Connected Communities

Yesterday I popped into the first session of the Connected Communities conference at Culture Lab, Newcastle University. I’m a bit gutted I couldn’t stay for the whole conference because if the first session was anything to go by this is going to be really dynamic and exciting event.

The conference runs until Wednesday 14th of September and you can watch the live stream here >>

Collective Action

Regis Lemberthe: Enabling Citizens

EnableBerlin is a project that seeks to crowdsource solutions to design problems by engaging proffesionals from a range of non design backgrounds. Through workshops which are facilitated by designers Enable Berlin has explored issues which range from Children’s Rights, to Traffic Congestion.

The most exciting thing about this project is its just do it approach. Indeed they say on their website ”We are looking for challenges, if you have a challenge where collective thinking could help, let us know!” I wonder who will be the first museum to work with this group? and indeed what the outcomes might be?

Julien Dorra: Building a Micro-Community of Museum Hackers 

OrsayCommons was a response to the introduction of a photography ban in the Musee Orsay . Julien felt that as it was a public collection people should be allowed to take photographs of ‘their’ collection.

Working with other cultural activists and bloggers Julien founded OrsayCommons and created 4 events that invited people to come to the Museum and take photos at a set time. The first 3 events went well, whilst participants where told they could not take photos they were able to proceed anyway. On the 4th occasion the group encountered more security and the hostile atmosphere has prevented them from returning. Whilst the Musee Orsay has been opposed to the group and its actions it has developed a significant online buzz and art world following. Perhaps the most significant event the group has participated in is Monumenta . This project challenges museum rules in an interesting way. Check out their Flickr group to see what they have been up to.

Lien Tran: Seeds to Soil

Seeds to Soil is a grassroots project which seeks to bring communities together through gardening. The project which is based in central Harlem seeks to bring communities by promoting food sustainability.

What was interesting about this project was the lessons learnt about when and how to introduce technology to the participants. Face to face contact, building personal realtionships should be key, with technology (such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs) introduced only when participants trust the project and the people that run it. I guess it highlights that common misconception everyone should be on Twitter and Facebook, no they shouldn’t! A project or cultural institution should only use social media if that is what their community wants. Finding which technology is appropriate requires a trial and error approach, their is no one size fits all solution. Some participants liked emailing, other blogging, other simply liked to take photos and got other people to upload them to the projects website.

I was really excited to hear about the interdisciplinary nature of these projects.

Museums are increasingly working in partnership with a broad range of both community and commercial organisations. This conference highlights the broad range of people working in the context of developing connected communities and it would be exciting to see this represented in digital museum conferences. Yes, we want to hear what museums are doing well, but we also want to to hear what innovative projects people are doing in other fields be they commercial or community orientated in nature.

A great example of successful interdisciplinary working is the  Feeding the Spirit,  symposium which will explore ‘how museums can use food to grow audiences (and improve their own financial health)’. You can read more about this project on the Centre for the Future of Museums Blog 

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