Ignite MCN 2021: Let It Burn: The Smoke & Mirrors of Social Media “Success”

Let It Burn: The Smoke & Mirrors of Social Media “Success” (IGNITE)


Unknown Speaker 00:01
Next up, keeping this Ignite, train going, keeping this Ignite flame going. We'll be ushered into the second half by Adrian Lewis, this is making my slides in place. This is Israel's first Ignite first time as an Ignite speaker, and this is his first MC n conference ever. So please give Adrian a big welcome. He's a curator of the, at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. And I got a little peek of what he's about to drop today, this past summer, in an article he published called bigger than the internet museums and the digital colonization of the web. So if you want to hear more from Adrian, please do run don't walk after the Ignite to check that out. So h2o, so glad you're here. Take it away. Thank you so much, Andrea.

Unknown Speaker 01:05
Hi, everyone. I'm tuning in from Tonga aka Los Angeles, the traditional home of the tongue, but people I'm so excited to join you all for my very first Ignite talk. And like everyone else, I can't think of the word Ignite without thinking about Asscher maybe quarantining in LA is getting to me but the word Ignite immediately inspires visions of the palm tree set ablaze in the 2004 hit burn. The first website I ever built back in 98 was on Angel fire and it was soundtrack by a mini version of You make me wanna. When I started college, and finally got a dorm with a T one connection, the first thing I did was download at 701 on kazaa. This is my confession. Usher has always been a guiding light stewarding my way as I was looking for myself on the internet. And just a few weeks ago, Usher reappeared once again to illuminate how I understand the world around. In September 2021, CBS announced this new reality show featuring you guessed it, Usha entitled The activists, the show pits contestants against each other to come up with solutions for the world's most pressing issues. Climate change, gender equality, global poverty, the winners will be determined not by the actual impact they made towards a cause, but by the impressions they were able to make on social media. Of course, the blowback from the public was searing. People pointed out that you can't measure success with likes, retweets, or Tick Tock remixes. The show was swiftly cancelled. And as creators apologize for trivializing the labor of social change. And reading about this, I couldn't help but think about my countless Zoom meetings about how museums can make meaningful impact during the pandemic. I worked at the Smithsonian, I work at the Smithsonian and we've doubled down on social media to address the recent loss of inperson visitorship. Even though we all know liking a tweet isn't the same as visiting an exhibition. But hedging on clicks and views precedes this era. In 2017, the Smithsonian unveiled a goal to reach a billion people per year, and since then, it has steadily decreased. It's an annual goals from museum visits and direct website visits while increasing his targets for Facebook and Twitter followers. But it's not just the Smithsonian, a global survey found that many museums define success as increasing digital reach on websites, social media and subscriber basis. But is that actual success. As a curator of digital media, I've come to understand analytics as a phenomenon that we seem to chase log, send up the chain, and eventually see vanished behind a cloud of smoke. If we're lucky, we might use it to get a grant from a funder who also has no idea what to do with social media success, but it's enthralled by it anyway. But who are we actually benefiting with this numbers game? And is it really worth the cost? I know the hope is that social media will widen accessibility, especially to populations that have been marginalized by museums. But a revolutionary Instagram posts means nothing if institutions continue practicing methods that put the public in harm's way. We've all seen social media accounts become successful by doing the exact opposite of the good museums work, heightening confusion, dividing communities, pandering to the fleeting. And meanwhile, the platforms we share with these accounts, engage in extractive data collection that mirrors the colonial practices of museums, the ways that platforms make our private information vulnerable to being tracked, hacked, stolen, and misused, are familiar to how museums have historically exploited people and environments for the sake of accruing data and content. I wrote about this in my recent paper bigger than the internet. In it, I argued that the internet offers ways for institutions to rethink their practices and more equitable ways, but how we often use it to make collective liberation further from reach. In this paper, I end by asking, if success doesn't look like follows, likes, views, or hits, what does it look like? Maybe it looks like showing the public how forming one's own views on an artwork can train us to stop relying on other people's opinions to draw our own conclusions. Maybe it looks like proving that you can stop investing time and energy in a problematic platform and still thrive. Even if it shuts down for like seven hours. Maybe it starts with agreeing that human worth can't be measured by how someone taps their finger as a community of people who care about museums and technology. I'd like for us to figure this out together. I mean, who knows? Just might usher in a new world of possibilities.

Unknown Speaker 06:08
We are here for Usher and we are here for you age we'll so much fire I feel like the I want to be the Mario version right throws fireballs. It's just so good. Thank you so much a drill and welcome to MC n. Oh Mike, I can't believe this is your first time seeing conference. Thank you so much for diving right in. Attending MCs Ignite talk. It's your first one