MW2011: O. Shaer +, Art App-reciation: Fostering engagement and reflection in museums through a social mobile application

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Novice museum visitors often lack the skills for interpreting and engaging with works of art on display. We have observed visitors glossing through exhibits lacking the capacity to make meaning from art viewing. A social mobile application that we have created and tested helps novice visitors to actively engage with works of art, develop their vocabulary, and enhance their art-viewing skills. Supporting novice users in building art-viewing capacity is essential for making a lasting impact on visitors and encouraging life-long learning in the arts.

This paper presents the design, development, and evaluation of Art-e-Muse, a social mobile application that helps novice viewers develop the skills needed to actively engage with works of art. Art-e-Muse has been developed and tested in the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, an academic fine-arts museum on the Wellesley College campus. Through the deployment of Art-e-Muse we investigate how the use of mobile human-computer interaction paired with social networking can offer advantages for museums seeking to redefine the museum experience for novice visitors.

Art-e-Muse was designed using a participatory design methodology and is implemented as an iPod Touch and iPhone application utilizing the Facebook Connect API. During the period of May through July 2010, we conducted a series of workshops with museum staff, students, and faculty. As a result, we set three goals for Art-e-Muse: 1) fostering engagement with works of art, 2) promoting dialogue about art between members of a community, and 3) encouraging repeat visits to the museum. To accomplish these goals, Art-e-Muse diverges from the traditional museum guide approach in which experts provide information for visitors to consume. Interaction with Art-e-Muse is initiated when visitors use the device camera to scan a two-dimensional code placed next to a work of art. Art-e-Muse then presents users with a series of prompts that serve to create an interactive and reflective experience. Prompts are short and specific for each work of art. Prompts may include questions that encourage deep looking, anecdotal facts, and brief exercises requiring users to consider narrative, style, artists’ intent, and technique. A game mechanic rewards users with coins from the museum collection when certain milestones are accomplished. To create a sense of social presence and foster a dialogue, the application allows users to share insights, responses and accomplishments with their friends on Facebook. The game mechanic leads to deep engagement and encourages users to make return visits to the museum.

The system was preliminary evaluated during August 2010. Findings indicate that novice users were engaged with works of arts, spending a significant amount of time with each work. Users were eager to use Art-e-Muse and expressed their satisfaction learning new ways to think of works of art both from the prompts and from others’ responses. Following this evaluation, we deployed Art-e-Muse in a permanent collection gallery and are currently evaluating its use. Our methodology includes direct observation, data collection through system logging, surveys, and in-depth interviews.

This paper will describe the design, technical development, and results from the evaluation of Art-e-Muse.


A presentation from Museums and the Web 2011 (MW2011).

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MW2011: O. Shaer +, Art App-reciation: Fostering engagement and reflection in museums through a social mobile application

  1. 1. Art App-reciationFostering engagement and reflection in museums through a social-mobile application Orit Shaer 1, Jim Olson 2, MaCherie Edwards 1, Consuelo Valdes 1 1 Wellesley College, 2 Davis Museum and Cultural Center
  2. 2. Attendance only when required
  3. 3. ~30 secondsper work of art
  4. 4. DESIGN GOALSTHESociality & Engagement
  5. 5. Participatory DesignDESIGN STRATEGIES Learning-based Design Social networking Simplicity
  6. 6. Participatory DesignOver 75 students contributed to the design, implementation, and evaluation
  7. 7. Participatory DesignOver 75 students contributed to the design, implementation, and evaluation
  8. 8. Learning-Centered Design DISCOVERYMULTI-SENSES CHOICES
  9. 9. IMPLEMENTATIONTHE
  10. 10. How to start?
  11. 11. Interact
  12. 12. Closure
  13. 13. EVALUATIONTHE • 53 participants • Comparative study • Conditions: –Without device –With device
  14. 14. “It [the application]defiantly helped me toform my own opinion abouta piece, which I normallydon’t go out of my way todo” “I liked the interactive aspect and how it made me consider details I didn’t notice before…”
  15. 15. More than 3 MINUTES with each piece“it made me look longer and think about things I wouldn’t have otherwise”.
  16. 16. Acknowledgments Orit Shaer Jim Olsonoshaer@wellesley.edu jolson@wellesley.edu Special thanks to: Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis Museum. The following Wellesley College students: Lia Napolitano, Michelle Ferreirrae, Heidi Wang, Taili Feng, and all of our study participants.

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