Cultural Heritage

A UKOLN Blog for the Cultural Heritage sector (now archived)

Web 2.0 in the academic sector

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12th January 2010

Since May 2009, Rosemary Russell and I have been working on a study for JISC, looking at the use of Web 2.0 tools and services by the academic sector. We chose to use a Web 2.0 tool – a blog – to collect our evidence and to make this public. People who responded to our invitation to contribute to the study did so by adding comments to topic Pages and we also interviewed a number of people in various roles about their experiences and wrote these up as case studies.

At the same time, Prof. Jane Hunter of the School of ITEE, University of Queensland was working on a parallel study of the situation in Australia. She used a different evidence-collecting strategy but came to very similar conclusions.

The evidence points to the current time being a transition point where early adopters are being joined by mainstream users. Nonetheless, there remains a proportion of users who are as yet Web 2.0 ‘illiterate’. The various Web 2.0 services are mostly seen as easy to sign up to and use, usually free to use and giving access to large audiences. The downside is that services may collapse trapping data, while institutions may block their use. It is common for users to prefer to use Web 2.0 services even when institutional alternatives are available.

What was also evident was that the situation in academic institutions is often not that different to the public sector. IT department blocking use of social networking services? Yes. Takes forever to get permission to set up a blog? Yes. Central management wanting control over all publicly visible text? Yes. Other staff feel threatened, even scared, of the technology or feel it will take time they don’t have? Yes.

But it was great to find out that there is genuine experimentation going on. Photography students using self-publishing sites as part of their studies. A Ning community set up for students before they officially start at University – and so before they can access institutional resources. A tutor using a wiki as a collaborative exam revision web site (Examopedia); this is used by the students to create and deposit answers to past exam papers collaboratively and is moderated by the tutor. An entirely volunteer-run library using Koha software for the catalogue and putting some of its stock on LibraryThing to publicise itself. Putting QR codes in library catalogues so mobile phones can be used to guide users to the shelves in a large collection or building or putting the QR codes on the ends of shelves to alert users to the fact that e-resources are also available.

Particularly interesting was the indication that attitudes of IT Departments are changing, as evidenced by the two case studies from IT staff. David Harrison (Assistant Director of Information Services at Cardiff University) uses a lot of different Web 2.0 services in his working life. He also noted that while the university went down the large implemetation route (i.e. keeping things in-house) a couple of years ago, if taking the decision now they would be looking closely at cloud computing and externally hosted services. Christine Saxton (Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services (CiCS) at the University of Sheffield) has a blog and uses Facebook and Twitter for work work and personal communication. She notes how her blog and Twitter enable her deaf father to keep in touch with her since phone calls aren’t an option. She also noted that CiCS has outsourced all student email to Google from Sept. 2009 and now just provides support to users.

The two reports were submitted to JISC in December 2009 and have been published in the
JISC Repository. The UK study is at and the Australian study is at As well as reading the reports, why not have a look at the blog and its topic Pages and case studies too for ideas and inspiration.

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Posted in Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Use of Wikis in the Cultural Heritage Sector

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10th April 2009

We are in the process of writing an IntroBytes briefing document on wikis and how they may be used in the cultural heritage sector. Apart from the obvious example of Wikipedia I am interested in examples of how wikis can be used within museums, libraries and archives. I have come across many examples of how social networking environments and social sharing services (such as Flickr) are being used, but not many examples of use of wikis. So if you have come across such examples which you feel would be worth mentioning in the document please let me know.

Posted in Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »