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Inside Mobile Design and User Experience

Thoughts on mobile and social business applications, design, and user experience, by Chris Reckling.

Another sign of the times, where the rest of the world is coming to understand what we've known all along - collaboration is important! I wonder if it was a cultural or generational barrier that prevented such widespread adoption of collaborative technologies. In the early days, we used to talk about how to incent employees to share information, how to roll out Notes to organizations most effectively. You had to convince C-level execs that there really was business value in collaboration - improve the productivity of employees and improve your bottom line; stop reinventing the wheel; start . With the rise of the next wave of collaboration tools, also known as social software, and the entry into the workforce of a new wave of employees who grew up with IM and email, the question isn't whether to collaborate or not. The question becomes how to best harness that energy and knowldege to derive value to the organization. These tools tap the creativity and innovation in each employee. I think the value to employees is the same as it was before - you build your reputation by sharing your expertise online.

Back to the point of this interesting article appeared on our intranet yesterday about the effect of social networking on a new museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture or NMAAHC (that acronymn doesn't exactly roll off the tongue!). The article title caught my eye right away - "Social networking allows museum to come to life".


One of the things that the museum wants to capture is the the oral history of African Americans. This is something that has been done in the past, however it usually involved a person or two traveling the country, microphone in hand, to record these stories. Even then, it was a 20th century phenomenon. Wouldn't it be cool to hear directly the words of John Adams or the improvisations of Mozart or Beethoven? How many of us, when we read the "I Have a Dream" speech, do so in the voice of MLK? Oral histories are important and with technology today it is easier than ever to capture them. Hearing this history in the voice of the storyteller is much more powerful than reading it - think of the difference in meaning you get from an email or IM vs a telephone call or in-person meeting.

"This is an opportunity for people to be part of the curatorial process, to contribute their own memories, their own treasures. They are part of the creation of the content and connections," says Stan Litow, IBM's vice president of corporate affairs. The memory sharing, he said, could be about the impact of Martin L. King Jr.'s 1963 "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" or watching Nelson Mandela walk free after 27 years of imprisonment.

Museum goers will use tags, or keywords, to help organize the content. Through a visual online navigational map, they will be able to see how their histories and stories relate to other participants, as well as to significant historical events.

The goal is to create a place of collaboration, sharing and learning between scholars and the general public, and create a community of users that can help define the African American experience, and ultimately what it means to be an American.


The visual navigation map is a different way to display the relationships between the content that is uploaded and linked to other parts of the museum site. I'm seen other maps like this and I think it's a very interesting and useful way to show this type of information where you might not otherwise see relationships.

Navigation Map picture

I do see one flaw in the system and that is not everyone has access to the technology, so the audience participation will be somewhat self-selecting. I think about how some musicians are totally inept at technology. Would we have recordings from some of the great folk-blues musicians now if they did it on their own? I don't think so. However, that's not a reason not to start doing it because eventually these things will even out - plus, getting some of these memories online is better than not doing it. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Chris Reckling
Program Director, MA UX Design Studio, Lotus Software

Chris Reckling | 29 September 2007 09:29:15 AM ET | Home

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