Although my motivation for doing this thesis on the potential for digital and social media in museums, online and onsite, was a belief in the relevance and topicality of the issue; I have been slightly overwhelmed by the mass of online blogs and debates on the matter – just check out the blogroll for a quick overview. On the one hand, this is of course a great source of inspiration and information, and a reaffirmation of my choice of focus. On the other, it also causes a certain confusion.
The sheer volume of blogpost backlogs, debates and online papers that I feel compelled to at least get an overview over, is a challenge in itself, but at least now I am starting to be able to identify some of the central voices and institutions. But only some of them. I realize that since my starting point has been the MW2009 conference that I will be joining in a couple of weeks, my research so far has been dominated by the viewpoints and experiences of the American, Canadian and Australian museums professionals. Now, America has had a head start when it comes to developing digital media for museums, which means a chance to tap into 15 years of experience.
But – when these American experts state that visitors love to get involved in social media interactions with their sites and institutions, can I trust that the same would be the case for Danish visitors? Not necessarily. But how to judge which experience to build on an which to label culture-specific? Hopefully identifying more European, Scandinavian and Danish forums than I already have will help to balance and widen the cultural perspective. Which ofcourse will add to the already awe-inspiring mass of utterances, but so be it.
But another potential problem is that this lively debate takes place between museum practitioners, not (practicing) academics. Which doesn’t mean that their experiences are not valid, far from it – but are they valid as part of an academic argument when they provide no empirical evidence to back up their claims?
Still, for the part of my project that concerns concept development, I guess I can take my inspiration from where I find it. And hopefully, when it comes to arguing for my choices and for my academic findings, I will find a way of sorting the wheat from the chaff, and keeping my focus and argument clear by remembering these distinctions between my sources.