Participatory Design in Museums Visitor-Oriented Perspectives on Exhibition Design
Abstract: This thesis is about the design of technology for museum exhibitions. More specifically, it explores different ways in which visitors can contribute to museum exhibition design and how technology can support learning-related activities within museum exhibitions.Most contemporary museums collect, preserve, and provide access to important cultural and historical artefacts with the explicit intention of educating and informing the general public about those artefacts. For many exhibition designers, the audience's encounter with the exhibition is of primary concern, and technology is often seen as a means for providing visitors with new experiences and opportunities for learning. However, it appears to be only very recently that researchers have begun to show an interest in how modern technology is actually being used by visitors and many museums are struggling in their efforts to incorporate new technologies in their established exhibition design practices.Thus, on the one hand, many museums are seeking more visitor-focused ways of carrying out design (with the help of, for example, different forms of evaluation or feedback). On the other hand, many museums seem to have limited experience with designing technology in a user-oriented fashion. Consequently, human-computer interaction, with its long tradition of involving users in design, is in a position to provide museums with new ways for audiences to contribute to exhibitions with their knowledge, experience, opinions, and desires. The papers in this thesis explore this topic through a number of case studies where visitors have been invited to contribute to the design and evaluation of exhibitions. The analysis of the results suggests that visitors can provide relevant contributions in all of the main phases of museum exhibition production.This thesis also addresses the issue of how technology can support learning-related activities in museums. It appears that many museums base their notion of learning on epistemologies which suggest that activities such as interpretation, communication, and collaboration are fundamental to most museum learning processes. Consequently, the papers in this thesis explore a number of different techniques for supporting and orchestrating such social activities. The result is a set of design approaches that has the ability to encourage collaboration and dialogue between co-present visitors and allow visitors to create dynamic and evolving contexts for existing exhibits.In summary, the contributions of this thesis explore museum exhibition design from two different, yet interrelated perspectives. From the first perspective, visitors' desires, wishes, experiences, and knowledge are seen as important contributions to museum exhibition design. From the second perspective, different social activities and relationships between visitors in museums become the focus of the design activities. Together, these two perspectives outline an approach to museum exhibition design where visitors are of primary concern, both with respect to the content presented in exhibitions and with respect to the way exhibitions orchestrate and support different forms of social interaction.
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