Just a quick post whilst sitting in the digital strategy session of MW2012. Is it the responsibility of musetech staff to help push the digital literacy of the broader institution? We often talk about the expectation that other staff in the organisation need to learn how digital works in order that they understand the value of digital, but is it our place to be teaching this? If not us, how will staff with existing low digital proficiency learn about how to negotiate the tech landscape? Do they even need to? If you want a curator to blog or participate on Twitter, digital proficiency is clearly important, but is it up to us to enable their movement into this space?
Museum technologists + organisational digital literacy
suse anderson Conferences, Institutional change, Museums 1 Minute
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An Australian museum geek living in Baltimore. Assistant Professor, Museum Studies Program @ George Washington University. Museums, art, music, cycling, and adventures. Reformed podcaster at museopunks.org. View all posts by suse anderson
13 thoughts on “Museum technologists + organisational digital literacy”
So this is something else we need to be thinking of then. It’s not just that we need to make the digital, but be internal educators as well. How do we we do that?
Its not but for most institutions with little money it’s the cheapest and easiest way.
You are all on one team so why not teach each other?
One step at a time. Start with the more savvy / willing curators, then share social/digital projects as examples to teach/inspire with.
Is it fine to leave some people behind? Or should everyone be brought on board?
It’s important that everyone has the chance. I don’t waste my time on those that refuse to learn.
A good approach is also “teach the teacher” . Get one curator on board to teach the others
Our New Media department is the greatest advocate for digital activity in the museum. I think we are best placed to enthuse and engage staff, and to support them to engage with digital and understand how it might impact and change the way they work as well as it’s potential.
What’s critical is that this work is recognised by senior management and seen as a specific programme of work around raising digital literacy.
If not you, then who else? So, yes. I don’t believe you need money, all you need is a passion for the digital age and a cup of freshly ground coffee.
Yes, it’s our role to do this, but only because no one else is filling this role for us. It’s not that I don’t want to serve this role, it’s just that I am not an educator. I do my best to try and help other people in our museum understand the value of what we’re trying to do (and my cohort, Fairlight, thankfully does a lot more in that regard), but I am simply not the best suited to that role (again, thankfully I work with people who are better suited to the task).
We have to be our own best advocates because who else will be? I don’t want what I’m about to say next distract from the fact that I really do think we have serve this role in our organizations and I think we need to approach it respectfully and professionally. But still…
This is no longer about new technology. It’s about common technology and the world it plays a vital role in. Blogging is old hat. Social media has been around for almost a decade. The web was invented twenty years ago. The commercial internet was created in the 80s (split from a network that was initially created in the 60s). Sure, there will always be something that’s even newer that really does warrant an explanation, but that’s a given, and I’m fine with explaining twitter to people for a while because it’s still relatively new. When do I get to honestly say it’s no longer my job to explain to someone how to use email properly (which is a real issue for some people).
When is it no longer okay for someone, anyone, to not understand this stuff anymore?
I know we’re not there yet. But we have to get there eventually. We can’t spend the next decade stuck in a loop where we’re constantly explaining twitter to people. When does the transition finally happen? And when can I sincerely hold someone else responsible for not developing the professional skills they need to do their own job (again, email is not rocket science)?
And maybe more importantly, what tech is already out there that is no longer okay to have to explain to people? I don’t have to explain the value of audio tours. That’s a technologically enabled activity. What is the baseline? What constitutes “new media” and what is just media? What do we just understand as a part of our daily lives now? If a curator told you they didn’t understand TV and they didn’t think a video belonged in the museum what would you say to them? When can I give that same response to someone who doesn’t get blogging?
I’m sure that sounded cranky, and I really don’t mean for it to. It’s an honest question. What should we be explaining and what should we expect people to get because it’s a part of everyday life already? I don’t think technologists are the people who can answer that question because our perspective of “everyday life” is skewed by our tendency to be early adopters of just about everything.
So that kind of screws up my earlier point about us being our own best advocates. How can teach when most of us don’t have the perspective to know what it is we need to be teaching? We need help here. From whom I don’t know.
Yes, it’s important to enable for colleagues to take steps towards digital literacy. And it’s an individual journey of learning, don’t push everyone from A to Z in one go. At the moment I agree with most of you guys that if not us then who? Ideally it has to come from the directors, the enabling and teaching, but until then… And another relevant question, when should everyone be onboard (and how do we define that)? I love this quote from above comment: “We can’t spend the next decade stuck in a loop where we’re constantly explaining twitter to people.”
I’m changing my mind! I believe facilitating and enabling is only artifical respiration, if there is no support from the museum leaders. By support I mean that digital has to be a part of people’s daily job. You can’t refuse to check your e-mail, but you can refuse blogging, tweeting etc.
So here’s a question… people who already use a technology/platform are most likely to be advocates for it, yes? It was through blogging that I became a greater evangelist for blogging, and through using Twitter that I learned the value of Twitter.
But all of these things come with a learning curve, and generally, a public learning curve. So they aren’t necessarily something that many existing leaders would want to take up (the politics of being in a leadership role on Twitter whilst learning how the medium works would be quite complex). But without themselves being active on these platforms, they might not understand the value of those platforms. So is the answer to try to get senior staff blogging/online/digitally literate instead of, or before, less senior staff? Would that help move things forward, do you think?