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Published on: 07/12/2011

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5. Citations from Faro convention

7. Definition practice of cultural citizenship

Specifying characteristics

Informal learning connecting with goals of convention

DISH talk 07-12-2011

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Published on: 05/12/2011

Multilevel participation within on-line collections of local memories as a practice of cultural citizenship

The value of local cultural heritage for society

Abstract: Collecting local memories* on-line is a growing practice with participatory elements on different levels. Three levels of participation – micro, meso and macro – are introduced by describing an exemplary case: the Memory of East in Amsterdam. These levels of this particular case can be grounded in the statements of the Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society. This indicates that the Memory of East case might be a good practice. However, looking at 53 other cases shows that the three levels are present, but designed differently with respect to the degree in which residents participate. Since the convention is not specific enough we choose the notion of cultural citizenship to assess the value of cases like these. We claim that the cases that have more focus on ordinary residents participating on all three levels assures a sustainable and self-feeding system, which is the best answer to the goals of the convention.

Keywords: storytelling, social media, neighborhoods, memory, cultural heritage.

Please consult author ( and refer to as:

Kreek, M. de (2011). Multilevel participation within on-line collections of local memories as a practice of cultural citizenship. Digital Strategies for Cultural Heritage 2011, Rotterdam: Digital Heritage Netherlands.

The Memory of East

In the preparations of an exhibition about Amsterdam East the Amsterdam Museum started a neighborhood story website in 2003 ( helped by developer Mediamatic. Residents collected informal personal stories about their neighborhood or about events situated in their neighborhood. After the exhibition the residents asked the museum if they could continue to use the website for their stories and comments. Today the website contains approximately 1700 stories, over 7000 comments and 1300 who-knows-questions.

Looking at this case from the perspective of participation, three levels can be distinguished. A common definition of participation functions as starting point: “The act of taking part or sharing in something.” One level of participation consists of the decisions on what topics the stories should cover. In the Memory of East case the residents mainly decided themselves what they would incorporate in their stories with the only constraint of the neighborhood (Ernst, 2005). This resulted in a co-creative process between the active group of story collectors and the Museum professionals in which for example the set of keywords for the stories evolved. I would like to call these interactions among professionals and/or residents, with respect to the development or architecture of the on-line memory, the meso-level of participation.

A second level of participation is the involvement of residents in selecting what memories about the neighborhood should be saved for the future (Ernst, 2005). This makes new participatory  processes possible as we can see in the large number of comments. In other words: the group that participates today fuels and steers the participation possibilities of the collective tomorrow. I would like to call this emergent property in relation to the local community at large the macro-level of participation with respect to on-line collections of local memories.

In the Memory of East case many of the stories were – and still are – collected by locals loosely interviewing other residents (Ernst, 2005) about their memories, which makes a third level of participation. In this case, the skills to do this were acquired by following a series of workshops covering the co-creational aspects of interviewing and validating a written story. Even people writing their own stories tend to ask someone to give them feedback and how to sharpen the story. These creative interactions on resident level could be called the micro-level of participation.

In order to get a feeling of the value of this case for the local society, we can compare it with one of the heritage conventions of the Council of Europe.

The Faro convention

The Memory of East case with its levels of participation can be grounded in the statements of the Convention of the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society formulated in Faro by the Council of Europe and enforced on June the first 2011. First the definition of what constitutes cultural heritage clearly includes the on-line local memories like those in the Memory of East:

“a group of resources inherited from the past which people identify, independently of ownership, as a reflection and expression of their constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions. It includes all aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time.” (Article 2)

The macro-level of participation can, for example, be recognized in the following words of the convention:

“a heritage community consists of people who value specific aspects of cultural heritage which they wish, within the framework of public action, to sustain and transmit to future generations.” (Article 2)

Participation on meso-level can be identified in a statement like:

“to (…) develop the legal, financial and professional frameworks which make possible joint action by public authorities, experts, owners, investors, businesses, non-governmental organizations and civil society” (Article 11)

Finally, phrases about the micro-level interactions between residents working on contributions are also present in the convention:

“everyone, alone or collectively, has the right to benefit from the cultural heritage and to contribute towards its enrichment” (Article 4)

Grounding the levels of participation found in the Memory of East case in the Faro convention shows that this case might be a good practice from that perspective. However, it does not say anything about whether this is true for other cases in the field of on-line collections of local memories.

Participation in other cases

I have studied 53 cases from the field of on-line collections of local memories on six dimensions (article forthcoming): the initiating participants, the aims, the collecting methods, the types of stories, the websites affordances and the on-line activity. Looking at some of the results from the perspective of the three levels of participation, gives us the following area’s of attention.

With respect to the meso-level we can plot the cases on a continuum based on arriving at decisions or actions in different dimensions. On one side of the continuum the professional does not approach the residents to participate in the developmental questions of the on-line memory. On the other side the residents find each other to participate and act, with no professional involved. In between there are cases in which residents ask professionals to participate and, vice versa, professionals that invite the resident to participate in different decisions. The question that is underneath this continuum is obviously who takes the lead and who participates in, for example, initiating an on-line memory website, defining the aims, collecting the stories, the deciding on the characteristics of the stories and designing the affordances of the website.

Similarly, on the micro-level, we find a distinction in who is taking the initiative. In some cases the professional mainly approaches the residents as a resource for stories on already determined topics to be harvested by interviews. But more common is the resident taking all the initiative by writing stories about personal experiences, researching archives or interviewing other residents. Also common is residents working together with professionals applying different collecting methods. The underlying question here is who participates in the creative process of writing a story and in the interaction that comes with it.

The manifestation of the macro-level can best be described in terms of the aims, the affordances and the online activity. The plentiful aims categorized under ‘community development’ and ‘preservation’ can be related to sustaining and transmitting neighborhood memories to offer to the future generations. However, the affordances in order to let future visitors participate through the website by directly contributing stories and comments are present in approximately half of the number of cases. Moreover, more then half of the number of cases receive ten or less contributions per year, and thus can be considered as static presentations of collections of local memories. This leads to the question in what degree the initiators of an on-line collection of local memories want future visitors to be able to interact with the existing collection and thereby participate in expanding it to a new one.

To assess certain cases as being bad practices and others as good practices is not realistic based on the convention because it does not offer sufficient specific details. We need an intermediate notion that gives a normative perspective on the levels of participation and is able translate them to the aims of the convention in terms of ‘human development’ and ‘quality of life’ (Article 1c). One of these notions is cultural citizenship.

Practices of cultural citizenship as frame

According to Burgess, Foth and Klaebe (2006) following Hermes (2005) practices of cultural citizenship within the digital age contain the participation in every day life in “text-related practices of [creating], reading consuming, and criticizing, offered in the realm of (popular) culture.” (‘creating’ my addition based on Burgess et al., 2006, p. 4). Discussing a case in which locals share pictures and a case in which locals share stories they mention, among others, the following characteristics that further specify a practice of cultural citizenship:

  1. Vernacular creativity as the ongoing learning-process in which personal memories become remediated by creating and publishing stories.
  2. Real-life meetings with other residents sharing or creating content contributing to skills, a sense of belonging, self confidence and reflection.
  3. On-line representations – from artistic to historical – of what the involved locals find important to save for and show other residents.
  4. Access to this public sphere for everyone to be able to be contribute, consume, complement, discuss, criticize or bond.

Obviously informal learning processes cut through these characteristics, contributing to what could be called an ongoing search and negotiation that produces idea’s about individual development and about what it is to have a quality of life (Trienekens, 2004; Hermes, 2005). If we revisit the levels of participation with these characteristics in the back of our mind, we do become able to assess the different cases as better or worse practices.

The levels of participation reinforce each other

The output on the macro-level offers future visitors local cultural heritage they should be able to interact with (characteristic 4). So affordances are non negligible. But more importantly, the cultural heritage should be recognizable as being selected and made by ordinary fellow residents (characteristic 3). This functions as an invitation to participate not only secondarily, but also in creating stories as a new member on the micro-level and maybe after a number of contributions on the meso-level. If on the contrary, the interaction on micro-level is mainly in the hands of a professional or another non-ordinary resident, this does not only violate the learning of creativity and meetings between residents (characteristic 1 and 2), but also the already mentioned recognizability.

This analysis shows that the different levels are intertwined. If we assume that the meso-level is where an initiative starts, ordinary residents should already participate in a high degree. These residents are presumably the first ones to also participate on the micro-level, which makes way for other ordinary residents to participate on the micro-level too. This in turn makes the macro-level inviting for new participants who might move on to the micro-level, etcetera. It should be noted that the connection between macro-level and micro-level can be disturbed within both resident initiatives and professional initiatives. The explanation for this lies in the possibility that an initiating group of residents on the meso-level has a strong internal cohesion and as such is not experienced as something to identify with for other residents.

Summarizing we can claim now that the cases that have more focus on ordinary residents participating on all three levels connects the levels, resulting in self-feeding and thus sustainable system. From the perspective of cultural citizenship this is the best way to design an answer to the challenge the convention provides. And finally, seen this way, the Memory of East can indeed be called a ‘good practice’, together with about 10 other cases among the studied set.

Having said that, important issues still remain. One of them is how a story-collecting community can refrain from becoming representative of the dominant part of the local society. Education in the positive effects of the contrary – remaining a diverse heritage community – might be the only solution. This would imply that on the meso-level residents need these educators (professionals and experienced locals) by their sides.

* The word ‘memories’ in ‘on-line collections of local memories’ might be misleading, because strictly taken memories are only available mentally. Once they are expressed or caught on media they should be called mediated memories. Nevertheless, because of books like Save as … digital memories (Garde-Hansen, Hoskins & Reading, 2009) we also choose to use the word as we do.


Garde-Hansen, J., Hoskins, A. & Reading, A. (2009).  Save as … Digital Memories. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ernst, M. (2006). East Amsterdam, an outreach project. In City Museums as Centers of civic dialog – Proceedings of the Fourth Conference of the International Association of City Museums. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Historical Museum.

Burgess, J., Foth, M. and Klaebe, H. (2006). Everyday Creativity as Civic Engagement: A cultural Citizenship View of New Media. In Proceedings Communications Policy & Research Forum, Sydney.

Hermes, J. (2005). Re-reading popular culture. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Trienekens, S. (2004). Urban Paradoxes – lived citizenship and the location of diversity in the arts. Amsterdam: Hogeschool van Amsterdam.

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Published on: 24/11/2011

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Prepare for storytelling seminar 11-th November

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Published on: 24/10/2011


  1. Noelle Aarts resarch agenda.
  2. Yiannis Gabriel’s focus.
  3. Alexandra Kopelous methods.
  4. Prepare questions I would like to ask people.
  5. People I would like to meet.

The seminar’s announcement can be found here.

Accepted at Digital Strategies for Cultural Heritage

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Published on: 18/10/2011

My submission to lead a group discussion about my research at DISH has been accepted.

Seminar Global Immersion Program USC 15-06-2011

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Published on: 15/06/2011

I provided a seminar in the Global Immersion Program of the School of Social Work – University of Southern California:

“In many cities around the world online initiatives are started in which local stories play a central role. A local memory website, like this, is defined by a collection of photos, audio recordings, texts or movies, or a combination thereof, in which the neighborhood is the topic or the scenery of some event. The stories come from ‘ordinary’ city dwellers who are often writing their own stories or interviewed by other residents who voluntarily gather stories for ‘their local memory’. Sometimes professionals play an assisting role in making the contribution and other times their role focuses on the start up of the initiative. On cases with these characteristics, the research projects are still limited in number, which is why a PhD-project is started at the Amsterdam School of Social Work and Law, around two cases in Amsterdam East and West.

In the first part of this seminar we will discuss some of the benefits claimed in two articles related to an exemplary case – The Sharing Stories Project – situated in Brisbane, Australia, in the Kelvin Grove Urban Village.  These claims are made around the notions of new media literacy’s, cultural citizenship and community development.

In the second part of the seminar we will look at a few other cases in other cities and discuss in what degree and for what reasons these – or maybe even other – benefits also might emerge. The students are kindly invited to propose cases with online collections of local stories in cities they know. ” (see the rest of the program text)

The story I told the group is depicted in this figure. I enjoyed it a lot and got some good leads for my research. Below are the links that I used following the numbers in the figure.

  1. Research Center School of Social Work and Law: program Cultural and Social Dynamics
  2. The Memory of East Amsterdam
  3. Student research for Memory of East
  4. Digital Storytelling at the Queensland University of Technoloy
  5. Definition cultural citizenship
  6. Example story KGUV
  7. ..
  8. ..
  9. Neighborhood shops
  10. Work in progress: first article


Below you see the cases some of which we discussed in the second part of the seminar

Notes of the meeting at the Memory of West

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Published on: 03/06/2011

Here the notes Jan van Zijp took when we had the meeting with the volunteers of the Memory of West:

Kort verslag bijeenkomst 27 mei 2011

Het werd een hele interessante bijeenkomst met heel veel informatie en heel veel uitwisseling van ideeën.
Mike de Kreek (van de HvA) vertelde over zijn promotieonderzoek wat zich richt op verhalensites over de hele wereld. Zijn proefschrift zal bestaan uit een reeks artikelen die in de loop van vier jaar (internationaal) gepubliceerd zullen worden. Het Geheugen van West en het Geheugen van Oost maken deel uit van zijn uitgebreide onderzoek met als onderzoeksvraag “Hoe manifesteert cultureel burgerschap zich in/op de verschillende verhalenwebsites”.
Bij zijn eerste verkenningen gedurende vier maanden heeft Mike al zeer diverse verhalensites ontdekt. Die zijn allemaal verzameld op de website (in het Engels).
Verschillende voorbeelden:
  1. Australië:
    1. Mensen met een beperking schrijven hun verhaal en helpen zo elkaar en kweken begrip bij anderen.
  2. USA New York:
    1. Met losse uitspraken gehoord ‘in de stad’, ‘op kantoor’ of ‘op het strand’. (Fascinerend om te lezen, maar soms wel erg seksueel getint.)
  3. USA New Orleans:
    1. Verhalen van buurtgenoten worden gepubliceerd in boeken.
  4. USA Portland:
    1. Ontwerpers brengen verhalen van inwoners van portland tot leven door elk verhaal op een andere manier te verwerken in een designpagina.
  5. Het Verhalenarchief
    1. Vertelt en verzamelt persoonlijke verhalen over uiteenlopende gebeurtenissen in de Nederlandse geschiedenis.
Het onderzoek van Mike is niet alleen theoretisch maar zal ook ‘vertaald worden’ om voor de HvA bruikbaar te zijn voor de praktijk. De onderzoeksvraag “Hoe manifesteert cultureel burgerschap zich in/op de verschillende verhalenwebsites” gaat dus niet over ‘Actief burgerschap’ waarbij burgers iets ‘moeten’, maar juist over ‘cultureel burgerschap’ waarbij door meer te weten van en over elkaar er ‘vanzelf’ meer begrip en wederzijds respect ontstaat.
Een sprekend voorbeeld was een oudere inwoner van een stadvernieuwingsbuurt die zich niet meer thuis voelde in zijn buurt na de verhuizing van veel buurtgenoten naar andere woonlocaties. Nadat hij via het verzamelen van verhalen in contact kwam met de nieuwe buurtgenoten en meer leerde over hun cultuur en achtergrond, kwam langzaam het oude gevoel terug en nu – na zoveel jaar – voelt hij zich weer thuis in haar eigen buurt.

Conferences for presenting autumn 2011

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Published on: 04/04/2011 (deadline May 22nd)

Amsterdam cases for presentation for the GvWvolunteers

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Published on: 22/03/2011

The end of May I will do a presentation for the volunteers of the Memory of West (Geheugen van West = GvW). Here I will gather cases that I think might be interesting to show and discuss, Dutch as well as foreign. Here I will make a longer list of cases of Amsterdam and elsewhere and make a selection, later.


Presentation PhD-lab March 16

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Published on: 13/03/2011

Here the outline for my presentation at the PhD-lab on March the 16th.


  1. My study is about two cases of neighborhood story communities: The Memory of East (MoE) and The Memory of West (MoW).
    1. Both contain 1.100+ stories, 5.000+ comments, 800+ persons and 800+ guest book messages.
    2. Early motivation: preliminary evidence (12 interviews 2004) and claims (practitioner journals/ books) that participants ‘grow’ cultural citizenship.
    3. Cultural citizenship (fuzzy, sometimes: everyday citizenship, lived citizenship) = among other things: respect, understanding, empathy, reflexivity, reciprocity, …
    4. Claims that the gathering of, the writing of and the commenting on stories yield processes that add to cultural citizenship.
    5. Characteristic within these two cases is the low interference from professionals from institutions or city council.
  2. Reasons enough (for me) to dive into this with the preliminary research question (in my  approved research proposal):
    1. How and why do aspects of cultural citizenship manifest itself within the two communities of practice MoE and MoW?
    2. The research design (in short) is inductive (grounded theory), it will attempt to contribute to theory about cultural citizenship and it will make use of sensitizing concepts from existing literature.
    3. I will not go into the subquestions and research design any further right now, because my first article is todays topic.

First article: ‘pre-research’

  1. What I will tell you about today is the ‘pre-research’ that I am conducting in order put my research plans in a decent context [start of the body of the presentation].
  2. So I started with pursuing the following practical goals:
    1. Finding out what has been written in research articles about concrete similar cases (7 aspects).
    2. Finding out what the variation is among websites that contain stories about neighborhoods, districts or cities (7 aspects).
  3. Point 2-1 could be paraphrased as a literature review with the review question:
    1. What empirical and theoretical (grand/ middle range) claims related to cultural citizenship are made about concrete cases including on-line resident stories about neighborhoods?
    2. I am applying what Levy and Ellis call an “effective literature review by proposing a systematic approach” (Levy et al., 2004: 181).
    3. This involves, among many other things, making notes of all the steps, actions and decisions that I make during the process.
    4. I summarized the research articles clustered around two concrete cases (projects) based on the following questions (what I called ‘aspects’ earlier):
      1. Context of the case in question.
      2. Details of the case.
      3. The research question.
      4. Applied theoretical perspectives.
      5. The research method.
      6. The research results.
      7. The relation with my research plans.
    5. I have found relations with grand theories (Jurgen Habermas), middle range theories (John Hartley) and – methodological weak – empirical claims about these cases related to cultural citizenship, with some intermediating concepts like vernacular creativity and participatory public history).
  4. We defined point 2-2 as a field analysis with the research question:
    1. What is the variation among initiatives where residents gather neighborhood stories on-line?
    2. This involves a search strategy, a (first)  framework (sensitizing concepts) for my analysis and the power of constant comparison to go through a hermeneutic process in which the analysis works itself to stability based on saturation (borrowed from Grounded Theory).
    3. The search strategy involved:
      1. Searching with certain keywords.
      2. Contacting my network.
      3. Using other networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, …).
    4. The framework contained 5 aspects in the beginning, but 7 in the end:
      1. Who took the initiative?
      2. What were the aims?
      3. What type of stories are there?
      4. What are the involved methods to gather stories?
      5. What are the affordances of the website?
      6. What is the course of the case?
      7. What other sites does the case link to?
    5. Including and excluding criteria for found cases are also build up while analyzing the cases, because the assumption was that there would be border cases, which might be just as (or even more) interesting as the typical cases.
    6. Right now I have described and analyzed 20 cases and I will do another 30 the next two weeks. The subcodes for the 7 aspects are becoming more and more stable.
    7. Variation in correlation between certain aspects (inititative-aims-type of stories) would be great, or uniqueness of some cluster of cases compared to other clusters.

Aims within the article

  1. Relate the research claims made about the concrete cases to the variation found in the field research and vice versa…
  2. to show that the research claims are very interesting about the concrete cases, but that these claims can hardly be related to all cases in general. Even worse, the claims might even be problematic to prove for the cases they are about.
  3. Formulate propositions about which claims might be related to which variations in the field analysis.
  4. Set up an argument for which variants (clusters of more or less similar cases) are most interesting for further research. I know the Dutch Memory Cases (‘geheugenvans’) are, because of (at the least) their continuity, activity and low interference of professionals.
  5. The research question for the whole article might be:
    1. How can empirical and theoretical claims about cultural citizenship with respect to specific cases of on-line neighborhood story communities be related to the variation among the broader collection of resembling cases?
    2. But I am still pondering this overall question and whether it should be made explicit (as a question in the article). The other option is to limit the research questions in the article to the variation question for the field analysis.

Aims with the article as a whole for my future research

  1. The article will
    1. Help me understand the existing body of knowledge (i.e. what is already known? what is needed to be known?),
    2. Provide a theoretical foundation for the proposed study (related to “what is already known?”),
    3. Substantiate the presence of the research problem (related to “what is needed to be known?”),
    4. Provide a foundation to the selection of research methodology,
    5. Justify the proposed study as one that contributes something new to the body of knowledge,
    6. Frame the proposed study within the appropriate research strategy and research design.
    7. Point 1-6 based on Levy and Ellis. (Levy et al., 2004: 183).
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