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Displacing the Object: Mobile Technologies and Interpretive Resources

TitleDisplacing the Object: Mobile Technologies and Interpretive Resources
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2003
Authorsvom Lehn, D., & Heath C.
Secondary TitleInternational Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting: Proceedings from ichim03
PublisherArchives & Museum Informatics
Place PublishedÉcole du Louvre, Paris, France
EditorPerrot,(d. 2007), X.
Keywordsart museum, ethnography, ichim, ichim03, Interpretation devices, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), social interaction, Technology Design

In recent years there has been a growing interest in using new techniques and technologies to enhance interpretation in fine art museums and galleries. There is an interest for example in exploring the ways in which mobile technologies ranging from the basic mobile phone through to personal digital assistants, could provide visitors with access to a range of information which would be tailorable with regard to an individual's interests concerns and the like. These developments are accompanied however by a growing concern, amongst curators and museum managers, that new technologies can undermine the character of the gallery and the ability of visitors to contemplate and enjoy an aesthetic encounter with the object. Developments and innovations need to balance an interest to enrich the interpretive resource with a commitment to preserving and enhancing aesthetic experience. This brief paper discusses the ways in which visitors to a contemporary art gallery used Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) to navigate and explore an exhibition. The PDAs provided the visitor with 'content'- including text, audio and images concerning a selected number of objects. Our own observations are based upon video-based field studies of the ways in which ordinary visitors used the devices during their visit to the gallery. The paper addresses the ways in which visitors used the device and the material it made available to examine objects, both alone and with others, and the consequences of the PDA for how people organised their visit. It concludes with a brief discussion of possible implications of the observations on the design, deployment and evaluation of novel interpretation devices.