Sharing is Caring conference takeaways (pt.1)

The following post has been written by Sanna Marttila, designer and researcher for digital design and media and board member of Open Knowledge Finland. At the end of December, she attended the Sharing is Caring conference in Denmark. Sanna has kindly written about the conference and has mainly focussed on the different keynotes. Because of its length, the post has been divided in two parts. In this first part, she will mainly discuss Shelly Bernstein’s keynote “New Methods to Foster Deep Engagement. The second part can be found here

Picture taken by Thomas C. Christensen and is available under a CC-BY-NC license.

Time to Get Real!

In every movement there comes a time when it is time to ’eat our own dog food’ and
‘walk the talk’, get our hands dirty and get real. This year, the Open GLAM network has reached that point; after agenda setting and vision building,
digitization, advocacy and legwork it is time to take action and learn from actual cases and share this knowledge with a wider community. We ought to move
from ‘we should do’ to plain ‘do’, as pointed out by Michael Edson at the Building the Cultural Commons seminar at Open Knowledge festival in September.

Let’s get real! was the main theme of the second Sharing is Caring conference
that was organized in December 12th in Copenhagen at DR-byen by the Association of Danish Museums, Statens Museum for Kunst and DR (the Danish Broadcasting Corporation). The conference
brought on to the stage at DR-byen a wide spectrum of passionate cultural heritage lovers from strategists to practitioners to discuss how the Open GLAM
vision works and does not work in practice. Altogether 14 presentations and two panel sessions gave a lot of food for thought, in this post I share some
takeaways from the day focusing especially on the keynotes.

In case you get inspired to see for yourself, videos of presentations are available on the conference website. There are lots of good points that I can’t
treat here and I urge everybody who could not take part in the conference to take a look at the videos.

Engagements and partnerships

Shelley Bernstein’s keynote “New Methods to Foster Deep Engagement” gave an inspiring and convincing view of how Brooklyn Museum is taking openness seriously and have made it a mission to serve everybody. Bernstein’s
methods for engagement include e.g. fostering the visitors voice by providing a multichannel and rich way to communicate and have a dialogue with the
museum and other visitors. For Bernstein the use of social media goes beyond the “like” button; museums should use social media not as a marketing tool,
but invite people to be part of the process by providing means for meaningful dialogue and participation. Bernstein emphasises that museums should allow
and enable people to use social media tools to e.g. tag and give comments, and that in return museums should always remember to attribute the contributing
people. The key, as Bernstein repeated multiple times, is to form a partnership between citizens and museum.

At the moment many museums are experimenting how to connect the physical experience to the web experience. Locality and collaboration with neighbourhoods
is at the core of Brooklyn Museum’s GO project, where Brooklyn-based artists were asked to
open-up their studios to the citizens, and nominate candidates for a group exhibition for Brooklyn Museum. The
GO project aimed to understand how to make a deeper exchange and interaction between public and artists. I caught these useful tips Bernstein shared:

  • Think Local. The project hired neighbourhood coordinators, local experts that engaged with the community in various ways, e.g. by organizing local
    meetings. What I love about this initiative is the acknowledgement of people being experts in their own neighbourhood and everyday life. People are not
    treated (just) as an audience but as stakeholders of a matter.
  • Focus on People, Not Institutions. In the GO project it was not institutions talking to each other, the aim was to have an open dialogue with the residents
    in their own familiar surroundings. When the meet-ups were moved to the museum, Bernstein tells, people were not that engaged and the locality aspect was
    missing. Brooklyn Museum’s institutional branding in the GO project was even cut down a notch, to emphasise equality between all parties.
  • Connect People. In the GO project 1708 artists opened their studios to the public. The initiative provided tools for web discovery, and a possibility for
    the visitors to personalize their experience and explore artists and their works before and after the visit. The key to connecting is to design an open and
    transparent process. Connecting does not only happen between the museum, artists and community. What Bernstein repeated throughout her talk was the
    importance of breaking the elitism of the curatorial process, and forming a partnership also with curators, and develop design solutions together.
  • Design for Participation. The key to this successful project seems to me to be that GO provided all participants a possibility for flexible agency in the
    project. Participants, artists and community, could choose the way to take part and contribute in a way that supported the existing media practices and
    skills. For example GO created multiple access points through various digital tools (e.g. SMS service, web interface, phone app – by the way it was
    interesting to hear that only 9 % actually used the app). Offerings included also offline resources e.g. press kit that artists could use to promote their
    own art studio.

Part two can be found here.