MCN 2018

Humanizing the Digital: Unproceedings from the MCN 2018 Conference


Post by Suse Anderson

 

MCN’s 2018 conference, Humanizing the Digital, explored how museums can use technology to foster human connection and dialogue, advance accessibility and inclusion, and champion inquiry and knowledge. After witnessing the presentations and rich conversations that arose from them, a group of practitioners came together to explore how best to capture and disseminate the learnings that occurred at the conference. The outcome was a decision to solicit and publish a book inspired by the conference and its ideas.

A call went out in December requesting submissions from both conference attendees and presenters. Essays were encouraged to synthesize an idea that emerged over the week, dive deeper into a conference session, or speak broadly on the theme, including opportunities for non-traditional submissions.

The result, released this week, is Humanizing the Digital: Unproceedings from the MCN 2018 Conference. The book contains 17 conference-inspired responses to the state of museum technology in 2018, including essays, reflections, case studies, conversations, and an experimental in-book zine. The topics explore areas as diverse as calm technology, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, visitor-centered communication, interpretation and programming, empathy, inclusion and slow change.

It is worth noting that we were midway through the process before it occurred to us that it might be a good idea to notify MCN that we were doing this. Thankfully, MCN thought that this kind of community-driven effort was worth embracing. Though unofficial, it is definitely aligned with MCN’s mission of connecting people to ideas and each other. It is also a great example of the kind of community MCN has developed; one that is deeply collegial, true to its grassroots origins, geared toward action, and likely to ask for forgiveness before permission.

It is also worth noting that our editorial process followed (or, at least, tried to follow) those same principles. Editors and authors volunteered their time to this publication, which involved a social-media-based Call For Proposals that was open to anyone willing to put in the time and energy to turn something around within a matter of weeks. We did a bit of peer review for clarity, but relatively little editing of our submissions, so what you are about to read represents the varied voices and styles of the authors. While not every initial proposal ended up in this collection, we heartily thank all the members of the MCN community who shared their thoughts with us.

Humanizing the Digital: Unproceedings from the MCN 2018 Conference was produced using Quire™, a digital publishing platform created by Getty Publications and owned by the J. Paul Getty Trust. Thank you to our Production Editor, Greg Albers (also an MCN Board member), whose work was invaluable in turning our idea for a responsive unconference publication into reality.

Members of the Ad Hoc Museum Collective will be at Museums and the Web, the American Alliance of Museums conference and MCNx New Orleans and will have copies of the book available for purchase for a special price of $10. You can also buy the book from Amazon now. If you’re looking for another way to access the essays, we plan to make the full collection available online and for download for free in time for MCN 2019.

All proceeds from the sale of the book go to support the MCN scholarship program.

Ad Hoc Museum Collective Editorial Team

Suse Anderson, Isabella Bruno, Hannah Hethmon, Seema Rao, Ed Rodley, and Rachel Ropeik.

Production Editor

Greg Albers

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MCN 2018 Through the Eyes of a Museum Educator, Museum Studies Instructor, and High School Teacher


By: Hillary Hanel Rose

In November 2018 I had the honor and privilege of participating in the MCN Conference as a Scholar. I first learned about MCN in 2016 as I searched for resources to share with my museum studies students and have been eager to become more involved with the organization since then. Determined to attend the annual conference, I submitted my application for a scholarship in 2017 and again this year. I was excited to learn that I had been chosen for a scholarship to the 2018 conference, meaning that I would get to travel to beautiful Denver, Colorado, present a lightning talk on some of my work, and learn from fellow museum professionals from around the world. I expected to learn about new resources that would fit into my museum career, but I also came away with inspiration for my work as a high school teacher.

My lightning talk was focused on my work at Girl Museum. I have served on the all-volunteer staff since 2012, and am currently the Education Advisor. Girl Museum is unique because it is a virtual museum with no physical location and a remote staff working from around the globe. Virtual museums are a new idea, so the overall concept of this was the basis for my presentation. I shared the benefits (free for visitors, open 24/4, etc.) and implications (time zones, marketing, funding, etc.) of being a virtual museum. I also highlighted our 52 Objects exhibit to show how digitized collections can be used to humanize the digital, which was the theme for this year’s conference. There was a lot to fit in a time limit of 5 minutes! Luckily, I was able to chat with many other MCN attendees throughout the week to discuss Girl Museum more in-depth.

Hillary Hanel Rose’s lightning talk.

In addition to the experience of presenting at an incredible conference, I enjoyed learning from fellow museum professionals. As I attended sessions, talked with exhibitors, and chatted with fellow attendees, I found myself constantly jotting down names of resources, case studies, and statistics that have already proven useful in my work with Girl Museum. For example, I am now exploring ways to make our museum more accessible, and we are working on a fun set of girl-centric memes to celebrate our 10th anniversary in 2019!

I must mention that I am writing this blog post six weeks after the conference. This is because I also teach high school full-time and I am finally able to spend some time reflecting on my experience at MCN now that it is winter break. I previously mentioned that the conference unexpectedly inspired my teaching career. I attended a session highlighting the Smithsonian’s Learning Lab and was able to use it in my classes the very next week. As a history and science teacher, there are so many ways for my students to use this resource. I really shouldn’t be surprised that a museum conference impacted my classroom teaching – I wrote my dissertation on museum-school partnerships, and this is just another example of the importance of museums in education.

Winter break is also my time to prep for the upcoming semester of teaching “Museums, Communities, and Stakeholders” at Central Michigan University. Though I have taught the class before, the MCN Conference inspiration flowed into this area of my work as well, and I will be making several adjustments to my syllabus. I was so pleased to meet several museum professionals who are interested in doing a virtual chat with my students. It is essential for our future museum professionals to hear multiple perspectives and to see examples from a variety of museums as they prepare for their careers. MCN will continue to be a great resource as I plan my Museum Studies lectures this spring.

This year’s conference was so wonderfully diverse in its sessions, attendees, and conversations and its impact will expand beyond the few hundred people who attended in-person. As just one person sharing and implementing what I learned at MCN 2018, thousands of visitors to Girl Museum, over 200 high school students, and at least 20 undergraduate museum studies students will be reached this year. Thank you MCN for this opportunity!


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Don’t Forget the Small Museums


By Kelli Huggins, Visitor Experience Coordinator, Catskill Center

I am an accidental museum tech person. As a career small museum/non-profit employee, I have often found myself taking on social media, online exhibits, and other basic technology projects by default. They’ve never been the main part of my job, however, just something I ended up doing out of curiosity or being the only one willing to try. That’s why I was so excited to be one of the 2018 MCN scholarship recipients. It was a chance to pick up some new skills and talk shop with real experts. And I learned a lot. Most importantly, I learned how much I don’t know.

Now, I am going to boldly, unashamedly profess my own ignorance in this blog post in the hopes that it will help other small museum employees, and also MCN as it goes forward with its crucial efforts to increase diversity and access in the museum tech world. When I got the MCN program schedule, there were session descriptions I flat out didn’t understand. I actually had to Google some of the acronyms, like UX or IIIF or DAM.

When it came to choosing sessions, I tried of course to choose those I felt best met my personal and institutional goals, but I also sought sessions that I knew would be over my head. You can’t learn if you don’t toss yourself in the deep end, right? That’s why I went to sessions on VR (and hey, I didn’t even have to Google that acronym to know that it meant virtual reality. Though, in fairness, I didn’t fully understand the difference between VR and AR before MCN, so this is the tiniest, most humble of brags). Even though I might not have understood every technical part of the presentation, I’m now introduced to the conversation. If my institution ever wanted to explore VR, now, at the very least, I’d know some people to ask for advice.

Of course, I left MCN with plenty of practical takeaways, too, like how we can better explore digital storytelling through podcasts and virtual tours or ways to track social media analytics. But, I maintain, the most important thing for me was getting thrown into a more specialized conversations.

And you were all so, so very kind to a novice like me. Thank you for that. That’s why I’d love to see MCN actively work to get more small museum professionals at the conference (and I mean really small museums, like under 3 total staff members small). There are a whole lot of people like me out there who desperately want to learn this stuff, but just haven’t had the opportunity. People for whom keeping up with the latest tech literature takes a backseat to leading 400 4th graders through a site on a field trip or fixing a sink.

This wouldn’t be a one-sided relationship, either– small museum people have a lot to teach, as well! Small museums can serve as a kind of research and development lab because there is often less bureaucracy and red tape to cut through to get project approval. That’s exactly what my co-presenters, Max Evjen, Shelby Merlino, and Sammy Kay Smith, and I discovered in our research for our panel on Twitter museum mascots. Innovation is happening at these small sites because staff are given a lot of autonomy to experiment.

I don’t have answers for how to achieve any of this. As with everything, it probably mostly comes down to money. Small museums often don’t have the funds to send employees to conferences like this. That’s why the scholarship was so vital to me this year, my first MCN. I’m not sure next year if I will be able to secure the funds to return, even though I want to. In the meantime, I look forward to taking advantage of the benefits of my MCN membership, asking questions in the SIGs I’ve joined, and telling other small museum people about these opportunities and what I’ve learned.  

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MCN Field Trips Open up Dialog With Host-City Artists


by Marty Spellerberg

MCN is all about facilitating connections for museum professionals. For the 2018 conference in Denver, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to help introduce a new format, MCN Field Trips, that opened up opportunities for spatial and dialectic exploration.

The day before the conference has always been an opportunity for attendees to tour cultural sites or take a deep dive into a topic in a workshop. This year, museum pros also had the chance to venture out into the community to engage with local artists in their home venues. By introducing visiting cultural technologists into an established discussion series favored by Denver practitioners, the Field Trips program facilitated the exposure of these communities to each other’s concerns and points-of-view.

Denver’s two Field Trips took place on Tuesday, November 13 2018. About half of the attendees came from MCN, and half from Tilt West, a Denver non-profit that promotes critical discourse on arts and culture. Each discussion dealt with aspects of our relationship to the internet, as individuals and cultural workers.

“Proud To Be Flesh”

The first Field Trip, Proud to be Flesh: Cultural Spaces After the Internet, took place at Next Stage Collaborative, an interactive gallery space located in the Denver Performing Arts Complex and administered by the University of Colorado Denver and Denver Arts & Venues.

I wrote and delivered the discussion prompt, which can be read online. In it I attempted to survey the contemporary relationship between online and offline cultural spaces, motivated by the question:

“As much of the world moves online, what’s next for engaging, enriching, in-real-life experiences of art and culture?”

The discussion, which was recorded, grappled with the structure of cultural organizations digital departments and their engagement with social media influencers, as well as the effects of online networks on artist communities and new forms such as Instagram-ready selfie spaces. It was complemented by the environment in which it took place, an installation / performance venue titled Special Guest, presented by Meow Wolf and created in collaboration with local artists.

Following the discussion, Tilt West commissioned a response from Meagan Estep. Her piece, which can be read on Medium, expanded on my question to ask:

“With both digital and physical experiences blended in a museum setting, can we even distinguish one from the other? Are they even separate?”

“Nightmare Machines”

The second Field Trip, Computer Lib / Nightmare Machines: Technology’s Impact on Cultural Communities, took place at  Emmanuel Gallery, a non-profit art facility housed in Denver’s oldest standing church structure and situated on the Auraria Campus.

Sarah Wambold prepared and delivered the prompt, a version of which can be read online, examining the broken promises of digital technology utopianism. The discussion, which was recorded, grappled with cultural organizations’ complicity with an online culture of frightening user tracking, and user’s changing expectations of privacy. It, too, was complemented by the environment in which it took place, artist Aram Bartholl’s exhibition, Your Shopping Cart Is Empty, which presents work created at “an interplay between internet, culture and reality.”

How do our taken-for-granted communication channels influence us? Bartholl asks not just what humans are doing with media, but what media is doing with humans. Tensions between public and private, online and offline, techno-lust and everyday life are at the core of his work.

— Emmanuel Gallery

Following the discussion, Tilt West commissioned a response from Matt Popke. His piece, Nightmares of Our Own Making, examines the event’s themes in relation to The Cluetrain Manifesto, an essay that has had influence within Silicon Valley.

A Foundation for Growth

The 2018 Field Trips were developed at the intersection of MCN and Tilt West. This intersection was manifested in the person of Sarah Wambold, the Clyfford Still Museum’s Director of Digital Media, an MCN 2018 Local Committee member and Tilt West founder. The success of the program is in large part a credit to her vision and organization. As well, our appreciation extendeds to Jeff Lambson, Director of Emmanuel Gallery, for facilitating use of the venues.

In my view, the Field Trip format adds depth to the MCN offering, directly supporting the organization’s mission and expanding its reach. I hope that its success in Denver paves the way for the program to grow in 2019 and beyond.

About the Author

Marty Spellerberg is a designer, developer and curator based in Austin, Texas. He has twenty years of experience, with over a decade working primarily with museums. He presents regularly at industry conferences and is co-lead of a study of museum visitor motivation published in the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing. In 2016 he founded Spellerberg Projects, a cultural space and contemporary art gallery with two locations in Lockhart, Texas.

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The Conference, Captured

 

The annual conference is next week in Denver and we couldn’t be more excited for the amazing program lined up. Of course not everyone’s able to attend the conference, and everyone at the conference won’t be able to attend every session they want. So we’re relying on speakers (and anyone else they can recruit to help them!) to share their session materials and outcomes with the full MCN community before, during and after the conference. And not just presentation slides, but blog posts, audio recordings or video captures, twitter stories, Facebook and Instagram live, handouts and links to resource, whatever can be put together!

web browser with MCN's youtube channel home page

Over the past several years, MCN has audio recorded most sessions and shared them on YouTube. It’s a great way to catch sessions you missed, or to follow up on sessions you attended. Still, most recordings get only modest use. So we’re looking for better ways of capturing and sharing conference content and will be developing new strategies and systems for that over the next few years. In the meantime however, Denver …

For all you speakers out there, we’re asking you take the lead in capturing your session in whatever way you think best. We imagine that might simply be slides for some of you, but others might prefer to share a list of resources and links. Some of you might like to do a blog post after the fact, or ask a friend in the audience to take (or draw) notes they can share. If you’re technically savvy, or at least technically adventurous, you might want to take a shot at recording yourself either in audio or video. However, you do it, we love it and want to see it.

Speakers, check out our capturing tips below and send what you can, when you can to content@mcn.edu. See you next week!

Speaker Tips & Tricks

Slides

Since you probably make them anyway, slides can be an easy way to share your presentation. You can post yours on SlideShare or Speaker Deck. If you used Google Slides just make that link public and call it a day. Or consider using Notist, which allows you to add related links and social media posts, and also lets people see your slide notes, which can help otherwise sparse slides make sense to someone not lucky enough to have heard you in person. In fact you might consider simply exporting your slides with the notes, and sharing it as a PDF.

Handouts

Did you give out a handout in your session? Did your slide deck include a slide full of links to related resources? Throw those into a Google Doc, or make them into a PDF and put them in Dropbox to share that way.

Blog posts

Still have a blog or personal site somewhere? Consider posting a write-up of your session and maybe some downloads for the slides and links to related resources or even your other talks. Don’t have a site of your own? Medium has your number, and it can be an easy solution. Like for the series of posts from last February’s MCNx London.

Audio recordings

Here’s one we’re going to try. Buy or borrow an inexpensive lavalier microphone, and record yourself! Plug it into your phone with Voice Memos (iPhone) or Voice Recorder (Android), or directly into your computer, and hit record. With or without some basic editing afterward, the resulting audio file can be shared on SoundCloud or as a direct download from Google Drive or Dropbox.

Screen capture

Depending on how you’re going to present, you might try a screen capture of your session with a free tool like Screencast-o-matic. This may not work easily if you’re using slides in presenter mode, but if you’re simply mirroring your display to show slides, or browser windows, or a pdf, you can capture all or part of the screen along with the audio to make a webinar-like video of your session. Add in an inexpensive lavalier mic for better sound. Post it to YouTube or Vimeo when you’re done.

Video recordings

Okay, this is next level but you could try video recording yourself, or you could recruit a friend to help. Set your phone up in the front row or on the projector table with a portable tripod, add in a lavalier mic with a looong cord for better sound quality if you can, and hit record. This will work best if you can find an angle that shows you and your slides relatively clearly. The resulting masterpiece can be posted to YouTube or Vimeo. If you add a list of highlight moments with timestamps into the description field, YouTube will even create a clickable index for you.

Whatever you create, send it to content@mcn.edu and we’ll help share it out. #musetech fame awaits!

animated gif of standing ovation in large theater

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Humanizing the Un-Conference: Present Your Conference Session Ideas

…at the Conference!

 

Post by Max Evjen

 

#MCN2015 workshop attendees seated and standing around a table

Always coming up with ideas for proposals while socializing with other #musetech professionals at MCN? Want to build upon what you’ve heard while it’s still fresh? This brand-new kind of session is for you! Submit your ideas for the MCN Humanizing the Un-Conference! This is an effort to create the ultimate flexibility in the conference schedule, so the entire block of 45-minute concurrent sessions on Friday, November 16th, from 3:15–4 p.m., has been dedicated to ideas that you and your colleagues will come up with while at #MCN2018.

 

Here’s how it works:

  • Post your ideas on the “HTU” sign-up sheet in the MCN Lounge on Tuesday and Wednesday of the conference to get interest from others who want to be a part of your session (and tweet #MCN2018-HTU to search for others over Twitter)
  • Talk with other people interested in your idea—they can join you as co-presenters or just attend and participate in the discussion.
  • Turn your ideas into proposals that you post in the Humanizing the Un-conference area of the MCN Lounge 8AM to 5PM on Thursday.
  • Sessions will be assigned to available rooms on Thursday evening and room assignments for accepted proposals will be listed on the easel pad in the Humanizing the Un-conference area of the MCN Lounge, on signs outside the conference rooms where the session are held, in the #MCN2018 app, and will be announced on MCN’s Twitter account.

Examples of session descriptions could look like:

 

  • What is a Pilot, and how do I do that? is a discussion about piloting digital initiatives, and how you can make them work in your organization.
  • This Digital Thing is Dead.  A session for #musetech folks to commiserate over tech projects in museums that utterly failed.  We’ll discuss how we might possibly change those failures to successes.
  • Present your session from 3:15 – 4 p.m. Friday!

 

All rooms will have easel pads, markers, post it notes, and A/V capability.

Join us for this one of a kind experience!  We can’t wait to see how you create the conference’s final discussions, and where that will take us after MCN!

 

Max Evjen headshot

Max Evjen

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The MCN 2018 Program is DONE

After moving a few million cells around our Program Team Google Sheets, the schedule for MCN 2018 is complete and will be going live soon. Here are a few highlights from this year’s program:

  • In addition to three pre-conference tours and eight workshops, we have a new Tuesday offering—a pair of “MCN Field Trips,” combining a visit to a local artist’s space with a lively discussion of a conference-theme-related topic.
  • For the second straight year we have several “other-format” sessions, including all-day drop-in teaching sites for DIY digital experiences and UX techniques, the return of group peer-mentoring with #MCNergy, and a laid-back Slow Looking space.
  • There will be an unconference for Social Media and, this year, “Humanizing the Unconference,” with opportunities for impromptu attendee-driven sessions on the final day of MCN.
  • Also on the conference’s final day, we have a block of sessions devoted to presentations by museum technologists from Denver-area institutions.
  • Finally, our 11 Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have each endorsed a conference session. Check them out!
    • From Folders to Facets: Improving the DAM User Experience for Creative Types | DAM SIG
    • Developing Process as Product in a Time of Change: Building the Miranda Digital Asset Platform at the Folger Shakespeare Library | IIIF SIG
    • Strategies for Scale and Sustainability | Strategy SIG
    • Toward a DAMS-driven Licensing Platform | IP SIG
    • Modern IT Infrastructure for the Museum of Tomorrow | IT SIG
    • DIY Digital Playground: A MuseTech Interpretive Media Resource and Skillshare Center | Educational and Interpretation SIG
    • An Evaluative Practice: Embracing Unanticipated Findings in Evaluation | Data and Insights SIG
    • From Request to Ingest: Creating ordering and tracking systems to make your museum imaging workflow work for you. | Digital Imaging SIG
    • When Museums Came Out to Play: #MuseumSnowballFight and Enhancing Your Digital Personality Through Collaboration | Social Media SIG
    • Pivoting to video: What museums can learn from media and journalism producers | Media and Production SIG
    • UX Lounge | Human-Centered Design SIG

Thank you all your over 200 amazing, high-quality submissions. We can’t wait for you to see the results of the Program Committee’s reviews and our tetrising of the timetable.

The Program co-chairs

Adrienne Lalli Hills, Robert Weisberg, and Catherine Devine

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Heads up! Limited Early Bird tickets this year

This year we are changing our Early Bird ticket allotment to make it more predictable.

Starting with MCN 2018, only a limited number of Early Bird tickets will be available.

Predicting conference attendance is difficult and affects MCN’s ability to make reliable financial projections. One of the ways we believe we can have a better handle on this is by limiting the number of Early Bird tickets available.

Registration opens on June 28 with 150 Early Bird tickets up for grabs on a first-come, first-served basis until sold out or July 31, whichever comes first.

MCN remains committed to providing the best conference experience your money can buy at a price point we can all live with (conference fees). We look forward to seeing you in Denver in November.

Eric Longo, Executive Director

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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

Over the years, many of you have repeatedly asked for an easier way to search the program, and specifically, an easier way to find the sessions that interest you. We listened.

This year, we’re introducing two changes. First, we no longer ask you to tag your own proposal from a list of 25 keywords. Instead, the Program Committee will do this during the review process. Second, we’re introducing four tracks that essentially represent the various practice areas currently covered by MCN’s Special Interest Groups:

  • Content
  • Strategy
  • Systems
  • Experience

Simplifying the tagging process to these 4 tracks will make navigating the conference program and identifying the sessions you want to attend easier.

Speaking of SIGs … MCN now counts 11 SIGs that are active year-round. Because of the work they do and the discussions they have around their respective practice area, SIGs are a great resource for all of you to tap into, even if you belong to a few of them, or none at all. We encourage all of you to reach out to our SIGs to discuss ideas about possible sessions or topics and for suggestions about potential co-presenters.

Which leads to our next item …

Session Formats and Timing

Less is more. This year, you’ll only have 2 options for the duration of your session: a 30 minute session and a 60 minute session. That’s it. No more 15-minute case studies and 90-minute in-depth panels.

A 30-minute session can be a case study about one project or two related projects (with a preference for two presentations from different institutions), or a presentation on a more general discussion of a particular topic. A 30-minute session can have up to three speakers.

We know that the 15-minute case study format did provide an easy entry point for MCN community members wanting to make a brief presentation, so we ask you not to think of this format change as the end of the case study, but as incentive to pair up with another presenter—or, if you don’t have someone in mind, to contact the Program team, jump onto the MCN Slack Channel, or reach out to a SIG to find someone to present with.

A 60-minute session can be a presentation offering a deeper dive into a particular topic, with up to five speakers (note the speaker limit—more on that below), or a “hands-on” technology demonstration with articulated learning outcomes (though not as intense as a half-day workshop). We believe that the five-speaker limit will incentivize discussion and audience participation. Note that all 60-minute sessions will have the option to opt for using Slido for live audience polling and question up-voting during your presentation. You will be required to participate in an online demo during the summer if you wish to use Slido in your session.

Our traditional Tuesday half-day workshops remain part of the program.

And the same holds for our popular Ignite talks, a series of five-minute, 20-slide presentations, which traditionally kicks off the conference on Tuesday night; click here for video of last year’s talks and also visit Koven Smith’s 2017 blog post on submitting an Ignite proposal. Also, we’ll make sure the location of the Ignite venue offers more opportunities to meet and congregate with your fellow MCNers when the event concludes.

Finally, we’re continuing with last year’s wide-open, “other format” proposals—you’re welcome to suggest a session like last year’s popular Green Room, #MCNergy, Listening Lounge, and “Slow Change” silent disco. (You can read more about this innovative format here.) This is not, however, a pass to propose a longer version of a 60-minute session. Think hard about what a longer-timed session will accomplish and what kind of set-up you will require. A single session can’t easily be granted consecutive blocks of time in the same space. Be persuasive! Note that “other format” proposals can involve a larger number of participating presenters, but please discuss with the Program team ahead of time.

New Voices and New Takes on Current Ideas

How Might We” also asked us to consider:

How might we ensure new ideas don’t crowd out important fundamentals and big thinking doesn’t replace hands-on skills?

Regarding the proposals themselves, we are trying to further open up the sessions for presentations by attendees who haven’t spoken before, as well as emphasizing new perspectives on important topics which we hear about every year. We’ll be asking during the submission process if proposers have presented on this topic before, and how often speakers have presented at MCN in the past. Please don’t think of this as a limit as much as a call for expanding the horizons of our discussions. Come up with unique takes and bring in current trends on issues of interest to all. Think hard about what your proposal is really adding to the reflection on your topic.

If we haven’t heard from you at MCN, we want to hear from you! We’re asking MCN veterans and newbies alike to reach across the experience aisle and bring people who haven’t presented often to the stage. For newcomers, propose sessions on what you want to learn and hear about. Use social, or SIGs, or even contact the Program chairs if you’d like help in building a team for a proposal with new people and new ideas, whether it’s hands-on approach that’ll give attendees new skills they can take back to their institutions, or a deep dive into issues that are bedeviling the field. Think about the problems that you want solved—chances are, there’s someone out there in the community who would love to get involved and join you.

Now, about that submission process … 

Some Tough Love on Submitting (and Changing) Proposals

Last year we received 205 proposals, and while it’s a joy getting so much input and participation from the community, too many proposals were submitted in various stages of incompleteness: some showed “speakers TBD” or speakers were listed in the wrong field, some were missing short or long abstracts, others didn’t list the session leader and co-presenters correctly, others were missing bios or emails for speakers, which made contacting session participants more difficult.

While we understand that submitting a conference proposal is often time-consuming, reviewing incomplete proposals makes our job much harder: remember that Program Committee members are volunteers.  

So, this year we’ll start to require more complete information on speakers as well as a single 200-word abstract. (No more information TBD!) In addition, sessions cannot be contingent on data or community case studies still to be performed. This year, all submissions will be vetted before the review process begins, and submissions deemed incomplete will be returned to the session proposer, who will have up to 72 hours to re-submit, at which point the deadline will be final and any proposals still incomplete will not be considered.  

We will, however, allow editing of submitted proposals before the Call closes on April 30. In addition, after acceptances are sent out in June, all requests for changes to sessions will have to be made via a Google Form, not by email. These requests will be reviewed within 48 hours by the Program Team.  

Speakers for accepted sessions will have until the end of June to confirm acceptance and until the end of August to join MCN and register for the conference (except for US government federal employees). We understand that your ability to register may be dependent on your institution’s funding, and that timing often fluctuates, but speakers not registered by that date will not be able to participate in the session.

But it’s not all about rules. We’re also serious about your professional development. “How Might We” also invited us to consider:

How might we help speakers become better teachers and also partners in the success of the conference?

Workshop presenters will be asked to indicate their previous experience level at teaching workshops, and will need to provide a detailed agenda. All accepted workshop presenters will be required to participate (sometime over the summer) in an online training session designed to refine your skills as a workshop leader. Remember, workshops are optional—they cost more for attendees to register and often require they spend an extra day at the conference. As such, MCN needs to ensure that workshops deliver the value and quality attendees should expect.

Look for ideas and teaching tips in the coming months for presenters in regular conference sessions as well. MCN will continue to support all our presenters between now and November.

All presenters for accepted sessions will be required to read and sign the Presenters Guidelines, which have been updated to reflect the changes mentioned in this post. Please read it carefully before you submit a proposal as it answers many questions you might have about the conference. Reading it closely may help you avoid panicked questions later! There will be a quiz and prizes!

A Word on the “Chatham House” Rule

All sessions during MCN’s annual conference areby defaultaudio-recorded, supported by an open social media policy. However, we understand that, in the interests of open dialogue, some session organizers might wish for anonymity. This year, you’ll have the option to check a box next to Chatham House rule to indicate that you prefer anonymity for your session. By capturing that preference in the submission process, MCN will also be able to indicate that preference in the online and printed program; later requests can be made using the Session Changes form. Session leaders will need to clearly let their attendees know, at the start of their session, just what this means.

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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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

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