Draft abstract for SPERA Conference Keynote paper

Here’s a thing – a draft abstract that was due yesterday. I wonder whether putting it up as a blog post works? Comments are most welcome. (If it doesn’t work, I may end up taking this post down in sheer embarrassment!)

SPERA Conference 2008 Keynote Paper (draft abstract)
Creative use of new and emerging technologies at the Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial is busy preparing itself, both via its website and within the museum itself for the Mobile Generation. Digital content consumed on our website and available on new wireless networks within the museum (coming soon, not there yet!) will increasingly become platform independent and much richer, moving beyond simple text and images to include sound and video files. We are also changing our own approach and attitude to be less institutional or didactic and more engaging and collaborative with our community.

Our role as one of Australia’s oldest national cultural institutions and the experience we have gained in our recent history with new and emerging online technologies is certainly relevant to the education sector, families and the personal development of both teachers and students. Compared to some other institutions, we have a small amount of didactic content specifically related to certain curricula, and have plans to increase this. Generally, our content and information is designed to be accessible to all and we are now making it easier to find, use and re-use, which will also be of benefit to teachers, students and parents. So, it becomes valuable content from the social history, literacy and cultural perspectives and, we may also be seen as a useful model to teachers and students with some imagination and initiative.

I will discuss and demonstrate some of our most recent and somewhat brave initiatives to expose our content and to engage with new and much larger social networks such as blog readers, Flickr, You Tube and Facebook. I will also cover our initiative to migrate our in-house Australian military history encyclopedia’s content to Wikipedia.org, in an attempt to engage with an audience of produsers. We believe that many of our younger audience are now more reliant on some or all of these more social platforms and networks for much of their information and knowledge that older generations used to gain from traditional media such as TV, radio, newspapers and printed magazines.

Some of these initiatives may be seen as simple on the surface, but for a large and somewhat conservative national institution with a trusted reputation to protect, they can be seen as risky. Many of our colleagues in like institutions are watching us with some fascination as some have not yet been able to take the same steps. We believe that it is becoming increasingly important for us to learn more about these new “many-to-many” conversations and developing “viral” networks. Our experience has been that we can only learn through involvement, experimentation and innovation. All of that obviously involves some real risk management, as distinct from risk aversion. So far, the returns have been overwhelmingly beneficial and sometimes surprising.

The challenge for us in all of this is to maintain our advantage. We are seen as and need to maintain our position as a trusted provider or credible and authentic, high quality content.


  1. Mal Booth

    OK, I made a couple of minor edits as a result of a few comments received by email and phone. Yes phone. I won’t tell you who called me by phone as he’d get all embarrassed.

  2. Gracie

    Well done Mal. I guess I will have to attend the conference to learn what a ‘produser’ and viral network are. Don’t be too harsh on the chap who telephoned, I’m sure he meant well.

  3. Mal Booth

    Ah, “gracie”! I see you managed to get your fingers off your phone long enough to leave your first blog comment. Well done! We know who you are.

  4. alivicwil

    Hi Mal,I teach history and geography in a NSW school.Sadly, the NSW DET (in its infinite wisdom) has blocked all access to Facebook and YouTube – even to staff (so therefore I could not even use a data projector to show my kids one of the AWM’s YouTube videos from my laptop). These sites are among 4 that are non-negotiable 😦 As teachers, we are able to request that most other sites be unblocked. Hopefully the good work that institutions such as the AWM are doing will have some impact on the NSW DET.

  5. Mal Booth

    Hmmm, banning Facebook and YouTube because there is some objectionable content is a bit like banning students entry to a newsagent because they usually have some porn magazines. It isn’t the wisest position really. I am sorry you cannot get to our content on those platforms.

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