I n t ro d u c i n g t h e Te c h n o l o g y
Policy and Organisational Framework
Virtual communities follow lifecycles not unlike those seen in real world communities -
they are born, grow, wither, and die. Sometimes they break up to form newer communi-
ties and at other times create offspring communities.The technology for VCs is fairly
simple to implement and maintain.The richness of the interactive environment they can
be used to offer has improved dramatically since the advent of the Web in the early 1990s.
While heritage institutions can engage in planning to design communities, successful
planned communities (as urban planners in the real world have found to their cost) are
not that easy to create. Extensive analysis, planning and guidance through the process of
defining community goals and best ways to achieve them combined with a strategy for
seeding the community's start-up can help. Key to the growth of the community will be
a strong alignment of personal and organisational goals and the encouragement of a high
level of commitment from participants.
Organisations considering developing a virtual community might consider:
What is the primary goal of the venture?
- Is it to create a community of shared interest and experience?
- Is it to build on a real world community?
- Is it to provide participants with access to knowledge which is otherwise not
- Is it to attract more attention to a collection or set of collections?
- Is it to support educational initiatives?
- Is it to offer unique visiting experiences?
- Is it to extend the circle of friends or patrons of the institution?
- Is it to find ways of increasing the competence of the staff in their work?
What will attract individuals to join and actively participate in the virtual
Will the primary aim be realised in isolation, in collaboration with other
institutions from the same sector, or with institutions from another sector?
Will the primary focus of the community be the exchange of information
resources about the cultural heritage or heritage institutions and their activities?
If so will this best be done with P2P technologies, the Web, or dynamic
How will participants' contributions to the community be monitored and
What kind of resources should the community use: peer-to-peer or
What expertise is available and what would need to be introduced?
Will the community be controlled in some way, e.g. by a moderator, owner
or managing group?
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