Virtuous and vicious circles
There is an increasing focus within JISC’s Content Programme on social media, mobile technologies and multi-channel communications. We have moved away from being merely concerned with the practices of digitisation, and with core technologies such as metadata or website development. Projects are discovering that the way people use and interact with resources is critical to success and some, such as British Library Sounds, and Connected Histories, are developing multiple communication channels as part of their endeavours to reach out to their users.
Sophisticated marketing approaches have become essential to getting the word out about our offer. But then what? Once the word is out, what else can we do to ensure happy customers? Are we going to be able to manage day-to-day interactions; to respond to new demands for content or just deal with simple enquiries? Getting your resource to actually perform as a forum for scholarly pursuits requires a lot of planning and might need dedicated staff to look after communication channels. If we want to encourage scholarly interaction, it becomes vital to have people dedicated to responding to queries and seeding communications. Brian Kelly suggests we are moving towards a time when social media might impact scholarly research in profound ways and we need to be ready to respond the challenge.
Having said all this, I think high quality content is the vital starting point for effective communication. The act of digitising is still the first action which makes physical objects into items that can be shared and examined in so many new ways. It is easy to forget how much effort goes into making high quality digital images and ensuring that the original object is best represented in digital form. Current work on the Zandra Rhodes Style Bibles provides a fantastic example of the rigorous methods required to get the job done, whilst ensuring technical processes are adhered to, objects are well captured and most essentially digitally preserved. Releasing such valuable material is the first step in a long journey to developing a dialogue about it. When people enter into discussion (either on or off line) about the material, we can really say we have started to make an impact, but the more impact we make, the more we need to plan in order to keep our resource alive and supported long term. For some this is a virtuous circle for others a vicious one.