitter will probably continue to be and even increase its role as distributing platform in the museum sphere. Museums have also to keep an eye on the development of other networks, notably Google + and explore it once opened to organizations foreseen for end 2011. - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 26, 2011
  • In addition to the comment above about user generated content, another big impact has been in terms of creating and dispersing interpretation in smaller, more easily "digestible" amounts - i.e. a one- to two-minute video clip, rather than a 30 minute video lecture. Also, the image intensive online environment seems very conducive to common art historical exercises, such as comparing two works, or showing preparatory works alongside the finished product - especially if the objects exist in different collections. - jason.trimmer jason.trimmer Aug 30, 2011
  • Easier discovery and dissemination. More interaction between museums and patrons, patrons to patrons, patrons to museums, museums to museums, etc.- Sam Sam Aug 30, 2011
  • - jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011Social media requires museums to better “curate” information. We are comfortable curating objects and information, but we now need to curate comments and collaborative experiences. We are becoming facilitators in a space where just a few years ago we perceived ourselves as the only experts with the authoritative voice. they
  • Social media empowers visitors, encouraging them to take ownership of and contribute to their experiences.- adrianne.russell adrianne.russell Aug 31, 2011


(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • CCCB co-created exhibition, as reported by Jim Richardson: "co-creation can take many forms; it could be a history exhibition shaped by the contributions from people who lived through the event, a crowdsourced art exhibition created with the public or asking visitors to write new labels for paintings.One recent example comes from CCCB in Barcelona, where an exhibition of photography by 20th century Spanish photographer Josep Brangulí is being partnered by a very 21st century project.Contemporary photographers were asked to respond to the themes of the exhibition http://www.brangulivaseraqui.com/ through an open call which tapped in to Barcelona’s thriving Flickr community to attract over 2,000 submissions in a month. One picture reflecting each of the exhibitions themes are being displayed alongside the work of Josep Brangulí, while all submissions are shown in a projection.This isn’t social media for the sake of a trend, but using technology to make an exhibition better through public participation, and in doing so, CCCB are also making the individuals who are taking the time to get involved think deeper about the themes of the exhibition and the changing world captured in both the Brangulí and the contemporary images." Jim Richardson at http://www.museumnext.org/2010/blog/museum_audience_development - conxa.roda conxa.roda Aug 26, 2011
  • One interesting social experiment happening at the National Museum of American History is the "September 11: Conversations" project. The online initiative focuses on engaging people in meaningful and civil online dialogue about a tough topic. The idea is to put people in diverse but small groups--about 20 people--and have them talk to one another over a period of two weeks with guided questions.http://americanhistory.si.edu/news/pressrelease.cfm?key=29&newskey=1384
    This technique has been done in the past, pre-Facebook and Twitter, with discussion boards. The folks running the platform found that people reported high levels of engagement and that they were able to truly see how a reasonable person could have a different opinion from them. http://weblab.org/sgd/evaluation.html
    http://cache.boston.com/globe/living/cyberlinks/race.shtml People are looking for ways to make online conversation more than drive-by comments flaming one another and this could be an interesting social model to watch. - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011
  • Twitter interactive game and data visualisation of the conversation around the @broadwaycinema twitter account. Involving Twitter, the Broadway website, brochure and venue to challenge participants to ‘pwn’ or ‘own’ the Café Bar projection and Play section of the Broadway website. A cinema project rather than strictly museum but demonstrates creative possibilites in engaging audiences via social media
    http://brendanoliver.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/l33t-hax0r-interactive-game-and-data-visualisation-of-a-twitter-conversation/
    http://www.flpdigital.com/l33tHax0r/



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