This report is the outcome of a short study to examine the potential for digitising and curating collections of cultural or social worth from the general public. Of particular resonance is the principle of two-way engagement – knowledge co-creation and exchange rather than simply knowledge transfer: a dialogue which enriches knowledge for mutual benefit.

Digitisation, curation & two-way engagement

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This report is the outcome of a short study to examine the potential for digitising and curating collections of cultural or social worth from the general public. Of particular resonance is the principle of two-way engagement – knowledge co-creation and exchange rather than simply knowledge transfer: a dialogue which enriches knowledge for mutual benefit.

Executive Summary

The project aims were:

  • Articulate the purpose, advantages and benefits of collaboration between the HE and FE sectors and the wider public within the field of digitisation
  • Identify potential subject areas or topics where there could be a productive collaboration between the university sector and the wider public
  • Provide recommendations on how such a programme of work could be instigated

The review undertaken looked at the work of 39 HE/FE institutions and other bodies in the public and third sectors. Evidence gathering was conducted by a small team and involved personal interview, website analysis and study of documentation.

Two strands of evidence were analysed (Chapters 2 and 3 of the report). First the theoretical and experiential knowledge of what are the policy, strategy, impact and value issues to be observed in community engagement, both within the HE/FE sector and elsewhere. The second strand was the nature, processes and achievements of the projects that were identified for review (Appendix 1 contains details of the projects). From the analysis a process of synthesis was applied (see Chapter 4) to draw together patterns of evidence that would support the answers to the project aims.

Key features identified

There is a very wide range of projects, organisations and communities involved in activity, within the HE/FE sector and the public sector and the third sector. However, much of this activity is uncoordinated and there is a wide range of interpretation of what the concept of community engagement means.

There is significant policy support within HE/FE nationally for increased public engagement and currently some £12m investment to support projects aimed at increasing university-community engagement

The impact that social networking is having on people’s opportunity and willingness to get involved, whether through crowdsourcing or the use of sites such as Flickr, which features as a content management tool in a number of the projects reviewed means that in some projects rapid progress can be made to build and enrich collections. This can support sustainability and also innovative flows of new knowledge. (see p. 43)

Small-scale projects around community archiving and community identity appear to be flourishing as a result of people’s enthusiasms and also the availability of smallscale funding from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund. (p. 44)

Third sector developments such as mySociety are becoming significant agents of influence. (p. 44)

Despite the body of practice and experience that has developed within the HE/FE sector and beyond, there is no mechanism for bringing together those involved to share experiences and to develop common approaches. (p. 45)

Study outcomes

Aim 1 – Purpose, advantages and benefits of collaboration
  • A commitment to the widest public accessibility to all JISC-funded digitisation should be an essential requirement of funding since awareness and use of these collections is the most basic form of public engagement. (p. 42)
  • Recognition of how existing digital collections could be used to develop and extend public engagement. Increasing the richness of engagement does not necessarily bring with it the overhead of digitisation where collections already exist. (p. 42)
  • The boundaries between purposes and across sectors are more blurred than might be expected. Just as out of collection building can come engagement, so from community engagement can come collections. (p. 42)
  • Public engagement projects may require different mixes of skills sets from those traditionally associated with digitisation projects. (p. 46)
  • There is an urgent need for greater co-ordination in this area across the whole of the HE/FE sector and JISC has a key role to play in positioning its work and resources as part of the wider scope of projects that are now being funded. (p. 45)
Aim 2 – Potential subject areas or topics for productive collaboration

This aim was addressed in two parts. First of all the identification of enabling actions necessary to build wider collaboration and secondly a table giving examples of categories of subject areas for consideration. (This table can be found on page 50)

Enabling actions
  • JISC will need to co-ordinate internally the work of the Digitisation programme and that of the Business and Community Engagement programme so that there is a shared programme identity. This should also link in to other relevant elements of the JISC programme portfolio such as the Advisory Services. (p. 51)
  • JISC should build a partnership with the other HE agencies involved in public engagement to co-ordinate developments. (p. 49)
  • There should be increased promotion and advocacy for digitisation, curation and two-way engagement within and outside of the HE/FE sector. (p. 50)
  • Consideration should be given to the creation of a forum that would bring together all interested parties across the HE/FE, public and third sectors. This might be initiated following a one-day conference. (p. 50)
  • A table of examples of topic areas for future projects (see p. 50) includes: i) topics of shared public memory/experience (conflicts, national events); ii) topics of academic value with known communities of interest (music, genealogy); iii) topics with a significant body of material within the community (social history, Flickr groups))
Aim 3 – How could a programme work and be instigated

A series of key intervention actions were identified for this aim under the heading of:

  • Guidance on the purpose of the programme (p. 51)
  • Models of interaction and partnership (p. 51)
  • Technical issues (p. 53)
  • Programme scaling (p. 53)
  • Evaluation, impact and advocacy (p. 54)

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Documents & Multimedia

Summary
Author
Chris Batt Consulting
Publication Date
24 August 2009
Publication Type
Programmes
Projects
Topic