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A d v a n t a g e s a n d D i s a d v a n t a g e s
Introduction
Virtual communities can change the ways in which knowledge is organised, perceived,
and used. Cultural and scientific heritage institutions can benefit from the presentation of
their collections in innovative ways, and by engaging individuals online in discussions
about the heritage virtual communities make resources, expertise, and social interaction
accessible to people distributed across the globe.The 24 Hour Museum
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offers a good
example of the benefits of simple community building for the memory sector.
In order to present their material for use among VCs, cultural and scientific heritage
organisations can benefit from adopting consistent and shared data encoding standards.
The development of VCs will boost standardisation, moving from in-house standards to
standards which may be applied globally. A current risk which must be taken into account
when creating such resources is the multiplicity of approaches for electronic data repre-
sentation that are followed.The work of multiple partner institutions on the same collab-
orative environment must also be planned in advance and monitored closely.
An immediate benefit to be gained from the use of these technologies is that access to
geographically scattered content is greatly improved.Then again, there are many such
compendia on the Web which are available, and yet rarely consulted.The registration of
resources with search engines and mutual linking with similar organisations are strongly
recommended in order to overcome this difficulty.
Many VCs `contain' knowledge which falls outside the formal hierarchies and docu-
mentation processes of the subject area. A positive feeling accompanies the freedom of
expression and presentation of personal knowledge and thoughts that such communities
make possible, but this can also lead to an increase in the circulation of incorrect and
misleading information.The availability of newly emerging compendia of information
can ease the learning curve. Of course, this depends on the quality of supplied content,
and if care is not taken to offer good quality content, the results are more likely to be
negative.
The more people who are attracted to the idea of contributing to informal communi-
ties, the better the utilisation of the intellectual capital, although it is not always obvious
that the people who know most are the same people that are most willing to share.The
availability of resources which are created in an immense amount with unknown quality
in fact puts far greater demands on the analytic abilities of community members and those
who consult its resources.
The freedom of developing communities means less control on public messages.This
is generally seen as a positive thing, but it also means that no one can control malicious
communities which harm an organisation's image or reputation, or which convey incor-
rect or heavily slanted content intentionally.
Communities have a clear influence on the emotions. On one hand, they provoke an
increase in communication which is considered to be a positive tendency in a world that
is increasingly alienated, while on the other hand the quality of this communication is
Collaborative Mechanisms
and Technologies
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322 http://www.24hourmuseum.co.uk
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