Museums strive to influence culture, to argue that they are a nexus, the ground zero of things like civic engagement, social responsibility, and visual learning. Ha! That is such bullshit. An example: the web. Museums are constantly looking at emerging technologies as in, How do we get in on that? Museums say “What’s with this Twitter thing? What is the need for social networking?” rather than sitting around thinking proactively about how to put these tools to use — its all retroactive. It’s kind of like reading Snow Crash today and saying Wow! This Stephenson guy really took the avatar idea and ran with it, gave it life. (For those who don’t know, Stephenson invenvted the whole avatar thing.)
I mean when I started applying my writing skills to museum exhibits, the most exhibit experience I had was in doing online exhibits….as in on this thing called the interweb. This was no secret — I made it completely clear that I had very little hands-on experience with making a “real” exhibit. And yet, my boss said something to me like “See, here’s where we differ. I don’t think online pictures can replace the real thing!” Let me be clear. Web exhibits are not supposed to “replace” the real thing. People come to museums to see stuff. But what we do online can help get people to come see stuff. And give them an unstructured space to explore what we’re all about.
I taught myself a bit of HTML & CSS, I do a lot of database admin for my work, and have had to learn basic SQL, networking, etc. And yet I’m almost always the most knowledgeable about this tech-type stuff among my coworkers, except in places that have staffs large enough to hire *actual* IT folks. Which is scary, because I only know enough to be dangerous. I can figure out how something is put together, and it takes me a long time to break it down, recode it and put it back the way I want it. It can be done, I can do it, but it takes me awhile. I am self-taught in Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Access, Google Sketchup, and tons of other stuff, which means I can figure something out, but it takes me longer than folks who’ve had formal training in these things. But at least I recognized that for my future career, I would need to know these things and try to at least keep up with the curve, rather than falling hopelessly behind. Like the luddites with whom I seem to work. I mean I said something about how stupid it was for all of these Second Life museum classes I keep getting advertisements for, and these folks look at me like I’ve grown a second head: “What’s Second Life?” OMG, ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I get “I don’t believe in Facebook” or “What’s the point of Twitter?” I think my points are lost when trying to explain that Facebook can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool, and Twitter is just plain awesome. Especially for writers — it helps me hone my skills of saying what I want to say in less than 140 characters several times a day. What better way to become more concise AND tell all of my followers about my thoughts on the a penis invasion on Second Life?