Weeknotes: 5.2016 – #artsdigital event thoughts, online audiences at the Science Museum group

On February 5th, 2016, posted in: weeknotes by

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This week, Laura and Lindsey kicked off a new project with the Science Museum Group. We’re doing a piece of research about SMG’s online audiences and, in particular, their use of narrative content and online collections. Our 2015 evaluation of Wellcome Collection’s Digital Stories project indicated that immersive, narrative storytelling can successfully connect audiences with collections objects and this project is an opportunity to dig more deeply into how and why audiences use this type of content. (and for those of you interested in the Wellcome Collection project, Danny Birchall and Anna Faherty will be speaking on it at Museum and the Web 2016.)

On Friday I went along to Nesta for their panel session on the results of the 2015 Digital Cultures report We heard Ed Corn from MTMLondon describe the findings from the report before a panel chaired by Hasan Bakshi (Nesta) of Lucy MacNab (Ministry of Stories), Ros Lawler (Digital Director, Tate) and Mia Ridge (British Library) discussed the implications.

The report itself doesn’t paint a particularly rosy picture of digital in the cultural sector (despite a few bright spots). It’s not just that uptake or best practice behaviours seem low in some areas, but that they actually appear to have decreased over the last three years. For example, the organisations who report doing the most experimentation with digital, take risks, and evaluate impact are those who report getting the most benefit from it (I think we all wanted to know who those organisations were, too, but no clues given). However, overall, the number of cultural organisations doing all of those things has decreased.

An increasing risk averseness is perhaps understandable as budgets are cut, but shouldn’t this actually make evaluation even more important? The report also found that people in the sector had stopped using data as much to inform strategy. Both of these findings are hard to make sense of, if you have less money to spend, surely you want to be even more sure that you are directing it in the the right way? So collecting and analysing data wherever you can, as long as you aren’t being too scattergun about it (and therefore overwhelming yourself with too much information) can actually reduce the level of risk.

Ros Lawler also made the point that if you want to bring more people to your events or exhibitions, you have to understand why those people aren’t currently coming (which speaks to the findings of the research I wrote about last week about why museums are off-putting to some audiences).

Another theme was digital being seen mainly as a marketing tool, rather than being used for creative purposes (another result of the cuts?). Despite this, use of email for marketing wasn’t high, something that Mia Ridge was keen to encourage. You can read her write up of the event here. There was a lot more interesting discussion on the day, I recommend checking out the very active hashtag for the event although you’ll have to go back a few days to the 29th January to see the relevant tweets. A new accelerator programme developed by Nesta and ACE was also announced on the day, more details here.

Things we have been reading in the FGW office this week:

This post from Courtney Johnston on a research trip to the USA looking at museum membership programmes

Suse Cairns on “Transforming audiences, transforming museums


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