Tag Archives: fieldsite

Museums and web 2.0

The past couple of weeks, I have been using the web to get a sense of what is going on in the museum world as to web 2.0 developments. It’s part of the fieldwork for the Tropenmuseum case. My general impression is that there is a large, active community of professionals in the museum world interested in social media.  The Smithsonian appears to be a big player. That said, I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that as reseachers, our own search strategies, the mailing lists we are on, the blogs we follow, etc. are also shaping the field we are studying. For instance, I learned of a very interesting blog through an indicommons rss feed. The feed had a link to a talk given by Nina Simon at the Smithsonian, on The Multi-Platform Museum. As is the case in my own current blog post, the link directed me to Simon’s blog on musea design and web 2.0 (the field Simon works in. By the way, the blog is excellent and an inspiring source of information, also because she interlaces theoretical and ‘hands-on’ remarks).  One blog led to another, and I noticed that a lot of talk on the web concerned a certain conference, Museums and the Web 2009 (“international conference for culture and heritage on-line”). As said, the circularity of this search process doesn’t escape me. There might be a whole world of cultural heritage museums not interested in new media. The Tropenmuseum is not one of them. Although they don’t seem to be a member of a social networking environment related to the Museums and the Web conference called conference.archimuse.com (“a collaborative space for professionals creating culture, science and heritage on-line”), they are for instance using Twitter. Interestingly, some tweets are in English (“Working on a map for WikiLovesArt. 11:51 AM May 25th from web”), some in Dutch (“Voorbereiding voor vertoning documentaire Dwars door de Sahara (zondag 24 mei) in het Tropenmuseum 1:23 PM May 20th from web”). One of the things that may be interesting to look into during the fieldwork at the museum, is how they define their audience.

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Presentation at Tropenmuseum

Yesterday, we presented an outline of our research to some of the employees of the Tropenmuseum and the Royal Tropical Institute. The weather was lovely, which made our wait for tram 14 a lot more pleasant.

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It was very nice to be able to share our plans for the fieldwork at the museum, and to meet the people I will probably be spending lots of time with (as I will be doing the fiedwork in this case study). We had decided to talk briefly about our theoretical interest, before delving into the practical plans for carrying out the fieldwork. We discussed our specific focus (i.e. how images in web-based databases generate a new way of knowing we label network realism), and talked about two research strands that come together in our research. The first is work on web-based databases and knowledge production (f.i. Jenkins 2006 Convergence Culture; Bruns 2008 Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage), and the second is work on digital technologies and visual culture (Daston & Galison 2007 Objectivity; Bolter & Grusin 2000 Remediation: Understanding New Media; De Rijcke & Beaulieu 2007). We explained our understanding of network realism by contrasting (presumably) the oldest photograph with several slides on the interactive possibilities of the museum’s online database. We think the contrast between two very different practices of objectivity worked well (i.e. Daston and Galison’s mechanical objectivity versus  our label network realism), and the audience was responsive of our proposal for the fieldwork. In the discussion afterwards, many interesting questions were raised and suggestions were made. People were open to the layeredness of issues of representation, and seemed willing to have us as a guest, to learn from them. One of the things we will hopefully look into during our stay at the museum (June-September), is the introduction of a new search engine called “digital association,” taking place in that same period.

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