Friday, 28 March 2008

So, um, yeah, this Web 2 thing? Not that interested.

There was an post on the Indianapolis Museum of Art blog earlier this week, encouraging people to write Wikipedia entries on the works in the Museum's outdoor sculpture garden. Richard, the blogger, was inspired by existing Wikipedia entries on individual works of art, like The Potato Eaters, and The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

In a post on Wednesday, Richard lamented that while he had got some blog buzz about his idea, no one had actually written any entries. There's obviously a gap between people who think something's a good idea (art bloggers are so into this sort of stuff) and people who might actually do it (visitors to the IMA sculpture garden).

When I read the first post, I thought two things:

1. This would be a great things for galleries like Auckland and Christchurch, who have quite a lot of texts about individual works online, to be encouraging.

2. Maybe CreativeNZ, who funded a blogging reviewer, and this site about contemporary NZ art, could fund someone to do this for NZ's various creative industries. I've written before about the entries about our art galleries on Wikipedia; Black Grace doesn't have an entry, for example; nor does the Indian Ink Theatre Company. Yet when I type 'indian ink play' into Google, the first result I get is an entry about a Tom Stoppard play.*

In his first post, Richard wrote:

Maybe at this point you’re asking yourself why someone here just doesn’t make entries for the IMA collection. Well, I’ve thought about it some and decided against doing it myself because I work here and it might be a conflict of interest.

It's also known as astroturfing - the imitation of grass roots action by an institution, group, or corporation. For example; leaving comments under another name on your own blog to encourage others to comment, or seeding positive reviews of your product on forums.

Lastly, and on theme, for your Friday afternoon reading pleasure: while researching this post I found Hamish Keith's Wikipedia page, written by eastcoastpakeha last October.

*Out of interest, the first three results for 'nz contemporary art' in my Google search.


Anonymous said...

Do you really think CNZ would fund that - good idea but wouldn't they give preference to someone who has institutional backing or an established reputation whihc sort of negates the "grass roots" idea?

Courtney Johnston said...

I doubt you could apply for a CNZ grant to do it - hi, CNZ, can I have some money under the New Work category to write Wikipedia entries about NZ art for 3 months? [I've always wanted an artist to apply under that category for funding to have a baby]

Astroturfing is an interesting topic- witness the wikiscanner scandal earlier this year. It's an extremely fuzzy boundary between providing (or correcting) information, and self-promotion. So I guess as an institution you'd have to take a medium-term view: how can we engage an online audience to such an extent that they're happy to put in the work so we have a solid presence on the world's biggest reference site? Which is what the IMA appear to be grappling with.

Maybe the failure of the IMA campaign was trying to do it online, via their blog. Was there any on-site promotion? What if, for example, they had loaned keen visitors laptops and digital cameras and given them wifi, and sent them out into their sculpture garden?

artandmylife said...

ha - I just thought that if JH could get funding for his blog then basically they were up for anything :-)

I agree about giving people the tools "on the spot" but a bit of a logistical nightmare. Its a bit of a trap to think that because you are on the net then so is everyone else I guess.

I am having a bad day with wordpress - arrggh

Richard McCoy said...

Ouch, astroturfing. I get it though; it's a fair critique. I just hadn’t thought about it far enough.

Despite this, the idea really is a grass-roots effort on my part. I work in the conservation department and cooked up the idea independent of the marketing folks upstairs.

My primary interest is in creating public records of public art. While the IMA "owns" the outdoor sculptures, they are in the public (you don’t have to pay to see them). I would be interested in seeing Wikipedia entries on all outdoor sculptures. There's something similar to this already, but it was created by certain people, not the public. See Save Outdoor Sculpture:

Also check out the List of Sculptures in Central Park (kind of what I have in mind for the IMA):

Part of my job here is to go out and check the condition of the sculptures, but there are a lot of people already doing something like that when they come here and take pictures of them and then upload them to sites like Flickr so my thought was to try and harness that work into something useful. Plus, there are a lot of people that know a ton about art that I think should be shared.

James Cocks wrote an interesting article about Wikipedia in conservation, but you can't find it on the internet (here's his web page):

He’s been involved with this entry, which is a very good one:

I think that it could be justified for me or someone else that works here to make entries about our pieces, but for now I’m interested to see where this goes.

Thanks for the link.