This week's reading

I’m currently taking a look at the museology (museum studies) discipline. Books I am looking at this week include:

Dudley, S., 2010. Museum Materialities: Objects, Engagements, Interpretations. Taylor & Francis.

Hein, G.E., 2002. Learning in the Museum, Museum Meanings. Taylor & Francis.

Hein, H.S., 2000. MUSEUM IN TRANSITION, Biological Diversity Handbook Series. Smithsonian.

Kavanagh, G., 2000. Dream Spaces: Memory and the Museum. Bloomsbury.

Vergo, P., 1997. New Museology, RB-Critical Views. Reaktion Books.

Some initial survey results

As part of a module, Technology Business Planning, I sent out a questionnaire to colleagues in CIT, by way of market research for a (fictitious) business plan covering a startup business that offers a social media and mobile app solution to museums (and the GLAM sector in general).

So far there are 113 respondents. Some of the key findings so far:

  • 85.6% own a mobile device (smartphone or tablet)
  • 18.6% of mobile device owners had installed a cultural heritage app
  • 67.9% visited a museum at least once a year
  • 67.7% were moderate to extreme users of social media
  • 12.4% had shared their museum experiences online
  • 74.3% thought it would be somewhat or very useful to have a mobile app in a museum that would provide additional exhibit information
  • 44.2% found the idea of social media integration somewhat or very desirable

I can conclude that the use of mobile devices in the museum is very appealing, while social media integration had a lukewarm appeal.

It was difficult in a survey to give the respondent an idea of what the social media integration would be like. My gut feeling is that a different approach would be needed, such as field testing a prototype or at least providing screen mockups and perhaps video of the social media aspect of the platform in action.

It’s been a useful exercise so far. I intend to do some more analysis once I export from SurveyMonkey into CSV format. I’ll either learn to do this using SPSS or take the lazy approach and find a student to find some correlations – e.g. age and mobile device ownership or age and desire to use mobile devices in the museum.

The rigor of the research isn’t good enough to think about writing a publishable paper, but it gives me some ammunition for the business plan deliverable of the Technology Business Planning module, and it is something I can share with museum owners / directors to entice them into being interviewed for my PhD.

I also collected some comments as part of the survey, which were all anonymous, so I will share some of those and discuss them in another post.

Conferences on Museum Technology

I have started looking into the popular conferences on or related to museum technology. The list, so far, includes:

One thing is for sure – they are not the cheapest to attend.

Apparently, electric cars aren't for everyone in Ireland

As I suspected, to become an ambassador for the ESB’s electric car initiative (The Great Electric Drive), there are a few conditions that rule out a lot of people. See their application form here and click on “?” next to “Do you have a dedicated parking spot?”.

It says:

In most cases, it is a requirement to install a charge point on the wall adjacent to your parking space

On the one hand electric cars on the future. On the other city living is the future, as is apartment dwelling and living in terraced houses with communal parking. So for the vast majority of these, electric cars are not an option. How about some solutions, ESB? I live in a terraced house and I do not have dedicated parking, but would like to drive an electric car.

I work at Cork Institute of Technology and I have noticed on the driveway into the college that there is an electric car charge point. That’s fine as a top-up, but no good if I can’t leave my car there overnight.

I posted the following comment on their blog:

I live in a terraced house. The application form states: “In most cases, it is a requirement to install a charge point on the wall adjacent to your parking space”. It would appear that electric cars aren’t the answer for everyone. If the future is electric, how are ESB going to provide services to the many who live in terraced houses, apartments, etc? The predictions for the number of people who will be city dwellers in the coming decades would point to a lot more people in apartments and terraced houses with shared parking. Answers, please….

Presenting at CESI 2014

I will be presenting at the Computers in Education Society of Ireland annual conference on Saturday, March 1st.

The presentation will explain the challenges faced when teaching online highly-technical software development subjects, with specific reference to the experience of delivering such modules in Cork Institute of Technology. The presentation will address how some of these challenges have been met successfully, while others remain to be resolved satisfactorily.

Some of the challenges explored include:

  • Supporting remote students working on complex projects using complex tools
  • Facilitating and monitoring group projects for remote students
  • Building community spirit to encourage peer-support

Some of the solutions explored include:

  • Incentivised forums and private journals
  • Cloud-based shared code repositories
  • Consistent virtual desktop environments
  • Ensuring software projects run “out of the box” to streamline lecturer or tutor support and grading
  • Cloud-based agile project management software

Anecdotal evidence will be supplied to illustrate frustrations that students face in a mixed synchronous / asynchronous delivery model where peer support is expected to be the first port of call.

Food Blogging as Serious Leisure

I found an interesting article on food blogging as serious leisure (Cox and Blake, 2011). One interesting quote from a serious food blogger was:

"Obsession. Food is what I do. If I’m not cooking or eating I’m thinking about it or writing a recipe or going out somewhere to a restaurant."

I’m wondering if there might be a parallel in cultural tourism as serious leisure (and my competitive cultural tourist).

Cox, A.M., Blake, M.K., 2011. Information and food blogging as serious leisure. Aslib Proceedings 63, 204–220.

I’m wondering if a study of travel blogging might reveal something similar about cultural tourism as serious leisure and whether I see signs of something competitive (e.g. some degree of bragging or some way that the blogger highlights how travelled they are). Definitely worth consider such a study and possibly a research paper.

Serious Leisure and Amateurism

I’ve started reading Amateurs, Professional and Serious Leisure by Robert A. Stebbins (1992). I am curious about what I would call the “competitive cultural tourist”, a hypothesis I have that given a globe-trekking gamification mechanism through a social media website with mobile device support, the cultural tourist will become competitive with other cultural tourists. The distinction, then, between the amateur (my competitive cultural tourist) and the professional (e.g. historians, archaeologists) is important and the blurring of the lines is worth exploring.

A good example is the amateur astronomer. They often “compete” on a level footing with the professional astronomer and have contributed greatly to knowledge, with rewards such as having bodies or phenomenon in space named after them. It isn’t a perfect parallel to what I am researching, since museum exhibits have already been curated (to a certain extent – there could be further digital curation by the “amateur”), but it could be fertile ground in the amateur versus professional discussion.

Stebbins, R., 1992. Amateurs, Professionals and Serious Leisure. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, QC, CAN.

Quantitative Data Analysis & SPSS / Competitive Cultural Tourism / Phonegap vs Android

The last time I studied statistics was quite a few years ago, so I have much to refresh and more to learn for the first time on quantitative data analysis.

I have started reading a quick intro to that and the SPSS statistical analysis software package – “Quantitative Data Analysis with SPSS: An introduction for the Health and Social Sciences”. It’s only 144 pages and takes a pragmatic approach to dealing with a simple questionnaire and how to analyse the data generated from it. I did start reading another longer text, but found it extremely dense and written with what seemed like a disdain for the non-stats person.

My thoughts are that I may need to do some preliminary research on current technology in the museum, use of social media, etc, and this may involve creating a questionnaire or two for either museum owners / directors or the “cultural tourists” who visit the museums.

Once field testing the platform I am developing, analysis of questionnaire data will probably be one of the methodologies used.

I am also starting to look at more research on the cultural tourist and what Robert Stebbins calls “Serious Leisure”. I want to establish how this fits into my idea of the “competitive cultural tourist”, that is, one that takes pride in showing off their globe-trekking cultural tourism exploits.

I also gave consideration to the mobile development platform and whether to go with a multi-platform platform like PhoneGap or to go native and stick to Android and Java for now. I think native is winning out, due to the need for support of barcodes and NFC – which can be supported in phonegap, but I suspect would lead to technical headaches. My research isn’t all about supporting every platform to be as commercial as possible; it is to prove that a mobile and social platform that I propose is viable and desirable.

Downloading and Importing the Tate Dataset

The Tate is probably most famous for the Tate Modern in London, but has other galleries too. They recently made available a dataset of all their artworks and artists.

I decided to investigate. I discovered that the dataset is stored on gitHub and is available in CSV and JSON formats. The JSON version is the most comprehensive.

This was perfect for my teaching requirements. This coming week I am covering the concept of the document-oriented data model. JSON is ideally suited to this and can be loaded into most document-oriented databases, such as the one I will be using by way of example, MongoDB.

I encountered a slight issue, however. The dataset is organised into subfolders, with each artist and artwork in its own individual JSON file. MongoDB’s import command only works with single files. So I had to devise a way to recursively drill down through the folder structure downloaded from gitHub.

I achieved this by searching for a Windows shell command (would have been easier to find a Linux solution) that would recursively list the files in a folder. I then had to prepend the mongoimport command to import the documents into a collection in a new database. I did this to create an artworks collection and an artists collection.

If using Windows, you open the command prompt, change directories to go into the artworks folder and issue the following command (assumes MongoDB in installed in C:mongodb and that you want to use the database tate):

(for /r %i in (*) do @echo C:mongodbbinmongoimport --collection artworks --file %i --db tate --jsonArray) > out.txt

[Note: afterwards, you need to delete the listing of the out.txt file from out.txt]

Repeat for the artists collection, just changing the collection to artists and go into the artists folder in the collections downloaded from gitHub.

Easiest thing to do then is to copy and paste from the out.txt file and paste into the command prompt and see it add thousands of documents – difficult with the size of the artworks file. Otherwise develop it into a batch script. Linux is the better platform for that.

Is there an easier way to do this?

I’ll post again on the type of analysis I perform on the data.

New Blog

I’ve moved from to the more personal domain. I’ll be blogging more actively about my research from here on.