Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Curating the Audience: enhancing visitor/venue relationships through ethical personal data donation

  Harriet R Cameron (2018 cohort)

Museums and galleries have always faced pressure to evolve and adapt to reflect the society and times within which they exist [1], and thus are uniquely situated to both reflect and pioneer social change [2]. However, there are an increasing number of challenges facing these institutions not only to maintain their relevance, but also to protect and enhance relationships with their audiences [3, 4]. Many of these challenges can begin to be addressed through the adaptation of technologies. The Nottingham Contemporary [5], an international, contemporary art gallery based in Nottingham, UK, is one such institution seeking ways of developing new and more meaningful relationships with their audiences through technological advances.

This PhD project seeks to encourage new and existing relationships to flourish between art, venue, and audience through novel use of technology. Working with all relevant stakeholders, an app has been conceptualised and tested to make data exchange ethical, transparent, and mutually beneficial. Using exploratory sequential design, three questions are addressed:

  • What is the perceived value of audience personal data to both venues and audiences?
  • Can an understanding of data as power enable a transparent data collection/donation process which benefits both audience and venues?
  • How can a deeper understanding of audiences’ situated data on attitudes, beliefs, habits and cultural interactions (place-based identity) be utilised by the venue to provide a more meaningful, personalised experience to the audience in return for their data?

Three key themes will be explored throughout this process; place, trust, and power. Exploring place allows us to examine experience and behaviours in a situated context, the affordances and limitations of the Nottingham Contemporary and other cultural institutions. Through the lens of post-structural feminism, trust and power are also explored to enable discussion on transparency, fair use, and ownership of personal data. These discussions frame the understanding of personal data collection and perception in current data-gathering infrastructure and work towards a fairer, more transparent means of data capture.


[1] Dodd J. and Sandell R. (2001) Preface. In: J. Dodd and Sandell R. (eds) Including Museums: Perspectives on Museums, Galleries and Social Inclusion. Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester, 1-6.

[2] Grincheva N. (2014) The Online Museum: A "Placeless" Space of the "Civic Laboratory". Museum Anthropology Review 8: 1-21.

[3] Gross J. and Pitts S. (2015) Understanding Audiences for the Contemporary Arts. Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre.

[4] Allen S. and Petterson A. (2016) UK Contemporary Gallery Report 2015/2016; Opportunities and Challenges in a Rapidly Changing Market Place. Arts Council England.

[5] Nottingham Contemporary. (2019, 04/03/2019). Homepage. Available: https://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org/


Løvlie  A.S., Bodiaj E., Ryding K., Benford S., Cameron H.R., Darzentas D., Mortensen C.H., Rajkowska P., Fuentes C., Spors V. and Spanjevic B. (2020) D3.4 Report on Sensitive Pictures. unpublished: IT University Copenhagen, 1-52.

Spence J., Darzentas D.P., Huang Y., Cameron H.R., Beestin E. and Benford S. (2020) VRtefacts. Proceedings of the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference. Eindhoven, Netherlands (Virtual): Association for Computing Machinery, 627-640.

Spors V., Reyes Cruz G., Cameron H.R., Flintham M., Brundell P. and Murphy D. (2020) Plastic Buttons, Complex People: An Ethnomethodology-informed Ethnography of a Video Game Museum. Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play. Virtual Event, Canada: Association for Computing Machinery, 594-605.

Spence J., Darzentas D., Cameron H., Huang Y., Adams M., Farr J.R., Tandavanitj N. and Benford S. (2021) Gifting in Museums: Using Multiple Time Orientations to Heighten Present-Moment Engagement. Human–Computer Interaction: 1-31

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/L015463/1) and Nottingham Contemporary.