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Title: Towards the collaborative museum? : social media, participation, disciplinary experts and the public in the contemporary museum
Author: Walker, Dominic
ISNI:       0000 0000 4022 7104
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the use of social media by museums aiming to establish collaborative relationships with the public. Social media platforms have been widely espoused as transformative in allowing diverse, new or previously excluded audiences to enter into egalitarian, participatory relationships with museums. This thesis deconstructs the concepts of participation and collaboration and identifies the various factors that constrain the extent to which social media enables participatory relationships between previously unequal actors. These factors include the historical disciplinary aims and cultural authority of museums, persistent social inequalities, and the motivations of social media followers. It elucidates crucial questions such as, are various publics enabled to participate on an equal level with each other and with museums? Who benefits from collaborative projects in general and which parties benefit from the use of social media in particular? What are the factors that limit the establishment of collaborative practice? And, conversely, what are the factors that define truly collaborative practice? This research examines museums' use of and discourses surrounding social media as well as social media followers' motivations for engaging with museums online. A large body of quantitative and qualitative data gained through in-depth web-based surveys is analysed, primarily using critical discourse analysis, and informed by other critical orientations including media archaeology and the sociology of expertise. The analysis indicates that museums consider social media to be a transformative, democratising technology. However, museums' acceptance of technologically determinist arguments significantly inhibits positive societal change and the extent to which collaborative relationships can be established with various publics. This research contributes significantly to the existing archaeological and museum studies literature by providing a theoretically and empirically informed critical analysis of the prevailing positive discourses surrounding social media and participation. It has important practical implications for museums in arguing that targeted, critically informed and ethically aware projects are necessary to achieve situations resembling 'collaboration'. It provides a significant body of data that will inform the formulation and continuation of collaborative projects in museums. Furthermore, it informs broader archaeological debates on involving various publics in archaeological practice. This thesis also demonstrates the importance and effectiveness of critical discourse analysis and related critical approaches for analysing large bodies of qualitative data.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Archaeology ; Museum Studies ; Museology ; Social Media