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MW18 Presentation: I Wonder… Inquiry Techniques As A Method To Gain Insights Into People’s Encounters With Visual Art


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By Lucia Marengo, Queen Mary University of London, UK, George Fazekas, QMUL, UK

The digitization of art collections is a great opportunity to engage audiences beyond the context of the museum visit. Interfaces to access collections have been initially tailored for professional search tasks: the new challenge is how to design systems for open, casual, and leisure-based explorations.

In a human-centered framework, the users' perspective is a fundamental step to design and improve creative solutions. How can we listen to and understand the potential users, in order to design meaningful experiences? How can we collect insights, and what do these tell us about the users and the systems?

We explore the use of inquiry techniques as a method to surface the curiosities people have for paintings. During two iterations, visitors of public events wrote questions they had about selected paintings. 138 Post-its were collected and thematically analyzed. Results highlight that curiosities are contextualized, and that artworks are interpreted mainly as scenes.

People are interested in meanings and symbols; they also displayed the use of fantasy and empathy. Additionally, we evaluated the effect of age, previous knowledge of the painting, and frequency of visiting museums on the questions' content through statistical analysis. While no strong finding emerged, we noticed that adults and kids likewise display an active role in the inquiry process, and that a previous knowledge of the painting is connected to more descriptive and atomic curiosities.

In the discussion, we suggest design opportunities might lay in the interactive discovery of information, in storytelling-based descriptions, and in emotional connection. Our findings suggest that in leisure-based explorations atomic information might not be satisfying, and that descriptions should be contextualized to the painting. Our presentation will be an opportunity to discuss the value of the method, and to comment on how the insights could be embedded into the design of leisure-based experiences.

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MW18 Presentation: I Wonder… Inquiry Techniques As A Method To Gain Insights Into People’s Encounters With Visual Art

  1. 1. I Wonder … Inquiry Techniques As A Method To Gain Insights Into People’s Encounters With Visual Art Lucia Marengo, György Fazekas and Anastasios Tombros Museums and the Web 2018 Vancouver Apr 20 2018
  4. 4. ‣ EXPLORATORY STUDY - METHODOLOGY HOW WHAT INQUIRY TECHNIQUE: from Harvard’s Project Zero on visible thinking CURIOSITIES: what do people want to know when they see a work of art? what does the story in their mind look like?
  5. 5. ‣ EXPLORATORY STUDY - METHODOLOGY Small gallery of prints (no info) I wonder…post-its Mixed controlled space Post-experience questionnaire
  6. 6. ‣ STUDY - ITERATIONS ITERATION 1 FESTIVAL OF COMMUNITIES ITERATION 2 INTER/SECTIONS Design: within-subject design Paintings: 6 realist and surrealist, living figures and their absence Age: both adults and kids STUDY DESIGN PAINTING SELECTION AGE
  7. 7. ‣ STUDY - RESULTS and ANALYSIS STRATEGY 138 post-its 37 questionnaires content analysis statistical analysis (2nd) INSIGHTS OPPORTUNITIES LENSES DATA
  8. 8. ‣ CONTENT ANALYSIS - WHAT DO PEOPLE ASK what does the caption say? what is going on? DESCRIPTIONS who is the woman? when did this take place?
  9. 9. ‣ CONTENT ANALYSIS - WHAT DO PEOPLE ASK is there a meaning in the background the artist has chosen? is the painting trying to say something or is it just attractive? why Kahlo put her face on a deer's body? MEANING & SYMBOLS
  10. 10. ‣ CONTENT ANALYSIS - WHAT DO PEOPLE ASK What was her life like? What could I do if I were living in that palace? I wonder who knocked over the bowl? DOMAIN OF IMAGINATION
  11. 11. ‣ CONTENT ANALYSIS - WHAT DO PEOPLE ASK What was used to paint this picture? How big is this? How was this done? When is this painting from? Is this impressionism? Why is this painting so incredibly famous? What goes through the artists mind when they painted this? What inspired this? What was happening in Kahlo's life when she painted this? THE PHYSICAL OBJECT THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT THE ARTIST
  12. 12. IMAGE Scene Emotions Myself in the scene Elements IMPLICIT in the scene Narrative around the scene Descriptive Reason/motivation for composition and appearance of scene Artist Background Motivation Ispiration Mood Physical object Texture Process Size Material Historical context Related events Date Provenance Value Place Art movement / style ‣ CONTENT ANALYSIS - TAXONOMY 68.80% 8.70% 10.10% 10.90% 1.40%
  13. 13. ‣ CONTENT ANALYSIS - DIMENSIONS OF CURIOSITY contribute: include interpretations or hp one-word answers self-reflective or open-ended receive: informational questions USER ROLE COMPLEXITY long, complex answers SUBJECTS INVOLVED other visitors or peers art experts or the museum HOW DO PEOPLE ASK?
  14. 14. PAINTING SPECIFICITY • Wounded Deer and The Starry Night: many questions about the author REALISM • 12.7% less active questions in paintings with no abstract or surreal element • More questions about the scene if a surreal element is present PRIOR KNOWLEDGE • Active questions 14.4% more freq. with low to medium knowledge of the painting STUDY DESIGN • Imagination related elements appear only during the first iteration AGE • Adults submit 15.7% more descriptive questions than underage (p=0.016) *only including meaning-related ones ‣ STATISTICAL ANALYSIS NB statistical significance
  15. 15. • Could we provide information and narrative closely related to each painting? (vs link / general information about artist, period etc.) • Could we provide rich, introductory and fulfilling information to engage people with little prior knowledge? How to do it simultaneously including atomic descriptive information for people with previous knowledge? • People are interested in contextual information • Little prior knowledge of the painting results in less descriptive or specific questions and in more general and meaning related ones. ‣ DISCUSSION OF THE RESULTS INSIGHT OPPORTUNITY IN DESIGN FOR CURIOSITY
  16. 16. • Could we design an experience of interactive discovery of information that takes into account the users’ inputs? • Could we support fictional dimension. Maybe by designing playful contexts or allowing non-“true” narratives? • Interacting with information could be a cognitively interactive activity. 26.1% of the questions contained the users’ hp or idea, among adults and kids alike • People engage with fictional information, but in the first iteration only - possibly due to the co-presence of the activity with the dice. ‣ DISCUSSION OF THE RESULTS OPPORTUNITY IN DESIGN FOR CURIOSITYINSIGHT
  17. 17. THE METHOD ALLOWS TO • derive a taxonomy of interests • highlight other dimensions of curiosity (complexity, subject involved, user role) • explore effect of previous knowledge, age, specific painting, context LIMITATIONS • no real context / real users • are the questions a measure of curiosity? DISCUSSION • can it be replicated to know specific audiences’ interest? • how can findings be used by designers in their practice? ‣ CONCLUSIONS
  18. 18. thank you! contact: