What is Social Media?

Today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to the cloud by the billions. Producing, commenting, and classifying these media have become just as important as the more passive tasks of searching, reading, watching, and listening. Sites such as Flickr, Picassa, YouTube, Google Video, Vimeo, and others make it easy to find images, videos, and audio clips, but the real value of these sites lies in the way that users can share, tag, comment upon, and add to the content that is there. Over the past few years, the ways we produce, use, and think about our media have undergone a profound transformation. Billions of videos, podcasts, and other forms of social media are just a click away for any Internet-connected user. As the numbers and quality of user-produced clips have increased, our notions of what constitutes useful or engaging media have been redefined. Learning-focused institutions need to understand and develop strategic plans for leveraging social media and providing internally generated resources — images, audio, and multimedia — to make the process a rich, engaging, two-way dialog between audience and institution. Inherent in social media is an important networking component. Social media is all about making connections and bringing people together. People have the urge to share information about themselves, find out what their peers think about topics of interest to them, share music and playlists, and exchange messages with their friends. Social media has led us to a new understanding of how people connect. Relationships are the currency of these systems, but we are only beginning to realize how valuable a currency they truly are. The next generation of social will change the way we search for, work with, and understand information by placing people at the center of the network.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • Every tiny museum out there has a Facebook page if they have a website! - elka.weinstein elka.weinstein Oct 14, 2012
  • - ssbautista ssbautista Oct 14, 2012 Museums first saw social media as a way to broadcast their information to the masses, and they quickly learned that they need to have a dialog with people. SM is key to the process of more deeply engaging visitors, telling stories, and responding better to visitors. Furthermore, it expands your reach in unimaginable ways.
  • - david.dean david.dean Oct 15, 2012 We are seeing that social sites (like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Flikr, etc.) have become the way for people to make their feelings, relationships, professional aspirations, and other individualized interactions with one another "official." For instance, a couple's romantic relationship with each other isn't considered official until it's posted on FB. In some ways, social media is replacing or at least augmenting the face-to-face interactions that people have been using since time immemorial. Distance has become irrelevant and location is less important than it used to be. People work at a distance, have relationships with each other at a distance, buy, sell, and do many daily activities all at distance. Social media have become the means of providing "real world, real time" points of connection for these interactions to occur. From simply providing information to "followers" to interacting with them and answering their questions, gaining their insights, and other such exchanges, museums can and should be a part of that mix of face-to-face plus online presence that so many people now depend on in their daily lives.

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - ssbautista ssbautista It may sound trite, but perhaps a description of social media. We all know Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. But there are so many other sites and others emerging constantly, and what makes them social media? Are blogs considered social media if they have comment and share functions? Is it the participatory element that makes it social media? The sharing element?
  • - david.dean david.dean Oct 15, 2012 The very proliferation of social apps and their sites is perhaps their greatest drawback. Over time, only the most useful and easiest to use of the plethora of such online services will survive. It will be important to monitor trends within these varied outlets to see which will be most useful to museums as time goes on.
  • - phecht phecht Oct 15, 2012 Our JHU students did some research and experiments on bridging the virtual and real - bringing the virtual online audience into the physical museum with planned activities. One group presented at MW last year (http://bit.ly/x8m4IT) and another group is presenting at MCN in November (http://bit.ly/WfgaoI) - maybe a theme to add?

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • - ssbautista ssbautista Oct 14, 2012 It depends on the medium; some are more social than others. Others like Flickr, Tumblr, YouTube, and Pinterest allow museums to upload their collections and event videos/photos to increase access.
  • - phecht phecht Oct 15, 2012 bringing the virtual audience into the museum could have a big impact on educational program planning and new ways to engage audiences

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Add your perspective here...
  • Another perspective here.

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