Today I officially start my Digital Humanities PhD. Scary. For reasons I can’t quite recall (twitter was involved I’m sure) it has been renamed the Fudd. The Elmer Fudd. So Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits.
I was lucky enough to be awarded the UCL Digital Humanities Scholarship after a scary interview process earlier in 2010 (I think knowing the interviewers makes the whole process worse, the fear of letting them down as well as myself is horrific). Thankfully my interview went well, quoting Field of Dreams ‘build it and they will come’ was a personal highlight. Not a lot about my working environment will change, I will still be a part of UCLDH, and working on a few projects, however most of my time will now be working towards a Doctorate rather than a monthly pay check. I am incredibly nervous, and excited in equal measure about getting started.
The aim of my research is to explore the value, usefulness and importance of online museum content from a users perspective, by developing an awareness of the perceptions that users have of the museum information environment both on main museum website as well as on external social media applications, and assess how this will influence metrics and evaluation. And most importantly what on earth people do with that content once they have found it.
“The thing people are amazed about with the web is that, when you put something online, you don’t know who is going to use it—but it does get used.” Berners-Lee 2010
I want to know why, what for and how. In order to create improved access to museum resources it is important to improve our own understanding of how users seek, interact with and use museum content. So my research aims to enhance our understanding of the value and impact of digital cultural content by exploring user information seeking and interaction behaviour. The research also aims to provide evidence of museum impact upon users within a more distributed web 2.0 environment. Quite a lot of research has been done on specific user groups’ information-seeking behaviour within libraries, archival and legal services (have a look at Warwick et al 2008, Rimmer et al 2006, 2008, Makri 2008). However much less is known about the information seeking behaviour of user groups using Museum online content. So I want to draw upon usability, participatory and information seeking behaviour research to add to the understanding of how and why museum visitors access and use online museum content.
So yes the official start. 10th Jan 2011. I guess this is a bit of an artificial construct really, in the sense that I have three years to complete my research and the first day could just as well be today or last week or in three weeks time. But I feel ready to start the project, in fact itching to start. It’s werid to think that my academic & museum profesional career, my hobbies and my passions to date have combined to this big juicy scary research project. Terrifying. I’m trying my very best not to panic and write my thesis in my first week.
Wish me luck. Let’s see how it goes!