Social Media goes to the Museum, Part II

Brooklyn Museum and Flickr Commons: my good friend Naaman believes no significant contribution will be made in the museum’s effort to make a richer collection. Normally, I agree with him (but rarely in the matters of art) so we have sort of a double exception here.

The problem is, in fact, motivation. Cameron, Mor and danah categorized incentives for tagging back in 2006. Lets take a look at that list:

  1. Future retrieval
  2. Contribution and sharing
  3. Attract Attention
  4. Play and Competition
  5. Self Presentation
  6. Opinion Expression

Naaman accounts to the problem of anonymous tagging. For the Flickr Commons (and our friends in Brooklyn), the first three incentives are applicable if we assume the motivation for #3 is to attract attention to the photo and not the tagger. The last three are of a debatable contribution; I’m not really sure if people who want to express an opinion care to be identified.

This brings us back to motivation. While we can understand why people tag, we shouldn’t forget were they are tagging it. I would be interested in finding out what are the tag sets of the same image that’s posted to Flickr, the Wikipedia, and the ESP game. Each system has its own set of motivations and incentives. I believe we’d see radical changes. Lets look at a photo from the Commons for an example:

Abu Simbel

Currently Tagged with:Brooklyn Museum, egypt, lantern, Egyptian, archeology, buildings, Temples, Ramses the Great, Amun Ra, Aswan, Statues, hand tinted

How did ‘buildings’ get in there? Would it ever come up as an ESP tag? Nothing particularly canonical comes to mind aside from that tag is a classification of a greater set of structures in ancient Egypt (knowledge that this is part of a temple which is a building would help of course). How about other photos of Abu Simbel that have the tag building? A search shows there are none on Flickr right now.

So, Dr. Naaman, I do agree. We need to rethink how tagging systems work. Also, we should build new experiences for web museum goers and then (my dream has always been) show me stuff that I know or don’t know about when I visit the museum given my online activity around the museum’s collections. Real world interactions! Close your eyes – imagine it.

Meanwhile, I can’t even add a url as a tag (like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Simbel) to link in some valuable metadata. However, I did add the tags Abu Simbel and was moved to the Brooklyn Museum’s
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