Cultural Authority with a Light Touch – Museums Using Humor in Social Media Communication
The distinctively informal and participatory environment of social media can help museums improve comprehension by providing new ways of seeing, interpreting and experiencing. Aparticular potential in that digital context may relate to a humorous discourse. Given that museum research has yet to explore the use of humor in social media communication, the aim of this article is to fill the gap by investigating how museums incorporate humor to communicate over the net with wide and fragmented audiences. The empirical study was based on a content analysis of messages posted on the social media profiles of museums from the Mal opolska Region in Poland. The analysis involved material gathered from 71 institutions running proprietary social media sites (of a total 119 museums in the region), whose activity was observed during a two-and-a-half-month period. The final sample developed through a consensus coding procedure consisted of 47 humorous messages posted on profiles of 15 institutions. The findings identify certain common trends as well as differences in the use of humor in the social media communication of museums. Observed discrepancies relate to distinct framings and cohesiveness of practiced humorous communication. Along with a variety of humorous utterances different reactions of the audience were identified.
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