(Video still of Stedelijk Museum audio tour in 1952; courtesy of Nancy Proctor presentation here).
When I first started learning about mobile initiatives in museums, I held ‘crowdsourcing’ high as one of those hot terms to include in all related writing. In my mind, it kind of automatically indicated that I knew what I was talking about.
So I like how this presentation demystifies the term itself, because crowdsourcing can basically mean anything you want:
For my purposes, [crowdsourcing] means collaborating with the people who used to be the silent audience to make something better than you could make alone. (Derek Powazek)
Crowdsourcing could be considered an element of all community engagement and participatory initiatives in museums, because the goal of connecting with an audience/s is at the root of these initiatives. Not only that, but the collaborative component of crowdsourcing means there’s more of an equal exchange and substantial impact that visitors can provide.
Up to now, most mobile apps have barely moved beyond the Audio Tour model; they merely deliver content from the museum to the passive consumer. Not much in the way of crowdsourcing, this is true. And I get why: ‘narrowcast’ models are easier to develop, with low-cost platforms.
But I’ve realized that the main reason I’m interested in social media and mobile project development at all is for the crowdsourcing potential. It’s not because I am the least bit technologically saavy or even competent, but I just want to increase access and improve communication between museums and their communities. From gallery education, outreach, and community engagement comes…mobile initiatives! Isn’t that a logical jump?
There’s nothing like real human interaction, where crowdsourcing may be done IRL with informal chats, events, question-mapping, interviews, etc. But to think of the sheer number of users that can be reached from one, tiny [yet effective] Tweet?! Incomparable. (Of course the levels of engagement vary when dealing with an extensive collaborative project vs. a 140-character reply.) I see the benefits of crowdsourcing as two-fold: museums can break down institutional barriers and create an equal exchange with audiences, and at the same time gather golden information to improve future programming.
In this sense, crowdsourcing becomes less fancy tech lingo, and more of a philosophy on how we should strive to develop truly interactive projects.
Willison’s presentation is based on app development, but it’s still helpful for anyone who wants to maximize their interaction with and gather information from the formerly “silent audience”.
A few tips from the presentation, listed on the Daily Crowdsource site:
- Flexibility is important as users may have different views on how to use the application
- Consider incentives –users may do almost anything for reward such as points, medals etc.
- Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Even flawed systems can produce useful data as well as some valuable lessons
- Give considerable thought to the type of questions posed to your crowd & particularly the wording
- Minimal barrier entry: (e.g., a complicated registration process will deter potential users.)
- If your purpose is for information gathering, then usability, visual design, and good copy-writing are essential for avoiding confusion.
(Edit: I can’t believe I used “IRL” in a serious context. Ick.)