Participatory Culture: Cross Cultural Connections in the Age of the Internet

Vishakha Desai, President and CEO, Asia Society, New York, United States, was the keynote speaker this afternoon – as we hurtle toward the end of this incredible experience.

The Asia Society’s Mission: http://asiasociety.org/about/mission-history

Asia Society is the leading global and pan-Asian organization working to strengthen relationships and promote understanding among the people, leaders, and institutions of the United States and Asia. We seek to increase knowledge and enhance dialogue, encourage creative expression, and generate new ideas across the fields of arts and culture, policy and business, and education. 

Some key thoughts:

  • The potential of the tools we all hear about is based on a set of assumptions: decentralization, a sense of parity and democratization.
  • Many people who visit museum Web sites are looking to make a physical visit to the museum. The other 30-40% are visiting for different reasons – task-based searches, researchers, sharing, etc.
  • A recent exhibition yielded some interesting outcomes. Online visits to the exhibition exceeded physical attendance. Visitors from Japan demanded an app for the mobile to take the exhibition with them. Another Webcast with the president of Sri Lanka yielded thousands of viewers from Sri Lanka itself.
  • Be prepared for diverse audiences online who are ready to talk back.
  • Our desire that we can control content is no longer possible; we need to create a more open architecture for our visitors.
  • The need for vetted information is as great as the need for co-creation of information.
  • Cross-cultural teams acting online may encounter barriers in effectively working together: culture, language, etc. We need to question our assumptions. Today we live in a world when we are local and global at the same time.
  • Concept of neighborliness: first and foremost we create a sense of curiosity about the new neighbor, then we bring a sense of empathy and try to understand their perspective.
What I’m taking away from this talk is understanding and empathizing with cross-cultural partners within a technological environment is key to success. Technology does not solve the issues that may be present.
Key concept – and this is serious – we need to be nice to each other.
This post is a reflection/response to questions posed at the Salzburg Global Seminar program Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture, exploring the challenges, solutions and potential for participatory services within libraries and museums.

Special Thanks to the Salzburg Global Seminar and IMLS for the invitation to participate in this event.

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