Humanizing the … Proposal Submission Process?

Laramie Square, Denver

Denver awaits!

 

April is almost here, which means the Call for Proposals for the MCN 2018 annual conference in Denver is just around the corner! Some of you may already be thinking about what you’d like to present in November but also, and perhaps just as important, what you’d like to hear from your peers.

In his post How Might We last month, Greg Albers asked us all to consider:

How Might We make each session unique?

This question led us to make some changes to the Call for Proposal process, which we’re sharing with you below.

Click on each of the items below to read more about the changes we’ve made to the program and the proposal process.

Making Tracks
Session Formats and Timing
New Voices and New Takes on Current Ideas
Some Tough Love on Submitting (and Changing) Proposals
A Word on the “Chatham House” Rule

So Get Your Proposals Ready … 

By making these changes to the call for proposals process, we wanted to address many of the issues and suggestions from the feedback you gave us on previous conferences. Ultimately, we hope you’ll find they translate into a better conference experience for all of us. The point, after all, is not only these three or four days in November, but the year-round contributions we all make to the field and the community of ideas and mission we all share. Please let us know your thoughts and your questions, on the submissions process or any topic at all, at any time by writing to program@mcn.edu. And we hope to see your proposals soon!

Your Program Team
Robert Weisberg, Catherine Devine, and Adrienne Lalli Hills, co-chairs

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How Might We: Some Questions We’re Asking for MCN 2018

Denver skyline at dusk

With our Program Co-chairs in place, and our Program Committee filled, work on MCN 2018 has begun in earnest. In fact, one of our first steps began soon after MCN 2017 concluded in Pittsburgh: we took stock of the previous year’s conference by talking to the staff and community members who made it happen and reviewing the post-conference survey that more than 200 of you so generously and thoughtfully completed.

From that, we’ve tried to distill some key takeaways. This year, taking a page out of the design thinking playbook, we’ve expressed them as How Might We questions that the program staff, co-chairs, committee, volunteers and conference participants will be able to come back to and answer anew throughout the next nine months. The phrasing of How Might We questions is designed to elicit creative thinking and open responses and move us toward actionable steps. The MCN leadership team has discussed some possible answers which we’ll roll out over the next few months as the conference starts to take shape.

Of course, reviewing the previous conference is only one of the many aspects of the work involved in putting together the conference program every year. The Program Committee—a group of about 40 professionals representing disciplines and institutions across the sector—is already working on a theme and will shortly begin to identify possible keynote speakers. Program co-chairs and conference planners will soon visit the Denver conference site, and meetings and calls and Basecamp messages are flying at a furious rate. We’re also going to be taking a fresh look at some MCN staples like Ignite and workshops, as well as evaluating some recent additions like innovative “other format” sessions and pop-ups. And we’ll continue to evolve the call for proposals, which will open in April.

There’s a lot to look forward to this year, and a lot to do to make it happen. In the end, there’s really one question that drives it all: How might we make it your MCN?

Our Key Questions for MCN 2018:

  • How might we make the most of the spaces at the conference and turn challenging physical limitations into networking and learning opportunities?
  • How might we help speakers become better teachers and also partners in the success of the conference?
  • How might we make each session unique?
  • How might we ensure new ideas don’t crowd out important fundamentals and big thinking doesn’t replace hands-on skills?
  • How might we make space for the introverted and the newcomer, for reflection and rejuvenation?
  • How might we manage the deluge of communications in the months before the conference?
  • How might we help speakers share their presentations beyond the session walls?

We encourage the MCN community to discuss, comment, and expand upon these questions and answers, to make this part of a conversation that will lead to a constantly learning and improving conference this and every year. We can’t do it without you—it’s your MCN!

Greg Albers, MCN board member and program liaison
Robert Weisberg, Catherine Devine, and Adrienne Lalli Hills, Program co-chairs

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Welcome our new conference co-chair, Rob Weisberg!

Post by Program co-chair, Trish Oxford

 

Jennifer Foley and I are excited to announce that Rob Weisberg will be our newest Program Co-Chair for #MCN2017! This year, in addition to developing the conference theme, call for proposals, program structure, and creative events, the Program Committee will also ensure that MCN’s 50th anniversary gets recognized and celebrated in Pittsburgh during MCN2017 itself. Our Co-Chairs will explore how MCN has impacted our community over the past 50 years and how we will carry on this spirit of innovation into the future! Rob comes to the team with a wealth of ideas, energy, and enthusiasm.  Please join me in welcoming him to the team! If you haven’t yet been in touch, but are interested in helping shape the future of the annual conference, we’d love to hear from you. All ideas are welcome. Please write to program@mcn.edu

Meet Rob, MCN2017 Program Co-Chair

Robert Weisberg headshotRob is Senior Project Manager in the Publications and Editorial Department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His experience before The Met was in journalism and publishing production, so he appreciates the many paths people take before ending up in the museum field. Rob worked on hundreds of Met printed exhibition and collection catalogues until the past few years when he helped reboot the museum’s label program, as well as participated in several print-digital hybrid projects. He’s always tried to mediate and translate between different museum and workplace cultures and styles; he considers discrediting false dichotomies in the museum field — visitor-focused or collection-focused, print or digital, slow or fast, creative or organized, agile or deliberative — to be his calling. He blogs about museums and organizational culture at robertjweisberg.com. Rob has been a temporary New Yorker for 25 years and lives in New York City with his real-New-Yorker wife.

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#MCN2017 Program Committee: We Want You!

A panorama shot of MCN 2016 Ignite at the House of Blues, New Orleans

At your institution…

Do you design beautiful digital publications or geek out on microcontrollers and circuits? We want you.

Do you get your kicks from collaborating through interpretive media or crunching data to inform your museum’s digital strategy? We want you.

Do you work in a department 2 or 200? We want you.

The MCN2017 Program Committee is seeking 40 museum professionals, each bringing a different perspective from across the sector.  This committee will play a significant role shaping this year’s conference Nov. 7-10 in Pittsburgh.

 

What does the Program Committee do?

Through online discussions, the Program Committee is a think tank that determines the most important themes and trends in the field, identifies new programming opportunities, and brainstorms possible speakers. Most significantly, members are the backbone of the conference proposal evaluation process.

In May, after the close of MCN’s Call for Proposals, individual proposals are assigned for evaluation to Program Committee members with relevant professional expertise on the topic. Evaluators are asked to provide feedback through a formalized process. Members are given 10-14 days to complete their evaluations. Next, the Program Co-Chairs assemble the conference schedule primarily based on the committee’s feedback.    

This year is a special year for MCN! #MCN50
In Pittsburgh, MCN2017 will celebrate MCN’s 50th anniversary! Honoring the organization’s work to advance digital transformation in museums, our “Dream Team” Program Committee will represent as many as possible of the following expertise:

  • Digital Education
  • Interpretive Media
  • Research and Evaluation
  • Informational Technology (IT)
  • Digital Asset Management (DAM)
  • Social Media
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Media Production & Branding
  • Leadership & Strategy
  • Data and Insights
  • Digital Imaging
  • Intellectual Property
  • Publishing
  • Experience Design
  • Digital Storytelling

We are actively seeking a diversity of organizations including, but not limited to:

  • Science Museums, Zoos, and/or Aquariums
  • Art Museums and Centers
  • Natural History Museums
  • Historic Houses
  • Libraries
  • Archives  

We are also looking to include representation of small, international, and academic institutions.

If you are interested in helping us rock Pittsburgh, send an email to program@mcn.edu describing your interest. Please include a link to your LinkedIn profile or resume/CV attached.

Deadline: Tuesday, January 31st

-Trish Oxford & Jennifer Foley

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My first MCN event, not my last!

Guest post by MCN 2016 Scholar, Andrea Ledesma

MCN 2016 attendees take part in Ignite at the House of Blues, New Orleans

I’d have been crazy to turn down a week in New Orleans. And, when that week promises days filled with talks of museums, tech, and a little karaoke…well, I packed my bags as early as June.

This November, I attended MCN 2016 as an MCN Scholar. I didn’t know what to expect. Admittedly, I was a little nervous, hanging with museum professionals, many of whom I admired on Twitter, in blogs, and other niches of the Internet.  

MCN 2016 was all about the “human-centered museum.” This theme inspired an array of presentations, from web design to oral history, apps to activism. I attended as many as I could, and looking back I found myself returning to a number of my own central questions.

First, who is the human at the center of this museum? We threw around a lot of names during the week:


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Visitors

Participants

Users

Collaborators

Citizens

Superheroes

Friends

 

These categories are not mutually exclusive, nor are they restricted to folks outside the museum. We and our publics embody each, and this changes our expectations of and responsibilities to the museum. What I learned from the conference is that discerning between each is a matter of empathy. We need to ask ourselves how we see each other and ourselves in the museum and the community at large.

Second, what makes data meaningful? David Newburry’s ignite talk had me cheering for linked open data in the middle of the House of Blues. Brian Alpert, Sarah Banks, and Effie Kapsalis from the Smithsonian gave me a crash course in user metrics. I even got really excited metadata (though, I’ve always been a fan). With Andrea Wallace I embraced the public domain as the space in which we “let our imagination run wild.” Good data, at the very least, is clean and accessible, growing and stable, transparent and interpretive.

Finally, what does it mean to be a cultural worker in the digital age? I’m currently pursuing an MA in Public Humanities. I focus on the use of technology in museums and cultural institutions, with an emphasis on new media theory and public history. I’m also graduating in May. So, this conference was as much about creative exploration as it was professional development. I appreciated not only the sessions like speed networking but also the honest conversations about labor. Elissa Frankle talked about “radical trust.” While we talk about trusting publics, centering their perspectives and insight when (co)creating content, designing experiences, etc., institutions must also apply this principle within. How can we recognize and nurture the talent of our colleagues? How can create we culture of risk (without blame or fear of reproach) that ultimately makes for better, more exciting work?

I’m still coming down from my MCN 2016 high, finding myself craving another beignet and reminded of conference panels in the middle of class. Thank you to the MCN Scholarship Committee for this amazing experience.

This was my first MCN event, but it surely won’t be my last.

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Experiencing the MCN Experience

By MCN 2016 Scholar, Luc Desmarais (@MuseoLuc), Exhibits & Design Manager, Beaty Biodiversity Museum (beatymuseum.ubc.ca)

What a week! This was my first time at the MCN conference, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the generous opportunity provided by the MCN Scholarship program. It was an honour to receive the scholarship, and very humbling to be included amongst the other incredible scholars.

After having some time to digest the experience (and the deep-fried everything), what I’m left with is the sense that now I’m part image01 of something bigger than I expected. It’s the feeling of spending a few days with new people, and now suddenly you’re part of the family. The community of MCN is what stood out to me from the start. It’s welcoming, warm, cozy, and inclusive. And I like it. These are my people. That’s my biggest take away from the week, as much as anything I learned in the sessions. My first MCN conference was an introduction to the family and an amazing opportunity to network and make connections. As the Canadian cousin no one had heard of before showing up to dinner, I felt welcomed and included. There was a seat for me, and everyone else, at the table.

The theme of “The Human Centered Museum” rang loudly throughout all of the conference sessions, and that is what inspires me going back to work. The traditional top-down model of operating a cultural organization is over. There’s no top; there’s no bottom. It’s us, standing with the visitor and the community, working together. Their stories are the future of museums. Talk to your visitors, build empathy, and have conversations. This is how we can be successful.

By the way, New Orleans is awesome. How many different marine invertebrates can you batter and deep fry? I’m not sure, but I image02think I ate most of them. As a musician and music lover, I was excited to see what the city had to offer and I wasn’t disappointed. The city is alive with music, and the best of it is found on the street. I was also lucky enough to catch a show at Preservation Hall, which was an experience I’ll never forget. Talk about the “open jaw of awe”!

Finally, the most eye-opening experience came on my last day in New Orleans. I visited the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum and was amazed at what they have accomplished. How often do we get to go to a museum where you are literally stepping into the story? The building, the neighbours, the people on the street, are all part of the story that the museum is telling. This brought the MCN conference experience full circle for me. There are no frills; there’s nothing fancy. It works because the roots of this museum are the people and their stories, and it created one of the most memorable museum experiences of my life.

What’s more human-centered than that?

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(photo by Mairin Kerr)

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Lights, Lights, Overstimulation

Guest post by MCN 2016 Scholar, Emily Haight – Digital Editorial Assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

As a scholarship recipient, presenter, and first-timer to MCN I didn’t know what to expect. What I experienced was four days of non-stop information overload. (It’s a good thing.) Here are a few of my highlights:

emily-haight-toppicstitch

During the week, I ventured to Port of Call to indulge in a half-pound of “New Orleans’ Best Hamburger.” (Not pictured is the side of baked potato that came with the burger. I kid you not.) I stopped by Café du Monde for beignets (twice) and visited the World War II Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Newcomb Art Museum’s exhibition of art by Australian Aboriginal women.

 

emily-haight-img_15231My first session was the half-day workshop “Beginner Hacking–Wearables” led by Chris Evans. Using a microcontroller, NeoPixels, ping pong balls, and a soldering iron, I constructed a light-up feature to clip on to my conference nametag. Diffused color-changing lights ensured that I would be obnoxiously visible in large crowds.

During several sessions I was too awestruck to tweet. I furiously scribbled notes about the Art Gallery of NSW’s artist profiles to delve into after the conference. I was blown away learning about the development of SFMOMA’s audio guide app with Detour, and—in a later session—captivated by their online content strategy (and confident adoption of fair use policies).

 

emily-haight-2016-11-15-13_38_00-twitterAs a social media manager, I was eager to pick up a few ideas from presentations about social platforms. I let out gut-busting laughs during “Disappearing Content: Snapchat and Instagram Stories” and was captivated by five case studies illustrating the criteria for participatory campaigns, including #GettyInspired and #Spunday.

On the last day, I presented a case study with my colleague, “Can You Name #5WomenArtists? A Viral Campaign for Women’s History Month” and bolted afterward for lightning talks with my fellow scholars.

 

 

Temily-haight-mcnstitch1wo off-site events during the conference added to the experience. The Ignite reception at the House of Blues and the gathering at the Audubon Aquarium also allowed me to see more of the city—and spend some quality time with my scholar cohort!

 

 

Overall, I felt inspired and empowered by each of the presentations I attended. MCN provided a fantastic opportunity to meet people that I had previously only known virtually, share ideas with them, and plan for future collaborations.

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Mapping the #MCN2016 Twitter conversation

Guest post by Andrea Ledesma

 

GIF is TAGS, a tool to map twitter conversations

As someone who fancies herself a lurker on Twitter, I was a little intimidated heading into the MCN 2016. Would I be able to follow along? What exactly should I tweet? How fast would I need to type?

Luckily, someone’s made a script for that.

I trackedss_dashboard #MCN2016 using TAGS v6.1. Developed by Martin Hawksey, Innovation Community & Technology Officer at the Association for Learning and Technology (@mhawksey), TAGS is a Google Sheets template that pulls data from Twitter. It runs directly through Twitter’s API.

In this instance, I set TAGS to search #MCN2016 every hour, on the hour starting November 1st. To control the archive, I only collected data from users with over 150 followers.

 

At the end of the conference, TAGS logged 9000+ tweets from over 1000 users. (Good work guys!)

A map of twitter conversations at #MCN2016

The most compelling feature of TAGS is its TAGSExplorer. This maps tweets across a network graph with all the interactivity of d3 and JavaScript/JQuery with none of the headaches. Each edge represents an interaction. Each node represents a user. Rolling over a node reveals a feed of tweets, as well as a replay feature animating conversations as they unfolded over time. For those who like a bit of competition, TAGSExplorer also ranks users. Top tweets are based on number of tweets, conversationalists the number of interactions.

TAGS is not without its glitches. For one, it only allows users to reach as far back as 9 days from the date on which the sheet is activated. Also, the archive is a little messy, truncating tweets seemingly at random and distinguishing retweets with the classic “RT.” Most importantly, Hawksey himself recognizes that TAGS prioritizes “relevance” over “completeness.” Some researchers have found that his makes for a visualization that “over-represents the more central users and does not offer an accurate picture of peripheral activity.”

ss_tweetersss_conversatinalists

Still, armed with a predetermined window of activity and a hashtag to capture all the goings-on from the event of interest, TAGS proved the ideal tool for real-time, quick-and- dirty data analytics. As a first time MCN attendee this was invaluable. Sitting in my hotel room on the first night, I made and sifted through the first day’s network map forming a game plan the rest of the week. What were the conversations inspired by and happening around the conference? How would these develop over the course of the week? Who to follow? Who to talk to?

Now, looking at the web of nodes and edges in hindsight. There’s a material trace of #MCN2016’s major dialogue and debates, creations and critique to take us into #mcn50.

 

 

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