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difficult to measure. For the person involved in it, it may be completely satisfactory, while
at the same time distracting him/her from the real world and withering the skills needed
to build real relationships. In extreme cases this can lead to a form of addiction to life in
the virtual world. In organisational terms, staff may be distracted from their work by
ceaseless interaction with the Internet.This can be interpreted as a positive influence
when in search of professional advice, but adversely it may distract and detach users from
their routine work. However,VCs are by no means unique in this: distractions can always
be found in the workplace if employees are prepared to look hard enough.
Advantages
User satisfaction
Collaborative technologies facilitate the assembly and presentation
of virtual collections in an innovative and appealing way. Access is increased, and users
may have an increased sense of participating in a `shared experience', which can be valuable
both in terms of learning and entertainment. Learning curves may also be reduced by
such shared experiences.
Openness, understanding and informality
The `open-access' approach to cultural
discourse should help to remove the perception of memory institutions as `ivory towers'
for experts and the elite. Increased discussion and easier communication between different
groups can only lead to an increased understanding between decision-makers and the
general public in whose interest they are entrusted the custody of their artefacts.
Standardisation
Work on standards can only be helped by collaboration between
representatives of all groups involved in a particular area.The utilisation of shared intel-
lectual capital is thus made increasingly efficient. EMII's Distributed Content Framework is a
good example of such a collaboration.
Disadvantages
Management
The collaboration of several organisations in providing joint resources
might be difficult to manage.The traditional `personal touch' may also be lost if all com-
munication is handled online, and through a purely textual medium.
Standardisation
Problems may arise if collaborating organisations are working to
different standards for their electronic resources. Blanket interoperability, although the
goal, is still some distance from fruition.
Potential lack of rigor
In the past, the only people with a means of expressing a
widely-heard opinion on cultural matters were the educated (and, it was assumed, trust-
worthy) experts. Allowing everyone to have a say may lead to a glut of misleading and
incorrect information, and this in turn demands a greater deal of analytic work from
community members.
Distraction
Online chat has the potential for becoming addictive, thus distracting
staff from their work, and indeed their rest. Of course, this is no different from other
potentially habit-forming technologies in the workplace, such as the telephone, Internet,
coffee machine, games, and so on.
Collaborative Mechanisms
and Technologies
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