Thinking about audience engagement can prove to be rather difficult. One is forced to consider not how they would personal interact with the materials, but instead how to get other people interested and excited about the content. How do you help them discover the content? What will they find the most intriguing and how is that highlighted within your project? How do you encourage them to participate and contribute to the project?
For my project, American Spirits – An Archival History, I have considered a number of things in order to help my audience engage with the collection’s items, and believe that the initial items currently on display will be extremely helpful in solidifying these ideas. The ideas include using the themes/topics as exhibits where individuals can find detailed information about major events or topics (The Whiskey Rebellion, The Whiskey Ring Scandal, etc.). The topics illustrate why whiskey and other liquors have been popular throughout American history, highlighting how the production and consumption were heavily impacted by federal taxes and major events which in turn led to political scandals, the illicit distillation, rebellion and more. Additionally, the use of keywords will help to group similar content together. This will allow people to see the prominence of spirituous liquors in political cartoons and perhaps encourage discussion as why these items were to so often and the message implied by the cartoonist. Furthermore, identifying not only item creators, but other individuals illustrated or mentioned, will allow users to consider the role these individuals may have played during these moments in time.
In order to make these interactions possible, I have created several fields which align with the Dublin Core metadata schema and began applying metadata to 15 items. While the information collected to far is promising, it has allowed me to reconsider some fields and debate whether or not they should be broken into smaller segments. For example, using a keywords field may prove to be too general, allowing for too many terms and difficult navigation. I could potentially think of ways to break up these into smaller categories, so that they are not too overwhelming, and think of a display that would help user to quickly identify more prominent terms. Currently I am leaning towards the later option and potentially using a tagcloud to display the terms, making the font size dependent on how many items are associated with it.
These items have also allowed me to consider additional ways in which users will want to interact with the content. At the moment I have considering whether date filters be useful when interacting with the entire collection or would that information best be displayed in a timeline fashion. Also, is capturing more detailed information important or should that be something that can be considered down the road?
While these items have helped to solidify how to I can encourage my audience to think about the past (thematically, by keywords, and temporarily), it is also helped me to consider how I would want them to contribute to the project, the first of which is to apply simple metadata, mainly keywords and possibly tags. By using both methods, users will able to contribute from my own controlled list but also add their own personalized categorization to the items. Next would be through user transcriptions of the text based documents however this will require more in depth consideration in regards to financial type documents. Lastly, allow users to comment on the items in order for them to share any perspectives that they may have on the individual items or the subject matter they are covering. I would like to encourage these types of contributions by rewarding users with a point system, allowing them to “level up” after a certain number of points have been achieved. Each of the items collected so far can be contributed to in at least one of these ways.