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Page history last edited by claire@claireantrobus.com 14 years, 4 months ago



    So far, we've seen how personalizing the experience, networking individual visitors' actions, and designing objects as locuses of conversation can connect visitors to museums and to each other in a social way. But those are all institutional actions and designed experiences. What about the objects, ideas, and creative work that visitors contribute to the museum experience? How are their interests and abilities supported and valued? How do we design entrypoints for them to act not as networked consumers but as partners and participants? [CA - good orientation. i hadn;t read the preceding chapters but this gives me a quick sense of what to expect in this chapter and decide if i want to read it]

    The first problem here is to simply define the ways that visitors can become active participants in the museum experience.[ CA Is it really a problem (sounds a bit negative) or rather is it useful to do this so you can effectively design/enable participation in different ways?] A participant who writes her reaction to an exhibit on an index card is very different from one who donates her own personal effects to be part of an exhibit, and both of these visitors are different from one who helps develop a new museum program from scratch. I separate the different kinds of visitor participation into four broad (and occasionally overlapping) categories: contribution, collaboration, co-creation, and co-option. In the contributory model, visitors are solicited to provide limited and specified objects, actions, or ideas to an institutionally-controlled process. In the collaborative model, visitors are invited to serve as active partners in the creation of a museum project which is originated and ultimately controlled by the institution. In the co-creation model, visitors and the institution work together from the beginning to define the project's goals and to generate the program or exhibit based on community interests. And in the co-option model, the institution turns over a portion of its facilities and resources to host programs developed and implemented by external public groups. [CA - I found this paragraph hard going - i'd need a simple example of each model to help me understand this].

    These terms come partially from the world of citizen science, where the scientific process provides a framework for clear delineations among different roles and actions. The scientific process has several steps. Scientists state a problem, make a hypothesis, develop a test regimen to test the hypothesis, gather data, analyze the results, and make conclusions, which may include stating new problems or hypotheses. In citizen science projects, the public is invited to participate in "real science" by working with scientists on projects that benefit from mass participation around the world. But most citizen science projects only invite the public to engage in limited components of the overall scientific process. Most citizen science projects are contributory; participants collect data based on specifications determined by scientists, to help answer questions posed by scientists. The scientists control the process, steer the data collection, and analyze the results. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that these kinds of citizen science projects are enormously successful at engaging the public with science but are not successful at exposing participants to the entire scientific process.

    For this reason, some citizen science projects have been moving towards collaborative and co-creative models. As in the contributory model, In the collaborative model of citizen science, scientists still determine the research question and the overall data collection and analysis methodology. However, the public is actively involved in multiple steps of the research process, including collecting data, analyzing results, and drawing conclusions. The scientists and the public participants become partners in the implementation and dissemination of the scientific research, though the research is still led by scientists.

    In the co-creative model for citizen science, the public comes up with a question or issue and then works with scientists to answer the question and suggest solutions. These projects feature equal partnerships between scientists and participants in all stages of the scientific process, including developing new research questions and regimens for data collection and analysis. In many cases, these projects are initiated based on some community concern, such as issues around local sources of pollution, invasive species, or unsafe consumer products. The community-stated need drives the development, implementation, and dissemination of research activities.

    I've added a fourth model to this citizen science typology, one that may be more appropriate to facilities like museums than to scientific organizations: co-option. In this model, the public uses institutional facilities or resources to develop and manage projects of their own devising. In some cases, the use of institutional content or facilities is known to the instituion; for example, when a museum allows a community group to hold meetings on the premises or develop their own exhibits. But in other cases, people may use institutional resources without the institution's knowledge. For example, programmers may use museum collection database information as the basis for their own software, or game enthusiasts may use the grounds of an institution as a giant playing board for imaginative play. Visitors co-opt institutional facilities every day for their own agendas, whether to impress a date, bond with family, or work on their photography skills. In the context of this chapter, I'm limiting my discussion of co-option to situations in which the institution and the visitor or public group enter an explicit relationship in which the museum makes content, facilities, or resources available for the outside group's use.

    Contribution, collaboration, co-creation, and co-option. None of these models is better than the others; they cannot even be seen as progressive towards a model of "maximal participation." [CA - that last sentence is a bit wordy are you simply saying There are all equally valid: but each has different benefits/features and suits different situations? ]Consider, for example, the difference between a project in which a museum sources exhibit material from visitors (contributory) and one in which the institution works with a small group of outsiders to develop an exhibit (collaborative). If the first project results in an exhibit made entirely of visitors' creations and voices, and the second results in an exhibit that looks more like a "typical" exhibit, which project is more participatory? What's more participatory, making art or doing research? Developing exhibits or using them to make new media products? There is no "best" level of participation for museums and cultural institutions overall. [CA - repeats opening of this paragraph - I'd cut it] . Instead, I'm interested in the question of how to understand the diversity of options and determine which models and levels of engagement will be most valuable for different projects, at different institutions, at different times. [CA - this is down to personal taste, and I generally like the informal and personal tone of the book, but you might also phrase this in terms of the reader and what they can get from participation - rather than your personal motivation?]



I would end pt1 here, first because as Introductory text it's a little too long, and also because ending it here, besides making  the reading lighter, makes a better link/connection with the chart in part2. I would add those 2 final paragraphs here at the end of pt 2.  CR


The differences among participatory project types are highly correlated with withthe amount of ownership and control of process and creative output given to institutions and visitors, and not every project benefits from the same power structure. Some of the best participatory projects severely constrain the ways visitors can contribute, and others successfully integrate visitors in all aspects of planning and implementation. You can have disasters on either side of the spectrum. Some contributory projects provide too few engaging experiences to attract any participation, and some co-created projects go far beyond what institutions desire or value in the outcomes they produce. In many of the examples we'll explore here, the participatory structure is set up so that visitors can participate with or on behalf of the institution, but it is equally important to consider participatory models in which visitors contribute, collaborate, and co-create for themselves and for each other. 

    It's also essential to bear in mind the impact of participatory models on non-participating visitors who consume the results of the participation. We often get overly focused on the experience of the participating visitors, but these people often represent a tiny minority of the people whom participatory projects impact. If you work with a community group to co-create an exhibit, that exhibit will be experienced by all of your visitors, not just those who were part of the co-design process. It is not enough to design robust structures to support participants; you must also ensure that the outcome of participation is enjoyable and useful for your greater community as well. [CA - might be useful to refer the reader back to where you talk about the Forrester research into the range of levels of engagement and distribution of people on this range?]


Continue to the next section, or return to the outline. 

Comments (8)

Jonah Holland said

at 5:50 pm on Nov 4, 2009

Perhaps it's that I've just jumped right into Ch. 5 (the chapter that interests me most) without reading through the entire book, but I'm having a little trouble following this. Especially with the introduction of the new terminology (contribution, collaboration, co-creation, and co-option) I think it is important to try to stay as simple as possible in what you are trying to convey. I got the main point, that no one way of contributing is better, but I feel like I'm still missing what you are really trying to convey. I wonder if there is a way to focus less on the highly detailed info that is not central to your point and focus more on the parts that are critical to your point.

Nina Simon said

at 5:53 pm on Nov 4, 2009

Jonah, What do you feel would be useful to help pull together a "point" here? Maybe some context about how if you want to invite visitors to participate, there are many options, so pick the one that is right for you (and here they are)? Or is there something else that's missing for you?

hadrasaurus said

at 6:40 pm on Nov 8, 2009

I'm not familiar with the citizen science lingo or process subdivisions. "Co-option" has a negative meaning for me. Unless you are intending to reference instances where movie companies or product companies are co-opting museum venues for their purposes. Or just renting museum venues as a place to hold social events. Where it may be appropriate.

I think I understand the differences you are trying to convey with the fourth category in a more positive participatory exhibition situation. You might want the fourth category to be labelled "studio" or "lab" (as in "Fab lab"). These are a little more positive and still convey part of the underlying meaning of the the fourth category.

Nina Simon said

at 10:45 am on Nov 12, 2009

Maybe citizen science is not a great entrypoint to this section. I want to recognize how much I've learned from them (and as an ex-engineer, their analogy is helpful to me) but they might not be the best way to kick this off.

Hadrasaurus, I agree that co-option is a bad term, but studio and lab sound too disconnected from what I'm talking about, which is audience members hosting their own events or exhibits in the institution. I've been thinking about some form of the word "host" as in "hosting" as a replacement here.

Louise Govier said

at 4:09 am on Nov 23, 2009

I thought this intro was really clear, and I liked the citizen science example - it may be I'm more familiar with this stuff though.

However, I agree that 'co-option' startled me a little too - somehow my instant thought on reading it was that the visitors were being co-opted into something, though I know it's not that at all. I do like the alliteration of the four 'co' words, but it might be clearer to use a different term, perhaps 'takeover'?

dkhedrick@seattleymca.org said

at 12:02 pm on Nov 23, 2009

Nina--Sorry but I keep jumping around to different sections that appeal to me and have not read things straight through. I am wondering if you are covering the topic of artists who create participatory works or installations rather than ones initiated by the museum or institution. Seems like that could be another model or strategy for this whole goal of increased participation. I know you cover it with the World Beach Project collaboration as one example.

And yes, keep looking for a better term for co-opt. I just heard of a project training young adults in Africa called S2C which stands for "Subject to Citizen" to help encourage a next generation of active citizen leaders in their countries. Maybe there is something similar: V2C for Visitor to Creator, or V2P for Visitor to Participant.....

claire@claireantrobus.com said

at 12:13 pm on Dec 7, 2009

Most of my comments are going to be integrated into the text as I'm trying to offer commentary as I go along (as a non-expert reader). However, on the citizen science issue (as others have raised it in comments) I'd say that for me it works OK to help explain the models. However, from reading the text I wasn't sure whether its inclusion was to legitimize by reference to another professional world or to help ellucidate. For the latter I'd find it helpful to have a few more examples of projects under the citizen science parallel.

claire@claireantrobus.com said

at 12:21 pm on Dec 7, 2009

Re artists - Nina we talked about this at Museum Next in newcastle (why art institutions seem to be less into participation in general) and on reflection I think the role of contemporary artists is really important - many are designing projects and installations that are participatory in all the ways you describe. I suppose part of the problem with this is that it tends to be in education departments and very much compartmentalised.

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