MA2007 – The summer of UGC?

Was the summer of 2007 the summer of user-generated content?

Ross Parry says it was in his introduction to the wide-ranging and in-depth session on “Handing over intellectual control”.


He reminded us about the acerbic words of Jeremy Paxman during his Mactaggart memorial lecture
“… obsessions with the red button, with interactivity, fatuous opinion polls, podcasts, ‘multiplatform 360 degree programming’, etc, etc, we’ve all heard the jargon, even if we’re not entirely clear what some of it means.”

He also talked about:

– the scandal of the ‘Bebo Two’ tennis stars with the oh too honest accounts of life in the fast lane.

Wikki scanner

– URBIS’s invitation to come to the Hacienda again in second life

The key issues with UGC are four fold he says and they are about motives, principles, quality and management. These issues were explored by Hedley Swain, Margaret Greeves, Rebecca Wilhelm, Nat Edwards and Suzanne Keene through the following questions ….


A couple of notable things came out for me…

1. UGC is not new, well its not new in the offline world. But it is new in the online worlds and is a very different kettle of fish.

2. It is a conceit to think that UGC is something that you will just get. It’s a bit like the “if we built it they will come” school of thought and is of course a fallacy. Solititing any meaning ful user engagement online is not rocket science but it is also not a given.

3. There is a big difference between UGC where you solicit what are in effect comments on your content (stuff like: tell us what you think? / review the product? / rate this service) and the kinds of UGC that drive or define a service and actually form the content (stuff like wikkipedia, Flickr and Delicious).

4. Museums are not (at the moment) social networks (although arguably they could be) and building up a social network online is only easy if there is already a real world community of interest or practice that you can tap into. People cohere about issues of faith, identity, not usually around institutions, unless that is their community, so lets not kid ourselves that anyone cares enough to contribute their ideas, just because they can.

5. Managing UGC is publishing and all the normal rules of editorial control, voice, tone etc. apply.

6. Voting is a great way to get people engaged in a session.


2 thoughts on “MA2007 – The summer of UGC?

  1. I’m not totally convinced that our little trip into 2L is UGC at all. However, part of what we’re trying to do with our exhibitions, inevitably, given we focus on current and sometimes future activities, is make them much more open-ended, so they organically build and change depending on the contributions of our visitors, most of whom know far more than we do about a subject.

    Surely some museums ARE social networks already—thinking of places like the IWM which is built from a tapestry of ‘own stories’ and where the miltary hardware is increasingly irrelevant.

    Part of what we learned with Web 1.0 was that sticky websites came about because of the building of a sense of community. Finding the ways in which to have people talk amongst themselves, not TO them or just by asking them to comment (‘if you have nay views on that, just email us’) is the way to build passion about anything from football to book clubs, not to mention reading circles. And people DO feel passionate about museums. But this would require even more of an overhaul of the curatorial framework than was required by the new museology.

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