Involving Users in the Co-construction of Digital Knowledge

Libraries, archives, and museums increasingly provide their users with social computing tools that include the ability to tag collections, annotate objects, and otherwise contribute their thoughts to the knowledge base of the institution. My research in this area looks at how information professionals have responded to the web 2.0 world of user-created content by developing systems that coordinate these activities and determining the best ways to involve users in the co-creation of digital knowledge.

As the PI on an IES funded project at Florida State University, I am currently examining the benefits of encouraging students to become active participants in the scientific inquiry process by collecting and analyzing data in science museums and wildlife centers. Students visiting the Tallahassee Museum use digital journals to formulate scientific inquiries and record their own observations about the museum's wildlife habitats. In the classroom, they use an online interactive website to access their digital journal entries, share their observations with other students, and analyze data about wildlife and natural habitats online.

Marty, P.F., Douglas, I., Southerland, S., Sampson, V., & Kazmer, M.M. (2010-2014). Habitat Tracker: Learning About Scientific Inquiry through Digital Journaling in Wildlife Centers. Institute of Education Sciences. ($1,100,000). For more information and publications about this project, please see the Project Website.

To consider what social computing means for the future of libraries, archives, and museums, as well as the future trends and long-term implications of involving users in the co-construction of knowledge online, I recently co-edited a special issue of Library Trends examining what happens when users are involved in shaping, directing and guiding the development of online libraries, archives, and museums and their information resources.

Marty, P.F., Kazmer, M.M., Jörgensen, C., Urban, R., & Jones, K.B. (Eds). (2011). Involving Users in the Co-Construction of Digital Knowledge in Libraries, Archives, and Museums. Library Trends, 59 (4).

I recently completed a long-term study of personal digital collections interfaces on museum websites, where online visitors are encouraged to build their own personal collections of the museum's online artifacts, returning to view, modify, and interact with them at their leisure. My research examined the development, implementation, and evaluation of different types of personal digital collection systems, from simple bookmarking applications to sophisticated tools that support high levels of interactivity and the sharing of collections. It assessed the potential impact of these interfaces on the relationship between museums and their online visitors, and explored the possible benefits of involving users as co-creators of digital knowledge in museums.

Marty, P.F. (2011). My Lost Museum: User Expectations and Motivations for Creating Personal Digital Collections on Museum Websites. Library and Information Science Research, 33 (3), 211-219. [Preprint | Final]

Marty, P.F., Sayre, S., & Fillipini Fantoni, S. (2011). Personal Digital Collections: Involving Users in the Co-Creation of Digital Cultural Heritage. In Styliaras, G., Koukopoulos, D., & Lazarinis, F. (Eds). Handbook of Research on Technologies and Cultural Heritage: Applications and Environments (pp. 285-304). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

My interest in this area stems from my work researching the "digital museum in the life of the user," studying how museum visitors incorporate digital museum resources into their daily lives. This research explored such questions as how can museum professionals help users integrate digital museum resources into the sociocultural fabric of their everyday lives? and how does increased access to digital information resources affect the ability of the information professional working in the museum to meet the needs of museum visitors? As museums provide increased online access to their collections and other information resources, it is important to explore why people visit museum websites before going to museums and how museum websites influence decisions to visit museums.

Marty, P.F. (2008). Museum websites and museum visitors: Digital museum resources and their use. Museum Management and Curatorship 23 (1), 81-99. [Preprint | Final]

Marty, P.F. (2007). Museum websites and museum visitors: Before and after the museum visit. Museum Management and Curatorship 22 (4), 337-360. [Preprint | Final]

My earlier work in this area looked at the usability of museum websites and the development of collaborative multi-user virtual environments for museums, with a focus on the development of suitable interfaces for meeting the needs of online museum visitors, and the use of Second Life by museums.

Marty, P.F. & Twidale, M.B. (2004). Lost in Gallery Space: A Conceptual Framework for Analyzing the Usability Flaws of Museum Web Sites. First Monday 9 (9), available online at

Urban, R.J., Marty, P.F., & Twidale, M.B. (2007). A Second Life for your Museum: The use of 3D collaborative virtual environments by museums. In D. Bearman & J. Trant (Eds.), Proceedings of Museums and the Web 2007. Toronto, CA.: Archives & Museum Informatics. Available online at