Ok. It’s opening plenary time here at Museums and the Web 2008. I didn’t manage to do any blogging yesterday – that’s what an entire day of workshops followed by immediate dinner and wine does to you…
Michael Geist is the guest speaker: “technology advocate and trouble maker”. I like him already 🙂
Michael spent his talk going through a number of sites and examples, some of which will be very familiar to us web types; others a little less well known. The examples which particularly jumped out for me (for two different reasons) were the Facebook group Fair Copyright for Canada which was started by Michael, and his example of opening up the book “In the Public Interest” for free download.
The Facebook group example was particularly powerful because it caused demonstrable change in the real world. This was actually a running thread through many of the sites that Michael showed: virtual experiences are one thing, but “real” world responses to these virtual experiences are happening too, and that’s a hugely important thing to focus on. I’ve used this to defend Twitter recently (yes, I know the irony, having said bad things about lifestreaming before…) – Twitter has recently got me back in touch with people out here in the real world, and that gives it a legitimacy and power that it doesn’t necessarily have “just” online.
The “In the Public Interest” example demonstrated (although Michael didn’t give any actual figures) that free download actually increased sales. I like this because it continues to support the Scarcity vs Scale argument which I’ve pitched on this blog previously. It’s a very pertinent discussion; Brian and I are giving a paper on Openness on Friday at which we’ll be focusing on open content (among other things). Already this week – and in my experience, always within the sector – this discussion rumbles alongside most things we try to do on the web: API provision, Web 2.0, UGC or getting collections databases online. The more evidence there is that this approach works (or not!), the better.
The overriding message from Michael for me is that online activity causes, extends, pushes “real” activity in very valuable and increasingly tangible ways.