- Jonathan P. Bowen
- 4 February 2010
On Friday 29th January, a workshop giving An Introduction to Web 2.0↑ and the Social Web was held at Dulwich Picture Gallery↑. The workshop was organized by UKOLN↑, the United Kingdom Office for Library and Information Networking, and was aimed at museums, libraries, and archives. It was intended especially for those smaller organizations that do not yet make the most of the latest web technologies which are available, often at little or no financial cost. Many attendees were from libraries, some from museums, and one from an archive. The workshop was mainly presented by Marieke Guy of UKOLN, who runs her own blog, Ramblings of a Remote Worker, and is also @mariekeguy on Twitter↑ for announcements of new blog entries and other messages. She provided an overview of the different web technologies that are not available and how museums could harness these for improving their engagement with their local and wider communities.
The highlight of the workshop was the presentation of a case study. Readers of Dulwich OnView (DOV) will not be surprised to learn that this was based on DOV itself. This forum is one of the foremost examples of such a community associated with a museum in the world. As such, it serves as an excellent didactic study for other museums wishing to emulate its success. The case study was presented by four active members of the DOV community, each giving a unique and fascinating view from a different perspective. Yang-May Ooi, social media specialist and co-author of International Communications Strategy is the brains behind DOV and provided an insight into the strategy and structure that she developed in setting up DOV as a group blog. She emphasised the importance of authentic voices and building trust when using social media, citing Edelman's Trust Survey which has consistently found that "people trust people like themselves".
Next, Steve Slack presented his view as an author. DOV provides him with a great outlet for his written work. It gives him online visibility, which even though undertaken as a volunteer, has the potential to bring in other work. For example, he has provided material for a new multimedia PDA↑ guide at the British Museum↑. The connection of DOV with the Dulwich Picture Gallery is invaluable in providing DOV with prestige. Equally, DOV draws in new audiences for the Gallery that may not have considered becoming involved with it otherwise.
Angie Macdonald provided a more technical view. This aspect may be daunting to some, but most Web 2.0↑ technology is now relatively easy to use, even for the less technology minded. Certainly, DOV itself, based on the very standard WordPress↑ blog publishing platform, is all controlled by an online interface accessible by anyone on the web (with the correct password!). Most people involved are not great web experts and do not need to be, although it does help to have someone like Angie on call when needed.
Finally, Ingrid Beazley summed up with her view. She is of course the great powerhouse behind DOV. Without her social networking, management, and editorial skills, the project would not be where it is today. In any community building effort, whether online or offline, if is very important to have at one or more “champions” to keep the community developing and vibrant with new ideas. It is essential that they can think outside the box, as Ingrid has done with DOV. Her enthusiasm has ensured that the community spirit that was already present in real-life Dulwich has been translated effectively into the online world of DOV.
For more information on the DOV presentation at the workshop by one of the speakers, see Yang-May Ooi’s excellent article. For further details of the development of DOV itself, see a demonstration, Dulwich OnView: A museum blog run by the community for the community, that will be presented at the Museums and the Web 2010 conference at Denver↑ in the USA↑ during April. A longer associated paper is also available. You can also read Yang-May Ooi's analysis of the strategies behind DOV in an unpublished extract from her book, International Communications Strategy: Connecting Communities Case Study - Dulwich OnView.
The workshop broke for a sandwich lunch, which gave participants a chance to do some real-world socialising. After lunch, the audience divided into groups to discuss opportunities and difficulties in introducing the use of Web 2.0 approaches within their organisations. As was emphasised during the workshop, Web 2.0 is more of an attitude than specific new technologies. While DOV has the luxury of being able to iconoclastically reject normal and rigid hierarchical structures, in many more formal organisations this is much more difficult. It has been possible to do this for some attendees at the workshop, normally when they took the initiative in their own spare time, and then the management subsequently accepted this as part of their job, once its value had been demonstrated. However, in other cases, the use of Web 2.0 technology by employees is actively discouraged or simply banned. The attitude is especially variable in local authorities. DOV is fortunate that none of these difficulties apply in its case; indeed, it is one of the reasons for its great success.
Marieke Guy presented ways to address the challenges and some conclusions to end the afternoon. She introduced various technologies during the day, including blogs (like DOV), micro-blogs (specifically Twitter), social networking sites (e.g., Facebook↑), and wikis. They latter are particularly good for collaborative projects with a particular aim in mind, since information can be updated by anyone at any time, with a history being keep in case of problems, allowing restoration of earlier versions if needed. For example, in a museum context, school projects could be undertaken using a wiki↑, with a teacher monitoring and guiding students as they added and updated their contributions.
Of course the most well-known wiki is the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia↑. It is an important resource for museums (as well as the public), both for obtaining basic knowledge in a wide context and for monitoring and providing information about their own organization. For example, both Dulwich Picture Gallery and Dulwich OnView have their own Wikipedia pages with encyclopaedic information and appropriate references. Wikipedia is very wide-ranging and has rules for what can be included that have been built up by community consensus. A specific wiki for museums with much less strict rules is the MuseumsWiki. This facility was used and updated live as an example during the workshop, something that should not normally be done with Wikipedia. Overall, the workshop was an interesting day. Dulwich OnView can rest assured that it is well ahead of most other museums, even national museums, with respect to developing a virtual community. DOV symbiotically compliments the Dulwich Picture Galley in it role as an informal but very dynamic resource compared to the Gallery, which by its nature and quite correctly is more conservative and slower paced. Well done to Dulwich OnView for shining forth so well at the workshop and in the online community at large!