Good Grief! Maintaining Public Trust in Online Content

Motto: You can fool too many of the people too much of the time. (James Thurber)

This is one section of a report from the Center for the Future of Museums. See Museums and Society 2019 for the executive summary and links to the other sections.

The Challenge:Edit

Museums depend on a seamless network of wireless communications. They automatically download interpretive content onto visitors’ cell phones or PDAs, monitor which galleries and objects a visitor spends the most time with and suggest objects or gift shop items based on that data. They also monitor visitors’ biometric chips to identify whether elderly or ill visitors need first aid. This has made museums terribly vulnerable to griefing—cybervandals adding or corrupting information provided by the museum over the web or through wireless devices. Due to decreased visitation, many museums are trying to establish or expand their virtual presence on the web, but this is hampered by the increasing amount of cybervandalism and decreasing public confidence in web-based content.

Help us face this challenge! Add your solutions to the following questions, and pose new questions.

How can museums maintain public trust in their content in an age of griefing?Edit

Through new "visitation" models (see [1] ), museums are able to reinforce the public trust through constant in-person outreach. In addition, they form strong ties with local educational, cultural, religious institutions as well as publicly owned media-related agencies. Together they collaborate on the protection of information.

How can museums adopt low tech or high tech methods to secure their on-line information?Edit

===How can museums reach some of the angry, malicious or mischievous young people engaged in griefing, and give them a constructive outlet for their energy and concerns?===What the heck is griefing? Why do we assume that young people are angry, malicious or mischievous because they use things in new or different ways? [In the Superstruct universe,griefing refers to the practice of manipulating on-line data to aggrevate or harass--making private information public; posting false information; corrupting or altering existing data to discredit owners of the data or mislead users. See superthreat Outlaw Planet for a briefing on the prevalence of griefing in 2019.]

We can't hope to secure thousands of museum websites using either low tech or high tech solutions. The only guarantee is to aggregate all the museum websites into a single uber-website, security then only needs to focus on a single point of access and a one-time investment in state-of-the-art security should protect all museums' online presence.

Not only would this solve the griefing problem, but would provide a single point to search and connect the nation's collections, a dream since the early days of the web, but never realised because there was no driving force. By extension, the website would be managed centrally with tools provide by a collaboration between the largest institutions, accessible by all museums, based on rigorous authentication. The website would be served by a single collections information system, a single web content management system and a single digital asset management system, removing the barrier of entry down to the smallest museum. The skill, expertise and authority of the largest museums would transfer to all museums.

How can museums learn to engage with online communities in ways that demonstrate respect and that further mutual interests and goals. Trust is a two way street after all.Edit

Museums in online environments have more often taking the approach of the Recording Industry Association of America by viewing "online people" as thieves who are either stealing their content or not contributing to the bottom line by adding to gate counts. For the RIAA this approach has alienated core audiences leading to deepening mistrust - not unlike the bleak picture painted here. Other communities have responded to the challenge differently. Wikipedia for example, has attracted a strong core of dedicated volunteers who help police online content to maintain community established standards. These kinds of volunteers are passionate about learning and about making contributions towards things they care about...not about what they might purchase in the gift shop. By 2019 museums hopefully will realize that online users are as diverse as the real-life communities they serve. They are not just another "market" to be mined for revenue, but also consist of intelligent, well-educated people who wish to be contributing partners in achieving our shared missions. -Musebrarian