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

0

MCN 2018: Humanizing the Digital

Star Trek the Next Generation GIF

Have you ever wondered how the MCN Program Committee chooses the conference theme? It’s often a messy but always a very thoughtful process.

In early February, as we started to contemplate possible directions for themes for this year’s conference, we (the Program Co-Chairs) invited Program Committee members to consider these questions:

  • How have current events and non-museum trends intersected with our work? Alternatively, how can they inform our work?
  • What are the big opportunities and challenges facing our community of practice?
  • What’s exciting in the world of museum tech and how could it transform your work?

The discussions quickly turned into an incisive analysis of our field, future, and wider cultural context. In a freewheeling thread of 60+ posts, we canvassed the Museums are Not Neutral movement, Net Neutrality, activism and resistance, and equity, accessibility, and inclusion. We asked how museums can establish public trust and foster meaningful discourse and personal connections in a time of discord and disinformation, and noted the ways in which we’ve recently seen the promise of technology flounder in biased algorithms, fake news, and the invective of online trolls and bots. At the same time, we celebrated the transformative power of digital tools and how essential they are to our everyday work as well as to our institutions’ respective missions.

In short, we found ourselves extolling the virtues of profoundly human qualitiesempathy, communication, creativity, and inquirywithin the context of planning for a museum technology conference. Wait… isn’t that a bit contradictory?

Lieutenant Commander Data GIF

Program Committee member Chad Weinard helped us see this through thereby coalescing the general thinking:

“… I’ve been working lately with digital humanities projects in academia, which empower humanities research with digital tools and mindsets (digitization, visual analysis, etc.). That’s great work, but I’m feeling over the past year that another, perhaps more urgent task, is the reverse … making technology culture more human. Museums may have a role both in digitizing humanities and humanizing the digital.

Hence, Humanizing the Digital was born. Because we recognize the diversity of professional disciplines within the MCN community, we wanted to make sure that this year’s theme could kindle vibrant dialogue among all circles, from IT to interpretive media. In fact, we intentionally tested that further by asking Program Committee members to “try on” the theme as a way to generate ideas for would-be sessions to gauge alignment with the theme. For reference, here are a few examples of what sessions could focus on: 

  • Digital leadership and strategy
  • Ethical responsibilities of museums in the digital age
  • Public communication and advocacy
  • Using technology to build empathy, foster dialogue, and inspire positive change
  • Hands-on and participatory solutions to specific museum technology problems

But wait a minute: wasn’t the MCN 2016 theme The Human-Centered Museum? Indeed it was, and it does share a similar focus with Humanizing the Digital. But we’re hoping for 2018 to be a continuation of the rich discourse that blossomed in New Orleans. In addition, we also believe that Humanizing the Digital takes on new dimension, and a gravitas of it own, in light of the profound social and cultural changes that we’ve witnessed over the past few years.

We look forward to seeing the proposals for workshops, sessions, or talks that Humanizing the Digital will inspire you to submit, as well as the ensuing conversations—both online and IRL. Stay tuned for upcoming updates on the conference keynote speaker, and the call for proposals, which will be live April 1-30.

Lieutenant Commander Data GIF

 

 

 

 

 

In parting, we invite you to look to Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, for inspiration:  

If being human is not simply a matter of being born flesh and blood, if it’s simply a way of thinking, acting, and feeling, then I am hopeful that one day I will discover my own humanity. Until then, I will continue learning, changing, growing, and trying to become more than what I am.

 

-Adrienne Lalli Hills, Rob Weisberg, and Catherine Devine

MCN 2018 Conference Program Co-Chairs

0

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

0

Looking for MCN 2018 Program co-chairs!

Hello, MCNers!

I hope everyone has had the opportunity to Look Back at a great MCN 2017 and 50 years of MCN history in the amazing MCN50 Voices series of interviews, Take Action at their institutions and in their communities, and … Think Ahead about MCN 2018.

The past year has been such an amazing experience as one of the Program Co-Chairs, along with Jennifer Foley and Trish Oxford. With Jennifer and Trish stepping down after their two-year terms have concluded, MCN is looking for two people to take their place and, with me, help plan our annual conference in 2018, then taking the lead for 2019.

It’s a lot of work, but you’ll be part of a sizable leadership and management team of MCN colleagues, as well as a field full of people who want to speak at, attend, and contribute to MCN 2018.

Here are 10 highlights of my first year as Co-Chair:

  1. Finding out just how much I already knew about the museum field—and how much there still is to learn.
  2. Working with the committee of local museum technology professionals in our host city and finding out the amazing work being done there.
  3. Crafting the theme, which starts pretty much right away and gets the Program Committee off to a rollicking start.
  4. Developing Keynote speaker(s) ideas, also with the Program Committee. This year we had some innovative ideas and it was great to see them realized.
  5. Calling for proposals in the spring—watching them trickle and then pour in, sending them out to the Program Committee for review, and then working together, with the help of a few hundred sticky notes, to turn them into a program.
  6. The weekly Co-Chair conference call.
  7. The conference itself, of course, which is a very different experience when you see it come together rather than just presenting.
  8. And yet presenting was still a joy.
  9. Developing the “other format” idea and receiving over two dozen proposals beyond the usual case studies, panels, and presentations.
  10. My favorite—being able to say to people, “You should really propose that as a session!”

The official call for Co-Chair applications is below. Applications are due to program@mcn.edu by December 22 January 7 (now extended!); I’m happy to answer any and all questions. Thanks,

Rob Weisberg
MCN 2018 Conference Program Chair

Trish Oxford, MCN2017 Program Co-Chair

MCN Program Co-Chair 2018 & 2019
Position Title: Conference Program Co-Chair

Period: 2 years
Start: late January 2018

Commitment: 3-5 hours/week throughout the year, increasing as the conference nears, with milestones in May and September, available full-time during the conference. Available one weekend in late March or early April for a site visit to that year’s conference location (paid for by MCN).

Compensation: the Conference Program Co-Chair is a volunteer role and is therefore not compensated; however, MCN does offer complimentary registration to the annual conference during the year(s) you serve.

Location: MCN’s Annual Conference is a North American based-conference that supports global involvement and has an emerging international following. The successful candidate is required to attend the Conference in person, as well as participate in regular phone or online meetings.

MCN2018 will take place in Denver, November 13–16, 2018, when the location of MCN2019 will be announced.

Deadline for applying: Extended until end of day, January 7!

Description: MCN is looking for two thoughtful, motivated, and dynamic museum professionals to serve as MCN Conference Program Co-Chairs for a two-year term starting in January 2018. This is an opportunity to help shape a major museum technology conference now and in future years, immerse yourself in cutting edge developments in the sector, broaden your networks on a national level, and to gain experience and professional development in event programming.

The Conference Program Co-Chairs provide leadership for the annual MCN Conference, creating the program through the conception and organization of workshops, panels and presentations in many different formats, experimental programs, keynotes, special events, and innovations not yet imagined. With current Conference Program Chair Rob Weisberg, the newly appointed Conference Program Co-Chairs will work as a team to develop an experiential conference program that serves the evolving needs of the MCN community and then serve as lead Conference Program Co-Chairs for the 2019 conference.

The ideal candidate will be passionate about the intersection of museums and technology and interested in developing an innovative conference program featuring proposals from participants from a wide range of institutions, backgrounds, and perspectives. They will be knowledgeable about MCN and the conference, having attended MCN several times in the previous five years. They will have existing networks within the sector, a strong understanding of the issues confronting museums with regards to technology and the practice of digital, and appreciate the challenges facing their colleagues from many different kinds of institutions and departments in the field. They will be active in the museum or cultural technology community and knowledgeable of trusted sources of information, and will be a proactive self-starter and a calm problem-solver with excellent oral and written communication skills. They will be a creative thinker both about big issues and small details, diplomatic under pressure, and ready to learn and adapt over the course of planning this conference.

About MCN: MCN is a nonprofit organization whose core purpose is to foster innovation and excellence by supporting professionals who seek to transform the way their cultural organizations reach, engage, and educate their audiences using digital technologies. We do this by building a community that attracts, nurtures, inspires and sustains exceptional professionals. Learn more.

For further information and a full overview of responsibilities, email program@mcn.edu.

To apply, please send an email articulating why you think you’d be a good fit for this position, and noting any relevant experience to: program@mcn.edu. Please include a CV or link to your LinkedIn profile.

0