Extrastatecraft, the Game of Go and Digitalization as an Oxymoron

In “A Thousand Plateaus”, in a chapter entitled “Treatise on Nomadology: The War Machine”, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari utilize the model of the game Go to illustrate the dispositions of the “war machine” – an array of conflict that is “exterior to the state”.

What might be the implications of this notion when it comes to the infrastructure of the internet?

Any infrastructure is a setting that controls our lives to a certain extent.

“Microwaves bounce between billions of cell phones. Computers synchronize. Shipping containers stack, lock, and calibrate the global transportation and production of goods. Credit cards, all sized 0,76 mm, slip through the slots in cash machines anywhere in the world. All of these ubiquitous and seemingly innocuous features of our world are evidence of global infrastructure. – In the retinal afterglow is a soupy matrix of details and repeatable formulas that generate most of the space in the world –“

So begins the dystopian story of the infrastructure of our time, “Extrastatecraft” by Keller Easterling. This epic book describes the prevailing conditions of the global digital and physical capitalist system.

In this book, Easterling sets out to analyze the current situation via the themes of “zone”, “disposition”, “broadband”, “stories”, and “quality”. The approach, case studies and perspective in this book are very leftist, but will carry relevance to anybody interested in these topics.

As reflected upon by Easterling, the sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour has written that networks and infrastructure are composed of both social and technological actors. Think about the most popular social networks. According to Easterling, they may be “conglomerates of many surprising sets of agencies”.

Whichever corporations control the algorithms of these conglomerates, however, have rapidly taken over the framework and infrastructure where we operate in our daily lives.

I would argue, in the spirit of Easterling, that the algorithm of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, for instance, are very powerful ones, in as much as they control our current social lives and actions online.

As Easterling describes, for Deleuze and Guattari, “the war machine conquests operate in the “smooth” space of Go, instead of the “striated” space of chess.” The main distinction here is that whereas chess offers hierarchy, and each game piece operates via established hierarchical routines, Go only allows areas of black and white stones to move on a grid as each attempts to conquer ever-changing territories.

What are the implications of this notion for the 21st century and the digital industries?

Coming back to algorithms, and taking the algorithms of our most powerful social media tools as example, any attempt to run an agile and successful software company should be based on the game Go, rather than the game of chess.

My next question, then, is, how to make the algorithm appealing to masses, and  what might then be the driving values that eventually make successful companies with this operating system, as these must matter as well? Or do the values matter?

Digitalization is an oxymoron in the sense that it implies to a change, whereas now it seems that in our current economy it only adds a layer of infrastructure upon it.

I firmly believe now more than ever any aspiring startup entrepreneur must consider the social and global impact of their service and product, and play a game of Go.

Get “Extrastatecraft – the Power of Infrastructure Space”, 2014, by Keller Easterling on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Extrastatecraft-Power-Infrastructure-Keller-Easterling/dp/1784783641/

or

Get “A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia”, 1987, by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari:

https://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Plateaus-Capitalism-Schizophrenia/dp/0816614024/

The Emerging Trends and Seismic Shifts in CX, UX and UI Design

What are the major issues dominating the field of design right now? As the holiday season is now over, it is time to skim through the relevant details.

Let’s get started with a few statistics. By 2017, a whopping 89% of marketing people expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator at the global and local marketplace, says Gartner Group. Furthermore, 72% of businesses now say that improving the customer experience is their “top priority”, Forrester states.

This year makes for a highly interesting era as for the evolution digital and service design then.

In a recent article “Service Design Trends for 2017” John Knight describes the current “seismic shifts” in customer experience and user experience design right now.

The inevitable huge strides technology, internet of things and artificial intelligence are changing the landscape of digital services. “As smart machines start to replace human actors, UX will need to move from delivering simple usability to dealing with more complex domains that blend human and technological agency”, Knight states. Many others in the field of service design seem to agree.

While I do not consider this to be the main concern for many companies still during this year, in the very near future this shift will be one most designers and businesses will simply have to find a way to deal with in order to keep up with the others.

Knight views micro-interactions and micro-moments as another important trend for this year. “Beyond removing barriers to conversion, building value creation into all touchpoints and weaving it in as a design element. It will no longer suffice to make check-outs easy but instead UX will need to deliver sustainable engagement”, Knight says.

Accordingly, maintaining a sustainable and striking visual and contextual consistency over different devices and different mediums will be more important than ever before in service design. With more people spending more time on various devices, designers will need to maintain their attention and create engaging experiences. I think, like many others, that the use of video clips and fresh illustrations, and a bolder use of colour and typography, will be growing trends in UX next year.

Another emerging trend seems to be that UX design is a more widespread discipline than ever. “Just like the eponymous DJ, everyone is a UX designer nowadays”, Knight exclaims. I agree with Knight as for the fact that “has many repercussions for UX as a discipline, practice and job. In the longer term, everyone doing UX will require a tighter, more focused and stronger core discipline”.

In an article in Forbes magazine online, Shep Hyken says, almost as if stating the obvious, that this year customer service is getting better (even if it doesn’t look like it), value and experience created continue to trump price, and that personalization eventually creates a better customer experience. Coming back to Knight, he says that “this shift will require a much more agile approach to design where rather than single solutions there will be multiple segmented and highly tailored interaction patterns.”

When it comes to personalization, privacy, security and trust will be the next issues involved. As Knight states, “The robustness, clarity and visibility of organisations trustworthiness and security will become a primary part of the customer proposition”, and I firmly believe that statement is true.

Data supplied enables every customer experience to be personalized, starting with the browser cache and cookies and with our latest online orders lists. However, it seems a growing number of people are not that willing to share even this much information with the corporate world.

Engendering the feeling of trust in a product or service is now an important task for any good CX or UX designer.

I am currently working full-time for the small service design and marketing consulting agency Steps Helsinki since the beginning of this year. Exciting times!

As the discipline of service design remains largely unknown in many companies over in Finland, not including many big companies and startups of course, I will need to work hard to cut the first deals.

It seems to me that traditional marketing and graphic design is by far easier to sell here in Finland than service design, but I find these two must come second to well-designed digital services and streamlining the overall customer experience. To me, it all starts with an approach that involves multidisciplinary stakeholders from the start and takes them through the entire process of design.

Also, happy to tell you that the blog has had around 1,000 unique visitors last year, even though I have only managed to push around three posts per month online. A warm thank you to you all for reading.

I wish for an excellent new year for all!

 

 

 

Tips for Marketing to Millennials

Millennials, most commonly defined as individuals born between 1980 and 2000, essentially aspire to be trendsetters, trailblazers and nonconformists.

However, there are a couple of things this generation of individualists has in common. As I am a millennial myself, I decided to write a post about the most common characteristics of this generation and about marketing to this segment.

Let’s first take a look at how many we are.

According to the Search Engine Journal, millennials currently make up a trillion-dollar demographic on a global level. Millennials make up approximately 25% of the population in the first world countries. By the year 2025, we will make up 75% of the global workforce, and our purchasing power will rise even more.

It is paramount to avoid targeting the “millennial” audience as a general segment in terms of marketing.

When attempting to reach out to this generation, it is best to try and target highly specific niche audiences.

In general terms, millennials do not trust traditional advertising and marketing – according to Forbes, this notion applies for well over 80% percent of millennials. And according to Ogilvy & Mather, around 60% of millennials would rather spend money on experiences than material items.

Also, concerns for the well-being of others and the environment heavily dominate the purchasing decisions of this generation. Millennials strongly prefer brands that demonstrate some level of corporate social responsibility. So showcasing the company values and encompassing these in marketing strategies becomes increasingly important – especially when it comes to being environmental-friendly.

In addition to this, most millennials seek peer affirmation, feedback and recommendations from others.

Personalization makes all the difference, when it comes to millennials. As a rule of thumb, any product or service will be more appealing to this group, if it has some customizable features, and if the related marketing messages are personalized. It should come as no surprise, then, that the favourite forms of advertising of millennials are online offers and personalized email marketing.

In an article in the Search Engine Journal, Mindy Weinstein, the founder of the digital marketing agency Market MindShift, offers 14 pro tips for marketing your product or service to millennials:

  • Create an experience in which Millennials can participate.
  • Develop content that encourages shares.
  • Provide Millennials with the opportunity to live the story with your brand.
  • Align your brand with a cause, so that Millennials will align with you.
  • Recognize the evolving lifestyles of Millennials and don’t be afraid to change with them.
  • Disrupt the market with an innovative approach to pricing and marketing.
  • Increase brand loyalty by embracing trends and joining in the fun.
  • Allow your customers to contribute to your marketing and be involved in the development of a new product line.
  • Create ads that speak directly to a personal moment in a Millennial’s life.
  • Go where the Millennials are (social and mobile).
  • Focus on a product or service that is convenient for Millennials.
  • Offer something that speaks to the Millennial’s desire for uniqueness.
  • Make your product personal and customizable.
  • Solve a need for Millennials and create a marketing message to back it up.

You can read the full article by Mindy Weinstein online here: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/trillion-dollar-demographic-10-brands-got-millennial-marketing-right/135969/

A presentation of the Nielsen Company report “Millennials – Breaking The Myths”: http://www.slideshare.net/recsportsmarketing/nielsen-millennial-report-2014

 

About Slush and the Helsinki Startup Scene

The annual startup event Slush, held in Helsinki, has become well-known as one of the most hip ones worldwide.

And Slush has been growing exponentially. In 2011 the event had 1,500 attendees, in 2012 the number raised to 3,500, and the year after that to 7,000. Two years back, in 2014, the amount of attendees was about to double and the event had to be relocated to Messukeskus Expo and Convention Center.

Last year, in 2015, the event attracted over 25,000 visitors.

This year, the program of Slush will focus, more than ever, on stories from world-conquering founders of successful tech companies, such as David Helgason, Co-Founder of Unity, Ilkka Paananen, CEO & Founder of Supercell, Sebastian Siemiatkowski, CEO & Co-Founder of Klarna, Niklas Zennström, Co-Founder of Skype & Founder of Atomico.

According to the Slush blog, a new survey on around 700 founders of successful startups confirms the notion that hotspots in the Nordic countries are increasingly gaining reputation as best places to found a startup in Europe. In this survey, as in many others, Berlin and London naturally dominate the charts.

However, in this survey, Stockholm and Copenhagen are ranked among the Top 10 of best cities to found a startup, with Helsinki as a close runner-up.

Maria 0-1, or MariaZeroOne, a brand new startup hub, opened downtown Helsinki with a cool opening party yesterday. I attended the event, and was able to get a sneak-peek preview of the premises. As many of the key players in Helsinki ecosystem have now moved in to Maria or are about to move in soon, this venue is likely to become one of the largest and most inspiring of the Nordic startup hubs.

The hub spans across former Maria hospital area, with the renovation project still going on. The refurbishing of the buildings will continue into 2017.

By the end of the year, Maria will be the new home for 60 start-ups, as well as for many selected investors and accelerators. A few big investors have premises there too, including Superhero Capital and Butterfly Ventures.

“Maria 0-1 will be the centre for events and players driving the growth, as well as being a supporting community for new growth companies,” says Voitto Kangas, director of the venue. “We want to create the meeting point where the ambition will meet the latest technology know-how as well as the drive to succeed internationally”, he explains.

It is now two months until the next Slush event in Helsinki, with the registration still open. With many well-known VIPs from Silicon Valley such as Steve Jurvetson, Caterina Fake, Arielle Zuckerberg, and Ankur Jain also joining Slush this year with direct flights from San Fransisco organized by Finnair, it is no wonder the hype is huge.

Jenni Kääriäinen, Chief of Design at Slush, has been part of the Slush organization since the beginning. Kääriäinen works hard to visualize the soul of Slush for a flock of thousands of visitors every year. For many years, the venue has been decorated and furnished much like a giant rave party, adorned with lasers.

In the Slush blog, Kääriäinen recently revealed that this year, the Slush participants who enter the venue will walk in Messukeskus under a thousand dreamcatchers. This choice made as for the main interior decoration theme of the event seems to me like a very well chosen one.

Read more about Slush and register for the event: http://www.slush.org/

On Personalization and Generating ROI Online

According to the recent Salesforce “State of Marketing” report that surveyed 4 000 marketing leaders worldwide, by 2021, around 75% of marketing budgets will be spent on digital marketing efforts.

So what kind of marketing efforts are the most effective when it comes to online marketing?

This, of course, depends on the customer segments you reach out to, and the desired return of investment of each channel. Mobile is becoming increasingly important, of course. But I will give a few pointers more.

It is a well-known fact that standard display ads are not actually viewed by anyone online in around 50% of the cases. According to many sources, the average click-through rate of a standard banner ad is around 0.12-0.14 %. As the use of ad blockers is on the rise, it is gradually becoming even more difficult to deliver relevant ads to potential and returning customers online. This is one reason why the app industry is so big now.

Around 30% of all Finnish people currently use this kind of software, with the same figure now being over 50% among Finnish youth. I use this kind of software myself, only occasionally turning it off for any site.

According to Contently, however, data-driven marketing efforts lead to revenue increases for over 50% of the marketers, and over 75% of marketers generated positive returns from content marketing.

As often cited, content is still king, and in the online kingdom, it seems that context is queen.

Creating original content that will be displayed in the relevant context matters, and so it will in the future too. This is where search engine marketing and optimization via keywords and metadata come in.

In case your team still has no segmented content strategy, I think you should definitely create one soon.

Personalizing online content drives revenue, and this is evident based on this year’s Salesforce report.

The Salesforce “State of Marketing” report breaks the marketing teams surveyed to three categories: underperformers, that are “slightly” or “not at all” satisfied with their current marketing outcomes, moderate performers, that are “very” or “moderately” satisfied, and high-performers, that are “extremely” satisfied with their marketing outcomes. Of the 4000 teams surveyed, only 18% fall into the last category.

According to this year’s report, 83% of the high-performing marketing teams worldwide use customer data to segment or target ads. 79% of these teams currently employ some form of predictive intelligence in their marketing, with 49% of these marketing teams reporting extensive usage of online personalization.

This is what high-performance inbound online marketing now and in the very near future is all about.

Asking to subscribe an email newsletter or registering in order to download original content makes all the difference. An easy-to-find, easy-to-fill, concise contact form with questions on some basic demographic information is needed, of course, in order to get a segmented, up-to-date customer register together.

I find the increasingly common pop-ups asking to supply any information really annoying, and would thereby recommend that the contact information or registration form is included at the very front page of your company, or alternatively, appearing right next to your most popular pieces of content.

A/B testing different landing pages with a contact form is a very useful technique to ensure, that the bounce rate and churn rates are kept to a minimum, and you are getting people to sign up and stay.

It is paramount to collect behaviour-based data as well.

Google Analytics will deliver detailed reports on website visitors, as long as the Tag Manager is utilized to its full potential, and aligned with the selected attribution models of monitoring the customer journey.

When optimizing and personalizing, it is good to keep in mind that the majority of any first-time website visitors, especially those that are browsing the site mobile, are unlikely ready to be your customers – and it is likewise unlikely that they will ever convert, if the initial call-to-action is missing. So there must be something easy-going for these visitors to do besides making a purchase. Liking or sharing website content in social media are examples of such actions.

And naturally, returning visitors are likely be more satisfied, if you can target them with some form of optimized content. If and when the conversion happens, this should, of course, also be acknowledged – for example by a simple “Thank you” note and by simultaneously giving the customers a chance to give immediate feedback on their experience. In the ideal situation, after the initial conversion happens, the customers are also offered some relevant, personalized content in the newsletter and at the website.

I found this infographic on the online marketing environment below in a SlideShare presentation – the size of each circle is representative of the approximate ROI of each channel. This image was created in 2014. I firmly believe we will observe a significant increase in the SEM and SEO & Content ROI over a few years.

digitalmarketingbw

Read the article “Your Content Is Outstanding But Is It Standing Out?” by Sanjeev Nambudiri:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-content-outstanding-standing-out-sanjeev-nambudiri

With BuzzSumo, you can find out about today’s content trends and see how your content is performing: http://buzzsumo.com/

Website Grader, powered by HubSpot, is a nice, free tool for rating your website’s overall performance: https://website.grader.com/

About the Future of Online Shopping

I had a sudden urge to write about the future of online retail and shopping online. What kind of trends will shape the future of online buying?

According to Google, most online customer journeys now span at least five different channels. Furthermore, most people shopping online view and compare the items they wish to purchase multiple times before making the final decision.

Around 50% of the Finnish people are using the mobile internet on a daily basis. During the last 10 years, the overall time an average Finnish person spends online has doubled, and is now over 10 hours per week. And 80% of all Finns are also shopping online.

My latest online purchase was made in Zalando yesterday.

This company was founded in Berlin in 2008, and in Europe’s scale, Zalando has been a success story beyond comparison in fashion retail. And it all started with the idea of a convenient and simple way to purchase shoes online — and with an extensive research carried out on the needs of the customers shopping for footwear.

In the Zalando corporate website, it is stated that shopping fashion is, “above all, an emotional event – it is the emotional experience that turns clothes into your new favourite outfit, with the first impression being just as important as a detailed presentation. — That’s why it was clear from the start that the Zalando store would focus on a high-quality, professional and consistent product presentation.”

Still headquartered in Berlin, Zalando now has a creative tech hub location here in Helsinki. The buying office is located in Paris, the fashion capital of the world.

But what is most important regarding the company’s success is the Zalando website infrastructure, which really makes shopping very convenient and effortless. High-quality photos of each product are found with multiple sorting options, and there are detailed descriptions for more than 150 000 products available.

Another factor that makes Zalando one of the most attractive fashion retail stores online is the amount of effort put in offering personalized content to each customer.

I firmly believe this kind of personalization is a major aspect of the future of online shopping. As privacy issues are still of no consequence for many people online, the websites they visit receive a steady flow of information on the customer’s preferences via the browser software.

Last week, this blog turned 9 months old. I decided to buy a domain for the site, so you can also find this blog directly via the URL http://lifeofaplanner.fi. The blog currently features 30 posts, including this one. I attempt to publish around 3 posts each month.

“Experience economy” has been a recurring theme in this blog in relation to digital service design.

My most popular post so far has been “Designing for Happiness”, inspired by the IXDA 2016 event in Helsinki, and written a few months back (https://iiriskblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/designing-for-happiness/).

In that post, I briefly introduced Stephen Anderson’s “User Experience Hierarchy of Needs”, and stated that “the products and services that make people happy must be functional, reliable, and usable, but moreover, they must be convenient, pleasurable and meaningful.”

To recap the most important statement of that post, I think it is safe to say that the most meaningful things in life are, of course, the things we love – the things that make us happy.

And tapping into the potential for happiness is definitely worth the effort of creating personalized content for each customer segment, even for each customer online via an algorithm at the website.

Yet the online customers also expect an element of surprise and serendipitious discovery.

Adidas recently ventured to launch “Avenue A”, a box subscription service. Every Avenue A box is designed and curated by a celebrity fitness artist, such as Nicole Winhoffer. The subscriber receives 4 boxes per year, each featuring a mix of 3 to 5 Adidas items. The Summer 16 edition will ship with Adidas MiCoach Fit Smart watch. All for the price of $150 per box.

While some of us shop for more and more new clothes online, others are now purchasing little-worn clothes and accessories over the internet.

San Fransisco -based ThredUp is a website with the slogan “Secondhand clothes. Firsthand fun.” And a plethora of rare vintage items are still being sold through eBay. I recently also purchased my very first piece of clothing made solely of recycled textile fibres. Major brands, the Swedish Ikea perhaps as the most striking example of this trend, are now concerned about the reuse of their products.

According to the “JWT: The Future 100” Trend Report for this year, consumers are beginning to “join the dots” in multiple areas of their consumption patterns and lifestyles. “Across all sectors, consumers are differentiating between brands based on concern for the environment“, states the report. “Brands, once judged on their desirability and products, are now being judged on their value systems, on whether they are innovators, on whether they are promising to change the world”.

The Rituals brand, for example, recently launched its “30 Days of Good Karma” campaign online. The campaign highlights that the Rituals brand is there to help us “slow down, and to find happiness in the smallest of things”. And what better way to do so, than to stop shopping online or elsewhere for any unnecessary and non-environmental-friendly items. Rituals also offers a free app to aid meditation and mindfulness practice – and the same app will let you conveniently order more Rituals products.

Perhaps the future of online retail will be in the hands of whoever will be making it easy and memorable to make more conscious, healthy, environmental-friendly — and ultimately — more sustainable choices.

 

Flow and Seductive Interactions

How to create an engaging website and increase conversion rates?

According to psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, great websites are really not about navigating content – they are all about staging an experience. The key, says Csíkszentmihályi, is a finely tuned sense of rhythm, involvement, and anticipation known as “flow”.

Csíkszentmihályi has famously stated that flow is “– being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

In a book called “Seductive Interaction Design”, Stephen Anderson takes a similar approach to designing sites and interactions, based on the psychological stages of seduction. I recently purchased a copy of this book.

In the very first chapter, Anderson lists four different aspects of an engaging and seductive experience:

  • Sequencing — we are more likely to take action when complex tasks are broken down into smaller tasks.
  • Appropriate challenges — we delight in challenges, especially ones that strike a balance between being overwhelming and being boring.
  • Status — we constantly assess how interactions enhance or diminish our standing relative to others and our personal best.
  • Achievements — we are more likely to engage in activities in which meaningful achievements are recognized.

I think each one of these factors is crucial in relation to increasing conversion rates. To me, it is sequencing that seems like the most important aspect. The tasks performed online may be complex – just consider the process of purchasing a pair of new sneakers from an online store, for example. Sequencing is especially important, when conversions require for several fields to be completed in an online form, for example.

As for the rest of the aspects, appropriate challenges certainly motivate us to take action, status is very desirable, and is what really makes us want to use the product or service, and we are definitely most likely to engage in activities when our personal demographics and previous achievements are recognized.

Applying the concept of “flow”, an engaging website presents us with personalized, interesting challenges, encourages us to take action, gives a sense of an elevated status, and highlights our achievements.

It seems to me, that all of this correlates with the emerging trends. Personal improvement is one of the key megatrends at the moment. Wearable technology is gaining in popularity, healthy foods are trending, self-help and motivational literature is increasingly being published, and new forms of physical exercise are on the rise, just to point out a few examples.

Considering this, and the concept of “flow”, the most desirable digital service design now, and the kind that increases conversions, is the type that ultimately caters for the customer’s personal improvement, while giving us a sense of a true “flow experience” of micro-moments while performing relatively complex tasks.

On the Digital Dimension and Creativity

This week, I stumbled upon a somewhat uncommon article in the Harvard Business Review – an article on creativity, and more specifically, creativity in digitally or technologically driven organizations.

The author of this article quite straightforwardly states that in order to succeed, tech-savvy companies should really hire more creatives – instead of merely hiring more people who excel in business analytics, or even instead of hiring people who have hard core skills in creating new software.

(You can read the full article, by Tom Perrault, bluntly entitled “Digital Companies Need More Liberal Arts Majors”, at the HBR website: https://hbr.org/2016/01/digital-companies-need-more-liberal-arts-majors.)

Coming from a design background, and moreover, a background in philosophy, I think that we could certainly do with more of us in technologically oriented companies. However, I also think there’s much more to success than simply hiring a designer, or a philosopher, or several, for that matter.

Much like the author here, I find what the management of any successful digital or otherwise technology-oriented company really needs to do is to “create the type of culture in which creatives thrive”.

Having done some reading on this issue, I previously wrote about it in a post entitled “A Structure of Unstructured Time” in this blog last year (https://iiriskblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/a-structure-of-unstructured-time/).

To briefly recap that post, the point I wished to make was that in relation to creating an innovation-oriented culture was that employees should perhaps be given some “unstructured” time to act as “intrapreneurs” in their respective organizations. This is the kind of culture that many prominent companies like Apple and Google seem to make it a point of supporting and sustaining.

Most digital and technological innovations – or at least the very best ones – tend to require the early input of a creative person, or a group of creative people.

I firmly believe that many people, given a chance to, can act as creatives, regardless of their vocational background. Only hiring a creative marketing posse for the product or service hardly makes any sense.

What really makes or breaks success, then, is having and maintaining a creative organizational culture.

Reconsidering the Priorities of Museum Practice

The question I ask myself every now and then, is – as Michael Edson put it, visiting Helsinki last autumn – if there exists “a bias” in the museum industry of “getting a person in front of the artwork” in a museum setting? And if this is true, should we reconsider and revise the priorities of current museum practice?

With the fabulous new HAM (http://hamhelsinki.fi) re-opened and a brand new art museum Amos Rex (http://amosanderson.fi/en/lasipalatsi/) soon to be constructed directly opposite to the Kiasma – and moreover, the annual museum card gaining in popularity – well, the industry seems to be blooming here in Finland. The Finnish National Gallery alone attracted well over 500 000 visitors last year.

Even the Solomon R. Guggenheim foundation seems to have a vested interest in the Finnish museum-going people, as well as the steady flow of tourists visiting Helsinki (http://www.guggenheimhki.fi/en/).

However, my question, regarding the possible bias is, how can museums best reach out to new audiences, besides “the regular crowd” visiting the museum’s collections and intriguing exhibitions at the physical site?

A few years back, the Rijksmuseum, located in Amsterdam, Netherlands, transferred well over 100 000 high-resolution images of the artworks in their collection in the internet. In conjunction, the museum also created the Rijksstudio, where the general public can create their own collections of images and edit them. Furthermore, the collection data of these artworks can now be downloaded free of charge. An unprecedented online buzz resulted.

As the most feasible way to reach people besides those visiting the museum site is to upload quality content, for example, images of and information on artworks on the internet or social media, many museums around the world are starting to embrace open data.

In the book “Sharing is Caring – Openness and Sharing in the Cultural Heritage Sector”, Merete Sanderhoff describes the current online and offline practices of the Statens Museum for Kunst, located in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Last week, Sanderhoff also visited the Finnish National Gallery, giving a brief talk of her work in the SMK.

What makes the current practice of the SMK really groundbreaking is that the staff of the museum, on all levels, is now deeply involved in facilitating sharing, reuse, sampling and remixes of the digital resources.

Some prime examples of the facilitation of image reuse are the extensive community projects that have been undertaken by the SMK staff. These involve getting a group of local youth to meet the staff once per week, to brainstorm and carry out projects where the artwork images are appropriated to the cityscape, as well as handing over control of the museum space to artists and creatives for an arts hackathon.

In her talk, Sanderhoff emphasized that acting as a catalyst for creative ideas of the general public or other creative people is now a practice permeating the organization of the SMK.

Last year, the FNG conducted an extensive research on its audience’s preferences regarding art museums. For this research, 500 people from Finland were asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding their views on art. This questionnaire included 18 sample images of the artworks of the collections of the FNG.

This research clearly indicated, that in addition to viewing art in a museum setting, the majority of Finnish people who replied to the questionnaire would also like to see artworks elsewhere – for example on the streets of their cities, or when visiting shopping centers – or even when using public transportation.

I think the FNG’s recent collaboration with the Lux Helsinki light installations festival in the beginning of this year makes for a prime example of contemporary art reaching out to new audiences, of art integrating to the cityscape, as well as of art becoming a topic of various conversations on the internet. By collaborating with the festival, the FNG attracted numerous new visitors in the Ateneum building, while the beautiful images of the colorful façade and the various light installations inside spread online during the festival.

The results of this type of collaborative projects can be very rewarding for all parties involved.

Art can substantially enhance the look and feel of the cityscape, and our everyday environment. And besides the museum site, given a chance, art can also thrive online and generate a buzz online and in social networks.

In order to better address their long-term strategic objectives, will art museums be making this kind of collaborative and community-based practice and reaching out to new audiences online their top priority in the future?

A Contrapuntal Framework

So it was winter solstice yesterday, and next year is getting close.

Last year, around this time of the year, I was involved in working on my first Finnish National Gallery project that was to be online by my winter holiday in Mexico.

This year, I have been working in the Finnish National Gallery in various other projects. We have co-created the Flockler site Kanvas, http://kanvas.kansallisgalleria.fi, and I have been responsible for creating the platform for the research publication FNG Research, http://research.fng.fi.

My main task in the FNG, however, has been different.

The project kicked off for my part after my holiday.

One of the resulting documents was a roadmap for the digital services development of the FNG for the ongoing and upcoming two years. This roadmap suggestion for the Board of the FNG was the refined result of a consulting company’s output. They had been interviewing a few of our personnel in brief and had held a planning workshop for some of our experts as well.

The results of the consultancy were found useful, paving the way for the future developments.

But the task of creating a proper strategy implementation was still lacking completely after the project by the consulting company was over last spring.

My major task this year has been to facilitate strategy implementation. I have been a member of the Digital Services Steering group since I started out. This year, I have been organizing implementation workshops for the other digital services and communications personnel of the FNG. The first one was a workshop on social media last spring, and the other two workshops on digital services development this autumn.

Before the first workshop, I was struggling to pick the best ”contrapuntal” framework, so to speak, in order to get everyone’s harmonius input together, as well as different perspectives on the implementation out. The balanced scorecard method seemed appealing and useful, and to me like the best planning tool.

The FNG wishes to triple its unique online visits. With these kind of tools, with having the BSC and by keeping on updating it, I am confident that it should be relatively easy to reach that goal.

Now, with the BSC and other documentation together, it’s time for me to move on. I enjoyed the project! Looking forward to next year…!