Thursday 14 August 2008

Power to the people

I've written a couple of times before about how I think web-enabled conversations might change the way art institutions/authorities work with (deal with?) their constituencies: see the blog-enabled outcry over proposals to drill for oil near Spiral Jetty, and Tyler Green challenging Village Voice art critic Christian Viveros-Faune over a conflict of interest.

Another interesting case is currently unfolding in San Francisco. Well-known SF photographer and blogger Thomas Hawk was recently ejected from SFMOMA by Simon Blint, director of visitor services, not because he was taking photos in the building (SFMOMA has recently relaxed its photo restrictions) but in order to "ensure the safety of the museum’s admissions staff" (from the SFMOMA press release on the incident).

Ten years ago, a person disgruntled about their experience at an art gallery would have complained to their friends, and might have written to the director, or to the local newspaper.

Now the web is a forum where people can share their experiences and air their concerns quickly and freely. Hawk himself is all over the net - Blogger, Facebook, Pownce, Digg, Flickr, Twitter, Feed Friend - and therefore his account of the incident is spreading fast (just like it is here). A copy of the photo on Flickr has (as of the time of writing) been favourited 85 times, viewed more than 11,200 times, and attracted dozens of comments.

As Jack Schofield has pointed out in the Guardian, Blint's online profile is now shattered. And Jeremiah Owyang notes:

  • Businesses should assume every customer (and employee) is capable of impacting an individual or company’s online reputation
  • Companies should already have a crises plan ready to deal with online criticisms
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