Understanding and mapping digital activity

The framings of digital activity, skills and maturity below are drawn from One by One, a multi-stakeholder, University of Leicester-led, international initiative working to build digital confidence in museums, of which Culture24 is a founding partner.

All digital activities and all analogue activities supported by digital within a cultural organisation, whatever the project, context or role, can be broken down into four distinct (yet often overlapping) elements: 

  • what will we/they need to use?
  • what will we/they need to manage?
  • what will we/they need to create?
  • what will we/they need to understand?

To unpack those elements a little more… 

Using 

This relates to the use of particular digital tools, platforms or technologies.

Managing 

This covers the ways in which people manage digital systems, workflows, resourcing, projects, partnerships, data, licences, capacity, skills development and more. 

Creating

This is the more creative and imaginative relationship with digital technology, assets and content than ‘using digital’. It’s about creating content, experiences, products and services. 

Understanding 

This relates to ways in which people learn about and explore digital practice and culture – it’s about understanding the purpose and impact of your digital activity, the way your communities behave, the ethical considerations and so on.

Understanding that digital activity in arts and heritage organisations encompasses those four areas can be enormously helpful in framing conversations, strategy and decision-making around digital. This applies at all levels of activity involving digital, from writing a single social media post or tracking web traffic to planning a funding bid or creating a new five year business plan. 

The framing is a useful tool for planning any new digital activity, or gaining further understanding of the digital work you are currently undertaking.

Mapping digital activity

Use a simple four-square grid for this mapping exercise, using each square to denote one element. Either draw it yourself on a piece of paper or in a Word Doc or copy and paste it from this document. If you would like to do the activity collaboratively with other members of your team, online, you could use tools like Padlet, Miro or Google Jamboard.

Having a conversation is a great way to begin the process, as a way for people to map and discuss which digital elements they need to use, manage, create and understand as part of their work. To start, work with a small group of people, using a specific project, process, service or role as the starting point. This should be something familiar to all of those involved.

Start by mapping all of the different elements that go into that activity, onto your grid, using paper or digital post-its. 

Firstly think about how you use digital – for example, if you are thinking about your marketing activities on Facebook, in the ‘use’ square you’d note down all the digital tools and systems you use to plan, create and track a Facebook post.  

Then move on to how you manage digital – in our Facebook marketing example, this may include capturing audience data from Facebook on how people are interacting with your marketing content. In that square you could note down how you will store or share your audience data. 

After that, consider how you create digital. In this square you could note down the types of content you create for your marketing activities on Facebook, i.e. promotional videos, marketing images, etc. 

Finally, focus on how you understand digital – this could include researching best practice on how to market your museum on Facebook, through using resources or by looking at examples from other heritage organisations. 

You would continue this process for all of the different tools, activities, platforms, etc you may need to complete the Facebook marketing activity. For example, you might use Hootsuite for scheduling your Facebook content, or create marketing images on Photoshop. Below is an example of how this might look as a mapping exercise, created in Padlet. You can find a link to the Padlet here

Conversations and processes of this kind work well across every level of organisation, from Boards to brand new volunteers. It is an effective way of scoping out digital projects, activities and ideas, strategically and practically. 

Taking an hour to map out an idea onto the digital activity grid can quickly illustrate the breadth and depth of digital touchpoints, tasks and activity to usefully inform decision-making. Use the framing and grid to help you understand where you might have capacity issues and even to take less digitally literate colleagues through the resourcing and skills implications of their latest digital brainwave. 

Another useful exercise is to map the digital elements of a person’s role onto the grid. What digital things do they have to use, manage, create and understand as part of that job? Do they have the digital skills to do so? Are those things in their job description? Reflected in their salary? Again, the mapping can quickly illustrate the breadth and depth of a person’s digital activity and support useful reflection.