Insight from social media use by memory institutions in New Zealand. Participatory vs curatorial culture

Published date12 February 2018
Date12 February 2018
AuthorChern Li Liew,Gillian Oliver,Morgan Watkins
Insight from social media use by
memory institutions in
New Zealand
Participatory vs curatorial culture
Chern Li Liew
School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington,
Wellington, New Zealand
Gillian Oliver
Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University,
Caulfield East, Australia, and
Morgan Watkins
Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Purpose The relatively under-documented dark sideof participatory activities facilitated by memory
institutions through social media is examined in this study. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the
risks and perception of risks resulting from using social media for public engagement and participation.
Design/methodology/approach Semi-structured interviews were conducted with fourteen
representatives from the New Zealand information and cultural heritage sector who at the time of the
study were holding the main responsibilities of overseeing the social media and participatory activities of the
institutions they represented.
Findings It is not evident that the g rowth of social web has significantly cha nged the way the heritage
sector seeks participation. Only a small minority of the sample institutions appear to be using social web
tools to build communit y and to enhance their he ritage collections. F or the majority, instit utional use of
social media is for crea ting a chattering space. The main concerns ide ntified by interviewe es were
reputation managemen t and the risk management pro cess followed by most ins titutions appeared to be
reactive, respondin gt o problems as and when they occurred, ra ther than proactive about risk ident ification
and avoidance.
Research limitations/implications Findings are not generalisable as the sample size of thirteen
institutions is relatively small and is limited to one national context.
Originality/value Findings provide insight into largely unexplored issues relating to the development of
participatory cultures by memory institutions. The paper highlights a key area where further research is
needed, namely to explore whether participatory heritage should primarily be about curated viewpoints or
whether it should encompass capturing living dialogues, even when conversations are potentially offensive.
Keywords Risk perception, Risk management, Participatory heritage, Memory institutions, Social web
Paper type Research paper
The integration of a participatory culture into the operations of memory institutions could
contribute towards the establishment of a sustainable, authentic relationship with the
public. One example is through engaging and encouraging a wide set of culturally relevant
communities who may be geographically dispersed to participate in institutional activities
related to documenting heritage. Memory institutions can leverage both skilled and
non-skilled input from members of the public or targeted source communities of heritage
Online Information Review
Vol. 42 No. 1, 2018
pp. 93-106
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/OIR-08-2016-0218
Received 17 August 2016
Revised 2 June 2017
Accepted 15 June 2017
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers who provided the authors with a
number of suggestions for revising the original submission. The comments were thoughtful and
constructive, and they led to an improvement of this paper. The authors are very appreciative of them.
vs curatorial

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