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

Chern Li Liew, Gillian Oliver, Morgan Watkins

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose - The relatively under-documented "dark side" of 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 growth of social web has significantly changed the way the heritage sector seeks participation. Only a small minority of the sample institutions appear to be using social web tools to build community and to enhance their heritage collections. For the majority, institutional use of social media is for creating a "chattering space". The main concerns identified by interviewees were reputation management and the risk management process followed by most institutions appeared to be reactive, responding to problems as and when they occurred, rather than proactive about risk identification 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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)93-106
    Number of pages14
    JournalOnline Information Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Memory institutions
    • Participatory heritage
    • Risk management
    • Risk perception
    • Social web

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