I’m on my way back from Sydney, where I’ve participated in Intercom 2012 and given both a Digital Engagement Framework workshop at the State Library of New South Wales, and a masterclass for a group of institutions from Australia and the Pacific region. Summarising almost 2 weeks of intense digital strategy debate is a 500-word blog post is tricky, so I’ll leave you with some recurrent thoughts that might be of great value to you.
I definitely recommend you have a look at my Intercom 2012 presentation and – if you can – attend Sharing is Caring December 12 in Copenhagen, where I will discuss in depth these and other findings from a full year of digital engagement strategy development. For now:
“Readers, not books”
I don’t know who first signalled the change in focus of libraries from books to readers, but this has been a recurrent theme in my thinking the past days. For museums this would translate into “visitors, not objects” and down under I definitely see a growing understanding of this shift. I really think that, generally speaking, we’ve digitised enough objects from our collections for the coming decades and it’s about time we start spending these multi-million dollar budgets on actually reaching and engaging people.
Curators (will) have the sexiest jobs in the world
An article this summer in the UK edition of Wired explained how data analysts might well have the sexiest jobs in the world. With all data in the world available, it’s what you do with this that makes you shine and people who manage doing the coolest stuff will be on top of the career food chain. I immediately thought about curators and how they are the data analysts of museum collections. There job descriptions might have to change a bit, but as culture’s data analysts they will be the quants of a ‘cultural revolution’.
Our job is about storytelling
I’ve said this before and I’ll probably say it again a lot of times, but in the digital age, the role of cultural institutions is to tell stories that reach, connect and engage people. “Our job is about storytelling (…) and the best stories are told by people”, as a participant in a recent workshop neatly summarised. Digital media have given us new tools to tell engaging stories that resonate with our audiences, but the tools alone are not enough. As I said before, “Digital is not the difficult part in digital storytelling. Storytelling is.”
Every story is told by a real person
At Intercom Frank Howarth told about the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC, where every label is a story told by a person, with his or her name. In the digital world, we are tempted to have our stories be told by iPads or blog posts or online collections, but I feel these often anonymous stories by people we can’t relate to miss the point. Would you read this blog if it wasn’t written by an opinionated, mistake-making individual?
Money (value) is always part of the discussion
Finally, a tricky point. Although topics like public value and business models have become a more or less acceptable theme at conferences, they hardly ever seem to be part of the digital discussion. “Our content needs to be free,” a participant in Sydney said, echoing Stewart Brand and many others since. Free content (open, accessible, etc.) doesn’t mean there’s no value in it, though, and until we start thinking and talking about the value (price, revenue, business model) of our (free) content our digital activities will not be really full grown.
These are just the first five of many ideas I take away from Sydney. I’ll reflect on many of these in the weeks to come on this blogs and in presentations and workshops. I’d love to have indepth discussions about any of these topics, online or in real life, as many of them need further exploring. Thanks in advance!