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Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

A “Smart” Authoring and Delivery Tool for Multichannel Communication


The recent proliferation of technologies and devices (including iPhone, iPad and alike) provides new perspectives for the use of multimedia applications for cultural heritage. Users are no more just sitting in front of their PC at home, but they also access multimedia information walking in the galleries or in archaeological parks, sitting in a cafeteria, driving a car, travelling on a train, etc.

In addition, and most important, all the different devices and technologies are important, and institutions can’t anymore decide which are preferable for their users, who are free to choose according to their (permanent or temporary) needs.

In relation to the above, this paper wants to raise two basic issues concerning: (1) effective authoring environments and (2) adaptation of content to different devices, technologies and situations of usage.

The current generation of authoring environment is quite unsatisfactory. Many authoring tools are officially aimed at specific technologies for specific situations (for example, an iPhone in a gallery). Other tools are apparently aimed at multiple devices/technologies and multiple situations of usage, but they are actually biased towards a limited set of choices, especially as far as situations of usage are concerned (e.g. try to listen to a mobile guide for a gallery, while sitting at home) and their structure (information architecture) cannot be easily bended to fit new needs.

The need for content adaptation is the other side of the same coin. It should take into account:

  • The device (obviously)
    E.g. large screens can deliver a lot of visual information while small screens cannot even show an image’s caption. Audio can be appropriate for a mobile device (e.g. the iPod in the car) but not for a touch table being used by many users in a large room.
  • The user experience
    E.g. The user looking at an exhibit or at a virtual reproduction of it, does not need a detailed description, but rather a good interpretation. A user driving a car must get some kind of description, before digging into any interpretation.
  • Cultural profile of the users (also obvious)
    Information filling cultural gaps may be needed, when specialized or not globally known cultures are dealt with. Very few users could relate well, for example, geographical or historical references concerning a small, far away country.
  • The context of discourse
    A video that is consumed in the context of ARTBABBLE, for example, could be easily related to its context (i.e. which museum, which country, which exhibition, …). The same video in a “vacuum” (say on YOUTUBE) may need supplementary information.

In this paper, we will extensively discuss the above issues and present a general framework both for identifying the problems and for suggesting possible solutions.

Real-life examples will be taken from “Nippon”, a set of four different exhibitions (in different ways related to Japan) that take place in Lugano (Switzerland) from October 2010. A large variety of technologies is being used (web, podcast, iPhone-applications, Smartphone, iPad …). An innovative authoring environment has been developed to coordinate all the different productions. A novel “adaption” strategy is also being experimented. A user study (the results of which will be available at the time of the M&W conference), will allow to assess the impact upon the users.


Paper - in formal session


campione's picture
Francesco Paolo Campione is the Director of the Museo delle Culture (Lugano, Switzerland) and teaches Cultural Anthropology at the University of Insubria (Como, Italy) and. For over two decades he deals with the Anthropology of Art, the Museum Studies and the Management of Cultural Organizations,...
diblas's picture
Nicoletta Di Blas is assistant professor with the Department of Electronics and Information of Politecnico di Milano. She graduated in Classics and obtained a Ph.D. in Linguistic Sciences from The Catholic University, Milan. She currently teaches Communication Theory for Politecnico di Milano (Como...
franciolli's picture
A trained art historian and experienced arts museum curator, Marco Franciolli is currently the Keeper-director of the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Lugano (Switzerland). Since 1990 he is Member of The International Council of Museums (ICOM), Member of The International Association of Art Critics...
michela.negrini's picture
Ph.D. candidate at the University of Lugano (USI),Switzerland, my research activity focuses on communication, exploring the role media and technology play in contemporary art museums, in particular focusing on media art. I participated to several projects concerning presentation, re-presentation...
paolini's picture
Paolo Paolini is full professor at Politecnico di Milano (Italy), adjunct professor at the School of Communication Sciences and scientific coordinator of the master TEC-CH (Technology Enhanced Communication for Cultural Heritage) at the University of Lugano (USI). He is the scientific coordinator...

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