Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Using Digital in Museums

Families interacting together do so in multiple ways. This can include gesture, touch, speech, assuming and varying roles and many more. Image: courtesy of the authors.

Victoria and Albert Museum Blog site, Watch and learn: how visitors interact with digital in museums, 25 September 2014

There is a lot written about digital technologies and how they might help visitors engage within museums. However, this is often very focussed solely on technical aspects and frequently seems to assume that people will use this tech as intended. But of course, people bring their own ideas, habits and preferences to the tech, and it cannot be assumed that they will do what we might have expected. So what can we do about this, to help refine the design of digitally-mediated museum experiences?

Well, one way is to watch people using them in the actual spaces they are available…

Detailed research has been carried out at the V&A and Natural History Museum into how visitors react to digital interactives and how this conforms or differs from intended use. Cameras attached to visitors’ bodies allowed researchers to pick up non-verbal cues in detail.  The academics Theano Moussouri, Eleni Vomvyla, Sara Price and Carey Jewitt have allowed the V&A to blog some of their main findings ahead of journal publication later in the year.  These include:

  • The surrounding physical space affects how people respond to digital, with visitors describing the Natural History Museum’s curved Cocoon space as modern and inspiring adventure.
  • There is a ‘commitment cost’ to engaging with digital – for example if an iPad-like device in a gallery does not respond as you would expect from an iPad, then the learning curve is steeper and it becomes easier to give up.
  • People pick up non-verbal cues from each other about how to make technology work.  It may be easier to teach people through staff interacting with digital displays, rather than written instructions on the walls.
  • The study also discusses how to elicit information from people without getting an inaccurate answer because they have guessed what researchers want to hear.

Read more here.

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