Friday, September 11, 2009

Tools we use: social networking for museum projects

gyroscope[By Justine Roberts]

There are lots of networking sites out there that allow groups to come together and share information. Over the past 3 years we have been trying out various on-line tools with our clients. Two in particular have been successful in different contexts: Ning, and Wiggio. Here's why they are useful.

Facilitating deeper engagement from multiple stakeholders

There are many benefits of using a website to share information with a project team and stakeholders. As with an FTP site, we are able to post meeting notes and progress documents in a place that people can access them as needed. In addition, these sites allow us to post a link to an article or a potential partner organization, upload design references and personal photos of visits to other museums, and share personal profiles and background information on the interests and passions of team members. All of this allows fuller information sharing, helps the project team to build shared vocabulary, and keeps everyone informed of the progress and trajectory of the project.

But the biggest difference these sites make, and the place where we at Gyroscope are most excited about their potential, is in how they are able to shift communication from a structured event of passing information back and forth to an evolving and complex dialogue that is accessible to multiple stakeholders.

Elicit informed debate

By posting a link to an article on the future of artifact-based museums in an increasingly digital age we can elicit debate within a project team about the implications for their own institution. Different points of view emerge naturally in this setting, and the team is able to raise important questions on its own. With Gyroscope facilitating, rather than leading, these conversations the team develops better internal communication strategies and a fuller understanding of the issues and opportunities.

Keeping the conversation going on long-term projects

At the same time, the use of the on-line site has encouraged an on-going conversation that keeps participants actively engaged in the issues between major project milestones, and encourages individuals to come to the next meeting with ideas and questions.

We use many tools to develop partnerships with our clients. These on-line networking sites seem to enable projects to take root in a deeper way, where ownership of the ideas and strategies underlying the museum clearly lives in the community. And this is a key to sustainability and long-term success.

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