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Keynote presentation: Nancy Proctor 2010

Page history last edited by Alexey Moskvin 13 years, 9 months ago

Mobile Social Media and Emerging Business Models



Tours and mobile programs are beginning to include popular social media functions as standard now, such as 'Tweet this!', share to Facebook and commenting functions. But does this make them mobile social media? What are the different kinds of conversations and audience relationships that arise from different ways of using social media in mobile platforms, and how do these support new business models for the museum?


Slides from my presentation.


Here are some premises for my talk - I'm keen to hear what you think!


  • In the age of social media, the museum is enmeshed in a distributed network of platforms, analog and digital, on which audiences engage with its collections and content, whether it wants to be or not.
  • Over half of these platforms are already mobile, and we should not expect visitors to leave their mobile 2.0 habits at the door when they enter the museum or download our apps. But simply adding 'tweet this' or 'post to Facebook' does not per se make a mobile program have a social media effect.
  • As Max Anderson has argued, museums are 'red ink' businesses:

    We must be able to say truthfully and with a consistent voice that we are first and foremost serving the public interest, rather than emulating commercial attractions,” where, Anderson argues, “we risk being perceived merely as incompetent members of the entertainment sector.” "Prescriptions for Art Museums in the Decade Ahead" in CURATOR, The Museum Journal, Volume 50, Number 1, January 2007.

  • But as social media upends traditional business models, it also offers new opportunities for museums to structure new relationships to their audiences and constituencies - generative of both revenue and other kinds of value - that are organized around 'collaboration' rather than Institutional hierarchies. (see "Clay Shirky on institutions vs. collaboration")


Here are some ideas for how to leverage mobile social media to create the kind of conversations that can help meet the museum’s metrics of quality, relevance, and sustainability - and hence support its 'business' - in the age of social media. They supplement my slides from this presentation above.


1. Quality 

  • Put the content everywhere: platforms, APIs
  • Recommendations: “if you liked…”
  • Timely contextual info and alerts
  • Location-based services: ‘repatriating’ collections Augmented reality
  • Personal adventures, games


2. Relevance

Know our mission, goals, target audiences and what we want from them; connect these to:

  • Mobile metrics: what are audiences looking at, where and when? Whom are they sharing it with & how?
  • Search, interactive maps & social tags
  • Comments and questions
  • Collections, likes, favorites and bookmarks
  • Professional audience research


3. Sustainability

  • Encourage forums, citizen scientists/curators, communities of interest
  • Facilitate the community/conversation with comments, answers, or new content ‘just in time’
  • Integrate across platforms and with real world connector events
  • Follow and respond to tweets and comments; use (and data mine) hashtags
  • Rewards and incentives for connecting


Speaker's bio:

With a PhD in American art history and a background in filmmaking, curation and art criticism, Nancy Proctor published her first online exhibition in 1995. She co-founded TheGalleryChannel.com in 1998 with Titus Bicknell to present virtual tours of innovative exhibitions alongside comprehensive global museum and gallery listings. TheGalleryChannel was later acquired by Antenna Audio, where Nancy headed up New Product Development for nearly 8 years, introducing the company’s multimedia, sign language, downloadable, podcast and cellphone tours. She also led Antenna’s sales in France from 2006-2007. When Antenna Audio was acquired by Discovery Communications in 2006, Nancy worked with the Travel Channel’s product development team and subsequently headed up research and development for the nascent Discovery Audio brand. She joined the Smithsonian in 2008 as Head of New Media at the American Art Museum, and in 2010 took on the role of Head of Mobile Strategy and Initiatives across the Institution. She continues to teach, lecture and publish widely on museum interpretation for digital platforms, while managing MuseumMobile.info and its wiki and podcast series on mobile interpretation, content and technology for cultural sites. In 2009 Nancy was appointed Digital Editor of Curator: The Museum Journal. This year Nancy is Program Chair for the 2010 Museums Computer Network (MCN) and co-organizer of the Tate Handheld conferences.

Comments (13)

Nancy Proctor said

at 11:04 am on Aug 28, 2010

Concerning business models for museums, I've been reading two very useful articles by Max Anderson:
"Prescriptions for Art Museums in the Decade Ahead" (CURATOR: The Museum Journal, Volume 50, Number 1, January 2007) http://www.maxwellanderson.com/PrescriptionsforArtMuseums.htm
"The Metrics of Success in Art Museums" (Getty Leadership Institute, 2004) www.cgu.edu/pdffiles/gli/metrics.pdf

Does anyone have other favorite reads on the topic?

Nancy Proctor said

at 11:06 am on Aug 28, 2010

I'm also working with the metaphors of 'hub and spoke' versus 'distributed networks': see some earlier writings on this: http://www.museum-id.com/museum_articledetails.asp?newsID=154

Any thoughts?

Nancy Proctor said

at 1:05 pm on Aug 29, 2010

And finally, does anyone have metrics or evaluations yet on use of social media in mobile programs? How many people are tweeting, posting, emailing and bookmarking in our handheld tours and apps?

jasondaponte said

at 6:20 am on Aug 31, 2010

Hi Nancy - Really agree with what you've written on the Museum ID site. I'm going to touch on some related themes in my trends presentation and try to round it out with some perspective from outside the museum space.

One of the things that I think is important to think about is how the distributed model helps to create a distributed brand experience for the museum (institution) and think about how to manage this - because it isn't easy. Organisations used to having alot of control (having worked at a massive broadcaster for the last 8.5 years, I know about this!) need to learn different rules for 'command and control' with these distributed audience and device models.

Koven said

at 4:45 pm on Aug 31, 2010

This sounds really interesting, Nancy--wish I could be there to see your keynote in person! Your notes provoked a few half-baked thoughts in my mind. In thinking about what you refer to as the "distributed" or "rhizome" model of content delivery, it seems to me that that model works only if the authorship/ownership of a given content node is fluid. If that is the case, it is possible for a "content experience" (retrieval, reading, processing, etc.) to transmogrify into a "social experience" (which, in my mind at least, implies discussion). Without that fluidity, however, almost the only "social" activity left to a person encountering a content node is sharing ("tweet this!").

The problem though, is that to museums, there's something fundamentally incompatible with scholarly content (at least as we in museums tend to think of it) and the fluidity of ownership that the "rhizome" approach demands. We saw this in the Wikipedia workshop at MW in April--Wikipedians wanted museum-y content on Wikipedia, but subject to Wikipedia's normal collaborative editing model, but museums wanted, in essence, to put content on Wikipedia while being exempt from that model. I don't know how this problem can be/will be solved--it seems almost impossible (or at least extremely difficult--maybe Jason has some hints for us ;) for an institution to maintain brand identity while encouraging a truly social engagement with its scholarly content. I hope somebody figures this out!

Maybe it's just that truly social experiences and museum content are not compatible partners; perhaps these should be silo-ed efforts (much as I know most IT people are required by law to be all about breaking down silos).

Ed Rodley said

at 5:05 pm on Aug 31, 2010

Nancy, I vastly prefer "hub and spoke" to "distributed network" as a metaphor. I also think the idea of social experiences being generative of new content is one worth exploring. Your points 4 and 5 above both venture into that territory.

Koven, excellent devil's advocate position! I can't wait to hear what the hive mind has to say to the idea of social experiences maybe needing to be separate from the traditional content we develop. Have to think long and hard on that one.

Nancy Proctor said

at 7:18 pm on Sep 2, 2010

I really appreciate all this wonderful, thought-provoking feedback. Ed, I'm most surprised by what you say and would like to hear more. One articulation of my preference for distributed networks is in part inspired by Clay Shirky's Collaboration vs Institution talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_on_institutions_versus_collaboration.html

Nancy Proctor said

at 7:18 pm on Sep 2, 2010

Another structure lying behind my thought process here is actually some pretty hardcore feminist and psychoanalytic theory, coming out of the Lacanian school. But that would take WAY too long to explain to people who didn't take my very esoteric academic route, so I'm using the computing metaphors as a sort of shorthand. The main point is that there is an ethical dimension here: in hub & spoke models, (institutional models in Shirky's formulation), a lot gets excluded. Maybe social media and the Internet give us ways of not having to exclude so much, and so many, of value, and actually allow us to derive a lot of benefit without having to exert so much control. I totally agree with Jason that managing a distributed brand experience is probably one of the most challenging things an organization can take on, perhaps especially if its brand is in any way built on 'quality' and specialist skills/knowledge. It will be interesting to see if museums and the BBC manage. I do think there's an interesting analogy there - which Cory Doctorow pointed out to me in fact - that the BBC is shooting itself in the foot every time it positions itself as a for-profit, commercial media company. Losing the license fees is the worst thing that could happen to it as an institution for the public good. Max Anderson says museums have talked themselves into a similar corner, and out of a lot of important government support, by trying to be more 'business like'. Maybe we don't need more businesses! (And then there's the fact, which I won't go into here, that there is no such thing as a free market on the national or international scale anyway, and there is no major profitable business in the world that hasn't benefited from significant gov't (i.e. public) support through tax breaks, free land, not to mention bailouts etc. - so why are public institutions aspiring to a model of financial independence that not even the 'real' businesses achieve?!)

Nancy Proctor said

at 7:19 pm on Sep 2, 2010

And finally (can you believe this wiki restricts comments to 200 words?!) Koven, as always, you've challenged my thinking in an area I hadn't even begun to go yet. I'm going to have to chew over your comments a bit more as can see what you describe structurally, but don't understand the impact yet.

Thanks again to all! Can't wait to get into this further with you in person.

Nancy Proctor said

at 8:04 pm on Sep 2, 2010

Koven: fluid or simulacrum? Not that that's an easier sell to museums either, but in fact simulacra are the stock-in-trade for a lot of museums. I'm in Gdansk now, where the Museum of Solidarity is just that, and in fact the whole town is after its post-war reconstruction... I don't want to get too literal about the idea of a 'copy without an original' but it's another way to shift our thinking away from concepts of original content. Maybe it intersects with your notion of fluidity in networks that become smarter the more they are used? Fun, heady stuff!!

Ed Rodley said

at 10:23 pm on Sep 2, 2010

Oh, where to begin. At heart, I agree with Koven's description of fluidity of ownership and distributed networks, and in our cases, we are most definitely not fluid. Our content is ours, we own it, we preserve it for posterity (whether posterity gives a hoot or not), and we create new knowledge using it. And many of our institutions make a lot of money of it. Shirky hits a lot of nails on the head when he compares institutional reaction to distributed networks with Kübler-Ross' stages of grief. I also see a lot of potential to jump on a bandwagon that will do us as little good in the long run as the "let's all pretend we're businesses now" mentality that is thankfully on the wane.

We exist as hubs already. Our incarnation is both a physical reality and the motivation for most of our visitation. We are exclusionary, full stop. The problem is that many of us like to pretend we're not. The opportunity I see in social media is that it's a way for us to develop more inclusive practices that will educate us and our colleagues, and cultivate the rising generations of visitors, employees, and supporters. It's an institutionally safe place to skip the denial, and anger phases of grief and get as least as far as bargaining, and hopefully to acceptance. This is happening in the physical realm as well. Look at the number of sessions at AAM that had the word "participatory" in the title or description, or the overflow crowd at Nina Simon's panel. Same issue, different realm. How do we engage more deeply with our audiences?

Ed Rodley said

at 11:03 pm on Sep 2, 2010

Boy that 200 word limit bites... Pardon the typos, too. I should be packing, not reading.

We have a quality that is in short supply, and that is longevity. It is entirely conceivable that my grandchildren will visit many of the same museums I have. I doubt Flickr or Facebook will be there. Go to any mobile vendor and ask them what their ten-year plan is. For people who operate in terms of quarters, or fiscal years, we must seem like Martians sometimes, with our worries about what's going to happen our content in years to come and what are going to do when their company or product is long gone. Same goes for all the businesses whose "success" we have been encouraged to emulate. We operate (or should operate) under a similar, but separate, set of rules and values. The kinds of relationships we could be cultivating with our audiences are lifelong, or even lives long ones, and I haven't found anybody talking in those terms.

The other thing I wouldn't overlook in this discussion, which I'm loving, btw, is that one of our audiences for any emerging business model is ourselves. I've run into this a number of times recently where it's been taken for granted that older generations of museum professionals just "won't get" SM, and that trying to educate or inspire them to change their practice is a lost cause. That's exclusionary in the worst way. It's lazy. And waiting for a generation to get out of your way and retire is boring.

LucyT said

at 8:00 am on Oct 18, 2010

Caveat Emptor - While working with museums on content creation and now apps, I just wanted to give group members & associates a 'heads up' in terms of dealing with 'app providers'. There are many companies, both large and small freelancers, who propose to build apps or provide Content Software. They would then put your content on iTunes et.al. app stores for you. But then, if you read the fine print of your agreement, they'll also send you monthly sales reports.
Many don't realize this, but this practice should be absolutely unacceptable - sine qua non.
Museums should have the right to receive DIRECTLY FROM THE APP STORE their own sales reports. Anyone who says this info cannot be provided is simply put, lying or fudging the numbers.
Museums are well advised to contract for an annual audit and to receive non-doctored sales figures. Anything less and your payout on downloads of your apps will most certainly fall short.

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