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: - alan alan Jan 27, 2010

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

and of course the brilliant work being done in social media athe Brooklin Museum: Tagging their collections with the Posse - http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/community/posse/ and the peer edited first cousin to social tagging - Freeze Tag http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/freeze_tag/start.php - susan.hazan susan.hazan May 1, 2010
  • There might be value in exploring local networks for social networks- IE where there are multiple networks contained in a space around a museum- robsemper robsemper May 3, 2010

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

  • I don't know if "Social Media" as a discrete, separate concept needs a whole lot of discussion here; only the most conservative of museums would be unaware of its benefits/downsides. However, what I haven't seen in (m)any museums yet is a truly integrated approach to social media, in which SM as a concept is "baked in" to all aspects of museum operations. I mentioned "transactional social media" on the readings page, but I'll link here, too: http://bit.ly/bP92Pe. But beyond that, the big challenge for museums in the next 2-to-3 years will be figuring out how to use social media as more than a marketing tool. Will user content become a part of the museum's permanent scholarship? Will it be examined from a socio-historical angle? Will it be used as a content filter for other users? - Koven Koven May 3, 2010
  • another response here

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

  • If museums intend to stay relevant - and a quick look at Google Trends suggest that they are struggling to do so http://www.google.com/trends?q=museum then they need to act in the places where people are active in online. If museums do not colonise social media sites then they will simply fall off the map.- susan.hazan susan.hazan May 1, 2010 - ninmah ninmah May 5, 2010
  • I agree with Susan here, to a point. I think that museums do need to act where people already are living, but museums also need to examine creating their own spaces for communities that do not yet have a place to interact. There may be communities-in-waiting that may finally find a place to land as soon as museum(s) provide one.- Koven Koven May 3, 2010

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

  • - james.lin james.lin May 1, 2010Here in the National Palace Museum at Taipei, Taiwan is now launching a new project introducing social media into this once conservative museum. Currently we will set up a team to work on SecondLife to build a Palace Museum of Chinese Imperial Artifacts. In the meantime, many social media sites such as Facebook, Flickr, and Youtube will be adopted to attract cyber-citizens to the museum.
  • We might want to also mention Brooklyn Museum's (and--soon--the Met's) participation with Foursquare and Yelp as a means of building community around the museum. - Koven Koven May 3, 2010
  • Sue Black's talk at MW, Can Twitter Save Bletchley Park, about a social media campaign that was launched to save a historic site, is also a project to take note of. http://www.archimuse.com/mw2010/papers/black/black.html - phyllis.hecht phyllis.hecht May 3, 2010


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