Monthly Archives: January 2017

Call for papers: Deadline extended to 10/2/17 #RMDigital

Research Methods for Digital Work: Innovative Methods for Studying Distributed and Multi-Modal Working Practices, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK , 25-26 May 2017

Many thanks to all those who have submitted abstracts so far.  We are delighted that we have had so much interest from across the world!  We have had a few requests for an extension to the submission deadline (as we understand the end of January was a popular deadline for other conferences too).  With this in mind we will be please to accept abstracts before the extended deadline of Friday 10th February. Extended abstracts of no more than 1500 words should be emailed to  using the subject line “Research methods for digital work”.  Full details available from Surrey University.


Guest blog: Collaborating with the Public over Social Media in the Museum Sector

We previously published a guest blog on digital volunteering in Birmingham Museums by Becky Fletcher.

This guest blog by Dr Krista Godfrey, School of Management, Royal Holloway, builds on this topic and reports on her research on social media use in the museums.

Engaging the public over social media is now commonplace in the museum sector.  Whilst some museums have social media experts to deal with this activity, it often requires the input of professional museum staff such as curators, historians, and archivists.  I was interested in how social media engagement has affected the experience of these professionals.  I focused on ‘living memory’ history, which deals with contemporary events such as the First World War or the Falklands Conflict because it is the stories around objects that are uncovered that build interest in museums:

Our medal room is just basically a room full of really shiny objects.  That’s not what makes it interesting.  What makes it interesting is the story of the people that held on to those medals.” [Curator]

Many museum staff are now reaching out to the public over social media to help them with a richer, deeper understanding of artefacts; not just what an item is, but how it was used or modified. In effect, turning members of the public into citizen historians through crowdsourcing.  My research showed that the public have an almost unconditional willingness to share high quality of information with museums.  I have termed this exchange of historical information a network of public.  A network of public extends the idea of networks of practice, in which most participants are inter- or intra-organisationally relted.

 The network of public is less bounded, catering to individuals who are interested in a range of information; whether that is sharing knowledge of how to repair a particular make of car or engaging with museums on the uses and modifications to Challenger

I expected that museum staff may feel a sense of de-professionalization through the museums’ remit to collaborate with the public.  Many years of education and training are undertaken to become a curator so it was possible that asking the ‘amateur’ public for their opinion or information may be resisted.  However, every individual I spoke to found collaborating with the public both interesting and beneficial to the museum.

Using common social media tools aids such exchanges:

“Because people know how to use them [social media], because they use them all the time, they don’t have to learn something new.” [Curator]

However, museum staff also commented that the public are quick to adapt and learn to help museums with crowdsourcing projects, as can be evidenced by the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Operation War Diary’ project.  The public were keen to learn this new technology in order to contribute.

However, while staff want to engage with the public, they are not usually allocated time to do this, which means that their main role – curation – can be affected.  Providing time and support to museum staff for engagement activities is beneficial in the long-term.  The public become more involved with the museum and act, in many cases, as virtual volunteers, giving up both time and knowledge to help the museum to grow its collections.

Digital volunteering through social media technologies is on the increase, and museums are well positioned to take advantage of this.  My research encourages museums to appreciate the value that is gained from engaging the public over social media, in order to add rich descriptions to existing collections or undertake large-scale, dedicated projects (crowdsourcing activities).  It shows that collaborations over social media are providing methods of gaining new knowledge, both for the museums themselves as well as for the public.


Embedding Social Value in Digital Design

Our research has been oriented to understanding the implications digital technologies have for volunteers’ experience of volunteering, whether in terms of mediating communications or supporting specific voluntary activities.  However, what are the implications for volunteers of the way these technologies were designed in the first place?  We were very interested to hear about the CAST team who operate out of the Impact Hub Brixton and seek to work specifically with non-profits to build technologies to support social ventures.  Just lately CAST (Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology) have been publicising the ‘Six Tenets of Tech for Good’ which seeks to embed a social engagement orientation in the design process itself, for example by promoting the recycling of hardware and software, the open sharing of digital developments, user-led design and social value orientation.  What seems particularly helpful in this manifesto is the promise to design technology that addresses the challenges non-profits face rather than coming along with ready made solutions.  Building these commitments into design sounds like a good idea and we are intrigued to hear more about how this particular approach may deliver a specific kind of digital experience for non-profit users.  Is it enough to try to have excellent user-oriented implementation and ongoing user evaluation plans or do we need to go further back in the process as CAST suggests, embedding social values in the design process from the beginning?

Keynotes confirmed for Research Methods for Digital Work event 25-26 May 2017

We are delighted to announce that the three keynote speakers for this event have been confirmed as:

Diane E. Bailey Associate Professor in School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin

Monika Büscher Professor of Sociology, Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research and Associate Director for the Institute for Social Futures at Lancaster University

Richard Rogers Professor in New Media and Digital Culture, University of Amsterdam

Read more about the Research Methods for Digital Work Event, 25 -26 May 2017 and see the full call for papers (Deadline 31 January 2017).