Mobile Museum Education
For my independent study this semester, I’m researching how mobile technologies can enhance the museum experience. Particularly within a museum setting, where the focus is on the artworks themselves, how can having an informative mobile application enhance the experience without replacing it? Furthermore, what kind of benefits could a mobile application offer to a visitor which they cannot acquire elsewhere? Over the course of my independent study I hope to answer these questions, and work with Wellesley’s Davis Museum to develop and begin testing a prototype iPhone application.
It is my intention that this application will provide visitors to the Davis Museum with navigation assistance, retention assistance, the ability to “tag” pieces, and the ability to create preference-based tours. This will instill a greater spatial awareness in visitors based on their current locations, and build usable relationships between pieces based on facts and visitor contributions. This would transform their iPhone or iPod touch into a unique tool informing the choices made during a visitor’s museum experience.
So that learning can continue outside of the museum, I would also like to include the ability to retain and share a visitor’s experience. What if the application created a database of information about a visitor’s favorite pieces, tags, and recommended pieces they ought to see next? Or what if there were a mechanic for recording comments or artifacts that are private to the viewer, to share with friends later?
Recently, other TUI researchers and developers have become inspired to answer the demands of museum education as well. Research topics include museum education via mobile gaming, the ability to add tags to a database, and collaborative multi-device learning activities. The research of Jolien Schroyen, et. al. in the ARCHIE project revealed that creating a mobile gaming experience that runs in tandem to a museum tour helps students absorb the information and become engaged with the subject matter. Additionally, the work of Dan Cosley, et. al. in the MobiTags project found that “tagging” works was beneficial to viewers who wanted a less formal, more personal connection to the pieces. Also, it’s informative to visitors about the types of pieces in the museum as well as the types of visitors that have preceded them.
Clearly, a mobile platform is well suited to tailoring the museum experience to its unique visitors, using GPS information to keep them aware of their location and its offerings at all times. In conjunction with a tagging mechanic, this will allow viewers to feel as if the museum space is more like their personal space, tailored to their interests and their unique goals. Finally, by allowing visitors to bring the experience out the doors with them, a mobile application can allow visitors to share or recall their experience on the fly and in other public settings. As I develop and test prototypes, I will be interested to gather feedback about whether a game-like mechanic is as enticing for all demographics as it is for young students, and what other techniques can be used to make the museum experience a more social one as well.
October 27th, 2009