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Notes from National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2019

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2019
November 19-20, 2019
Te Papa Tongarewa (Wellington, New Zealand)

The 2019 NDF conference was another two days full of ideas, inspiration, challenges, and network building. The four keynote presentations were stellar as usual and provided a lot of things to think about, ranging from creating new and beautiful data visualizations, facilitating more diverse perspectives on Wikipedia, cracking the patriarchy by getting men to work with others who don’t look and sound like them on media projects, and empowering people with data about the health of their homes to prevent illness and death. The other sessions offered useful information and ideas for how to educate and engage audiences in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAM) sector. The conference hashtag was #NDFNZ and videos of the sessions are available on NDF’s YouTube channel.

Day 1 – November 19, 2019

Keynote: We Are Here – Chris McDowall and Tim Denee (away)

We Are Here book

We Are Here

The conference began with a keynote by Chris McDowall, co-author of We Are Here, an amazing book of data visualizations using New Zealand data. He completed his PhD on data structure and calls himself a geographer to make it easier to describe to people what he does, and he said he wanted to show us what goes on in his head as a geographer in mediating between technology and observation. In showing the audience some maps, he acknowledged that there are problems with maps, such as that they enable states and corporations to exert power at a distance. Yet there is good in these technologies and some things that can only be said through maps. He showed some examples from a predecessor book, Contemporary Atlas New Zealand: The Shapes of Our Nation by Russell Kirkpatrick, that shows the activities of three women; the one on the left is someone who gets out and moves around town a lot, while the one on the right is a widow who is largely homebound. This is a way of visualizing data that can lead to other analysis and thought about what is occurring in society.


Contemporary Atlas New Zealand: The Shapes of Our Nation

three city women infographic

Three City Women visualization from Contemporary Atlas New Zealand: The Shapes of Our Nation by Russell Kirkpatrick

He showed the visualization of New Zealand music like a river that was very cool. He used Discogs API and built a spider program, and also relied on AudioCulture (“The noisy library of NZ music”) for information. He and Gareth Shute, a music historian, spent many hours reading all the musician biographies on Audioculture, on Wikipedia, on their own websites, and then putting dates and key info in a spreadsheet.

There were various interstitial essays in his book, and he encouraged writers to set their own tone; interestingly, about half looked at drafts of content beforehand but the other half didn’t and had to write just based on conversation about the content in general. At the last minute, a friend told them they should go with a matte page rather than glossy, because too much reflective light would exhaust the reader, and he is glad they went with matte for the book in the end. In terms of gathering feedback throughout the book-making, he discovered that he would receive less and feedback because people were busy, so he worked in isolation for too long before realizing that he needed feedback from people. So he changed his strategy and invited people over for a drink to get feedback without any other commitment needed and found this worked better than relying on emails.

He discussed the debate between having place names on maps or removing them. Getting rid of place names can allow the reader to see coastlines and discover mountains, etc. for themselves and let maps stand more as artistic on their own, so they are not always needed or wanted. What he wanted overall was for maps to be for everyone, so they couldn’t require him to be there to explain them. There’s an emotional dimension to trying to understand something that is opaque or hard, and he said he sometimes forgets how non-cartographers can find a map is ‘not for them’ and turn the page. He didn’t want that to be readers’ experience with this book. Along with that thinking, sometimes putting in something that’s obvious is important, and he gave the example of the icons/silhouettes of birds in one section. They let readers jump into each map without having to decode and avoid the need for legends, which are good for reference maps but not for visualizations like in his book.

secret lives of cats infographic

Secret Lives of Cats visualization from We Are Here

He talked about trying to find the balance in political issues and that putting the pages next to each other on birdlife and then predators like stoats and cats was one of the few minor editorializing instances. The page turning effect doesn’t seem to be able to be replicated in digital, but in print, the reader can proceed from a page on birds to one on rats and then one on the Secret Lives of Cats, which shows where a group of cats in Wellington travelled through tracking devices, and this can create different emotions in the reader as they see the relationship between bird populations, for example, and the number of other animals. He said some people are delighted by the page on the Secret Lives of Cats, and think thought like oh, where’s my cat, but others are disturbed.

He wants the book to be a point of conversation and dialogue and for lots of people to read it.

tools used in We Are Here

Tools used in making We Are Here book

There was another point about with data, not losing the trees for the forest sometimes. His example was when looking at data in Digital NZ API and finding a photo with the tags ‘Maori’, ‘horse’, ‘woman’, trying to visualize that didn’t do the photo or the data justice. Sometimes we need to see the photo for what’s important. They were able to make the book with data that was all open except for two datasets, and they used all open source software except Adobe Illustrator. They released the programming code on Github.

A Pacific Virtual Museum: Connecting device and dispersed people with taonga – Mark Crookston

Crookston discussed the Pacific Virtual Museum multi-year pilot project that is starting now and attempting to make connections via a virtual museum (see also the Pacific Libraries Network). An interesting and relevant fact is that although there are 8% Pacific people in New Zealand, they make up 36% of youth.

Keeping time: Digital dance archive adventures in North America – Rebecca Galloway

Galloway discussed her experience being at the Jacob’s Pillow dance festival in Massachusetts for nine months about a decade ago. In looking to create a website to showcase dance, Director of Preservation Norton Owen thought people would rather see a hint of something that intrigues them than whole videos, so this informed the development of the project. They wanted to consider the joy of use (a la Marie Kondo), not just ease of use. The site can be considered to fall into edutainment and is a type of online museum for the dance world. It has been called “irresistible” by the Washington Post. She liked the quote from an unknown source about how the digital world has thrust us into a world of perpetual migration. Something interesting about user design was that in Canada, everyone knows a French version of something will be 25% longer than English, so UX people know to consider this. This kind of design knowledge needs to be transferred to a NZ context.

Regional ambassador showcase – Jennifer Taylor Moore and Tim Jones

They noted some of the highlights, issues, and questions raised at the NDF regional forums, including things like the issue of a lack of IT support or infrastructure at smaller sites. Questions to consider going forward include: Is NDF a training provider? Could it be? Should it be? What would a business model look like? Are there training needs that are the same over time? Do people get unconferenced out? Is networking valuable in itself?

John Mawurndjul – Jean-Pierre Chabrol and Jazz Money

Chabrol and Money are from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and discussed the John Mawurndjul exhibit “I am the old and the new”, which came from a quote from the artist himself. There are over 250 independent Aboriginal groups and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia and 600 dialects, so it is not like New Zealand in terms of the ability to have things be bilingual in a straightforward way. There was a challenge in working with a contemporary artist who is internationally known and had two shows in Europe but is not a known name in Australia. The exhibit was bilingual, which was big for Australia, and the linguistic area is one of most linguistically complex places on Earth. They did their best to provide a type of ‘indigenous level of safety’ for the artist by doing specific things like recording him in his language and ensuring that all of the digital resources belong to him and his community. In addition, everything was directed by the artist, which sadly is not common for indigenous artists in Australia.

Bringing archives alive: Using tech to tell the stories of the past – Alison Breese

Breese is an archivist at the Dunedin City Council and recently finished a postgraduate degree on public toilets in Dunedin that has received press coverage (Otago Daily Times article; Stuff article). She wanted to use VR to make a tour of underground toilets, but this process was cumbersome and only one person could do it at a time. 3rd-year IT students from Otago Polytechnic were enlisted to create an app to do a similar thing, and photogrammetry (stitching images together) was used to stitch hundreds of images together to create a virtual model of the space.

Raranga Matihiko – Weaving digital futures – Tara Fagan

This programme at Te Papa with other partners aimed to create an “education innovation” learning environment targeted at youth who don’t go to traditional GLAM sites like a museum. It wasn’t about turning them into coders but showing them how to use tech for meaningful things. There were 16 hours of contact between students and facilitators, and the programme connected young people with museums in a way that they could combine social experiences and technology. Some hadn’t ever been into Wellington city, even if they lived a short distance away, or hadn’t ridden an elevator so found the experience completely novel. There was a principle of ako underpinning it: everyone is a teacher and a learner. The students gained digital citizen and fluency skills as well as learning about digital museums and access (e.g. copyright issues). They also weren’t forced to use tech all the time; they could choose to use pen and paper or different types of tech. Students learned about possible career paths in cultural heritage (“Do you mean I could work here and care for our taonga?” “Yes!”), and everything was open source so students could use elsewhere if they had internet access. It strengthened students’ self-esteem (having the two facilitators helped) and another good result was that students were returning to the museum with their family on the weekends. Fagan showed a video of the virtual whare with a voice-over by Year 9 students, who used Tilt Brush by Google and Kapwing.

CSI: Pukekawa – Digital and natural experiences in the Auckland Domain – Ruby Moore and Tom Rowlands

Moore is Land Fauna Collections Manager at Auckland Museum, and Rowlands is Learning Specialist there. They mentioned projects like Bioblitz, a 24-hour survey of biodiversity that is a big public engagement event; bird studies that have found more tui in the city; and iNaturalist – Auckland Domain Project that is online citizen science that is open and available to anyone with a device. The latter creates another connection between museum staff and the public and teaches people to record important collection information. There is a remnant patch of forest in the Auckland Domain, next to the Auckland Museum, and this was used for the CSI: Pukekawa education programme (CSI standing for Citizen Science Investigations). It enables student agency and has students doing science and engaging with scientists, it complements the new digital curriculum, and it shows the potential for collaboration between nature and digital rather than competition between them. They teach students to be digitally responsible when uploading content to the iNaturalist site, and that people from all over the world can see their photo uploads (e.g. please don’t post a photo of a taxidermied penguin or Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones). An interesting observation from Moore was that her expertise was considered more legitimate by one student after it went online. She explained, “I became more real when I went through a digital medium” and that one student was only half listening to her explanation about a specimen until she uploaded it online and once he saw it there, he lit up and said “Oh, it’s a such-and-such”.

Museum in a box: Curiosity machines – Mandy Herrick and Tom Rowlands

They took as their challenge: how to marry 3-D objects from museums to a story or stories, and their question: how can we blow the minds of these young children? They used three components: NFC stickers, an NFC reader, and a Raspberry Pi computer. NFC uses the same technology as Snapper or transport cards and is increasingly being used in the museum environment (see The Wonderland coming to Te Papa). They interviewed youth to find out what they already know about the collection, and they thought there were 50 to 201 objects in safekeeping (when actually there are 1.5 million natural history objects and 200,000 human history artifacts, i.e. a lot more!). They decided to use the Museum in a Box created by a London-based company that was piloting them with 40 GLAM institutions around the world. This offers a layered self-guided participatory experience, akin to a micro museum. One significant question was: who would be the narrator/voice for the box? Another project in Capetown used Zulu elders to narrate.

One teacher interviewed liked that students had to use a different sense (auditory), had to listen to find out more. She suggested having an object that relates to students’ culture and country that could be really special, which sounded like an advanced version of the classic ‘show and tell’ activity. This project provided more reach than a traditional museum exhibition. Students loved the tech and hearing from experts, and bringing many voices into classroom could reduce the boredom with having just one teacher’s voice all the time. They suggested it can help to prime students beforehand but this is not essential; in a funny case, one teacher just left the box in classroom for a week and an ambitious and curious student emailed the email address on Rowlands’ business card on the box with lots of questions about what the box was, signalling that this was indeed a curiosity machine for youth.

Where are all the spotted shags? – Guy Annan

This project was about the creation of 3D printed spotted shags and fake poo that were put out in the wild to try to encourage birds to create a colony (RNZ article).

So…what’s the easiest way to process these 352 CD-ROMs? – Flora Feltham

This project was part of an R&D idea to compare two different machines that purported to be able to process CDs faster and more efficiently than human workers could (since this is quite manually intensive normally). It raised the question going forward: how are we going to change archival processes to deal with digital material? In the end, it was determined that the Acronova Nimbie USB Plus worked better than other machine though wasn’t perfect.

Bots I have met – Paul Rowe

bot limitations

Possible bot limitations (remembering science fiction)

The simple yet clever title of Rowe’s presentation foreshadowed a quick preview of bots being used in today’s world and the overriding notion that the more accessible and open content is, the more likely it is to be seen. Rowe first made a paper-based analogy, saying that the first ‘bot’ he encountered was actually a choose-your-own-adventure book that takes you to different places based on your choices. Auckland Art Gallery’s chat bot provides users with things like opening hours, what’s on, and access to the online collection if you ask it something like “send me cake”. It was built using the Facebook Messenger app. There are Twitter bots that can share content from a collection, like tweeting artworks several times a day. The Smithsonian’s humanoid robot, Pepper, is a possible worry in that we’re getting closer to uncanny valley. There are out of the box solutions like Chatfuel and Botsify.

The exhibition closes but the digital offspring lives on – Rachel Bush

Bush discussed how reusing exhibitions helps make the large costs for them more worth it. For example, the butterfly exhibit has been reused elsewhere. She said we need to think of new ways to reach audiences and keep exhibitions alive.

What were you using NZ Museums for today? Digging into user survey results – Emma Philpott

A Hotjar pop-up box on NZmuseums asks users “What were you using NZ Museums for today?” and has gathered 1,600 responses so far. They also have information from Google Analytics, but this wasn’t telling them what people were really doing on the site. They have fortunately received few negative responses (‘none of your business’), but some people have used the box to ask questions but haven’t provided contact details so there’s no way to actually respond to them. She encouraged the audience to ask visitors what they’re doing on your website if you’re not already.

The National Library and digital storage – Cynthia Wu

Wu discussed a new storage platform and two data centres in Wellington and Auckland that now provide geographic redundancy.

Creative Commons copyright licensing explained – Victoria Leachman (away) presented by Catriona McPherson

This presentation provided a helpful overview of Creative Commons licenses, which are kind of like a pre-approval. The analogy of a buss pass was used: just as you don’t travel on a bus without your pass, licenses need to travel with the work they belong to. This can take the form of a credit line, icons, or a list at the end of a presentation. The CC0 one means the author is waiving all rights now and in the future, making it for public domain. Note that you can’t put licenses on a public domain work, which some GLAM places are doing. Also, just because you own the physical work, doesn’t mean you own the copyright.

Possible futures from the present margins: Decolonizing knowledge, decolonizing the internet – Adele Vrana and Anasuya Sengupta

statistics on Wikipedia

Statistics on Wikipedia

This keynote by Vrana and Sengupta from Whose Knowledge? really needs to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated, as they wove facts and stories and struggles and highlights to provide a sobering look at the need to decolonize knowledge and the internet, with a focus on Wikipedia. Originally from Brazil and India, they now live in the US and UK and soon discovered what it was like to be present in a room and yet completely invisible. They are now putting technology into feminist organizing and feminist organizing into technology. They had some audience participation, asking us to chat with a neighbor about what we thought of when we saw these words:

  • Printing press
  • University
  • California Gold Rush

As expected, they said what many people think of is just one perspective or even not accurate. The printing press had origins in China, Japan, and Korea; the first university was founded in Morocco in 859 CE by Fatima al-Fihri; and the California Gold Rush involved the systemic genocide of Native Americans. But in the Wikipedia article for the gold rush, for example, there is a white settler perspective that barely mentions Native Americans.

Geographic unevenness on Wikipedia

The Geographically Uneven Coverage of Wikipedia

They gave a disclaimer saying they know there are Wikipedians who are passionate about the potentialities of the site, but that we need to consider whose knowledge does this site hold? It is default, go-to place for information, including things related to cultural heritage, but it prioritizes only certain knowledge. Only a fraction of human knowledge is represented in books; most is embodied, experiential, oral, auditory, etc. They asked, what might oral knowledge mean for Wikipedia? Connecting with McDowall’s earlier caveat about the problematic nature of maps, they talked about how maps are arguments.

types of knowledge

Different Types of Knowledge

They discussed the difference between embodied (tacit) knowledge and disembodied (formal) knowledge; when you make embodied knowledge visible/recorded, it becomes disembodied and formal, e.g. a dancer performing on stage versus being recorded or interviewed talking about their performance. The information on Wikipedia is amplified by Google, as are the gaps and silences, and we are still living in the shadow of the Enlightenment.

Decolonizing Methodologies book

Decolonizing Methodologies

They drew on ideas from Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, who says that colonizers are okay with taking knowledge from the colonized but then reject the people who created it. They asked, what might a decolonized internet look like? The conversation is very different with women and people of color in the room than it is when there is a mainly white, mainly male, Silicon Valley crowd. Settler colonialism continues online. They said to look out for the State of the Internet’s Languages Report coming out next year and check out the feminist organization, the Association for Progressive Communications.

In looking at education, they said that instead of their students writing papers, they like to do something that goes in online space, but they are warned that they have to be careful as marginalized people not to marginalize others.

They mentioned radical non-institutional GLAM sites like the People’s Archive of Rural India. They recognize deep knowledges have been brutally extracted and abused so respect the rights for people to hold knowledge and choose to become open. They said they ask these questions as we dream of possible futures from the margins and beyond:

  • How have I benefited from colonization, racims, or the comfort of the status quo?
  • What from my own past do I choose to carry forward, and what should I let die?
  • Whose knowledge is still missing, and how can I support and honor the people who best hold these knowledges?
questions to ask of ourselves

Questions to ask as we dream together of possible futures from the margins

There is talk of the digital divide, but offline and online are not a binary but a continuum. Often being online is seen as a binary – you are or you aren’t, but for many in the world the internet is not Firefox or Chrome, it is a smartphone, Facebook, or messaging apps (e.g. Malaysia has the most messaging apps in the world). Many of the elders feel inadequate with digital technology, while young people are comfortably online.

They said discomfort has to be a second skin. If we are the designers of these technologies, we don’t have to trust others; we need to be at the table and behind the computer, coding and creating. It’s time to stop being the end user and be the producer. Yet in the case of Wikipedia, you need access to resources and a computer and leisure to be a Wikipedian, and who gets leisure? Another issue is that you need skills of argumentation if you get reverted or challenged, and not everyone has these or is able to use them on the site. They advised finding a Wikipedian to have in your pocket if you don’t like arguing but have expertise. There are more articles on Wikipedia on Antarctica than on Africa, and one of their articles was speedy-deleted five minutes after creation despite having 11 references, showing the kind of obstacles that one can face.

They addressed that we live in a world where we’re complicit with capitalism; they said that they’re on Facebook because that’s where their communities are, and Facebook’s language rendering is really good. The difference between tech capitalism and regular financial capitalism seems to be that with tech capitalism, there is a God complex, unlike with financial capitalism, which is focused on profit. Mark Zuckerberg thinks he’s making the world a better place through Facebook.

They said that they speak about Wikipedia with tough love is because if you want to have your small community known about, you have to get it up on Wikipedia. Otherwise, someone would have to visit you to learn about it, which isn’t practical.

They closed the Q&A time by saying that they’d be up for an impromptu edit-a-thon, which was then scheduled to take place the following day during lunchtime for those who were interested.


Day 2 – November 20, 2019

Keynote: Making sense of the unfathomable: Digital Humanities for desperate times – Deb Verhoeven

Verhoeven’s keynote continued the themes of feminist and decolonization criticism of the previous day, taking it to technological infrastructure and the film industry that she studies. Some challenging concepts include: How do we get ourselves out of our heads? How do we make connections based on ideas of people we don’t already know or who aren’t mirrors of ourselves? She discussed how we are living in a world of devastating and widening division; we are living in a closing-down world (examples include: build a wall and incarcerate people on islands, including children). To address this, we need to foster inclusion and connectivity. And these issues impact how we handle data and infrastructure. All infrastructure enables connections—that’s what it does—but it is largely built for us by engineers.

She linked the discussion on infrastructure to the 16th century discovery and navigation era by the Dutch, among others, and the terms and metaphors that we still use that come from imperialism times. The questions they would ask that we can also ask regarding our infrastructure are:

  1. Where am I now?
  2. Where am I going? (in the example of a link, you don’t really know where it is taking you when you click on it)
  3. What is my speed?
  4. What is my depth? What lies beneath my feet? (fathom) (this is not being done very well with digital infrastructure)
Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theory

Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theory

She mentioned the Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theory book and that we want to see traditional values of humanities flow through the Digital Humanities. She spoke of her work with Huni (Humanities Networked Infrastructure) and how the needs of humanities scholars differ from what is traditionally possible in digital infrastructure. For example, one can’t resist or contest in most digital infrastructures; also, the ability to say NOT (this is not related to this other thing) is incredibly valuable to humanities researchers.

She then discussed her work on the Kinomatics Project, which collects and analyzes data on the creative industries. In regards to Big Data, which is often thrown around, she said if your data hasn’t caused you to have an existential crisis, it’s probably not Big Data; if it hasn’t caused you to rethink how you see things, it’s probably not Big Data. For her, Big Data has been a revelation.

Next, she showed an (unfinished) painting by Turner of a shipwreck of female convicts and children who drowned on the way to Australia (A Disaster at Sea c. 1835); Turner is asking us – Are we just spectators? Do we turn away from it or just theorize it? She discussed the plimsoll line, the loading limit line for ships, as a very creative metaphor and asked: Does patriarchy have a plimsoll line? How do we sink the S.S. Patriarchy?

all male research team error

Possible error for those putting together all male research teams

She showed the data on women in the film industry in Australia and said in 30 years the data had gotten worse, and that continuing to show women this data may keep them from believing they can ever be a part of the media industry. She showed network graphs and explained how the problem is that there are so many men who don’t/won’t work with women. When she asked what if we stopped funding these men who don’t work with women, the audience clapped. She said we might think that patriarchy looks like male political leaders like presidents and prime ministers, but it actually looks like a network of men who only work with other men. This visualization is a way of seeing the contours of injustice in a new and different way. Then she brought in some stats on how many Davids/Daves there are in comparison to the number of women and humorously said that we don’t have a ‘diversity’ problem, we have a ‘Daversity’ problem. Then everyone was asked to sing along to the chorus of the song “The Daves I Know”.

the names of people receiving funding

The names of people receiving funding

Even if all of the ‘gender offenders’ were taken out of the network, it wouldn’t solve the issue; one would have to take all men out for it to work. This means the only solution is for people in power to collaborate with people who don’t look or sound like them, and their team has modelled it in the Workplace Inclusion Diversity and Gender Equity Tool (WIDGET).

Keynote: Why ‘why’ matters – Hīria Te Rangi

Hīria Te Rangi gave a stunning keynote on her story and her work with Whare Haurora, which develops sensors for homes to tell family members if their home is making them sick. For example, she said the sensor in the home with elderly people would be registering 9 to 13 degrees when it was almost the same outside, meaning that the house was only adding about 3 degrees of warmth, and the WHO recommendations for kaumatua or an elderly person is 21 degrees. She said we are a developed nation, yet pneumonia/respiratory illnesses are taking out people before it should be their time. A free insulation project was cancelled by the last government, even though it was successful. 60% humidity is a problem, and living in cold, damp housing is linked with anxiety and depression.

Hīria Te Rangi speaking on New Zealand housing problems

Hīria Te Rangi speaking on New Zealand housing problems

She explained how Whare Haurora was created by a bunch of nerdy ladies, who started with a prototype sensor that cost $30 and assembled the parts on kitchen tables. She eventually went to China to get manufacturing sorted. The idea is that their kits can be moved to another home once it is insulated. Every 10 minutes data is sent from the sensors in the home, and they wanted to make it accessible via PWA (Progressive Web App) offline since not all families have enough data to be constantly connected. One issue is that just showing people a jumble of numbers doesn’t work since it doesn’t mean anything to them; you have to tell people what it means for them and their health in an accessible way. You also have to explain how the device works and show them to alleviate concerns. The organization ensures that the whanau owns all the data and it just provides the service. This aspect is an example of the need for indigenous organizations like hers, to get things done with values intact, especially if the government isn’t doing it. The data at the aggregate level can be used for nationwide benchmarking and to predict respiratory disease, but they are careful as to how data is used and have their own ethics committee toward this end. Her determination to do something about a pressing societal issue was very inspiring and illustrated how technology can be used in a very practical way to empower communities without compromising values.

A regional approach to collections: ‘It’s all about the baking’ – David Luoni, Rosemary Jackson-Hunter, Tiffany Jenks

Project Ark in Southland was discussed as an example of how they helped put objects from a dozen of the museums in the region online and guided volunteers to be a part of the process in a meaningful way. One example was Mataura Museum, a small, 50 square-metre museum run by a group of women they affectionately called the grandmothers. They wanted to provide support for aging, volunteer-led teams and those who aren’t ‘digital natives’, and they know that just coming in for a week or providing a user guide is often not enough. This pilot is being helped by the fact that there is a regional heritage rate in Southland ($35 + GST a year) that can fund projects like these. Each organization picked 50 objects to share online via eHive, which made it equal for everyone. When provenance and record-keeping were patchy for an object, this project helped rectify that and show what was in a museum’s collection. They described helping volunteers by starting with tiny baby steps and were happy to find that within a fortnight, people were feeling more confident and had the hang of it and were even teaching others. They believe part of the success was that they were providing real work for people (perhaps versus straight training), the result is that the new standards are now the new way moving forward.

Table top seduction? How a small local library sought to implement an expensive digital tool, and not stuff it up – Reid Perkins and Wendy Horne

Perkins and Horne from Upper Hutt City Libraries used a romance analogy to discuss issues surrounding the decision to get a ‘fancy’ table top digital display to show off their collection. They had set up Recollect, an interactive database, years ago, but acknowledged that digitization has limitations and doesn’t reach all audiences. Other attempts to engage a broader range of people included pop-up museums (e.g. “Upper Hutt in the 1960s”) where images were printed out and put up on walls for people to view. They tried to create feedback loops between digital and analogue. They found that cautionary romance tales are a good metaphor for seduction by new shiny digital technology – you have to ask yourself similar questions such as Are we a good fit? Can I give it the attention it needs? They didn’t want the table top display to just be another iteration of Recollect content or a glorified iPad; they wanted special curated content. They find that the closeness to community is a big advantage of smaller, less-resourced sites like theirs. Unfortunately, due to production delays and some miscommunication, they had only just received the table top display so weren’t able to discuss it up and running. Some lessons learned in this process were that they would have preferred the company making it give them more hand holding and digital templates, especially since they’re librarians and archivists and don’t buy large tech frequently so it’s unfamiliar territory. They also see a need for better project management going forward.

The making of Te Taiao Nature digital labels – Amos Mann et al

This presentation was a behind-the-scenes look at many of the pieces that went into creating the digital labels for the Te Taiao Nature exhibit at Te Papa, which features nine digital label kiosks with over 200 specimen labels and is expected to have at last a 10-year lifespan. At its heart, the digital labels were designed to answer that primary visitor question: What is that? And why is it on display? There was lots of prototyping and testing, and different team members spoke about the areas they were responsible for. For UX, they wondered how they might make it effortless for visitors to view content they don’t know exists but would enjoy (e.g. a kiwi hatching from an egg). They took cues from social media and prioritized scrolling (continuation) over clicks (decision needed). They also chose to auto-load videos so people can stop if they want but don’t have to keep clicking to play. For special design, they had to consider the positioning of the kiosks to be far enough away from the cases for people to be able to take them all in, and also leave a path for people to look at the objects from next to the case. For the video and photography, they used 5,300 pixels wide, high-resolution images that have lots of detail, meaning that you can actually see more detail on the kiosk than in real life because of the ability to zoom in close. For the writing, they found coming up with 60 words and a  limited amount of media a challenge, and they didn’t shy away from stories that were sad. Every label is bilingual; it is not a straight translation but tells the story from a Māori point of view. They positioned what they thought was the most important information at the top, with videos and sounds as you scroll and a map at bottom. The maps are not as popular but some still really like to see them for context. The team used Google Sheets to coordinate and also set up notifications for cells (e.g. the photography team would receive an email when something was ready for imaging). They now have live digital analytics from labels coming from the floor and can analyze what people are clicking on and how long they’re spending on each item.

Invisible Islands: Locative media and its implications for GLAM projects – Sébastien Pierre

Spook Country book

Spook Country

Pierre opened by mentioning Pokemon Go and the phenomenon of mobs of people forming organically at street corners, trying to catch Pikachu and other digitally-created creatures. He finds inspiration in Blast Theory, “A Machine to See With” and William Gibson’s book Spook Country, which has locative art (renditions of fictional and past events only available at certain places with the right hardware).

Use of a definition from Wikipedia was justified by saying that Wikipedia is good for normative definitions. He discussed two iterations of the Invisible Islands project. The first was in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2014. The idea was to have ‘islands’ disconnected from internet across the city that people could access through QR codes in public spaces to act as entry points into digital, offline content. This meant there was no Google search engine to use – people had to use their eyes to find the QR codes. This has potential to be replicated elsewhere, such as putting QR codes on street art so people could see information like they would in an exhibit, or be directed away from one site to a different, interesting location. The second iteration was Les ȋles invisibles in Montreal in 2015. He moved away from the QR codes since they felt awkward to interact with. Seeing how there were layers of information in the city that already existed (e.g. construction lines spraypainted on the ground, duct tape with numbers written on it), he decided to have wavy lines with numbers spraypainted on the ground that related to events in the past and future. The blue paint and the waviness also were intended to remind viewers of rising sea levels. He advised that when space is scarce, you can consider using public space as exhibition space. One example is the Apple [AR]T walkthrough. He mentioned two recent articles of interest: “The Future of VR? Site-specific Art Installations” by Seth Porges, which discusses how technology like this could help reduce loneliness by bringing people out, and “From monologue to dialogue: Towards playable cities” by Dr. Steven Conway.

VR Ye ha! – Scott J. Burgess and Angela Jowitt

Burgess and Jowitt shared some of their journey with VR over the past year at the Puke Ariki Library.  There was an overview of VR tech: Oculus Go and Quest are stand-alone headsets, platforms include Oculus, Steam VR, and Viveport Infinity. The latter has an annual subscription to 700+ titles model that they opted to go with. For Tech Week 2019, they chose three VR experiences to showcase (Dreams of Dali, Singularity, and the Blu). They needed to have ones that were largely intuitive because people would just be coming in and out and so there needed to be a low learning curve. They surveyed people who participated, and there were 102 respondents with demographics: 52% male, 48% female; 40% in age range 15 and under and a good percentage of people in the 25-54 age bracket; 42% had used VR before and 58% hadn’t. Most chose the Blu, but many were able to do the other ones if there were enough time. People said they liked the immersion and interactivity and escapism (VR gives a safe way to make mistakes).

VR experience reactions

Survey responses about VR experience

They mentioned other benefits to using VR. There is the 3D Organon VR Anatomy and Medical Realities Platform that is being used in medical professionals’ training. There are experiences for the deaf and disabled and for migrant women. For example, Google Earth can be used by migrant women to travel back to their home town as well as show others where they came from. It can also be used to visit and scout out places before traveling. They said that content can be created in New Zealand too; New Zealand Geographic is shooting local footage in 8K that can be used for virtual experiences.

Their story of VR being used in a school and facilitating new connections between students was a positive example of the potential of VR in education. One girl who had been in the same class as another girl for a year but never talked to her was suddenly talking to her and laughing with her as they journeyed in the virtual world. In this case, the digital was actually a portal to real-life interactions, rather than closing people off.

He Tohu VR: Taking (virtual) archives to the people – Jared Davidson and Rene Burton

The National Library New Zealand He Tohu exhibit in Wellington is a permanent exhibition with three particularly significant documents: He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of Independence), Te Tiriti o Waitangi  (the Treaty of Waitangi), and Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine (the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition). Since the documents were too fragile to travel, they decided to create a VR experience of the He Tohu exhibition and used the Unreal game engine (the promo video of the VR experience is available on YouTube). This format allows people to get closer to the documents than they could in real life with a glass cabinet in the way. In creating an educational experience for youth, they knew they wanted to contextualize the learning around the documents and have facilitation. A challenge in VR is that it is a very individual, one-on-one activity. The whole experience takes six minutes, which means the other students need to have things to do while taking turns with the VR. It can be very embodied, with students doing things like getting on the ground and trying to reach the top to look at various aspects of the documents.

Future GLAM Panel – Richard Foy, Honiana Love, Deb Verhoeven, Courtney Johnston, David Reeves, Mark Crookston, Migoto Eria

This panel featured people from a range of institutions and contexts. In discussing NDF as an organization and a conference, it was noted that there is a remarkable collegiality and a spirit of sharing that has stayed the same over the years. The inaugural meeting had similar themes to ones now, but that’s because systemic issues need to be worked on over a long time period. One potential issue is that there is less said about collaboration between institutions, who have more resources, than about individuals working with an institution, and it is not fair to always ask for communities to engage with the institutions. It was noted that people care about taonga, not which institution it belongs to, and what is needed is sharing of power and mana. We should be thinking about user-centered strategies and how they view things, rather than what works for the institution. Audiences are institutional omnivores, but meanwhile the government encourages rivalry between organizations via funding models. Interestingly, institutions seem to be able to collaborate on war exhibits (or other collaborations that some people may see as ‘pointless commemoration’) but not anything else! Successful collaboration is work that is better together, not just done separately.

There was discussion around issues of equity and diversity. Although commercial art galleries in Australia have almost achieved gender parity, government-funded ones have not, and the government is not being held accountable for this. Some libraries don’t use the Dewey Decimal System because local people want to find stuff in a way that works for them and their cultural understanding. It wouldn’t make sense to have Dewey’s system there. It was asked, how do we empower communities to speak for themselves and tell stories from their point of view? Even if we digitize materials, that’s still us doing things from our view. It is up to boards to be leading on these kinds of issues, but boards can be weak and represent their institutions’ interests rather than what they are supposed to represent: those of the communities they serve. Lip service isn’t good enough; every university has a mission statement with equity, but how many of them are accountable to taking real action. It was mentioned that funding may end up benefiting individuals over the greater community, meaning the impact of receiving funding is uncertain. For example, if an institution receives funding for someone to take a te reo course, that helps that person, but it doesn’t actually flow on to the community, though the hope is that it will in the long term. Regarding encouraging more Maori into the sector, it was mentioned that training models need to be changed; in one instance, getting iwi interns in has worked well because they can see what it’s like to work with the collections.

Notes from National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2018

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2018

Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (Wellington, New Zealand)
November 20-21, 2018

The NDF Conference this year was another good, inspirational, and thought-provoking one, with a great line-up of keynote speakers and other presenters. The keynotes offered a range of insights as well as challenges to how to make GLAM more diverse and be more thoughtful about how and why it collects material. The opportunity to check out the Mahuki Labs at Te Papa was also welcomed – everyone was excited to share their projects and see what others thought. The hashtag was #NDFNZ and many of the presentations are available on NDF’s YouTube channel – well worth watching!

Day 1 – November 20, 2018

Official Welcome and Opening Address – Prof Rawinia Higgins

Higgins discussed how the normalization of the Māori language cannot be left just to the schools, universities, etc. The GLAM sector can take a role and find ways of getting people to use digital repositories and tools. We shouldn’t just replicate what we already have in other mediums. There should be gateways where people can connect to their heritage and culture. Although Māori were largely an oral culture, they also have been early adopters, and history shows how they embraced literacy and had a variety of Māori newspapers. Colonization takes a toll – it just takes a generation to lose a language. She challenged the sector to not just protect knowledge but connect ancestors to our communities so it becomes their vernacular today. The Crown’s Māori Language Strategy has its efforts being led by the Māori Language Commission. Digital tools are still just tools – it is people and connectivity at forums like this that are important for discussing issues.

Keynote: Michael Edson

Edson began with a story about a pottery class where the teacher said half the room would get a grade based on one pot, and half the room would get a grade based on weight (e.g. making 200 pounds will get you an A, 50 pounds a C, etc.); the ones who made the most pots actually were more creative because they weren’t stuck on perfection and just got on with it. He provided several observations for thought: that cultural organizations must seek new ways to share (leverage, scale) their vitality and power, much of that vitality/power will come from outside our institutions, and that the lives of individuals and community are far more dynamic, creative, and amazing than we give them credit for. He said we must ‘cut the knot’ and achieve more direct paths to action, including finding ways to think outside of the institutions (cut the Gordion knot).

Then he had us play a Rock Paper Scissors game with each other, making the whole auditorium erupt into sound and liveliness. He showed us the super-fast Rock Paper Scissors robot that wins every time because it can see the movements of a human’s hand. Edson said that groups that face each other far outperform in creative, cognitive tasks, innovation, problem-solving than groups that don’t. This includes groups like surgeons. He discussed ‘leaning in’ activities and play, and how you can get 10x more human interaction at a farmer’s market than a grocery store [something that is likely to continue with increasingly automated check-outs].

He asked us to reflect on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and the one we like the most for a minute. Then he moved on to discussing UN Live: The Museum for the United Nations. It’s about connecting – they intentionally made the beginning of the mission statement a verb – it’s also about catalyzing global effort toward its goals. He said it helps clarify what you’re doing when you’re planning. They call themselves a museum on three platforms: Building, Network, Online, with a physical building in Copenhagen, a network of other institutions, and a digital presence to bring it all together.

People tend to be interested and involved when it’s in their local community (e.g. best pizza pies on the block gains more interest than best pizza in the city). People tend to care about climate change when it affects their garden, and research backs this up. Many of us think that if people have an emotional reaction to a problem, they are more likely to take action. But there is not a lot of evidence of this. Also, we think that if people know or learn about something, they will change the way they act in the world. But there are not a lot of stories about this happening. In fact, actually the opposite can be true, especially if it contrasts with their ideas, or if they think they are doing something about it by just knowing. Doing something (maker space) can be a skill in itself. This is why they’ve chosen to design with head, hands, and heart to try to tie all of the above in.

Rather than looking for a target demographic, they are looking for a target ‘psychographic’ (people who are open to change rather than ‘teens who read such and such’). They know online videos with playful element are successful and plan to use vloggers to create videos. They don’t have time or need to create a new audience for UN Live but instead will borrow (like Wikipedia borrowed Slash Dot’s). There are already festival of/for change around the world; they can start with them and then build their own.

Michael Edson slide 2He then discussed one of the ways they went about designing a museum space by getting kids involved. They used Lego and asked kids in Denmark to design a space to improve the world without telling them it was a museum until afterward. Then when he told them it was a UN Museum, their faces fell, indicating that the word museum held a negative impression for kids. He asked them what they thought about museums and they said ‘Eck…’ And he asked them what they thought about libraries and all said ‘shh’ and motioned with their fingers. But then he asked them where they went to hang out, and it ended up being the public library. And the same with the children’s museum. Despite this issue with terms, he said some framing is necessary. When he tried the design experiment without using that term they were lost.

Michael Edson slide 1He explained that using a game scenario is another way to solve problems. Science fiction can be a good way to level the playing field in that people don’t feel like they have to be an expert to solve problems on a hypothetical ‘Earth 7’ because it doesn’t exist, unlike something on real Earth. He said he has been in some awful meetings with museum staff where they say they want to change the world but ‘Stan’ here really just wants me to fill in this form.

In the Q&A, someone asked why he had us do the reflective exercise on the UN’s SDGs; his answer was that he wanted to take a risk and have people think about it and get in contact with him. Another question was about whether the push to get people to take action abdicates responsibility from organizations that should be doing stuff, like Occupy doing work of FEMA. His reply involved saying that it seems to be a ‘hack’ on the system and a way to give more people a seat at the table where decisions are being made. He doesn’t think this is a way to necessarily abdicate.

Thomasin Sleigh – DigitalNZ reflects on ten years

Sleigh noted that DigitalNZ points to over 206 institutions and lots of content. She admitted that she at first questioned whether the service was that useful, but she now believes that it is. She said that the big players (GAFA: Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) actually control a lot of the information now, and people may think of these as the Internet and get all their news from them. But there is a lack of control here. Mark Zuckerberg can turn off a website’s traffic with the switch of an algorithm (ex. Recent Spinoff example). There is the post-truth environment and election tampering. She mentioned Jamie Bartlett’s The People Vs Tech: How the Internet is Killing Democracy (and How We Save It) (2018) and Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (2018). People sometimes ask her, why wouldn’t I just Google to look for information? But Google only has a veneer of neutrality; it is in its best interest to make us forget it’s a business. When you Google things, there is often not a lot of diversity, including a lack of women – 50% of population.

Katie Breckon, Johnny Divilli, Pete O’Connor – Activating collections in remote Western Australia

They discussed having to travel to very remote places only accessible by 4-wheel drive or helicopter, and having to hike for an hour in the long grass where snakes live! Dolord Mindi (the cave) is home to the Mowanjum Community Collection and Media Space. Arts and cultural workers receive on-the-job training and are supported to attend workshops and mentor fellowships. This helps them build local capacity as they care for the collections. They also are helped to develop their digital media skills and do drone training so they can record their cultural sites. Kids are the most frequent users of databases, and they are looking forward to getting more computers in.

They also discussed some of the arts and cultural projects, like the Junba Project (Junba is a form of storytelling through song and dance). O’Connor said he didn’t have a chance to learn the cultural practices and dances when he was young, so he wants to make sure the young men and women have the opportunity to. There is a poster of the different meanings of paint on the body, and they want to have an app where users can touch a part and then read what the meaning is in a more interactive way. Kids use iPads to film themselves dancing and then reflect on their efforts and improve. For example, they might be trying to look like an emu and see that they need to work on their posture more. At the close of the presentation, they showed us the 3-D mapping of a cave that they are working on.

Karyn Brice – NZSL at Te Papa

Brice discussed the journey of having an interpreter at an exhibit at Te Papa, filming them, and having that for New Zealand Sign Language Week. She mentioned ConnexU, which works with GLAM institutions in Australia and now some in New Zealand to provide NZSL and connect with deaf communities. They film a video of an interpreter for you. When the Te Papa team asked for feedback on the NZSL interpretation, they received it. Some preferred presenters who were deaf because they have learned NZSL as a first language and have a different perspective. This also raises the visibility of people who are deaf in the museum. People also indicated they would like to have New Zealand presenters and the option to turn the captions on/off.

A lot of the Gallipoli exhibit relied on audio stories, so one person was disappointed that he wasn’t able to have the full experience. Another woman came with her children and a host started talking to her but didn’t realize she couldn’t hear. She felt like she was missing out on important information that she couldn’t convey to her children. When people were asked to do a thought activity about designing a magic mobile device (if you could design any phone for an exhibit, what would it look like?), they received comments about something that would float because people’s arms get tired, would be able to locate their children, would provide easy directions to toilets and parents’ rooms, and would display what the rules of the museum were. In taking feedback into consideration, how Te Papa hosts receive NZSL training.

Adam Moriarty – Do we still need a Museum collections online?

Moriarty said the best decision they at the Auckland War Memorial Museum made was to partner with DigitalNZ. They get more hits from there in one month than they get in 3-4 months on their site. He once asked a scientist where they got their data and it wasn’t from museum websites. It was from portals like Atlas of Living Australia. People may not know Auckland exists, but they probably know that New Zealand exists and will be more likely to use search portals to find information. The mission isn’t to get people to visit or come back or to click through but to connect with museum content. The museum had a Wikimedian in Residence last year and it started to change the culture. They had some volunteers upload 100,000 images for them and classify and catalogue them. These are now used on 2,000 Wikipedia pages in 83 languages.

Kirsty Farquharson and Elizabeth Jones – Learning resources Aotearoa : How do teachers and students discover, access and use learning resources?

Learning resources Aotearoa 3 They discussed how most young people are overwhelmed and inundated with information and resources. They are a bit like drowning in a digital sea. Their project was not about creating more content or discovering how young people use it but about engagement and learning. Resource channels are very fragmented. Many schools can still have classrooms that never get past the search results of Google. They looked at key opportunities and barriers. They also looked at young people’s emotions (e.g. anxiety, confusion) when searching for information. Learning resources Aotearoa 2 They said don’t think ‘put it out there and they will come’ – people won’t necessarily find your stuff or the great stuff in the sea of the internet. Also, teachers don’t just want digital – they want lots of different types of resources. Teachers can determine when is print the perfect format, when is digital really good, when is the most powerful thing to go outside. Learning resources Aotearoa 1The National Library website has a great resource of curiosity cards with fertile questions that are open-ended and support inquiry learning. There is a danger when students think learning is Googling something and copying and pasting info in their paper. That’s just information transfer.

Digital Creators Panel – Luke Rowell (musician), Nicky Hager (author and investigative journalist), Jem Yoshioka (illustrator and comics artist)

One of the first insights from the panel was that it is much harder to ring-fence what a body of work is, compared to years ago. The first question was: What of your work do you want the future to have access to? Rowell said he wants everything to be available, including his bad sessions if anyone would be interested in listening to those. Hager said he has to be careful about whistleblowers who gave information on condition of anonymity. He discussed the challenge of how to sort through hundreds of files, and the issue that files and computers can become lost over time. Yoshioka said she has a file sorting system but also lots of old hard drives. Her iPad has become her sketchbook as she stopped using physical sketchbooks last year. But this means that she doesn’t go through files in the same way; there’s not the opportunity to have a nostalgia session flipping through physical books.

The second question was: To what extent do terms of use factor into your thought processes? Yoshioka said that you have to think about it as a digital artist, but there’s not a lot of choice in trying to get your work out there. The third question was: Is it important to have your work available to monetize in future? Rowell answered yes, you constantly have to get files and put on different platforms. Others always want higher fidelity and quality.

Another question was: If you could have access to work from creators who influence you, what would that be? Yoshioka is a fan of seeing other people’s sketches and thus tends to put up her own for others to view. Hager said he would like to see others’ original sources but it is usually not possible unless you are close friends with them. He goes to the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine a lot to see material that’s disappeared or has changed, such as a press release. He gets a sense of how impermanent the internet is and tries to save what he can, but he thinks we need to have more of us saving internet material. A related question was: How can New Zealand collections archive material like the Internet Archive? with the response being that we need a version of the Internet Archive that grabs widely (websites) for each country.

A final question was: How do you want people in the future to be able to consume your work? Hager said he would like all of his books to be available in the future but he’s not sure if it will ever be possible to safely make some of the research material available. Yoshioka said she has had success with Creative Commons licenses, and Rowell said he uses Creative Commons noncommercial licenses. Hager added that the thing about archives is that they usually don’t gain value until later, almost by definition. That makes it a challenge for researchers, who may not see the value that others will give to their material.

Amie Mills – Growing great Kiwis: Reaching young New Zealanders online

Amie Mills on storiesMills gave an overview of New Zealand On Air’s Hei Hei initiative for young viewers. NZ On Air exists to fund public access content like Radio NZ. The challenge was that YouTube now rivals TV2 as the biggest single source of media for children. Yet 9 out of 10 parents agreed that kids need NZ content. She said stories are very important. They launched a website and app in May this year. They had to keep it simple and similar to other apps; otherwise it would be a barrier to 5+. They focused on kids ages 5 to 9 because kids 10 and up have more agency over what they watch. She said they have smashed their targets with over 160,000 users. They didn’t aim to compete with Netflix or YouTube but get good weekly views and on weekends. She said the tablet is the golden device for kids and that it is good to see Hei Hei is being used across the regions, not just in the big cities.

Lightning Talks

Tim Sherratt – A GLAM data workbench for reluctant researchers

Tim Sherratt and Jupyter notebookSherratt opened by saying there are carpentries (e.g. Software Carpentry) and the Programming Historian but not everyone wants to go that route into coding. He showed the audience live code using an API from DigitalNZ and the benefits of the Jupyter notebook for Humanities people to use as a starting point to play around with.

Mike Dickison – A Wikipedian at Large

Dickison is being funded by Wikimedia to do a year of being a New Zealand Wikipedian in Residence. The first reaction from organizations is: So you’ll fix our Wiki page? *insert heavy sigh GIF. He said his job is to show organizations how they can use their resources and encourage them to put content on Wikipedia. He said if you’re not aware of Wikidata, get aware of it.

Asaf Barrow – Wiki + Data: Wikidata (and why you should care)

Barrow discussed Wikidata in more detail and called it the nexus allowing one to jump across institutions.

Hannah Benbow and Chantalle Smith – Reflections on a (pilot) D&D oral history project

They said they chose to focus on the game of Dungeons & Dragons because it is 40 years old, people still play it, and it appears in popular culture, such as in the show Stranger Things and The Big Bang Theory. Neither of them had played it before but were walked through it by others. They know oral history is important and uncovered personal and traumatic stuff that they hadn’t expected. They thought gender diversity would be an issue, but actually other types of diversity were more of an issue (e.g. it is mainly privilege, university types who play). Games are meant to be played, and to get that information and the history surrounding them, they said, you have to actually talk to the players.

Rhys Owen and Andrew McGhie – Wrestling with Qilin: The Challenges of Chinese OCR

They discussed ways to deal with the challenges of scanning Chinese characters. They chose to put their content in figshare, an online repository, so it’s public source and out there for others to look at.

Teina Herzer – Breaking content: Taking a design-led approach

Herer challenged the audience to rethink personas, indicating that they can be 90% BS, misleading, and biased. If you rely on them too much, your content can end up being generic. One of their flaws is that they are created by people trying to pretend to be someone else.

Jessica Moran – Preserving our digital lives: Now and for the future

Personal Digital Archive ToolkitMoran sees collecting and archiving born-digital materials as a digital literacy issue that needs to be addressed. Different countries’ people use social media differently. For example, only 9% of New Zealanders use Twitter. So even though we may be good at collecting from that, we aren’t perhaps collecting from a more-used site like Facebook, which has much more content. The Personal Digital Archive Toolkit is one way of teaching people how to take care of their digital content.

Keynote: Tara Robertson – Blah blah blah: Diversity and inclusion

Open source white and maleRobertson described herself as a data-driven feminist storyteller and did a mihi in Māori at the beginning – what a great opening to a keynote presentation. She gave a plug for Mozilla and its new quantum browser. She said Mozilla only has one share-holder: the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation. She asked the audience to share with someone next to them what is something that someone has done to make you feel included, and this led to some good conversations amongst the full auditorium. She also had a collaborative document that she invited us to contribute to with ideas (

She challenged us to think about whose voices are here, which ones are automatically respected, and which aren’t. Mozilla’s Community Participation Guidelines discuss things you might not have thought of, such as use of the kiss emoji. She mentioned the way that orchestras helped debias their hiring practices, which involved having to put up a curtain to hide the sex of people, but then they also had to have women take off their heels because these would still click on the floor. She said that Mozilla had recently removed meritocracy from its policies. She challenged us to think about the pipeline for future librarians as being very white, whether or not it was necessary to have certain qualifications be mandatory, and that the idea of ‘cultural fit’ can be shorthand for ‘they look and think like us’ and promote a monoculture.

Librarianship ethnicity dataNext she discussed some different consent issues and ways of dealing with them. An idea to promote more consent around photographs at conferences is to use different colored lanyards to easily differentiate who is comfortable being photographed and who isn’t without people having to actively opt out. There are also consent issues with digitization of sensitive materials where people never agreed to have it online on the internet; these shouldn’t be open access.

Day 2 – November 21, 2018

Keynote: Bergis Jules – The community is the archive: Documenting the social justice activism in the age of social media

Jules discussed how people can use social media to discuss an event before the main media gets control of the narrative, and can have their tweets used by mainstream media and help control the narrative and define the terms of the debate. But then this can get away from them as the story gets more popular. The Documenting the Now project began after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Jules said that as archivists, he and others started thinking about how they could document the event. This one was different – the first time it had played out in the age of social media. It was also the first time people could see the thoughts and feelings of others around the world about the events. They were thinking about how they could better document the history of marginalized communities by looking at social media activists, what solutions they pose, and how they educate the public. Activists are closest to the issues and have solutions to offer (for example, Black Lives Matter on a national level and other initiatives in local communities re voting rights, mass incarceration, etc.).

Jules discussed the Center for Media Justice, which is working on surveillance issues for activists and communities of color, and Madonna Thunderhawk, who co-founded Women of All Red Nations in 1978 and continues to work on issues such as water rights. He asked, what can we learn from social media activism about those traditionally left out of our historical record? Such activism is an increasingly important tool for social justice. It’s a centrepiece of their strategy.

Jules mentioned some examples of archiving of activism. The Interference Archive’s objective is “Exploring relationship between cultural production and social movements”. Occupy Archive is an archive of the Occupy Movements from 2011. He also mentioned Colored Conventions: Bringing 19th century Black Organizing to Digital Life, which examines the collective organizing of African-American people in the U.S.

There was a national forum on ethics and archiving the web in March 22-24, 2018, featuring filmmaker Elizabeth Castle, Madonna Thunderhawk and her daughter, and Jules showed a clip of Thunderhawk speaking at this forum. One of the issues with social media and activism was illustrated in that Facebook brought young people to Standing Rock, but there was also a security firm called TigerSwan documenting protest activity on behalf of local police department, so it is easier for activists and movements to be tracked as well (e.g. #NoDAPL No Dakota Access Pipeline hashtag). The Intercept news organization has a seven-part series of leaked documents on how social media was used in the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Basically, police are finding new ways to use social media to go after protestors and activists and for evidence gathering. Geofeedia was offering a free public safety webinar and saying they can predict, monitor, and prevent risk in/around protests. There are ‘threat actors’ rap sheets from the cyber security company ZeroFox almost labelling them as terrorists. Jules said he shares these because it’s important to understand how activists can be harmed online if archivists are going to work with them to archive events. Prosecution and reputation harm, are real issues. We don’t want to replicate the behavior of the surveillance state and try to ensure we’re not exploitative.

He said in his experience, activists say that archivists should not just watch from afar but come in person and document their whole lives not just activism. Archivists also plan to put on workshops so activists can gain more control of their own narratives, such as learning how to safely gather and store content during protests so it can be later used in courts if needed to show another side of the narrative.

Keynote: Tuaratini Ra’a – Moana Pacific Storytelling: Unlocking Secrets

Tuaratini Ra’a storytellingTuaratini Ra’a is the Project Manager at the Pacifica Arts Centre in Auckland. She is also a Takitua, or storyteller, which comes from Taki (to guide, to lead, to carry) and Tua (story). She treated us to a story of the Pacific as she moved across the stage in her vibrantly colored outfit and had us think about the messages therein.

She said storytelling is an artform, not just about talking a lot. To tell stories with integrity and authenticity to her ancestors, she felt she needed to go back home to the Cook Islands and connect to the land and the people. But going back home and talking to people was a difficult step. She collected stories via video as well as audio with phones, which made it convenient. She went into caves and found skeletal remains and carvings (they were hidden there after Christianity came and people had to hide stuff).

Then she discussed the Pacifica Arts Centre Mamas and showed a YouTube clip of them. She said she did a participatory video project and gave the Mamas cameras, so they were in control of the stories they told. In 2017, she co-founded the Turou Takitua Storytelling Network, which seeks to connect the past and present through storytelling.

She emphasized that each person who holds that story has the right to determine whether or not you can receive it. She questioned the idea of free and easy access, and everything being so easily shared online in mass email, via Twitter, etc. She asked us to think about why we are doing it and whether others might take it out of context. This is why she specifically didn’t have her storytelling streamed today.

Mahuki Labs Tour

Mahuki Labs at Te PapaI went on a tour of the Mahuki Labs, which is an innovation accelerator program at Te Papa Tongarewa. It focuses on solving challenges within the GLAM sector and takes applications form people who want to work on entrepreneurial projects related to the cultural sector. The space was beautiful and inviting, with lots of bright colors and vibrancy. I was particularly interested in Merge Creative Agency’s augmented reality (AR) game idea to help interest young people in libraries or museums by having them play as a character and hunt around the building to find clues. I think having more dynamic experiences is going to become a necessity in the future to engage new audiences.

Adrian Kingston – Beyond foot traffic and vanity metrics: The Audience Impact Model

Kingston opened by stating that not everything is about ‘big dumb numbers’ (such as statistics). He used a modified Lean Canvas to think of a different way to measure impact, and started with David McClure’s Pirate metrics (AARRR) but it wasn’t quite right because it was too focused on money in a way that Te Papa didn’t need to be. There was also Google’s HEART framework, the Kirkpatrick model for assessing the success of organizational thinking, and Ethan Zuckerman’s engagement spectrum. They finally ended up with this sequence: Attention Reaction Connection Insight Action. As an example, looking at the Minecraft simulation featuring an earthquake that Te Papa had, there were kids going home and encouraging their parents to add safety measures at home like they had done in the game. He said that we could be better about longer-term impact, perhaps measuring through asking visitors when they return what they liked last time and why they’re back. Another thing to consider is mapping an organization’s impact onto the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The slides from this presentation are available here:

Paula Bray and Thomas Wing-Evans – DX Lab + 80Hz // More punk than GLAM

DX Lab projectThey focused on user-led thinking and want to change the way audiences think about what a library can be in the 21st century. They discussed the case study of the State Library NSW in Sydney’s DX Lab turning paintings into sound in an exhibit installed in front of the library. They used data from digitization and turned it into sound values (such as scale, overtones, etc.). Instead of doing live music, they used a computer to generate the music and ended up giving the computer more agency, which meant it had less human bias and avoided the uncanny value of sounding kind of human. Observations of how people encountered the installation is that it seems to have had a global reach. The impact isn’t all about numbers, also about audience engagement and seeing and hearing their own impressions.

Keynote: Tahu Kukutai – Demography, Digitisation and Data Sovereignty

Professor Tahu Kukutai is from the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, and she quickly put to rest any fear that a presentation on demographic data would be uninteresting. She said as a demographer, her bread and butter is data, so she has to consider issues like whose data, whose control, whose ethics, and whose benefit. She admitted to us that even she has a ‘semi-secure repository’ (i.e. trunk of stuff) in a garage behind some bikes.

She said there’s always a whakapapa (genealogy) ninja in a family, and she is that person in her family. She would ask her dad questions and record info and put it in her trunk to store it. She likes the lens onto a population, the lens onto us as a people that demography gave her, and it’s not just about looking at age ranges. She explained how it was one of the most rapid urbanization movements in the world, when Māori moved into cities in the 1960s. The descriptive picture (e.g. older Māori dying out which correlated with a lower te reo fluency rate) leads demographers to ask further questions and explore the data. She felt mainstream demography was very ill-equipped to why indigenous demographics looked the way they did.Professor Tahu Kukutai data sovereignty

She discussed historical demography and modeling the impacts of colonization on iwi and hapu population health (like mortality). There is the European Fertility Project, PRDH (Quebec), and DDB (Sweden) but nothing in New Zealand except for the Scots in Waipu. She received Marsden funding for a project to reconstruct three generations of tūpuna (ancestors) using mid-19th century census lists as the spine.

It assembles whenua data into a whenua database and correlates changes in mortality with changes in land tenure, use and settler settlement. The database was owned by Ngāti Tiipa, not her as researcher, and the information has to stay with whenua, not be shared on, etc.. It is important to remember that everything is just fragments if you don’t have local intelligence to weave it all together and make sense of it. A data classification guru helped them classify their data. The goal is clear and transparent tikanga.

She discussed the importance of data sovereignty. Te Mana Raraunga is the Māori Data Sovereignty Network, which advocates for Māori rights and interests in data to be protected. The U.S. has the US Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network. Australia has the Maiam nayri Wingara Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Sovereignty Collective.

There was an attempt to take an abstract concept and make it more concrete, and Brief #1 from October 2018 “Principles of Māori Data Sovereignty” is available. Part of the problem with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is it focuses on individual rights, not on collective rights. Data is a national, strategic resource.

Keynote: Shaun Angeles Penangke – Ayeye digital-kenhe arntarntareme: Protecting our digital cultural heritage

map of AustraliaPenangke is the Artwe-kenhe (Men’s) Collection Researcher at the Strehlow Research Centre, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. He first situated himself in Australia and where his ancestors are from as he displayed a map of the country, and he also asked the audience to repeat some of his language.

He said there is a huge tie/bond between the land and the body – children are believed to be a reincarnation of certain totems like a kangaroo or water. You had to take care of the land because you were connected to it and if it weren’t taken care of, this wouldn’t be good for your spirit. He explained that he was raising the issues of his people being in Western hospitals, having a lower life expectancy, and selling land to corporations because they are important context for him being in charge of a large, largely digitized collection of his people’s history.

He said he has noticed lots of similarities in his language and te reo Māori, including terms for things like taonga. At the research center, all research is done face-to-face – no public access. It’s not ours; it’s theirs. Staff are supposed to have an understanding of the culture to be able to work with the collection, including fluency in the language (Arrernte). So it makes sense to have indigenous working there, but he is only the second indigenous person to work there. It has mostly been researchers, which has been problematic. He said it’s imperative to the health of the collection to employ elders.

He discussed a project of cultural mapping and how it was necessary to go on foot to some places inaccessible by car. He is working on adding more meaning to the yellow pins of sacred sites on Google Earth. He discussed what he called a type of indigenous intervention – having an elder add annotations to a map document that had been sitting ‘sick’ for 60 years.

He cautioned that digitalization is important but has large risks, including how to avoid losing USBs with restricted sacred content, and that if not managed properly, it has the potential to remove the need for elders (overreliance on digital domain). A challenge is that elders don’t understand cloud storage and digital stuff, and they don’t yet have terms or protocols around the digital world. For example, is it sacred if it’s on USB? He wants to get young people involved and working in museums.

Keynotes: Ask Me Anything with MC Courtney Johnson

There is a move toward more nuanced, collaborative, complex, and sovereign relationship with objects and what they stand for (away from white, Western approach). Tuaratini Ra’a admitted that NDF sounded like it would be full of dry, boring people and/or robots but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t! Tara Robertson said she thinks the cultural protocols are more real here than elsewhere and really likes how it is here at NDF. There was the question of what could the GLAM sector do for Year of Indigenous Languages next year? Tahu Kukutai said it is hard as a second language learner to understand the lifeworld; it is more than grammar rules. Tuaratini discussed the fact that not everyone likes language weeks, one has to know the reasons and tikanga behind it; language is not alone without a culture. Thus, signs during language weeks aren’t a be-all, just a step. Bergis Jules said there is a tension between when you’re making a living as a researcher or employee working with data and ethical issues. Shaun Angeles Penangke said we’re governed by policies, etc. that aren’t ours; he tells people this is yours, come in anytime, don’t worry about checking in with reception, etc. Courtney Johnson agreed that these are challenges and that Te Papa is a bicultural institution but doesn’t yet have bicultural governance. Robertson said there is a theme of ‘not for general consumption’ that the sector is trying to figure out how to do well. Tuaratini said that seeing Robertson get emotional over the Māori whakataukī (proverb/saying) reminded her that we do have it good here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and that although there is heaps to do, we should acknowledge ourselves too. Robertson pointed out what some in the audience must have been thinking, that the stage was all speakers who were people of color/indigenous people. She also pointed out the contrast with the mostly white audience. Kukutai said that for true bicultural governance, we need co-governance, not just letting in people to see their objects and treasures but not being involved in their care.

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2016 – Day 2

NDF Conference 2016

Annual Conference of National Digital Forum (NDF)
November 22-23, 2016
Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (Wellington, NZ)
Conference program PDF
Twitter feed #NDFNZ
Recordings of sessions on NDF YouTube channel

See Cool Things to Check Out and Stand-out Presentation on my Day 1 post.

The following are my notes from the sessions I attended on day 2 of the NDF Conference. Most sessions were recorded and are available on the NDF YouTube channel.

Day 2 – Wednesday, November 23

Keynote: Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project – Takerei Norton (Ngāi Tahu Archives Team)

Norton began Day 2 of the NDF conference by stating that this is not a technical talk at all; it is more about how a community tells their story. He said that he found historical evidence through his elder that had a paragraph about a part of land from the 1800s, and they were able to get the tenure review from the government to create a conservation/preservation area of a particular lagoon. Then he had the idea to start mapping all of the Ngai Tahu cultural sites in the high country so they could try to protect more of them. At first, people were adding stickers to 30 maps with different colors of labels (green means food gathering site, blue means river, etc.). It was very laborious but also was a good activity to help people learn history and participate. Then they started taking trips to the high country and bringing 30ish people along. This became a time when they were reconnecting with their landscape.

Eventually, they ended up with over 4,000 place names on the South Island mapped on Google Earth! This is known as the Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project.

Twitter photo:

Every place name is referenced and validated by locals. They are trying to create an official portal for Ngāi Tahu history. Almost all the sites are on Crown land, and Norton only has access to copies of the original documentation. The originals are in Auckland and Wellington – he asked what are people who want to access their tribe’s history supposed to do if they can’t get to those places? They are also making travel routes and trails on the South Island (in green lines on Google Earth). Little red rectangles are the land that was allocated to the Maori by the government (not necessarily in the same area either). It was not 10% like it was supposed to be.

He said that we owe thanks to Pakeha historians like Beattie and Taylor because without them, we wouldn’t have a lot of history. But they did make mistakes, and it’s the job of our generation to correct them and build on their work to make it better. They have to make a decision on spelling when there are discrepancies. They want schools and other groups to use this resource they’ve created. He believes that it matters that the project hasn’t been done FOR us; we’ve done it ourselves. We’ve got skin in the game.

Keynote: See New Zealand clearly: Using numbers to understand who and where we are, where we’ve been, what’s going on and where we’re heading, or Creating a Data Democracy – Lillian Grace ( @GracefulLillian

Grace began by asking several questions about data. How many Labrador dogs are registered in NZ? How many young people aged 20-24 that should be getting on with their lives but don’t seem to be are in certain areas? (28% in Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay)? How many NZers have there ever been?

For all of time, it’s been hard to share information widely and communicate with other people. For the first time ever, now it’s easy. Devices enable us to share information widely and communicate with lots of people in multiple directions. Back in the day, there needed to be smart people to be great leaders and digest information. Now it can be done differently. We can make decisions in different ways. People are scared to change because they think it means that what they were doing before was wrong. But she thinks that it should be seen as an opportunity instead.

We have finally moved to thinking learning to read is for everyone, but we still don’t do this with numbers. We allow the experts to figure out numbers and use them in their thinking. is trying to change this. She likes to think of numbers as holding stories that not everyone is capable of understanding. Why don’t we use numbers in our thinking?

Datasets were set up before the Internet, so sharing wasn’t even thought about. No standards, etc. But now, people with information are expected to make it open and share it. But this is also terrifying for people who collected datasets, because they are asked to share it and they hadn’t been thinking they would have to do that. Having datasets sorted by source and institution and country is like having a dictionary where the words are sorted by the country they originated from. It’s too hard to deal with and not very helpful to have New Zealand data trapped on each individual website.

She gave the example of her brother, a truck driver, who gets excited about knowing how many accidents happen in a certain area or certain times of year. So people understand the importance of numbers when you present them in a different way. But most people don’t use data, and most of NZ’s data isn’t used. is a charity and the first organization in the world to assert that everyone can use data. Their mission is to enable everyone to make sense of data and see New Zealand clearly, in a way that inspires us forward. They charge places that have data like the Treasury or other government sites to process their data and tables. [But do these places actually want people to look closely at their numbers?…] Currently on their website you can look at a Pinterest-style page of figures. They know that at the moment, people still have to know what to search for on their website. Ex. A florist in Nelson might not just want to look at data in the floral industry, because it might be more helpful for them to look at other relevant data, such as funeral trends. We need to create a culture where people are encouraged and inspired to learn things and seek out things for themselves [yes, self-directed learning].

Youth, digital agency and encounters with the past and present – Louise Saunders (UNITEC)

 Louise Saunders was filling in for the originally-scheduled speaker. She said that she started as a student, became a leader, and then got published  [great trajectory for young students]. She was in a Communications class that had an assignment to make a community-based oral history project on WWI because of the centenary. It aimed to introduce students (outside of fields like history or cultural studies) to digital storytelling and content, to help them build a transmedia narrative. Her group produced an interactive exhibit called Help Me Tell My Story ( She mentioned that ePress at Unitech is an online publishing platform. The rest of the projects can be seen at

Even though they considered themselves marvellous Communications students, they quickly realized they didn’t have much digital technology skills, so had to partner with back-end and front-end developers [again reiterating the importance of digital literacy]. She said it was probably the best learning experience they had as students. Students in the class not from New Zealand (like those from Asian countries) said that participating in this activity meant that they could actually relate to the First World War. Once they had something to focus on (WWI), all the things they had been learning about in their degree really came to life (blogging, social media, etc.). Before it was just like ‘blah social media’, etc. Leith Haarhoff asked a question about how the logistics between GLAM and academia worked and if there were any problems. Saunders said that the issues were usually about who would take responsibility but they were always worked out. Strong leadership is needed to see the project through.

A model for relevant technology programming in libraries – Leith Haarhoff (Palmerston North Libraries) and Tyler Benson (Massey School of Engineering)

Haarhoff and Benson took turns discussing the Technology Summer Challenge and Technology Challenge project that involved the Massey School of Engineering and Palmerston North Libraries. Haarhoff began by talking about problems that face the world and then looking at how these can catalyze a solution. There is a pressure on libraries to prove relevance and do that through technology. He said they feel pressure to use 3-D printing and new technologies but don’t necessarily know why. Research shows that 75% of primary school kids are loving STEM, then something happens in the translation to their NCEA choices and it goes down to 25%. Massey is not getting enough students.

Benson is an engineer and made the comment that he was glad to see so many ‘older’ people who know technology in the audience, that it was a great environment to be in [some of them may have been a bit ruffled over that comment!]. He explained that the Technology Challenge used 3-D printers to make stuff and kids were dragging their parents to come over and participate. There was good energy. He saw five factors that made it successful: Real-world context; Hands-on experiments [tinkering]; Peer-to-peer interaction and group collaboration (challenge/problem/project-based learning); Interaction with parents/parental involvement; and Key mentors that are committed. What they learned was that the library can help facilitate the STEM program. This was a key aspect. The library might have the stuff but doesn’t know how to use it in a very advanced way. By bringing in engineering students, this then leads to more expertise around the local city (like engineers who know how to use 3-D printers). One question was about whether there was any transference of skills to library staff. Someone did learn how to solder. If you’re interested in something, it doesn’t take that long to learn a new skill. People felt a lot more confident by the second time.

A fireside chat with Seb Chan in conversation with Courtney Johnston (Chan from ACMI, @sebchan; Johnston from DOWSE Art Museum, @auchmill)

Chan said that he used to say that virtual visitors need to be paid attention to just like physical visitors. Now he realizes that they are differently important. The fact is we are spending more time on screens. Mobile hasn’t reduced the time on screens but has actually increased it. Americans spend about 8 hours on average a day on screens (according to new Pew research).

He discussed a difference between museums in the UK, Australia, NZ which have the idea that things are for the public, and museums in the U.S. There, the nonprofit educational aspect is why donations to museums incur a tax benefit. This seems more paternalistic than NZ and Australia. Chan thinks that the U.S. is a decade ahead in museum practice but a decade behind in terms of funding that practice. The certainty of financial security isn’t there. There are much larger boards with stakeholders (up to 40+). There is also the sense that “digital is done”. It was a way to be seen to be showing innovation but wasn’t necessarily about a structural change. He gave a case study of Cooper Hewitt.

Whenever we do digital projects, we never spend enough time marketing them. You need to demonstrate that your organization is outward-facing. Institutions need to be looking out to the world. We need to get out there. People don’t look down here. We’re far away.

Johnston asked a final question about visitor research vs. surveillance. There are issues of privacy and harvesting data with no real purpose. She says, don’t collect data if you don’t need to (how many people walk by a building with a phone, example).

Panel: Labs and incubators for the rest of us

Tui Te Hau (Mahuki lab at Te Papa) @Mahuki_TePapa
Seb Chan (ACMI) @sebchan
Julia Kaganskiy (New Inc.) @juliaxgulia
Paula Bray (DXLab at State Library NSW) @paulabray

ACMIx at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is a new coworking space (for filmmakers, VR developers, gamers, etc.) for making connections, fostering ideas, and building a community. It has been open for seven months now and has two universities in Melbourne that have postgrads and academics in this space as well.

Mahuki at the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand is an innovation incubator.The Mahuki outreach program works with tertiary institutions, the start-up ecosystem, and the wider community. They provide $20,000 funding for teams. They get 6% equity in the businesses so are invested in their success. There is a priority on diversity (gender, Māori, Pasifika).

Kaganskiy runs New Inc., founded by the New Museum in New York. They have 8,000 sq. ft. with 100 creative practitioners. It seemed like every area had an incubator lab except for the arts. Artists lacked business and entrepreurial skills to stay in NY. It costs $600 a month for full time or $350 for part-time, so people pay for desk space. They are trying to offer scholarships and funding for those without means.

Bray talked about the DXLab at the State Library of New South Wales, which is more about Digital Humanities research than being an incubator program.

Question: Why are labs important? How can they be sustainable?

Kaganskiy: It extends the public service that your museum is doing for the community. It is sustainable because of membership fees (60-70% of operational budget) and they have some foundational funding as well.

Chan: Working with universities has removed the need to do things like build labs or studios (specialist physical resources).

Te Hau: They embrace fast failing, so speed is a good thing. Then people can move on to another project.

Q: What does success look like? How do you measure this?

Chan: They need to cultivate an alumni program like universities do, so they can help show the influence they have. The first step is making the lab and naming it. Then it takes more work to go from there.

Te Hau: They are hoping that 8 out of 10 will finish the program (looking like they are on track to do so).

There was a question from Andy Neale: What about organizations that won’t set up these incubators? Kaganskiy responded that these were filling a gap and a need. They weren’t competing with things that were already there. She thinks that the community value-add aspect is the most important. There was a question about whether or not incubators try to encourage people to use their content. It seems to depend on whether they are connected to an institution. New Inc. isn’t a collecting institution, but ACMI does encourage people in incubator to use museum space and ‘try out’ exhibits.

Should you start an incubator? Consider these factors: Real Estate, Community Value-Add, Strategic Partnerships, Business Model, Experiment and Iterate.

Keynote: Incubating culture and creative economies – Julia Kaganskiy (New Inc.) @juliaxgulia @Newinc

Kaganskiy mentioned the ‘Color the Temple’ activity at the Met Museum (Egyptian art being lit up with light). She highly recommended the MoMA R&D website/blog.

She said that incubators can help breathe life into struggling communities. They are most effective when they are site-specific and situated in a specific community. By the year 2020, 40% of the workforce will be freelance. Innovation doesn’t just come from the Sciences. It comes from the Arts too!

Twitter photo:

Virtual Reality is really hot at New Inc. right now. She gave a brief look at some of the exciting ideas coming out of the incubator.

Monegraph is trying to make it easier to share digital works.

Print All Over Me turns virtual designs into real world objects. It is run by a brother and sister duo. After this, the next year they started Kokowa, an easy tool to create 3-D environments. The process is still quite hard, so their startup made a drag and drop interface tool. You can view it cross-platform.

Artiphon is designed to make music really accessible for beginners. It can scale with you as you grow. Professional musicians could use it as well.

Micromuseums are another interesting concept. It is a mobile museum about 6 ft. high by 3 ft. wide, features 15 exhibitions, and is designed to go into places like DMVs and hospital waiting rooms that are classified as dehumanized zones.

Powerplnt is giving free art lessons to teens in Harlem.

Disability is a focus at New Inc. as well. Alice Sheppard is working on a new performance with ramps that she wants to disseminate. For her it is very much an advocacy project.

Elia Life (Education, Literary, and Independence for All) wants to redesign Braille to be more intuitive, because currently it’s very difficult to learn.

Kaganskiy discussed how we need to re-envision the incubator model to foster cultural value not just capital value. They initially had social impact as one of their objectives or focus areas, but then they decided to take it out because it was such a weighty term. But it has ended up happening anyway and has been something they support. Museums act as a credentialler and when connected with an incubator are possibly even more important than physical space.

Closing Remarks – Matthew Oliver (Chair, NDF Board) @talkingtothecan

Oliver offered some reflections on the tumultuous year, including the death of the icon David Bowie and the assault on human decency that Trump brings. Is it the end of Parliamentary democracy; do we need a discussion on neoliberalism? Our sector (cultural heritage) needs to be involved in these conversations. We need to help build society and communities where people want to help each other [empathy]. The future is about building a better world where hate can’t survive. He mentioned issues like sexism. He said that we need to stop trying to prove we’re relevant and just get on with our work. Then the award winners were announced, and the conference was over.

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2016 – Day 1

NDF Conference 2016

Annual Conference of National Digital Forum (NDF)
November 22-23, 2016
Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (Wellington, NZ)
Conference program PDF
Twitter feed #NDFNZ
Recordings of sessions on NDF YouTube channel

Cool Things to Check Out:

Stand-out Presentation:

The stand-out talk was Takerei Norton’s discussion of his work on the Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project, which now has over 4,000 Māori place names on the South Island mapped onto Google Earth, complete with references from Māori communities. This will enable countless Digital Humanities research projects and was so interesting and inspiring to learn about.

The following are my notes from the sessions I attended on day 1 of the NDF Conference. Most sessions were recorded and are available on the NDF YouTube channel. [If any errors, let me know.]

Day 1 – Tuesday, November 22

On Day 1, there was first a breakfast put on by DigitalNZ. Their big announcement was that they just launched Stories which is an easy way to put together images and text using historical material or your own material.

Then the conference opened and it was announced that they had over 300 registrations, which was the most they’d ever had. This number later was specified as 320 registrations.

Opening Address – Richard Foy (Department of Internal Affairs)

Richard Foy gave a fabulous opening address. He was funny, understandable, and relatable, and he used great images. He connected it with the personal/human element by showing images of his daughter Lucy and his grandmother. He said that we need to be people-first (rather than cloud-first, etc.).

It was pleasing to hear him make several science fiction references right off the bat, a big one being The Core science fiction movie. He humorously explained his attachment to this not-ranked-very-highly movie and encouraged us to please rate it on IMDB – it deserves better than a 5.4!

Foy then gave a hilarious overview of digitization – how we make PDFs and put them in the ‘cloud’ and then burn the rest of the leftovers. This has precedent! Actually, the Gibbons fire in New Zealand led to the Archives Act 1957. This kind of digitization is not best practice, obviously.

Foy next discussed time and memory. Our memory allows us to inextricably link our past with our present and our future. When we lose some of that memory, our memories tend to fade away. That can lead to a much darker future. We’re not accountable for things that have gone by in the past.

We’re moving from physical information to digital information and need to figure out how we manage those. Unlike Pokemon Go, we don’t want to catch it all. Some of it we don’t need and don’t want to remember. He said that copyright in the digital era is ripe for disruption! And he also gave a shout out to Digital Humanities – these are the things these guys are begging us for! We also need to make information useful and available for machines to be able to deal with it for us.

What would happen if we created the reading room on the web in the 21st century? But what if there were nothing to read? We have to make sure we preserve things for the future.

Keynote: Memory Institutions as Knowledge Machines – Eric T. Meyer (Oxford Internet Institute at University of Oxford) @etmeyter

Meyer is at the Oxford Internet Institute and has been there for 15 years, since 2001. He started by asking What does social informatics mean? He described the term “Socio-Technical” and how his book editors kept trying to take out the hyphen but he insisted on it. What social informatics does is to examine the hyphen – how do people interact with technology. He has an article about it: “Examining the Hyphen” (2014). Science and Technology Studies tends to look at the first side” of the hyphen (people), then add the technology later. Computer Science tends to look at the second side of the hyphen (technology), then add the socio/people thing just at the end.

Wired magazine tends to be quite focused on technology determinism. The Internet causes this, makes people dumber, etc. But actually, technology allows people to make certain choices.

Working with his colleague Ralph, whom he doesn’t often agree with, means that every sentence is carefully thought-out because they have to work hard to convince the other person of their position. (Benefit of co-writing rather than sole authorship)

No one used to care about data. Then after Snowden, now ‘big data’ draws larger crowds.

Do you indicate that you used a digital resource when building your list of references? Basically students use them but then delete because of academic standards.

He discussed marine biology research on humpback whales. There are many scientists around the world looking at their own populations, but it’s good to find a way to share that data with other scientists so they can build a map and estimate the numbers of whales in the world, rather than just one area. Another problem is that we don’t know how long they live, but they could live over 100 years. So how do scientists make sure that the scientists after them can use that data?

He discussed a ‘big data’ project on dementia ( Funders insisted that they use the word big data in the title, even though it really wasn’t that big of a data. (Big data is seen as sexy though.) How do we change the incentives in medical science to make it so they not only want to create data but want to make it accessible to others and share it? How many people have worked with a scientist who comes to the end of the project and hasn’t thought about what to do with the data and just wants to shove it into a repository to meet the requirements of founders? There is a need to get them thinking about data earlier in the process (this is what librarians in universities are working on).

An example of big data that could be used to help out in the health care realm but raises ethical questions: Tesco grocery store chain has a loyalty card that can pick up on shopping habits of someone coming down with dementia (like narrowing shopping choices or buying the same item day after day). But how ethically would they be able to share that data with health professionals? There are other issues with big data. RFID chips are used to track things. Meyer said that if he goes to a conference and they have a chip in the id badge and they can’t tell him what they’re doing with the data, he rips it out. He also gave the example that made the news about how Target knew a teenage girl was pregnant before her dad did (see article in Forbes), started sending her coupons, etc. for baby stuff. This shows how scary big data can be – they know more than our own families do. Also, the problem with loyalty shopping cards is that it is all proprietary data protected under no disclosure agreements that medical researchers, really anyone can’t get access to.

He finds Internet Archive Wayback Machine and other web archives frustrating because you can only look at URLs one at a time. The search function isn’t very good because they can’t crawl the data as fast as they need. You can’t look at broader information. Historians in the future will want to know what was going on today, on the web, because that is where things are mainly happening in our world.

‘Academics quite like to link to themselves.’ He showed a chart of how the subdomains link to each other (.co, .gov, .ac).

He discussed a Digital Humanities project where a Thomas Pynchon wiki was set up to annotate his book Against the Day and it only took a few months, whereas previously it had taken years. This is a new way of doing a humanities task, such as annotating a novel, and can be done by the crowd. It was done by a non-academic, a fan, who ran the server from his own computer. Weisenburger’s Rainbow (first annotation) was bought and stored by libraries, but there is no plan to preserve this person’s wiki project. It raises questions about how to proceed in future with this kind of humanities project.

Re: Humanities Browsing and Searching vs. Physical Sciences Browsing and Searching
Lots of people use Google search and Google Scholar but also rely on a lot of other resources. Over the last 20 years, libraries have gotten to be too good at being invisible. He said that when physical scientists have been asked about their library use, they don’t even realize where they are getting their online journal articles! On the one hand it’s good that libraries are less visible because it means the experience is smoother, but on the other hand, they are not being appreciated or noticed. It used to be very difficult to find information, but now it just takes a few clicks. So that has changed the nature of how things work. We’ve moved from information to analysis.

He mentioned Blockchain and Ascribe and the discussion around whether these can help artists get paid.

He finished by discussing a student project where they were asked to make films using nothing but an iPad. “Bottling Inspiration: Shoot Smart Swindon Final Project Report” (2014) It unleashed a lot of creativity among their students. Instead of separating out roles like camera person, editing person, it allowed everyone to collaborate and comment.

A round up on the latest inspirations and examples of tech in exhibitions around the world – Emily Loughnan (Clicksuite) @suitey

Loughnan presented a whirlwind tour of really innovative museum exhibits in the world. The interactive version of Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” painting inspired her to think about if they could make something that would allow others to do the same with their artworks and objects. Curio ( came out of Mahuki, the Innovation Hub at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.

Museums are moving from being story-tellers to co-creators. Virtual Reality (VR) can allow people to create something for themselves. Check out the Tilt brush from Google. Yet 5 million people are going through the museum, so there are issues of through-put in terms of being able to offer augmented experiences like VR. It also takes a lot of staff work and there are health issues with the helmet having just been on someone else’s head. There are also tripping, bumping, and other hazards. (Ex: Ghostbuster exhibit in NY) One solution: swivel stools so you don’t worry about stumbling into other people. Another one: turning a bus into a VR experience (“Field Trip to Mars” on Vimeo) shows how a school bus was transformed into a VR experience without the use of headsets.

In the Rain Room at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it feels like you have a super power (back off rain!). Rain is everywhere except on you. At the Digital Waterfall in the Connected Worlds exhibit at the New York Hall of Science, you can divert the water into 5 or 6 different worlds. Boys come in and immediately dam the water and all the worlds are starved for water. Loughnan tried cutting down a bunch of trees in the rainforest and was actually saddened to see that they didn’t grow back. [I can see the potential for environmental education.]

Digitising the divide: Who’s in, who’s out? – Robyn Hunt (AccEase, Arts Access Aotearoa)

Hunt is from Arts Access Aotearoa and offered a challenge to the hype about digital by discussing disability issues. She said there is a certain group that doesn’t have access to all the digital stuff. Nearly one-quarter of New Zealanders are disabled. Older people are 14% of New Zealanders and growing.

Some digital solutions to disability issues are: accessible web sites, accessible devices, and closed captioning on YouTube (although it can be quite bad). But smart phones are more expensive with the accessibility additions so might be out of reach for disabled people. She mentioned BlindSquare, which is an app for the vision-impaired.

Digitally sculpted artworks for blind people are being done in the U.S. so they can then experience the world’s greatest paintings and art in a new way.

Hunt issued a challenge for everyone to Incorporate universal design into all of their projects. It should not be special – it should just be part of the way things are done.

She also brought up that what a nation chooses to remember is important and she is glad that Te Papa has started to document disabled soldiers in WWI.

Re-imagining Rutherford’s Den – Caroline Fenton (Communications Manager at The Arts Centre, Christchurch)

Rutherford’s Den is in the Christchurch Arts Centre. One good thing to come out of the earthquake damage has been that they had a chance to redesign the space. There is a time lapse on their website (change from a heritage space to the space that it is today with interactive exhibits). Their blackboards are actually screens, so you are tricked into thinking you walked back in time but there is actually a lot of digital material and technology that you can’t experience until you walk into the space. The exhibit has appeal to both Arts and Science people.

Getting it Done – Matariki Williams and Nina Finigan (TUSK Emergent Culture) @TUSKCulture

Tusk was launched in 2015 as an online platform for people entering GLAM institutions to contribute constructively, in their own voice, to the sector. They want to contribute to strengthening the cultural sector from the ground up. They mentioned LitCrawl (website; @tweetlitcrawl) then moved on to the ‘Trumppocalypse’ and millennial voting map (it was misleading because it actually was from a Survey Monkey survey done in October, but hopefully data people figured that out). They said the hamster wheel of short-term contracts in the Arts sector wasn’t working. They needed to fail in the traditional way so they could think laterally and get beyond the idea of funding being the primary goal. They wanted their online platform to be loose, reactive, and relevant to their generation. But this involves not always being taken seriously by the usual crowd. They said divergence and departure are the natural state of the Internet, and they wanted to be able to take advantage of this. The spirit of generosity helps when collaborating. They believe that those who have platforms need to use them; our voices need to be heard. We shouldn’t be restricted to what we’re doing as a day job. We should be active, engaged citizens. They asked: How do we avoid being an echo chamber? How can we bust down the doors and bring what we have to those outside of our circles?

Papers Past – A Redesign Case Study – Michael Lascarides (National Library) @PapersPastNZ

Lascarides discussed a new user experience for Papers Past. It was a well-liked service, so they didn’t want to change what people liked and what was working. Their Google Analytics says that there are 1200 different screen sizes per month being used to access their site. Google has started penalizing sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. A few years ago making it device friendly and responsive was a nice-to-have, but now is a must-have. They got rid of the search button on the home page. This was a bit radical. Now there are just 4 buttons for people to click and choose what they want to look at. They also changed their URLs (http://). They previously had very 1997 URLs so they redesigned them so they are a lot better. Now they use format, publication, year, month, day, page which is easy to understand and easy to parse with Google.

Learning to COPE with Galleries at Auckland Museum – Gareth de Walters (Auckland Museum) @gdewalters

Walters discussed how to use 3-D scanning technologies to bring objects to students and researchers, etc. They made a virtual laser scans of the old exhibit (unique permanent record) when it came time to renovate their long-standing Centennial Street exhibit. Ideally, they would be able to recreate it from storage if they wanted to. They worked with architects to make these plans. They also did photo stitching in the gallery. One of the goals was to make a digital tour (an interactive online collection). Matterport is a new technology that offers a relatively cheap and quick means of scanning galleries. It supports VR out of the box.

Regarding the Origins Gallery, they found that the gallery space wasn’t conducive to noisy kids (kids love dinosaurs!). There was a move to student-centered learning with teacher as a guide rather than an authoritative voice telling them what to know.

Shaping Knowledge: How can 3D Technology by Used in Libraries to Make New Knowledge Available? – Jason Hansen (National Library)

3D seems like a natural fit for museums, but it might not seem like something that fits in a library. They don’t hold that many 3-D objects. Hansen said that he would make the case that there is a reason to do it even if just because it is an emerging part of the technology in the world we’re living in. At this point, the conversation is just about 3D printing as a novelty (like printing chocolate) rather than about the potential for information storage, discovery, and dissemination. Libraries are still stuck in a 2-D model of scanned documents on screens. But, for example, a photograph of the parchment of the Treaty isn’t the same as having more details about the object. This is where 3-D that has more fidelity to the original object could be useful.

3-D printing could completely change the supply chain. Just like you might download music instead of getting CDs now, 3-D printing could do this to other objects that we buy. It could cut down on transport costs. What this means for libraries is that they would have a reason to collect the designs or 3-D models that may have some kind of cultural impact and to retain them in a repository to be made available later.

Hansen discussed Lightfield technology (mixed reality) and Magic Leap. [Reminded me of more Minority Report style of moving around data instead of needing a tablet since it is an overlay on the real world.] There was a YouTube video of a child showing their dad their Mount Everest project. Developing digital literacies was mentioned. The Rekrei (Project Mosul) was able to recreate some of the destroyed museums in Iraq. Semantic nodes (Augmented Reality and 3-D tech) allow ways of interacting with the world in ways that weren’t possible before. It blurs the line between physical and digital. It broadens the role of these tech as we use our role as learning facilitators.

Grisly Explorations into 3-D Models and 360degree Tours – Meredith Rigger (Nelson Provincial Museum & Relive360)

 The Nelson Provincial Museum didn’t have the same support as Auckland Museum, so it had to do 3-D stuff with 13 full-time equivalent staff just learning on their own. Rigger started off by telling a short history of Murder at Maungatapu: “Let’s meet some bandits shall we?” Later she explained how back in the day, a dentist took plaster casts of the heads of those executed for the now-famous murder because phenology was a hot topic at the time. They have 3 of these death casts at the museum. They took photos of them and then fed the photographic data into VisualSFM, Meshlab, Meshmixer, and Cinema 4D (some freeware, some not). They then created a 360-degree view in PanoTour software. She advised that text that looks good on a wall may not look good on a screen, so things may have to be adjusted for different locations.

The 2020s called: They want workers to be digitally literate – Kara Kennedy (University of Canterbury) @DuneScholar

[This was my presentation about how digital literacy needs to be incorporated into higher education. I discussed why there is a need for change away from just assigning traditional academic essays to assess learning, and how Digital Humanities offers a good way of accomplishing this through assignments that hone different skills. Examples include: blogging, editing Wikipedia, creating digital editions, working with digital archives, using map visualization tools, making multimedia assignments like videos, using textual analysis programs, working with databases, and digitizing images.]

Internet Arcade – Greig Roulston (National Library of New Zealand)

Roulston described the creation of a homemade video game arcade station and how surprisingly, it is not that complicated to make. It is now in the National Library in Wellington.

Crowdsourcing & how GLAMs encourage me to participate – Siobhan Leachman (Volunteer/Citizen scientist) @siobhanleachman

Leachman had three suggestions for a crowdsourcing project. 1. Be generous with content. Allow me to reuse what I helped to created. If I transcribe something, I want to be able to download it. If I’m tagging, I want to be able to use the images in Wikipedia or a blog. If you’re lucky, your volunteer will reuse your data in ways you never thought of. It’s a competitive market out there for volunteers. 2. Be generous with trust. We will not read the instructions until we hit a problem. Plan for this. Have easy tasks for beginners. Have challenges (like a game) to allow me to level up. 3. Be generous with time. The most successful crowdsourcing projects engage with their volunteers. Spend time cultivating. Think about what you can do for the crowd, not just what they can do for you. It’s about collaboration, which requires communication. Links from talk are available here:

A new type of audiotour – Tim Jones (Christchurch Art Gallery)

The Christchurch Art Gallery hadn’t really thought of the place of audio in galleries before. But as a result of the earthquakes and Civil Defence putting in good wi-fi, they were able to do some new things with an audio guide in their space.

What I learned about massive branded projects from editing Wikipedia – Mike Dickison (Whanganui Regional Museum) @adzebill

Dickison said that the Radio NZ Critter of the Week for endangered species initiative to improve and create pages on Wikipedia has become quite popular and successful. What are MBPs? Massive branded projects like Te Ara, New Zealand Birds Online, and the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. They also always have a nice logo and are well-funded, well-designed, and well-thought out. They are usually an excellent resource. The downsides are that they are slow to start, slow to change, and slow to update. They become hungry for money or time and are often doomed to wither away or become zombies (where the site looks like it’s alive, but if you look too closely, it will eat your brain!). [In other words, they might not have been updated in years.] He proposed an alternative, that being to start small. An example is the NZ Organisms Register; however, that is also now a zombie site after losing funding. He called for people to embrace open editing and build on open resources like Wikispecies. Wikipedia projects can occur in a healthier way than traditional GLAM projects.

Social media struggles and sub branded communities – Holly Grover (Auckland War Memorial Museum)

Grover’s discussed how to empower employees and create social leaders. She said to consider sub-branding and fragmentation and to make sure to do social media audits to evaluate effectiveness.

See the forest, not the trees: free data visualisation tools – Paul Rowe (Vernon Systems) @armchair_caver

Rowe talked about how to take raw data and clean it up and do stuff with it. There are new tools evolving, like IBM’s Watson Analytics. Remember: Data is your friend!

Unauthorised audio tours: Theatricality in new technologies – Joel Baxendale and Ralph Upton (Binge Culture)

Binge Culture offered probably the most unconventional presentation which involved a clapping demo and then a video of their ‘Unauthorized audio tour of Te Papa’.

Keynote: Insights from Data – Dave Brown (Microsoft Research)

Brown began by giving an overview of Microsoft Research. It was founded in 1991. It is like a Computer Science faculty at a university but bigger and has published more than 10,000 peer-reviewed publications. He said that if research shows we remember and process data better in 3-D as opposed to 2-D, maybe the next wave of the Internet will make the current website experience seem medieval. Sometimes visualization of data can prompt new questions. [This is one of the benefits of Digital Humanities research. You find things you didn’t even know to look for or ask about.]

Brown showed a couple examples of technology. One was of seismic activity in 3-D where you could see the angle of the fault line under the earth. This was definitely more interesting and engaging than a spreadsheet for most people. It’s called “Holograph” on the Surface tablet (but works on other platforms too). Another one was of the annual rainfall in the U.S. mapped onto the map, where the blocks could be stacked into histograms. It’s not only pretty but actually shows a lot of context. It shows how the data they are looking at is related, and allows you to look at multiple times (using scroll function to move between time) rather than just snapshots.

He then did a demo of the HoloLens (Microsoft mixed reality offering) and asked us, “What will a world with holograms enable us to do?” [Couldn’t help myself with this tweet: Communicate with Sith lords?] The HoloLens was reminiscent of Pokemon Go where there are things on screen, but in his case he was looking at the U.S. maps shown earlier or the globe. It provides context and will be more memorable than other ways of looking at the data, he said.

He mentioned the Bing Translator that can be installed on your phone. It’s fast enough that you can have a conversation with someone who speaks a language you can’t understand. He spoke about empowerment for under-resourced communities by giving them Microsoft Translator Hub. [This raised some ethical questions for me, in terms of Western culture offering ‘solutions’ to people in other countries.]

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