Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Battle of 2.0's - Web versus Phone

A great week's news cycle for technology buffs. For me, the week's reading reminded me that the next generation of technologies and users haven't been decided nor even clarified; there are so many balls in the air right now in terms of the technology horizon for the ensuing decades.

  • For those that would say that desktop computing and traditional networks are here to say, there was plenty of fodder surround the RIM and Blackberry outages. How could such a Wall Street darling still manage basic service failures?
  • But then again, as the NY Times pointed out in a special section, there is big money to be made on phones. All the usual suspects are pouring money into phone services and remarkable changes are on the forefront when it comes to voice, mobile search and GPS-synergies.
  • In spite of this reality, somehow, Microsoft claims that the iPhone is irrelevant to business. Of course they have a point, the iPhone is a consumer-electronics product, not a enterprise technology. But, this pervasiveness at the consumer level of the Apple brand can only strengthen demand and parallel business-class services. Microsoft should fear Apple. And besides, big talk and criticism coming from the same company that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop an operating system that is rebuffed, critiqued and viewed otherwise sceptically by consumers. When Dell forces you to revert back to XP, you have a problem with long-term strategy and nourishing demand in the marketplace, consumer or otherwise.
  • To top it all off, MySpace finds itself enmeshed in a flap (not quite a scandal) regarding its newly release user-generated news and information service, MySpace News. The real scandal here, it seems is that the service is being reviewed as subpar, or as Mashable states - "it kinda sucks". Business 2.0 had an interesting spin on how newscorp seems utterly clueless when it comes to delivering and marketing high quality web services. Yet, the Web 2.0 hegemon can't help but benefit and succeed. How? Tim O'Reily in his blog has an interesting take on the real power of Web 2.0 and it isn't user-generated content. The tile makes the article in this case: "remove the web developer and the web gets developed".

What happened to all the hype around Web 2.0? If this were a heavyweight bout, it seems phones definitely won this round (at least in the news cycle). Of course, next week could be another story entirely. As Tim O'Reily pointed out in his article, "It's also an important reminder that the winners and losers of the Web 2.0 revolution aren't clear yet. This is still very much a moment in transition."

The Long Slow Death of Web 2.0

OK, so the title is a little over the deep end - more provocative than anything else.

But perhaps it is partially justified. Reuters reported today that participation on Web 2.0 sites is weak. For media conglomerates that are heavily invested and can pay for a long, slow ascendancy for Web 2.0, there is no news here. However, for museums, this news is earth-shattering.

Take for instance, a recent presentation from Museums and the web. Mike Ellis and Brian Kelly make a great case for museums to leverage new tools and services online. Their presentation, entitled "Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organizational Barriers." In their slides, the list of barrier that the presenters highlight includes the following:

  1. “Simply, Why Should We Bother?”
  2. Cultural and Political: “It’s My Content…”
  3. Technical
  4. Resource and Cost
  5. Content: Legality, Privacy, Liability
  6. Measuring It

Yet, ironically, the barrier to Web 2.0 might have more to do with user and market barriers than with the organizational variety. Agreeing with the presentation, the fact is that yes, museums do have great content, do already syndicate that content and have audiences that are interested. However, the scale of that audience is debatable.

According to the Reuters story, participation on Web 2.0 sites like Flickr and YouTube is measured in the tenths of one percent of visitors. Granted, this is a large number of participants, but it does bring into question how widely adopted and feasible (and replicable) Web 2.0 services are.

So while there may be great potential for Web 2.0 services and sites, I would be careful about advocating for capital funding or donor-sponsored projects just yet. Though in time this projects may make sense, right now there is just a very real question about how viable these truly are in serving as education and outreach mechanism for museums and other cultural institutions.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Technology Tour 4/11 - 4/17

  • Live from Google: Time for Philanthropy 3.0? - Google puts some of its technological muscle to aid a worthy nonprofit. This is noteworthy for two reasons: 1) the usage of Web 2.0 (via mashups) in the aid of social causes and fundraising and 2) the Internet titans are publically partnering with nonprofits to improve the world in which we live. There has not been enough of this cooperation between the new tech. sector giants and the nonprofit sector.

  • Museum Mashups - A worthwhile presentation from the Museums and the Web Conference, Jim Spadaccini explores mashups including emerging best practices, design challenges and inherent usability issues for this upcoming staple of web content.

  • Repairing the Guggenheim - The New York Times has an interesting info-graphic on the deterioration of the Guggenheim.

  • Best of the Web 2007 - Museums - Every year, the MW-community nominates sites to be considered for the Best of the Web awards. Congratulations to the winners, but every year I am disappointed with how few major museums are on this list. This is to say nothing of the list, rather every about the institutions.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Technology Tour 3/28 - 4/10

  • The Tech Museum of Innovation Announces That School Field Trips Are Now FREE - I continue to be impressed by this institution.
  • Virtual Typewriter Museum - Great article from Boing Boing featuring another low technology. My question, is the Internet actually extending the conversation about technology that would have previously disappeared from memory? The quote, "technology's development to its social relevance to typewriter art". Interesting stuff, but is it meaningful?
  • New immersive platforms for museums and education! - Well, maybe. A interesting article about immersive entertainment and education platforms. This sounds like second life gone academic. The question will be whether people want to pretend to be Paul Revere (because there can only be so many Paul Reveres) in an immersive world or whether they want to design fake brand name clothing and design digital equivalents to famous museums.
  • Radical Trust: The State of the Museum Blogosphere - A conference paper on the breadth and depth of museum discourse amongst bloggers presented at the Museum and the Web conference.
  • Art museum raffles a house raise funds - The Tuscon Museum of Art is raffling a home worth $600,000 or $400,000 cash. This hardly seems in line with a spirit of philanthropy, but it beats de-accessioning world-class Picasso's from a collection. Interesting note about this story, they are also selling raffle tickets on the web. It would be a truly great story if this news story caught fire and ticket purchases went through the roof. Who knows? Time will tell.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Jackson Pollock and the Internet

In honor of the week's news involving Jackson Pollock, I have decided to use the inspired artist as my own muse in an exercise of searching for art and interpretation resources on the web. I limited myself to highlights of the first 10 results (sorted by Google Ranking).

What does this tell us about the artist? Not much. Results 1 - 10 were comprised of 7 bios on various aggregate sites, 1 personal "fan site", 1 Flash animation and 1 museum web feature. Only 2 of the 10 pages were hosted by museums. 1,171,000 pages returned, and I don't think the results differ that much as you travel down the search results long tail. Sure, you could extend the search analysis to 11 - 20. It gets a little better; 4 museum pages, 3 biographies, 2 Amazon book reviews and 1 selling unauthorized posters and prints.

What does this tell us about the web? A good deal more than it tells us about Pollock.

It is amazing, the fact that Pollock is one of the most exciting, creative and avante-garde artists in the last century makes no difference to a search engine. The algorithms fail the users in this regard. But it isn't just Google. They are just the messengers.

Where are museums in the education and positioning of artist's works online? Why aren't institutions working together to form vertical search cooperatives that give users an authoritative and engaging destination for art content? And, given all the new ways of presenting and relating content and media out there, it is unforgivable that one of the most influential artists of the modern era would receive such a low-fi and downright boring treatment on the web and one that does virtually nothing to increase appreciation or understanding the artist's time or work.