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Secrets of a Museum Social Media Manager

Two or so years ago, Kristina Fong, the Walker’s Marketing and Audience Research Coordinator, was handed the keys of the Walker’s social media accounts and, ultimately, a new title: Digital Marketing Associate. At that point, social media at the Walker meant accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Today, the Walker has 374,000 Twitter followers, 49,000 Facebook […]

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Two or so years ago, Kristina Fong, the Walker’s Marketing and Audience Research Coordinator, was handed the keys of the Walker’s social media accounts and, ultimately, a new title: Digital Marketing Associate. At that point, social media at the Walker meant accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Today, the Walker has 374,000 Twitter followers, 49,000 Facebook likes, 13,000 Tumblr followers, 8,800 Instagram followers, and a presence on other platforms, including Pinterest and Storify.

Today, sadly, is Kristina’s last day at the Walker, as she heads on to other adventures. Hers are big shoes to fill, but Kristina has kindly laid out some must-read tips for whomever succeeds her here–or for anyone doing social media for museums or other institutions. Here are the first five tips, but please go read the rest at her blog:

1. Know your museum, know it well. This is more important than knowing how to use TweetDeck, HootSuite, Instagram, Statigram, Facebook Pages, Google Analytics, etc etc. If you don’t really, I’ll say it, love your museum, you are lost. You may not love everything about it all the time (I never fell in love with dance, or other types of programming I felt I ought to love, although I tried to understand it), but the most important thing about social media is being genuine.

2. Your social media person has to be a good writer. You’re writing every day and you have to relay your message in short, pithy statements. You have to have a voice. It’s also not a bad idea to make sure your person has written online somewhere. How does the internet talk? You should be fluent in that. Confession: I’m not a great talker, unless I’m really comfortable in a situation. Words feel more like my ally when my hands are creating them, not my mouth. Someone whose personality screams social may not be able to present that online.

3a. ‘Likes’ and followers matter (even though the opposite was probably the first thing uttered at the very first social media panel at a conference). Is it the end all be all? Of course not (especially if you’ve gotten cheap ‘likes’ by saying “If you agree with this obvious statement that everybody likes, click ‘like.’) But they matter because it’s a simple fact: you’re growing your audience. Tell me this, would you be worried if you suddenly lose 5,000 fans on Facebook? Or you just stopped at 10,000? Probably. They matter. If you’re getting likes, that’s a vote of confidence. When I post something that people really respond to, ‘likes’ go up.

3b. Caveat: If your likes go up and your engagement numbers also don’t go up (number of active comments and conversations), that’s a problem. That means you’re boring your new followers. You’ve got to grab them when they’re fresh—that means every day, since you’re getting new followers every day.

4. Talk to people. There’s a lot to strive for on social media: engagement numbers, responses, participation, qualitative data. But overall, they’re the exact same goals as our general mission statement and our website/blogs. Engage, ask questions, be a catalyst for critical thinking, connect. Be available. Build intrigue & trust—if those two things are possible simultaneously. I strive to make our audience feel like they can approach us and that in turn builds a positive relationship with us. (Think how much more you like a person you meet if they simply ask you a question, say your name, or turn to say something directly to you.) So that can be through direct conversations, yes, but also just by sharing knowledge (you get the exclusive) and giving people the opportunity to make a comment (you feel knowledgeable).

5a. Make it genuine. I know when I’m forcing a tweet. It’s burdened with edits and necessity. (Necessity = “you have to tweet about this poorly selling event or else!!!”) You also can’t be excited about everything. An institution is an entity online. We read these accounts because they’re one stream, as one being. So Walker is an entity that loves contemporary culture and thought, dance, music, visual arts, family programs, esoteric artists-in-residence, a restaurant, and a Shop, and everything related to those things. That’s a lot!

But do you tweet about all the things you love all the time? No. You may have, say, 5 things going on the week. Some of them are big, some of them aren’t. You don’t talk about each with equal excitement. In your mind, you prioritize their importance and that’s what you communicate.

Same thing with museums. Not everything deserves three exclamation marks and a post every day. (Especially those esoteric artists-in-residence.)

5b. A confession: I’m hyper-aware about the number of messages being sent out from each channel every day.  Probably too much so. People don’t mind if you post several times on Facebook in a day, as long as those posts are spread out a little bit, but I’m very sensitive about it. You have to consider the reader’s feed, not just what you want to push out. I have tried, again and again, to stress the importance of “keeping it cool” to the various departments who have their own Facebook pages/Twitter feeds, and it does not always work. You may take 8 photos back to back, but you do not Instagram them all in a row. You may have a list of events to upload to Facebook, but you do not make them all in a row because every time you do, it shows up as another post on a user’s newsfeed. You see? You have to be aware of your mark. You have to look at the world outside your world. A few studies have declared that they have found the “sweet spot” of Twitter posts: 3. Or something. I forget. They say that engagement goes down after you tweet more than 3 times. This is null and void if you’re doing it right.

5c. What is doing it right? Paying attention to Twitter, what’s trending nationally, internationally (to a certain extent, don’t talk about pop stars in scandals), and within your sphere. That’s right. Follow influencers, follow places just like you, places you want to be like, the people who are talking about you, and share their information. You know very well that your museum is not a bubble.

5d. The argument for different voices is a consistent argument. I realized I just called the Walker an “entity” up above. But I also realize that every museum is a complex organism and that we appreciate more when we understand. If by voice one means perspective, I wholeheartedly agree. People need to see beyond the “voice” of the institution. Does that mean that they need a dozen different styles of writing, humor, grammar, and abbreviation in their lone Walker feeds? No! It is that designated person’s job to draw out what they need from the different voices, assess what might work well for social media, and invite them in to talk to you (quotation marks? super easy to drop into a post) and show their hand. Some people are terrified of social media. So don’t say, “Write a post for Facebook about this”, just ask them about it. The multiple voices are for blogs, and those blogs can be shared through social. (Ask A Curator-type days not included in this. Besides, maybe curators/programmers should just have their own Twitter accounts for this kind of thing and also everything.)

Thanks, Kristina, for everything. See you online.

 

Give us your tubes, your tweets, your faces and your flick(r)s

We just made a small addition to the Walker website: a social media page. In case you didn’t know, the Walker is on Flickr, Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube. The Walker has actually been in those spaces for some time, but there hasn’t been a good connection from the Walker site. There are four different Walker-related […]

We just made a small addition to the Walker website: a social media page. In case you didn’t know, the Walker is on Flickr, Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube. The Walker has actually been in those spaces for some time, but there hasn’t been a good connection from the Walker site.

There are four different Walker-related groups for user contributed content on flickr: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Walker After Hours, and WACTAC. The social media page highlights the most recent Walker and Garden photos. We also post a good number of photos of our own, from After Hours to exhibition installation views. To make things clearer, we also added a official photography policy.

Since around September of 2008, I have been posting on twitter as the @walkerartcenter. Twitterfeed fills in some gaps with our blog posts, but I try to announce other notable things and answer visitor questions there. When the #snowmageddon happened, our twitter followers knew about it first. The social media page lists our latest 5 tweets to give visitors a good indication of what we tweet about.

We’re on the Facebook, too, and keep the page up-to-date with selected events and current exhibitions. Facebook doesn’t let Pages do a whole lot, but we’ve got 6500 fans.

And the Walker’s YouTube page has been around for over a year, first starting with the Tell us a story about your suburb project for Worlds Away. We’ve posted a few things from the archives there, and we’re slowly porting content from the Walker Channel to YouTube as well.

Setting the social media page up was made easier by using the Tweet! and jQuery.Flickr plugins.

Enabling users to share content to social media sites

Last week we made a small change to our online calendar, adding social media sharing features. This means it is easier for readers of our online calendar to tell their friends and contacts about events. In our calendar, if you click the “share this” button, it slides out this drawer: There are a number of […]

Last week we made a small change to our online calendar, adding social media sharing features. This means it is easier for readers of our online calendar to tell their friends and contacts about events. In our calendar, if you click the “share this” button, it slides out this drawer:

There are a number of pre-made DHTML widgets out there that are easy to use, but don’t provide quite the user experience we would like to have. Furthermore, they don’t share the content as cleanly and aren’t event specific. So we made our own functionality. It isn’t rocket surgery, but some notes on what we did may prove useful for others.

Sharing to calendars
Because this is an online calendar, sharing events to other calendars are very important. We already have an iCal feed for our calendar, and it is already set up to share specific events rather than all events, we just hadn’t been using that feature. The new sharing widget does so, simply by passing the proper event ID to our iCal page. A user can download this .ics file and it should work in Outlook, Sunbird, or iCal.

We also added sharing to google calendar. Google has an event publisher guide that documents how to share events to gCal. Compared to most other sharing solutions, gCal is more complicated. The main thing we had trouble with was formatting the date properly. Google prefers the date in what it calls “UTC format”, but I cannot find documentation anywhere showing what google uses is actually UTC format. What UTC format actually appears to be is the ISO 8601 time formatted without any punctuation. This is very similar to what the iCal format uses internally. Thankfully, since we were already calculating this for the iCal format, Nate was able to easily pass me this info for each event. With that, it is simply a matter of putting together the various components of the URL:

gcalURL = 'http://www.google.com/calendar/event?action=TEMPLATE&text='+encodeURIComponent(share_eventTitle);
gcalURL += '&dates='+startDate+"/"+endDate;
gcalURL += "&sprop=website:"+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+"&sprop=name:Walker%20Art%20Center";
gcalURL += "&details="+encodeURIComponent(share_eventDesc);
gcalURL += "&trp=true"
if (theLocation){
	gcalURL += "&location="+encodeURIComponent(theLocation);
}
window.open(gcalURL);
return false;

Sharing to social media sites
MySpace and Facebook both have specifications for how to share events to each of them, documented here and here, respectively. For Facebook, it is important to modify your page to include the meta tags it requests. When you share to Facebook, it doesn’t pass a description or image via the URL. Rather, Facebook scrapes the referred page to ascertain the description and images. Using the Meta tags gives much better results than whatever Facebook’s scraper comes up with. Most of the time, if you rely on their scraper, it will come up with some chrome images from your site rather than actual content images.

MySpace doesn’t scrape the page like facebook, so it’s important to construct a friendly description, with an image, if you can. We put a linked image along with the first few sentences of text for the description we pass to MySpace. Here is the format MySpace uses:

http://www.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=postto&u=YOURURL&t=YOURTITLE&c=YOURDESCRIPTION&l=3

We also “share” to twitter. There isn’t really sharing per se, on twitter, but you can pre-assemble a tweet for someone. Simply pass someone to http://twitter.com/home/?status=YOURTWEET. We assmble the event title, a reply to our twitter account, and a twitter-friendly shortened URL. Like this: “2008 British Television Advertising Awards @walkerartcenter – http://bit.ly/3c60xK”.

To get the friendly URL, we’re using bit.ly, one of the many URL shortening services available. However, bit.ly has a handy, well documented, API that does JSONP, allowing us to get around cross-site scripting issues.

Sharing to bookmarking sites
Sharing to Bookmarking sites like delicious (formerly del.icio.us, we miss the old URL) is quite simple. These are the formats for Delicious, Google Bookmarks and Yahoo Bookmarks, respectively:

http://delicious.com/save?jump=yes&url=YOURURL&title=YOURTITLE

http://www.google.com/bookmarks/mark?op=edit&bkmk=YOURURL&title=YOURTITLE

http://bookmarks.yahoo.com/toolbar/savebm?u=YOURURL&t=YOURTITLE&opener=bm&ei=UTF-8


Yahoo Bookmarks like to be opened in a pop-up window, but it isn’t strictly necessary. Always remember to urlencode text that is being passed into the URL, since there are many reserved characters in the URL. Javascript provides the encodeURIComponent function to do this.

Facebook app for My Yard Our Message

Tuesday I posted some of the technical details for My Yard Our Message. Since then, I’ve been working on putting together a Facebook App to let people show the signs on their profiles. It is done, or done enough to be used. I’ve played around with building a Facebook app before, but never had a […]

My Yard Our Message Facebook AppTuesday I posted some of the technical details for My Yard Our Message. Since then, I’ve been working on putting together a Facebook App to let people show the signs on their profiles. It is done, or done enough to be used.

I’ve played around with building a Facebook app before, but never had a clear strategic need to build one. I found this tutorial very helpful on getting my feet wet. For the moment, the app is written and PHP and talks to the actual My Yard Our Message site via json, rather than rss.

One of the things I am evaluating is whether or not I can set up a system to let people vote on signs directly from Facebook. Obviously, this would tremendously expand our pool of eligible voters, and would eliminate the need to force people to register for an account just to vote. During the building of the app, I went back and forth on the necessity of registration to vote, but ultimately decided it was necessary and laid the structural groundwork. However, I think I can get enough information about Facebook users to know they’re unique, track them, and prevent them from voting more than once.

This would require re-writing the Facebook app at that point, most likely in python and django for closer integration with the authentication and verification processing. There is some initial work done on a Facebook client API for python and django that looks promising as well.

Aside about Facebook pages

I’ve always been frustrated with Facebook apps that don’t work on Pages (as opposed to Profiles). After building an app, I have a new found appreciation for the applications that don’t work. Getting an app to work with pages isn’t really that hard, but it sure is confusing, mostly because of the lack of documentation. The only real documentation is a chat log in the Facebook developer wiki (no, I am not making this up):


(03:02:02 AM) swombat: ok, so basically, "Facebook pages is all transparent uses fbml blah blah blah"

                       "Oh but btw you need to build a completely different piece of code to handle this new type of user"

(03:02:18 AM) swombat: (not angry at you btw :-P)

(03:02:43 AM) fiveofoh: Yeah pretty much

(03:02:46 AM) swombat: this sounds really quite tedious and error-prone though

(03:02:50 AM) fiveofoh: Yeah it does

(03:02:56 AM) fiveofoh: Which is why I haven't done it on my app yet :P

So instead of just this:


$facebook->api_client->profile_setFBML('', $user);

$facebook->api_client->fbml_refreshRefUrl($process_url);

you use this:


if (isset($_GET['fb_page_id'])){

	$facebook->api_client->profile_setFBML('', $_GET['fb_page_id']);

} else {

	$facebook->api_client->profile_setFBML('', $user);

}

$facebook->api_client->fbml_refreshRefUrl($process_url);

Where $process_url is the page that spits out the markup to be shown on Facebook.

About time: flickr finally does video

Resolving one of the great mysteries of the web 2.0, Flickr has added video capabilities! Finally, the best photo sharing site on the web has what iPhoto could do two years ago, and what YouTube has been doing since day one. As John Gruber so accurately put this: Why Yahoo didn’t do this immediately after […]

Resolving one of the great mysteries of the web 2.0, Flickr has added video capabilities! Finally, the best photo sharing site on the web has what iPhoto could do two years ago, and what YouTube has been doing since day one. As John Gruber so accurately put this:

Why Yahoo didn’t do this immediately after acquiring Flickr, instead choosing to stand on the sidelines playing pocket pool while YouTube swelled into a multi-billion-dollar product, is a mystery for the ages.

From what I can tell, it’s note entirely a shot off of YouTube’s bow, but it could be. The video quality is much, much better. It looks like they’re using the On2 VP6 codec, which has quite good quality. YouTube, on the other hand is using the ancient h.263 codec that looks straight out of 1999. At 150mb for a 90 second file, there are some limitations, but the quality can be excellent. There’s no API yet for video, but I would expect that to be coming soon.

The difference from YouTube, is that, at least right now, only users who have gotten over the big hurdle of paying $25 for a pro account can use it. This will keep a lot of people away, but if you’re a savvy flickr user, that’s probably not a bad thing. Expect to still see mash-ups and other more pop-culture stuff on YouTube, and video of people’s vacation on flickr. However, it lights more of a fire on YouTube to add some much needed polish.

Flickr’s video player interface fits in very nice with the look of the site. It also looks like a a lot like Vimeo, which has alway seemed to me the most flick-inspired web video solution. This probably hurts them more than anyone.

Here’s a sample video on flickr:

This has me excited.

Web 2.0: it still matters

Just when you were starting to think we should be retiring the term “Web 2.0″, Nina Simon of Museum 2.0 comes along to remind us that we’ve largely forgotten what it really means. It is not, for instance, flashy AJAX – or at least, not exclusively. It is not just user comments. Web 2.0, as […]

Just when you were starting to think we should be retiring the term “Web 2.0″, Nina Simon of Museum 2.0 comes along to remind us that we’ve largely forgotten what it really means. It is not, for instance, flashy AJAX – or at least, not exclusively. It is not just user comments. Web 2.0, as originally fleshed out by Tim O’Reilly, remains an incredibly cool idea to strive for.

Her online preview of a presentation she’ll give Monday is a fantastic reminder of what Web 2.0 is and what it means for museums — most importantly, the gentle nudge that it doesn’t have to be online to be Web 2.0. I for one am kind of excited by the idea of an exhibition in “perpetual beta,” growing and evolving on the floor, rather than a static and final “release.” Or even something that mixes both worlds, like Brooklyn’s Click exhibition.

If “Web 2.0″ has lost its luster for you, you owe it to yourself to watch and listen to her presentation. It will remind you why it still matters.

Opening up the social network

Building on the success of Google Gadgets (which allow developers to make small web “applets” suitable for embedding on any webpage), Google has just launched their OpenSocial API. Basically they’ve extended the functionality of Gadgets to include code that can “talk to” participating social networks — that is, a developer now has access to the […]

opensocial.pngBuilding on the success of Google Gadgets (which allow developers to make small web “applets” suitable for embedding on any webpage), Google has just launched their OpenSocial API. Basically they’ve extended the functionality of Gadgets to include code that can “talk to” participating social networks — that is, a developer now has access to the user’s profile, friend list, and much more.

This is important because it means application developers no longer have to choose which social networks they want to target. They just write their application using the JavaScript APIs provided by Google, and it will “just work” for everyone on a participating network. And it’s a big and growing list: MySpace, Orkut, LinkIn, Friendster, and – importantly – the create-your-own-social-network Ning, just to name a few. Cool stuff.

There are currently 23000 gadgets listed in the directory. After today I wonder how many of those are now in line to have some social features added and massively increase their exposure?

The Walker doesn’t have any social network apps just yet, but when we do I guarantee they will be built using this API. Maybe a Hot Or Not of contemporary art? Hmm. Or see what your friends thought of the Frida show! Or mnartists.org should copy this great idea… Could be huge!

New Teens website

Last week, after quite a bit of work, the re-designed teens site went live: (larger screenshot) In discussing what a new site might be like with Witt, Christi and WACTAC, we came to the conclusion that the types of content we wanted to be on the site didn’t have a very clear relationship to each […]

Last week, after quite a bit of work, the re-designed teens site went live:

new_teens_thumb.jpg

(larger screenshot)

In discussing what a new site might be like with Witt, Christi and WACTAC, we came to the conclusion that the types of content we wanted to be on the site didn’t have a very clear relationship to each other, and that the audiences for each are different. There is, in effect, a “business audience”, which is visiting the site looking for information on what Teen Programs is, what they do, how to apply, etc. This audience most likely consists of parents, other museum professionals, and Teens looking to apply to WACTAC. The other audience are other teens, or others interested in what the teens are interested in. The new site literally divides the page in half for each of these audiences.

“The business side of things” is a simple information based site, loosely based on the look and feel artistic program sites. The layout was adapted somewhat to fit better into the dynamic space of the Teens site, but the style is the same. “The play side of things” is where the teens make their mark by posting blog entries, artwork, links and events. There are several different ways that WACTAC makes this page theirs:

  • Blogging: the site’s back-end is WordPress, so blogging is built-in. Every teen in WACTAC now has an account, and Witt is working with the council to cultivate ideas that can be formed into posts.
  • Links, for when the teens find something that isn’t quite worthy of an entirely new blog post, but maybe deserves a short note and a link, we’ve got that covered too. The links are culled from del.icio.us via RSS feed. Right now we use a shared wactac account, but in the future, and should any of the teens want to have their own del.icio.us account, a network can be set up and we can pull a combined feed.
  • Events are highly important to the site as well, and these are pulled via RSS from a shared account on Upcoming.org. We wanted the teens to be able to not only highlight their events at the Walker, but non-WACTAC Walker events as well as non-Walker events. I looked into several systems to essentially create a group calendar, and using Upcoming in this way seemed the easiest. It is essentially a social bookmarking service like del.icio.us, except it deals with the temporal and location based data that an event has. The time and location is in the RSS feed, which makes it a cinch to pull and display.
  • Art from the teens and other people that have influenced them will also be on the site. For the time being, this section is a category within the blog that gets special treatment. Images posted here are displayed in a larger size using a lightbox clone. Down the road, depending on how much this is used, we might consider replacing this with flickr. We’re using yahoo services for everything else, so why not make it complete?
  • Customizing the interface is one of the features of the site that I think makes this page really the teen’s space. Much like myspace, the teens can customize the colors, text, and background of this side of the site. Unlike myspace, they don’t edit the CSS themselves. Instead, the theme includes an admin panel that allows the teens to pick the colors for the boxes and text, as well as change the header and background images. I’m using a handy color picker based on mootools to make it easy to use.

This is the most “dynamic” site I’ve built so far, and I re-learned a lot about using javascript, especially with the Mootools framework. The hyper-object-oriented nature of JS + moo is both confusing and extremely powerful. For a javascript framework, mootools is quite compact and does a lot. There are also quite a few classes and user-contributed scripts out there based on it. In addition to the color picker mentioned above, the business side of things uses a heavily modified version of SmoothGallery. This article on “The Hows and Whys of Degradable Ajax” was also helpful in figuring out how to do the ajax loading on the business side of things in a semi-accessible fashion.

There are other things in the works for the site, including a Facebook app and perhaps a MySpace widget. That is the subject for another day, however.

If you’re looking for the old site, it still exists in archived form: Arhived Walker teens website.

Web Walker 1.9

Teddy Banks, writing for Design Observer, shares some commentary on Olia Lialina’s newest article: Vernacular Web 2. The article is a great read on it’s own, and as Banks tells us, should be a must read for every web designer. Lialina’s work, My boyfriend came back from the war, was featured in the Walker’s online […]

Starry Night Myspace Remixed Al Gore, Three Big Displays The Impact of Large Scale Integrated Displays on Architecture and Urbanism

  • Teddy Banks, writing for Design Observer, shares some commentary on Olia Lialina’s newest article: Vernacular Web 2. The article is a great read on it’s own, and as Banks tells us, should be a must read for every web designer. Lialina’s work, My boyfriend came back from the war, was featured in the Walker’s online exhibit, Beyond Interface: net art and Art on the Net.

    Lialina touches on the similarties of myspace of today and the web of 10 years ago. Instead of being designed by computer geeks, it’s “designed” by teens and ameteurs, and the music is mp3s and not midi.

  • And speaking of MySpace, Danah Boyd has some new thoughts posted on myspace and remix culture. Seb Chan offers some thoughts on what this means for institutions that offer graphics and resources that can be remixed (legitimately or otherwise).
  • Here’s an interesting article on the paradox of large displays, written by Jeff Attwood. He quotes Dan’s Data:

    Users of 30-inch monitors face the terrible, terrible problem of how to effectively use all of that space. You don’t often want to maximise a folder or document window on a screen this big; either you’ll end up with a lot of white space and important program buttons separated by a vast expanse of nothing, or you’ll get lines of text 300 or more characters long, which are difficult to read.

    I use three displays at work, two on my main computer and one on the laptop. While synergy makes this a very useful setup when doing video work, it can also be extrmely distracting at times. I find it necessary to sleep my laptop so I can focus on important tasks on my main displays.

  • Interactive Architecture had been quiet for a while, but they posted a brief blurb on a conference going on next week that will discuss the many implications of signage in public space. Hopefully some of the papers and presentations from the conference will make it to the web.

Social Networking: Class lines and burnout

Danah Boyd has a really good look at the social divisions that are emerging in the use of Facebook and MySpace: The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what […]

Danah Boyd has a really good look at the social divisions that are emerging in the use of Facebook and MySpace:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. Teens who are really into music or in a band are on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

She also discusses the role that aesthetics play in this breakdown:

This is even clear in the blogosphere where people talk about how gauche MySpace is while commending Facebook on its aesthetics. I’m sure that a visual analyst would be able to explain how classed aesthetics are, but it is pretty clear to me that aesthetics are more than simply the “eye of the beholder” – they are culturally narrated and replicated. That “clean” or “modern” look of Facebook is akin to West Elm or Pottery Barn or any poshy Scandinavian design house (that I admit I’m drawn to) while the more flashy look of MySpace resembles the Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year. I suspect that lifestyles have aesthetic values and that these are being reproduced on MySpace and Facebook.

I should note here that aesthetics do divide MySpace users. The look and feel that is acceptable amongst average Latino users is quite different from what you see the subculturally-identified outcasts using. Amongst the emo teens, there’s a push for simple black/white/grey backgrounds and simplistic layouts. While I’m using the term “subaltern teens” to lump together non-hegemonic teens, the lifestyle divisions amongst the subalterns are quite visible on MySpace through the aesthetic choices of the backgrounds.

This lines right up with what I found when I talked to some of the WACTAC teens a few months ago. I’m still contemplating what this means for a museum, or any institution that wants to reach audiences. We need to be all-access and blind to class lines. Yet, at the same time, there is also a drive to maintain the and re-enforce the image (brand) of the institution itself.

It may all be moot, though, because some people tend to think that there is a saturation point for all this social networking / web 2.0 activity, and it is quickly being approached.

Roger Dooley at Futurelab:

…the rising tide of total time spent online (number of users and hours per users) has lifted a lot of boats, but inevitably online activity will become a zero sum game. People who spend more time on one activity will cut back other online participation by the same amount.

and Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion:

However, there is definitely a bubble and therefore a crash coming. It’s not financial. It’s not related to the level of noise or startups. This crash is personal. We are reaching a point where the number of inputs we have as individuals is beginning to exceed what we are capable as humans of managing. The demands for our attention are becoming so great, and the problem so widespread, that it will cause people to crash and curtail these drains. Human attention does not obey Moore’s Law.

I think the lessons are clear, extend beyond social networking, and can be easy to implement. Don’t try to grow a community where one doesn’t exist. Go to where the community already is. Make the information that users want free of any sort of restrictions. Don’t make me sign up for an account, everyone I already have too many. Don’t make me give you my email, I already get enough junk. Let me as the user choose how much I want to interact, and reduce all possible barriers to interaction.

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