Meeting Your Neighbors – 21st Century GeoCities

Watching the evolution of a blog rests somewhere between slightly interesting and wholly fascinating.  I started this specific robedemo venture three months ago, with a theoretical framework in education and technology and an interest in museum spaces.  I had never worked in a museum, nor had I any formal education in museums, save a really dry Art History survey in my undergrad days.  I had a theory about knowledge interaction and the ability for computing to offer different and unique options for subject/object relationships in a museum setting, but I knew no one doing work in the field, and none of my professors or cadre mates knew anyone doing work in the field.

Yahoo created GeoCities in the mid-1990s for this reason.  The hope was for people of like interests to find community through building websites in a virtual city.  I remember the sad-sack graphics of neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs representing where your “house” would be…the Dutch Masters webpages were over on Van Riyk Drive, and those interested in performance art had a few lots to choose from on How Do You Interpret This Blvd.  The concept was worthwhile, but the implementation was rudimentary, and the evolution of the Internet left GeoCities behind in a quick fashion.

So how do you meet your virtual neighbors today, when we’re all sharing across multiple dimensions?  You read, you link, you like, you tweet, you read tweets of those you follow, you comment on blogs and tweets, and you compile a virtual rolodex for the right hand column of your page.  Mine continues to grow.  I started with MIDEA via the New Media Consortium and a few non-Museum types doing work in technology.  Today, I have some pretty amazing bloggers over there, doing some pretty amazing work in discussing how technology and computing is affecting existing museum practices, or will do so.

It’s the building of community, starting with limited peripheral participation and working into active mastery.  Whether there is inherent structure or assumed, whether it is tangible or virtual, community exists (thank you Etienne Wenger).  Now if the community of museum techies can make that wanted inroad and facilitate change in the overall museum community…

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