Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Technology and the Young Professional

I just finished a post that was more stream of conscious that was necessary, but one thing I was interested in finding out it how people are integrating technology into their careers. Last week I was able to attend the Summit on Digital Technologies for Museum Education at George Mason University. The point of the summit was to convene educators from around the country and examine the many ways that technology is being employed in their institutions. If you are like me, you probably are thinking "seriously, are we still talking about this subject?" But, yes, this topic is still a large part of our professional dialogue. And I beleive that this is due to a number of factors. First, the technology is still extremely new. It is in some ways analogous to the zipper--invented before it had a purpose. So, many tools require a great deal of experimentation to see if they even have any educational value. Second--and related, museums on the whole are risk adverse. Even some of the most progressive institutions are fearful about what technology is and who has the power to use it. I am stunned by the number of repeat discussion threads on the Museum-Ed list serve that inquire about other museum's policies on Facebook and social media. In not sure that it is solely human nature, or if it has something to do with the often bureaucratic and expert-obsessed nature of museum work, but some institutions seem wholly unwilling to even experiment. Third, dispite recent achievements, there is still a wide technology gap between generational groups. Many people (often, but not always in the older generations), dont understand, see the point or see the value of technology. Conversely, the data supporting how technology is effective and worth the ridiculously expensive investment is inadequate or non existant.

One last thought is that, museums today are always trying to broaden their audience and their appeal. Technology has become a defacto panacea for reaching out to those untapped masses. But, I can't help but wonder if our investments in technology are only reaching an even smaller subset within our already existing audience. Is a digital deliverly method going to make the subject matter any more paletable or accessible? Until some more data is found, I think that remains to be seen.

However, I dont want to come off as completely against technology. In fact, I feel that it should be embraced, experimented with, adapted, and shared. I just think we need to have a clearer reason for using it beyond "it's the newest trend" or "that's what the young kids want and expect."

So, I am curious to know, how is everyone else using technology? Has it proven successful to you? Are you reaching new audiences or the same people? And if its the same people, is a deeper, more meaningful, or more frequent contact? Has it lead to any other opportunities? Have you found any interesting (and cheap) applications that have proven useful to you?

Feeling less like a "young" professional

Wow, once again I am looking at this blog and seeing how much time has slipped away once again. I am not sure how easy I originally thought it was going to be to keep up with a blog, but I should have been able to guess based upon my many failed journal attempts.

The reason I came back to the blog is that I have recently started a new job that is venturing into the arena of new media for the first time. We have a facebook page, an e-newsletter, a blog, and thinking about a twitter account. But I have so many mixed feelings about what is the most important thing to expend energy on. I am ceaselessly amazed at how much time I can spend looking and interacting with Facebook. Multiply that by each social media outlet you can participate with, and in no time you can spend hours each day keeping up.

I am also looking at the title of this blog and smirking some. I can't recall when I first started this posting (I could probably look that up, but I am in edit mode right now), but it has probably been at least three or four years. Although that isnt long, and I am only a few years older, I am not sure that that moniker "young" museum professional is really apt any more.

this past year has brought a lot of change for me both professionally and personally. My old job as director of exhibits and programs was eliminated this spring and I, along with several friends and colleagues, found myself without employment. Although I was allowed to transition into a temporary position, it was important that I move on. I was extremely fortunate to not only land a new job back in my home state, but I was able to make a move up. Well, its a move up in title and position at least. I became director at a local history museum just west of Denver and it has been a fun and challenging new opportunity.

The original purpose of this blog was to offer a venue for emerging professionals to talk about issues as they grow and progress in their career, ask advice, and voice frustration. What is interesting to me is the many and varied ways that people can move through their career in this field. The opportunities are limited, the market is competative, the economy is challenging, yet people are still growing and advancing. I'm interested in hearing how other people are making head way. How have things changed for you in the past year? What new challenges lie ahead? Are you planning on sticking in your current job, or actively seeking new opportunities?