Challenges and Opportunities of Participatory Culture for Museums and Libraries (part II)


Rob Stein blogs from the Seminar three questions for consideration:

1. How can museums aid in addressing the socio-economic consequences of a widening technology gap?

A number of participants spoke eloquently about the social and economic consequences that impact marginalized communities who lack the same easy-access to technology that many of us take for granted.  This lack of access means a lack of opportunity to engage with the cultural evolutions of content produced online and critical dialogs taking place on blogs, twitter and cultural websites. The prevalence of information access is contributing to a changing set of skills and digital media literacy that cannot be replaced by other means.  The ability to sift, process, remix, and reformulate thoughts and critical argument is – quite specifically – a new form of literacy that will increasingly determine the opportunities and inclusion afforded to the privileged.

This fact has been well documented in the literature, and for those of you eager to learn more, I would recommend reading Henry Jenkins’ work – particularly his white-paper on “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” (PDF).

New to me, was the realization that addressing the technology gap only delays the problem until the next disruptive technology arrives.  While we don’t yet know what that technology is, it’s a safe bet that the privileged among us will have access to it before many in our local communities do.

Since museums, and art museums in particular, posses such rich collections of artifacts, media, and artistic communication, are there ways that we can use those assets to address the underlying issues of media literacy? This opportunity further reinforces the value of museums’ existing efforts to build critical thinking skills into a wide range of programming efforts. Addressing the root skills at the heart of digital media literacy can work alongside efforts to provide comprehensive digital access to begin to positively impact and bridge that gap.

Don’t miss the whole post!

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.