Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Identity Control: Part 1

maria mortati, gyroscope inc, museums The issue of identity and how to manage it in a “commentable” world came up for me this week. As the mantle of "curator" gets redirected by the impact of web 2.0, institutions are struggling with how to remain true to their identity and yet be inclusive. I’ve been thinking about how to foster such an identity that is both the trusted author and the inclusive conversationalist. With visitors being able to comment on your institution inside and outside your walls, it's important to get your arms around this. Let's say that you have a strong authoritarian identity at your institution. However, visitors are taking pictures, blogging, and writing reviews on sites like Yelp and others. Some of these fit your vision of yourself, and some don't. What is a strategy for managing you identity but allowing conflict, debate, or an unfavorable point of view? One idea, suggested by Nina Simon of Museum2.0 fame, is to worry less about whether user generated content will dilute the brand [which you can't control] and focus on "selecting user-engagement opportunities that really fit with the institutional image" [which you can]. Building on that idea, actively reaching out to your visitors in the various forums and fostering dialogs with them will increase your outreach, and also strengthen who you are. Having a more permeable, or inclusive brand may be the reverse of traditional brand strategy. However, if a museum's goal is to ask questions and educate, then shouldn’t its brand be an open-ended invitation? -- Suggested reading: Common Craft, Reach Advisors post Cultivating Online Identity Management

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