Human computer interaction in museums as public spaces : a research of the impact of interactive technologies on visitors’ experience
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More and more museums are incorporating interactive technologies into their exhibition environment in order to enhance their audiences’ visiting experiences and satisfy their expectations. Since museums are public spaces, interactions with and within the technological environment are mainly social, many times unexpected and significantly different to those taking place in a private context. The accelerated development of technologies and their increasing availability, both for the general public and the corporative world, represent a myriad of challenges and opportunities for museums. This doctoral research investigates interrelated aspects in the domain of museum interactive exhibitions from the perspectives of the converging fields of Human Computer Interaction and Museum Studies. The research project aims to generate a comprehensive understanding of the influence that interactive technologies have on museum visitors’ experiences with technologically-enhanced exhibition environments. Furthermore, given the social nature of the museum visiting experience, particular emphasis is put on the social implications of the incorporation of interactive technologies in the exhibition space. The research approach of this project is an experience-centred field exploration informed by the development of three case studies in different exhibition settings and with different types of audiences. The purpose of the case study approach is to obtain first-hand accounts of visitors’ experiences with interactive exhibits, exploring their physical, emotional and cognitive responses to these. Throughout the conduction of the case studies the work of HCI researchers John McCarthy, Peter Wright and Lisa Meekison on visitors’ experiences in interactive exhibitions is used as a reflective tool. A mixed set of existing quantitative and qualitative tools is applied in each case study and new techniques are devised as the cases develop, in a responsive research approach to the existing field conditions. The exhibition settings that comprise this research project are: the I See What You Mean exhibition at the DAB Lab Research Gallery, the Facets Kids installation at the Powerhouse Museum, and the Dangerous Australians exhibit at the Australian Museum, all of them in Sydney, Australia. The main outcome of this doctoral research is a referential model for the study of visitors’ experiences with interactive exhibits. This model is proposed for design and museum practitioners to use as a guide in their research process for the development of new interactive exhibition environments. The conclusions of this research emphasise the need for more comprehensive understanding of visitors’ experiences with technologies in the museum as a public space and the particular social interactions that occur in it.
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