The designers of mobile guides for museums and galleries are increasingly looking to deliver rich interpretation that can be personalized to meet the diverse needs of individual visitors. However, increased personalization can mean that the sociality of museum visits can be overlooked in the design of the user experience. The goal of my PhD is to address whether this apparent discrepancy between the personal and social in the context of museum visiting can be resolved through an iterative user centered design process.
My design approach embeds sociality from the beginning – treating personalisation as a social rather than a computational issue. I have developed an interactive visiting experience which lets visitors create interpretations of exhibits for their friends and loved ones that they then experience together, letting them scaffold a visiting experience by setting up prompts, information and emotive triggers around individual exhibits. The result is a personalised, one-off mobile tour that is crafted by the visitors themselves to directly communicate interpretations to others that they know well. Through studying users engaging with this approach I report on how visitors designed highly personal experiences for one another, how groups of visitors negotiated these experiences together in the museum visit, and how this type of self-design framework for engaging audiences in a socially coherent way leads to rich, stimulating visits for the whole group and for each individual member.
My PhD contributes a replicable design for engaging audiences, increasing visitor participation and realising the potential for meaningful group experiences. It builds upon previous work on personalisation and museum visiting to contribute an understanding of how to deliver personal experiences that accommodate the social nature of group visiting.
This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/G037574/1) and by the RCUK’s Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute (RCUK Grant No. EP/G065802/1)