Thursday, 31 January 2013

More on Trolls from Bloomsbury: How Social Media are used within the British Museum

Use of Social Media within the British Museum and Museum Sector D.E.J. Pett (ICT Adviser: The British Museum and Portable Antiquities Scheme) undated text published online May 2012.

 See Section 13, Problems with social media (page 13)

Institutional use of social media is fraught with potential problems.  While there have been many successful social media projects, it is important to also outline some of the remaining issues which include:
[...] Flash-point subjects
Bullying and anti-social behaviour, dealing with trolls and vexatious bloggers

But they don't do they? They do not "deal with" vexatious questions about their policies. They simply treat them like they do any other questioners, the people who want their Benin bronzes back (ignore them, refuse to deal with the issue), those who want their Parthenon Marbles back (ignore them, refuse to deal with them), those who want their caryatid back (ignore them, refuse to deal with them), those who want their Rosetta Stone back (ignore them, refuse to deal with them), those that want their Halicarnassus Mausoleum bits back (ignore them, refuse to deal with them). The British Museum has a long history of dismissively not dealing with vexatious people who question what they are doing, they consider themselves a law unto themselves, answerable to absolutely nobody.

It seems to me that those speaking from its imperialist portals on "engagement" would heed the words of the previous section on the topic in Pett's own paper (section 12 page 12 - 13: "strategies for involvement"):
[...] social media policy draws inspiration from Sir GusO’Donnell’s exhortations (pride, passion, pace and professionalism: Civil Service 2009b) to the civil service to: 
a) Be credible: Be accurate, fair, thorough and transparent. 
b) Be consistent: Encourage constructive criticism and deliberation. Be cordial, honest and professional at all times. 
c) Be responsive: When you gain insight, share it where appropriate.
d) Be integrated: Wherever possible, align online participation with other offline communications.
 e) Be a civil servant: Remember that you are an ambassador for your organisation.Wherever possible, disclose your position as a representative of your department or agency. 
Pett spoils it by suggesting "This is sage advice for all professional engagement online, but in reality it is impossible to actually control social media output by institutional employees and general encouragement to behave with common sense is a much better tactic to adopt than outright regulation". I see NO reference whatsoever to "regulation" here, this is code of ethics/practice type advice. Its what we expect of our public institutions. Expectations it is apparently unreasonable to have of a certain section of the (public) employees of the British Museum.

So how are social media used within the British Museum? I think if you look at what the Portable Antiquities Scheme, for excample, puts out, there is less actual engagement these days than sheer propaganda, the "Look wottalotta stuff we got" (look how it glitters and shines!) rather that that sharing any insight into artefact hunting and collecting as an activity or a more holistic consideration of its effects on the archaeological record and public opinion on archaeology. Its almost as if the exhortion to "be an ambassador" of the establishment has been taken to one extreme, at the expense of a more nuanced vision that one might (in other circumstances) have expected from one of Britain's major academic and research institutions. Shame on you, shame on the lot of you.

Star Trek - The Next Generation "Engage" (posted by Mandy Stewart). 
What will the next generation (if it exists) of the PAS avoid doing?

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