Planning pregnancy, pre-pregnancy supplements and antenatal Screening

Ethnomethodology, interaction, symbolic interactionism

There is growing concern that despite planning pregnancy women delay taking pre-pregnancy supplements like folic acid as advised by experts who argue that these supplements substantially decrease the risk of birth defects that can impact the brain. These concerns have been raised in newspapers lie The Guardian and the Nursing Times.

A study concerned with the uncertainty towards their pregnancy and potential risk to it that become apparent in antenatal screening has just been published on Early View of Symbolic Interaction where I am book review editor. Alison Pilnick and Olga Zayt’s article explores the interaction between participants during antenatal screenings. In their analysis they focus on the ways in which this uncertainty is used to manage the institutionally defined category of ‘high risk’.

Marketing, Interaction and Technology – Syllabus 2014

interaction, Marketing, Syllabus, Teaching

Syllabus – Topics and Readings

 

Week 1 (13 January 2014) Introduction to the Course

The first lecture introduces the course content, rationale and requirements of the course.

Relevant Book

Kotler, P. & G. Armstrong (2013). Principles of Marketing. Harlow: Pearsons.

Core Readings

Humphreys, L. (2005). “Cellphones in Public: Social Interactions in a Wireless Era.” New Media & Society 7 (6): 810–833.

Additional Readings

Kujovich, Mary Yeager. 1970. “The Refrigerator Car and the Growth of the American Dressed Beef Industry.The Business History Review 44 (4): 460–482.

Wei, Ran, and Louis Leung. 1999. “Blurring Public and Private Behaviors in Public Space: Policy Challenges in the Use and Improper Use of the Cell Phone.Telematics and Informatics 16 (1): 11–26.

Related Reading

Selinger, E. (2013). How not to be a jerk with your stupid smartphone. The Atlantic (November).

 

Week 2 (20 January 2014) Marketing and Technology

Public debates about technological innovation often talk about the ‘revolutionary’ impact of new technology. There are myriad examples for this phenomenon: “the internet revolution”, the “social media revolution” or the “Twitter revolution” to name but a few. These discussions principally argue that technological developments are shaping how we conduct our affairs, including how we organise our daily interactions as well as how we conduct marketing activities. At the same time, these discussions often ignore the political shaping and relevance of these technologies. This lecture explores the textbook premises of the relationship between marketing and technology. It sheds light on different perspectives on how technology is interwoven with marketing theory and practice.

Core Readings

Constantinides, E. (2006). “The Marketing Mix Revisited: Towards the 21st Century Marketing.” Journal of Marketing Management 22 (3-4): pp. 407–438.

Additional Readings

Bartels, R. (1986). Marketing: Management Technology or Social Process at the Twenty-First Century? In Marketing Management Technology as a Social Process. Edited by George Fisk. New York et al.: Praeger, pp.30-42.

Marx, L. (2010). Technology: The Emergence of a Hazardous Concept. Technology & Culture, 51(3), 561-577.

Möller, K. (2006). “The Marketing Mix Revisited: Towards the 21st Century Marketing by E. Constantinides.” Journal of Marketing Management 22 (3-4): pp. 439–450.

Related Readings

Friedman, T. (2009). Tweeting the Dialectic of Technological Determinism. FlowTV http://flowtv.org/2009/06/tweeting-the-dialectic-of-technological-determinism  ted-friedman  georgia-state-university-atlanta  /

 

Related Books

Robertson, D., and B. Breen. 2013. Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry. Random House Business.

Stone, Brad. 2013. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. Bantam Press.

Week 3 (27 January 2014) Technology, Interaction and Networks

Over the past few years, social relationships are increasingly being described as networks. We find public discourse about networks, social networks, the network economy, network society and others. This lecture begins with a discussion of social interaction before moving on to concepts of market relationships and networks. It will form the basis for subsequent lectures concerned with online communities

Core Readings

Kaplan, Andreas M., and Michael Haenlein. 2010. “Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media.” Business Horizons 53 (1): 59–68.

Additional Readings

Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2008). Harnessing The Power of The Oh-So-Social Web, MIT Sloan Management Review, 2008, 49, pp. 335-342.

boyd, d. (2010). “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics : Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Networking Sites, ed. Zizi Papacharissi, pp.39–58. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ferguson, R., (2008). Word of mouth and viral marketing: taking the temperature of the hottest trends in marketing. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 25(3), pp. 179 – 182.

Watts, Duncan J, and Steve Hasker. 2006. “Marketing in an Unpredictable World.” Harvard Business Review.

Watts, D.J., 1999. Networks, Dynamics, and the Small-World Phenomenon. American Journal of Sociology, 105(2), p.493-527.

 

Related Books

Papacharissi, Zizi (2008). Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Networking Sites. Abingdon: Routledge.

Rainie, L., & Wellman, B. (2012). Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Week 4 (3 February 2014) Wessel van Rensburg (RAAK) Inequality in Networks (working title)

@wildebees 

 Week 5 (10 February 2014) Social Networks and Reputation Management

At the same tome as social media and social networking has risen in importance for marketing practitioners new challenges have emerged that for example impact the ways in which companies’ reputation can be impacted by the use of these new media. This lecture draws on a few recent examples to explore some of these challenges to companies’ reputation and discusses ways in which companies might manage their reputation when using social media and social networking sites for their marketing communications.

Core Readings

Hennig-Thurau, Thorsten, Caroline Wiertz, and Fabian Feldhaus. (2013) “Does Twitter Matter? An Investigation of the Impact of Micro Blogging Word of Mouth on Consumers’ Adoption of New Products.” http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2016548

Additional Readings

Gruzd, A., B. Wellman, and Y. Takhteyev. 2011. “Imagining Twitter as an Imagined Community.” American Behavioral Scientist 55 (10): 1294–1318.

Hamilton, K. & P. Hewer. (2010). Tribal mattering spaces: Social-networking sites, celebrity affiliations, and tribal innovations. Journal of Marketing Management, 26(3), p.271-289.

Hennig-Thurau, T., E. C. Malthouse, C. Friege, S. Gensler, L. Lobschat, a. Rangaswamy, and B. Skiera. 2010. “The Impact of New Media on Customer Relationships.” Journal of Service Research 13 (3): 311–330.

Phelps, J. E., Lewis, R., Mobilio, L., Perry, D., & Raman, N. (2004). Viral Marketing or Electronic Word-of-Mouth Advertising: Examining Consumer Responses and Motivations to Pass Along Email. Journal of Advertising Research, 44(4), 333-348.

Rainie, L., & Wellman, B. (2012). Networked: The New Social Operating System. MIT Press.

Sarstedt, M. (2009). Reputation Management in Times of Crisis. Journal of Brand Management. Vol.16, 499-503.

Week 6 (24 February 2013) Rob Wilmot (BCS Agency Start-ups and Valuations

 @robwilmot

Week 7 (3 March 2013) Jadis Tillery Content Marketing (working title)

@jadistillery

Related Books

Jenkins, Henry. 2008. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York University Press.

Week 8 (10 March) – Search and Social Media Marketing

Over the past decade or so two important developments have emerged in the context of Internet Marketing: Search Marketing and Social Media Marketing. The growing economic weight of companies like Google suggest that Search will be one of the important marketing activities over the coming years. It is being used to obtain an understanding of the market as well as for the building of relationships and networks (Marsden and Kirby 2005; Moran and Hunt 2008). The lecture will discuss some of the practices involved in Search Marketing and assess possible problems these practices might raise for the relationship between companies and their customers. It then will turn to Social Media Marketing and explore how social networks like Facebook, Myspace or Jumo are used for marketing purposes, including the design, promotion and distribution of products and services (Penenberg 2009; Scott 2008). The discussion will touch on current debates concerned with viral marketing and online gaming as well as trust and reputation.   

 

Core Readings

Rijnsoever, Frank J. van, Castaldi, Carolina, Dijst, Martin J. (2012). In what sequence are information sources consulted by involved consumers? The case of automobile pre-purchase search, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 19(3), pp.343-352.

 

Related Books

Marsden, P., & Kirby, J. (2005). Connected Marketing: The Viral, Buzz and Word of Mouth Revolution. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Moran, M., & Hunt, B. (2008). Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Companys Web Site. IBM Press.

Pariser, E., 2011. The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You, Viking.

Week 10 (17 March 2013) – Social and Sustainability Marketing and Technology

The arrival of new technology has also been picked up by market and consumer researchers. For example, over recent years video recording of consumers in shopping and leisure environments has been used to track people’s navigation through isles and gain an understanding of their shopping behaviour. With the arrival of the internet it has been recognised that people’s every ‘click’ can be tracked and followed and the information be used to personalise offers. This lecture critically assesses how technology is used to improve companies’ profits as well as offers for customers and considers some of the practical and ethical implications of these developments.

 

Core Readings

Brennan, Ross, Stephan Dahl, and Lynne Eagle. 2010. “Persuading Young Consumers to Make Healthy Nutritional Decisions.” Journal of Marketing Management 26 (7-8) (July 9): 635–655.

Related Books

Aaker, J., & A. Smith. (2010). The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change. Jossey Bass.

Peattie, K., & Belz, F. F.-M. (2009). Sustainability Marketing: A Global Perspective (p. 306). John Wiley & Sons.

Striphas, T. (2009). The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control. Columbia University Press.

Vaidhynathan, S., 2011. The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry), Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

 

Week 10  (24 March 2013) Marketing, Interaction & Technology

Museums and Technology

exhibitions, experience, interaction, interactivity, museums, Technology

This week Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum in London, made a strong case for the use of technology to enhance visitors’ experience of museums. In his article published in London’s Evening Standard Highfield writes

“When used wisely, computers and interactives have a role in showing our visitors that science is more than just a collection of cold, hard facts, arcane theorems and grey metal boxes. With a little digital magic, all these facets can now all sparkle. This is important for all museums, for London and for the nation’s high-tech industry. We never seem to have enough scientists, mathematicians and engineers. The same goes for designers and the creative industry and, yes, classicists too. Museums need to use all the tools at their disposal to inspire the next generation.”

I could not agree more. Luckily, these days there are plenty of excellent examples of technology in museums that intrigues visitors, allows them to see science, art and design in novel ways, and maybe not at last, attracts people to look at museum objects who without technology would find them boring, uninteresting and maybe also inaccessible. In these cases, technology is an invaluable tool that facilitates and enhances access. Moreover, as Highfield points out in his article technology can make visible aspects of science, art and design that otherwise could not be shown. Examples for such phenomena are miniscule molecular processes processes or the ways in which old objects like the famous washstand by William Burges in the Victoria & Albert Museum would have been used by its owners.

The effectiveness of these technologies in museums has variously been shown. A Special Issue of  Curator: the Museum Journal (2004) elaborated some of the opportunities offered by technology and interactivity in museums, highlighting that technology can facilitate new forms of engagement and learning occurring in museums. Robert West however also pointed at the potential costs of interactivity in museums. Aside from momentary costs West also points to the danger that technology when broken or difficult to use can spoil the museum experience for visitors and that some people for various reasons are intimidated by technology in exhibitions.

This latter point is echoed in a recent research paper by Susie Scott and colleagues that has recently been published in the journal Symbolic Interaction. In their paper “Goffman in the Gallery” the authors elaborate on the emergence of situational shyness at interactive exhibits and explicate ways in which visitors cope with their uncertainty of using an exhibit or hesitation to approach it because they fear they might find themselves in an embarrassing situation unable to use the technology. Amongst other points that Scott and colleagues’ paper makes it suggests that one solution that people find to overcome “situational shyness” is to learn from others. People observe others and use their actions as “replacement scripts”.

The importance of mutual observability in museums for people’s exploration and sense making in museums has been a topic since the inception of the modern museum. Tony Bennett in his well-known “The Birth of the Museum” as well as Norman Trondsen in a paper from the 1970s “Social Control in the Art Museum” have highlighted how the design and layout of museums facilitates mutual observation that allows people to learn @proper conduct@ from observing others, and in turn people behave ‘properly’ because they are aware that they might be observed in their actions in museums.

Robin Meisner has taken this argument one step further by explicating how visitors embellish their actions at exhibits. Their interaction with exhibits becomes a performance that invites others to become an audience. The result are shared experiences at exhibits, that on occasion surprise even those who have designed the exhibits. Meisner’s research has a range of other papers that have been published over the past decade or so highlight the importance of social interaction in museums. People enjoy museums as places for sociality and sociability. They visit them with friends and family and meet other people who are there at the same time.

When social interaction is so important for museum visiting it is rather surprising that we still find so much technology in museums that encourages individuals’ engagement whilst not supporting and sometimes undermining social interaction. Examples for studies highlighting the difficulties that visitors find in interweaving the interaction with technology and the interaction with other people. The trouble is as we have shown in our research that design of misconceives interactivity as facilitating interaction. Examples for technologies that often create interactional difficulties between visitors of museums are conventional touch-screen exhibits and interactive guides like PDAs and mobile phones that prioritise the interaction of an individual with the technology over the collaboration between visitors.

Highfield suggests in his article to use technology “wisely” when deploying systems and devices in museums. So far we know relatively little about what “wise” technology design for museums looks like. However, it is clear that it needs to take into account that museum visiting is a social occasion. Designers of systems and novel exhibitions therefore might need to rethink interactivity and develop assemblies and configurations of objects and artefacts that allow people to embed (some of their) their features within their social interaction. Collaborations between museum experts and technology companies, like the one that led to the recent exhibition of Chromeweblab at the Science Museum, have proven quite successful.

It however might be worthwhile thinking about the inclusion of social scientists in such developments who might help to focus on social and interactional configurations emerging at and around technology on the exhibition floor. Moreover, natural laboratories on the exhibition floor, similar to those the Exploratorium in San Francisco uses, might be a worthwhile investment for museums to enable experiments with new configurations of technology and people in exhibitions.

CFP: ‘Researching audiences in digital mediated and interactive experiences’

interaction, interactivity, museums, Museums, Technology, visitors

Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies

 

Special Issue: ‘Researching audiences in digital mediated and interactive experiences’

Part of the AHRC Funded Project http://affectiveexperiences.com/

Co-editors:

Irida Ntalla (Schools of Arts, Cultural Policy and Management, City University)

& Dirk vom Lehn (Department of Management, King’s College London)

Participations is the online Journal devoted to the broad field of audience and reception studies, and has been running for ten years now, to be found at www.participations.org.  It aims to bring into dialogue work and debate across all fields involved in examining all areas of media and culture.  Participations has pioneered a system of open refereeing for all contributions, designed to encourage open, critical debate among researchers.  This has been widely welcomed by contributors to the Journal.

Call for Papers

New media technologies and digital mediated environments bring histories and events close to audiences by offering a wide range of resources that provide them with opportunities for social, cognitive and emotional participation and engagement. At the heart of the development of new media technologies is “interactivity”, a characteristic ascribed to objects and systems that engage people in ways that go beyond traditional feedback procedures. These technologies facilitate sustained engagement and participation, allow for the communication of information and multimedia content, and often encourage people to produce and curate digital content.

Such interactive technologies and environments have become a familiar feature of many cultural institutions, such as in museums, galleries and science centers. Interactive exhibits, immersive installations, digital interactives, virtual games and online platforms engage cultural audiences in new ways and at the same time challenge the concept of the audience per se and their experiences; for example, they invite visitors not only to view and examine curated content but increasingly involve visitors in the production and curation of it to create personal museum collections, user generated content, etc.

These technological developments therefore challenge the relationship of audiences with artists, curators, museums and heritage sites’ professionals, educationalists as well as exhibition and interactive designers. Their effectiveness as tool for interpreting and representing exhibits and as educational technology is often argued for but also ever so often challenged and criticized. Evaluations of new media technologies in cultural institutions arrive at contradictory findings, some arguing for their ability to increase people’s engagement and participation with content and exhibits whilst others warn that they distract from the original objects and disturb the sacred relationship between visitor and object, user and content. Indeed, research suggests that at times these technologies become the reason for people’s frustration and disorientation in online and physical environments.

This Special Issue will contribute to these discussions about the increasingly complex technological mediation of the relationship between social practices, cultural institutions, their cultural offerings and their audiences. The issue aims to add to debates in a range of disciplines such as audience and visitor studies, marketing, digital humanities, interactive design as well as museum studies and practices. The co-editors invite submissions of papers that investigate the relationships between audience, cultural institutions and content and the ways in which these relationships are being influenced by the increasing pervasiveness of new media technologies. We particularly welcome critical considerations of the concept of the audience and the user as well as of interactivity in cultural institutions and encourage the submission of short articles and reports that reflect professional and practical experience of technology deployed and used in exhibitions.

Amongst others, we hope the contributions will address questions like:

  • what are the issues of interactivity in relation to participation and engagement for online and offline audiences?
  • how does interactivity and interactive technologies in these settings influence the experience of visitors, audiences or users?
  • which are the elements that constitute and influence these experiences?
  • how are interactive technologies used to represent and interpret information, histories and narratives in cultural institutions?
  • what is the relationship of academic research on audiences, interactive media and professional practices?
  • how does a researcher capture interactive audience experiences? Which are the research methods used in the various disciplines?
  • what does “effectiveness” mean for different stakeholders in cultural institutions, and what are suitable research methods to evaluate, assess or measure the “effectiveness” of technology deployed to interpret cultural objects and enhance people’s experience and learning from these objects?
  • how different users such as specialised audience utilise online material, information and personalised collections?

The Special Issue will be constituted of research papers, theoretical and methodological investigations as well as of relevant reviews, short articles and reports by cultural institutions’ professionals, designers and consultants.

 

Deadlines

Paper Submission: 1st November 2013

Acceptance Notice: 19th December 2013

Final Submission: 21st March 2014

Final Publication: End of May 2014

Submission Guidelines

http://www.participations.org/submission_guidelines.htm

Please submit your papers to:

Dirk.vom_lehn@kcl.ac.uk

Irida.Ntalla.1@city.ac.uk

Technology and Social Interaction

interaction, interactivity, Marketing, public places, Technology

Over the past few weeks an article by Nick Bilton in the New York Times has raised not only eyebrows but also concerns that the journalist may have gone a little far with his argument to abandon commonly accepted and taken for granted ‘rules of conduct’ and courtesy rituals when using technology. Bilton’s article has received more than 500 comments to some of which he has curteously responded and various journalists, writers and academics, including Nick Carr and Evan Selinger, have written pieces addressing some of the issues raised in his piece. Many of the comments and associated pieces call into question Bilton’s main argument that common forms of etiquette are inefficient and a waste of our time.

The debate reflects a growing uneasiness and uncertainty on the “proper” or “acceptable” use of technology in social occasions. In her film Connected Tiffany Shlain recalls a situation with a friend she had not seen for a long time when the urge to check her phone for new messages was so overwhelming that she apologized herself to the toilet just to update herself on the going-ons elsewhere in the world.

The situation Shlain describes is symptomatic for the uneasiness in the use of technology when in social situations. Whilst in some situations it is acceptable to occasionally glance at the phone in others it is not or it is not clear whether or not it is acceptable. A solution to deal with the situation then is to use techniques or methods like ‘an apology from the table’ and temporarily leave the situation. Thus, the sociability and intimacy of the situation is left intact whilst it becomes possible to use the phone away from the table. The deployment of these techniques also reveals that the leave taking from the table is an accountable action and that not all accounts will do as a satisfying explanation for leaving the table. For example, going to the toilet is acceptable whilst saying you want to check your Facebook Wall for updates in press less so.

In other situations, people unproblematically use their phones while with another person. For example, it is quite common for people sitting at a coffee table to pick up the phone and receive or make calls. Over time methods have been developed that allow people to use a cell phone in these situations. For example, when a cell phone rings at a coffee table where two friends converse the call-taker apologies her/himself while picking up the phone and taking the call. The friend then becomes a third-party to the phone conversation and often provides the call-taker privacy by excusing her/himself (e.g. to the toilet) or by engaging in other activities, such as checking her/his own phone, picking up a newspaper or book, or by looking in the distance  (Humphreys 2005). This does not mean, of course that the friend might not feel undermined or undervalued in the situation, in particular when the phone keeps on ringing and interrupting the face-to-face interaction. Hence, in such situations we sometimes decide to switch the phone off and eliminate this influence from the face encounter.

By and large, people nowadays are familiar with the ubiquitiousness of technology. They employ methods that allow them to use technology and at the same time to limit or sanction its use, depending on situational circumstances. They also create situations that are marked by new rules, such as the  “no phones at the dinner table” rule or the “techno shabbath” that ban technology from situations for longer periods. Arguments about the use of  technologies in situations arise relatively rarely and mostly with those who are not familiar with or not adhering to these rules and social conventions.1 For example, children like Evan Selinger’s daughter are being socialized into the use of technology and its fitting within different social contexts.

With regard to email that has been around for considerable time now and that features particularly prominently in Bilton’s NYT piece social conventions have been developed and are deployed on a day-to-day basis. As with the use of other technologies, such as cell phones, mobile game consoles etc., these conventions and rules are not fixed and followed but contingently drawn on and referred to when the acceptability of their use is questioned or challenged. I would presume that Bilton’s efficiency rule with regard to courtesy conduct in email has long been deployed, in certain situations when time was tight. Such conduct that uses efficiency as an account for the withholding of an act of courtesy however also can be detrimental to the very purpose of its accomplishment, e.g. the withholding of a “thank you” in receipt of an email. Most of us probably have encountered situations when the withholding of a simple “thank you” note in response to an email has occasioned an exchange by email or over the phone to confirm the receipt of an email; a “thank you” note in response to the original email would have been much more efficient than its withholding.

How we conduct ourselves and how we refer to and draw on social conventions or etiquettes comes down to the specifics of the situation in which we find ourselves when using technology and to our competencies to conduct ourselves in specific circumstances. The artificial general abandoning of courtesy action by virtue of some kind of rule set by the Biltons of this world would be non-sensical; and Nick Bilton would probably agree with this. Instead, we all gradually adapt our acquired social competencies to the pervasiveness of technology in situations, thereby embedding technology within our lives and those we live with. And as parents we are responsible for providing our children with the knowledge and skills that allow them to act and be seen as acting, competently in technology-rich situations.

——-

Footnotes

1 With regard to social conventions in “Technolosocial Situations” see also Mizuko Ito‘s research and Tricia Wang‘s work.

Off Grasshoppers and other Types

exhibitions, interaction, interaction, Marketing, museums, public places, visitors

The design of systems to support people’s navigation of exhibitions often draws on concepts and theories about visitors’ movement through exhibitions. In reference to relevant literature it makes inferences about people’s interests in exhibits by the ways in which they navigate galleries and at which exhibits they stop and for how long. Thereby, designers and museum managers often talk about “visiting styles” and refer to a French paper by Veron and Levasseur (1991). Therein, the authors apparently, I haven’t read the paper, use an analogy from the animal world to describe four types of visiting style: ants, fishes, butterflys and grasshoppers. These types are seen as ideal types and it is argued that mixed styles of navigation are common. In fact, as Opperman and Specht (2000) suggest in reference to Bianchi and Zancanaro’s (1999) conference paper “the classification of a visitor is no longer made stereotypically by describing a visitor uniquely as one of the four animals, but as an estimation of the ‘degree of compatibility between the user’s movement pattern and the four stereotypes’ at a given point in time” (Bianchi and Zancanaro (1999) in Opperman and Specht 2000: p.132). From this typology probabilities are derived regarding people’s navigation pattern. This allows for the fact that visitors might change their visiting style ‘mid-fly’, i.e. as they navigate and exhibition. For example, a fish who has spent relatively little or no time with exhibits in one gallery, may encounter a gallery with objects s/he is more interested in and therefore spends more time with, thus turning into an ant.

This concept of visiting style links the  way and speed in which people navigate exhibitions to their level of engagement with exhibits. Underlying this concept of museum visiting are conventional measures of visitor research, i.e. the stopping and holder power of exhibits, coupled with theories of learning, such as the late Chan Screven’s (1976) goal-referenced approach that link assumptions about ‘learning from exhibits’ to the time people spend with exhibits. Using this approach it is possible to argue for technologies that promise to extend the time of people’s engagement with exhibits because according to theory, it leads to cognitive development.

A different but related kind of typology has been developed by John Falk (2009) in his book “Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience”. Here, Falk proposes to link visitor behaviour to people’s motivations  grounded in the identity. His argument is more complex than the typology discussed above. It can be seen as an expansion of earlier work by the same author where he together with colleagues investigated visitors’ agenda for museum visiting.

As Veron and Levasseur’s (1991) typology Falks differentiation of visitors in types represents a classification scheme that in reality cannot be found in this way. It is an attempt to bring order to a messy social world and seems very useful for museum managers and marketing managers because of this lack of messiness. They can use such typologies to make decisions about exhibition programmes or technologies to be deployed in their galleries.

Such theories about museum visiting however largely ignore the reality of visitors’ experience of museums. They neglect what people actually do in museums, how they approach, examine and depart from exhibits, and how they make experiences of exhibits and generate experiences for others. This neglect is grounded on related research that is primarily interested in the individual visitor or in groups and families that are considered as social entities rather than as dynamic social processes. Researchers see the origin of actions, such as the approach to an exhibit or the departure from an exhibit, in either the visitor’s motivation or in the design of the exhibit. Yet, save for very few exceptions these researchers rarely look at how people draw each other to examine exhibits, how they encourage each other to inspect objects in particular ways, how they generate experiences for each other and how they occasion each other to move on.

By investigating the details of people’s action at the “point of experience” where the action is and where the action can be observed, researchers see how people produce experiences of exhibits in interaction with others. Whilst on the surface these details appear to ‘messy’ a closer look reveals that they are systematically produced and intelligibly orderly. Visitors in galleries behave in intelligible ways and their action becomes observable and reportable as museum visiting, without them requiring theoretical typologies to make sense of each other’s action.

It would seem that basing decisions on detailed knowledge about what people are actually doing in museums would provide decision makers in museums with a safer footing than theories about visitors’ actions. Are there any museum managers or designers out there who use detailed observational or video-based research to inform their decision making?

 

For related research go here

 

References

Bianchi, A. and M. Zancanaro, Tracking Users’ Movements in an Artistic Physical Space, in Proceedings of the i3 Annual Conference: Community of the Future, Octo- ber 20 – 22, 1999 in Siena, M. Caenepeel, D. Benyon, and D. Smith, Editors. 1999, The Human Communication Research Centre, The University of Edinburgh: Edin- burgh. p. 103 – 106.

Falk, J. H. (2009). Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press Inc. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Museums-Identity-John-H-Falk/dp/1598741632

Heath, C., & Vom Lehn, D. (2004). Configuring Reception: (Dis-)Regarding the “Spectator” in Museums and Galleries. Theory, Culture & Society, 21(6), 43–65. doi:10.1177/0263276404047415

Oppermann, R., & Specht, M. (2000). A Context-Sensitive Nomadic Exhibition Guide, 127–142.

Screven, C. G. (1976). Exhibit Evaluation: A goal-referenced approach. Curator, 52(9), 271–290.

Véron, E. and M. Levasseur, Ethnographie de l’exposition: L’espace, le corps et le sens. 1991, Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou Bibliothèque Publique d’Information.

vom Lehn, D. (2006). Embodying experience: A video-based examination of visitors’ conduct and interaction in museums. European Journal of Marketing, 40(11/12), 1340–1359. doi:10.1108/03090560610702849

vom Lehn, D. (2012). Configuring standpoints: Aligning perspectives in art exhibitions. Bulletin suisse de linguistique appliquée, 96, 69–90.

vom Lehn, D. (2013). Withdrawing from Exhibits: the interactional organisation of museum visits. In P. Haddington, L. Mondada, & M. Nevile (Eds.), Interaction and Mobility: Language and the Body in Motion. Berlin: de Gryter.

Apple Maps – as conversation starter?

analysis, interaction, Social Media, Twitter

Lots has been written about Apple’s problems with their Maps application. Apparently, motorists stranded in a National Park in Australia after relying on the app had to be rescued and many people complain or joke about problems with the app.

This morning, I received a Tweet via @CityJohn who used the app after arriving at Clapham South Tube station (South London). He opened the app and triggered the locate function only to be shown this map.

Image

In his tweet @CityJohn writes: Image

I don’t know what possessed me but I opened up my Apple Maps app and search for Clapham Common and was shown this map.

Image

As far as I can tell the map accurately locates Clapham Common and I decided to pass a picture of the map on to  @CityJohn. I have no idea about or interest in the technical workings of Apple Maps but found it interesting how Apple Maps, not only in this case, has become a conversation starter on Twitter. We all know by now that the app is anything but perfect and there is no need to post more examples of its shortfalls. But by posting curious examples one is almost certain to receive a response from others.

So, not surprisingly, when checking on @CityJohn’s Twitter Stream there now is at least one other short sequence of a ‘Twitter conversations’, just like the one I had with him. Maybe it’s worthwhile creating a collection of such instances. Maybe, this is not everybody’s cup o tea though….

There are various attempts by science museums to bring to life some of the hidden ways in which the Internet works. When I visited the Science Museum in Chicago about 10 years ago there was an exhibit where I took a photograph of myself that then was transmitted to the other end of the gallery and displayed on a screen; the transmission of the picture was visualised on a wall where small packages moved along to where the screen was.

A few months ago in late March the National Media Museum’s Internet Galleries in Bradford opened together with Life Online that pursue a similar goal; making the development and functioning of the Internet intelligible.

Now in late July 2012, the Science Museum in London together with Google launched Chrome Weblab, “a series of interactive Chrome Experiments made by Google that bring the extraordinary workings of the internet to life”. The exhibition is in the basement of the Wellcome Wing. When I visited the gallery had just opened to the public and was already heaving with people.

Weblab is comprised of five ‘experiments’ people can engage with by using a Lab Tag and the various interfaces and systems displayed in the space. On entering the gallery each visitor can draw a Lab Tag from a computer system that is used as an identifier through which visitors’ engagement with the individual experiments is recorded and made retrievable from home. From here on the route took me into the gallery and a first large screen, the Data Tracer.

On entering the gallery I heard musical sounds which apparently came from the centre of the space but I had no idea who or what produced them and why. On closer look I saw a number of machines that looked like musical instruments that made sounds without anybody in particular playing them. I was intrigued but before I got to move to one of those instruments a person at the exhibit in front of me left the computer system and I engaged with the Data Tracer.

  

Data Tracer is comprised of three or four small screens connected to a large display showing a map of the world. On arrival I waited for a few minutes until a small screen become available and then fed my Lab Tag into an interface. I then was confronted with a number of thumbnail images showing objects and photographs of faces; on selecting one of the thumbnails a large copy of the image appeared on the large screen opposite locating the physical place where the image is stored and then drawing lines from there back to the Science Museum; thus, the exhibit visualizes the transformation of the image into data packages and their ‘journey’ to the Science Museum. Like the old exhibit at the Chicago Science Museum this Weblab experiment makes visible the process of using Google search engine. 

Having experimented with the exhibit for a while by tapping on two or three of the thumbnails I noticed other visitors waiting behind me and moved on to the next experiment, the Sketchbotswhere robots draw faces captured by a webcam of physical visitors in the gallery and online visitors in sand.

Only few people stopped for longer than a minute or so at the robots and often moved on when noticing that at the next lot of robots they can have their own faces or those of their children drawn.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkzXSZnDs1E&feature=player_embedded

The process fascinates people. Having taken a picture they observe the robot at work and their image appearing. They take pictures on their cameras or film the process with their mobile phones, commenting on the delicate strokes the machine makes in the sand. People also exploit the possibility to take pictures of others as a means to engage their (small) children with the exhibit who otherwise may not stay with the experiment for long. They lift children up in front of the camera, take the picture of their face and then show them that the robot is drawing that picture of their face in the sand; the activity keeps the children engaged with the exhibit for considerable time.

From the robots my visitor journey took me to the Teleporter, an exhibit that uses periscopes connected to the web to look at location around the world pre-determined by the designers. For somebody on their own the use of the periscope can feel a bit strange, as you pull the system in front of your eyes and loose awareness of what is happening around you.

Looking through the periscope I saw the inside of an aquarium located in Cape Town and could turn around to get a 360 degrees view of the space. On occasions I pressed a button at the top of the periscope to take a photograph that with the help of the Lab Tag was saved on my account. As I discovered when leaving the periscope on the wall behind the exhibit my picture was displayed on small digital photo frames together with those taken by others. The picture bears a time-stamp and can be discussed with others who had no access to what I was looking at while using the system.

One of the potentially most exciting exhibits is the Universal Orchestra, a robotic orchestra made up of eight instruments simultaneously operated by people in the gallery and on the Internet. The instruments are located in the centre of the gallery, each equipped with a computer system that people can use to create sounds. You touch different notes on the screen, the information is fed to the robot that then creates the sound.

Arriving here helped explain the soundscape I had been hearing on entering the gallery. As with some of the other exhibits I was a secondary user of the exhibit, experiencing how to use the systems and what they do before I gained access to one of the instruments. The interaction with the system kept me busy for a while, as I tried to figure out how my actions on the computer screen relate to the sounds made by instruments. Also, the exhibit is described as a “real-time collaboration with people across the world” but because it is difficult to make out who creates what sound the use of the notion of “collaboration” to describe the events is problematic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCXX02dFbIM&feature=player_embedded

Finally, I went to a workstation where the Lab Tag is used to retrieve information about the activities a visitor has engaged with during their visit to the Weblab. The Lab Tag is slotted into the system and the computer screen shows what exhibits the visitor has been at and what they have accomplished there; for example, the photograph taken with the periscope or the sounds produced as part of the Universal Orchestra can be revisited. Seeing on the screen what I had done and what I had missed doing encouraged me to return to the gallery and conduct some further experiments with the Universal Orchestra before then leaving the exhibition.

Having arrived back home I booted my computer to visit the Online Chrome Weblab. I typed in the web address given on the back of the Lab Tag, scanned in the tag and immediately arrived at my Lab Report. The site shows my activities in the galleries on at the Science Museum, and allowed me to conduct the same experiments online. When opening for example, Online Sketchrobot, a site opens that shows live footage from the gallery before opening a screen that looks very similar to the one in the gallery. I took a picture of myself which then was processed ready for the robot to draw in the sand.

I then typed in my email address through which the system later notified me that the robot had completed its job.

The other exhibits work in a similar way. The Online Data Tracer invites visitors to ask the system to use for a physical location of an image file. I typed n my Twitter handle and the system located the associated picture in Isenburg, a small city in the German federal state of Hesse. TheOnline Teleporter allows the user to click on an image and obtain a live view into the bakery in North Carolina, the miniature exhibition in Hamburg and the aquarium in Cape Town. And the Online Universal Orchestra facilitates access to the eight instruments; one can view events in the gallery and play the instruments in the gallery from a remote location, audible to visitors in the museum and remotely. The played music can be recorded and then like the activities at the other exhibits, is retrievable from the Online Lab Tag Explorer.

Chrome Weblab is a fascinating experiment of an exhibition. It tries to make intelligible that the Internet connects remote locations on the planet. And this connectedness involves much more than the accessibility of information through search engines and web browsers but also allows for the possibility to act and interact with machines and people across the world in real-time.

The exhibition invites visitors to engage and participate with exhibits in the gallery and remotely and discover for themselves the relationship between the Internet and the social world in the gallery and remotely. It is successful in engaging people for considerable time with the topic of the Internet and creates an awareness for the connected world we are now living in; robots can be operated remotely, people in remote locations can “collaboratetively” make music, we can have a peek into the world of others from remote locations.

Over the past 10 years or so I had the opportunity to study visitors participating with technology in museums, including the Science Museum and the Wellcome Wing. Therefore, for me visiting Chrome Weblab was interesting also to see how features of  exhibits in Who am I? and Digitopolishave been further developed by the design team of Chrome Weblab. For example, the replacement of the flaky fingerprinting mechanism to save visitors’ activities with exhibit on a server by the physical Lab Tag is a huge improvement.  The tag works well and without problems with webcams at home (and at work) and also is a nice memorabilia from the visit. However I could imagine that in the future the Lab Tag is transferred to a mobile phone as people tend to loose or forget about items they take away from visits to museums. Also, the taking of photographs of people’s faces that has been a critical feature of exhibits in Who am I? has been improved. The interface is much more flexible and adaptable to use pictures visitors take.

There are three aspects of the exhibition that I believe might be worthwhile exploring further for the design team and google when revising the galleries. First, I think the key message of Weblab, i.e. the interconnectedness, is not coming through clearly enough. The relationship between people’s action in the gallery and remotely need to be made more intelligible and obvious. For example, at the moment it is unclear who plays what note at the instruments of the Universal Orchestra; at Data Tracer the actions on the small screens could be made visible, and at Sketchrobot more needs to be done to make the activities by the remote participant visible to give this part of the exhibit more prominence in the gallery.

Second, as the gallery is described as a laboratory the design team and their research staff might use it not only as a laboratory to experiment with technology but also as a space where they can experiment with human behaviour in technology-rich spaces. For example, it has been a common problem for museums that display a large number of computer-based exhibits that the number of interfaces is often much lower than the number of visitors who wish to participate with the exhibits at any one time. This leads to long waiting-times and queues at exhibits, people being secondary users rather than experiencing exhibits first hand, and unfortunately also people leaving disappointed because they did not get a chance to use an exhibit first-hand. Being setup as an experimental space the gallery would allow the design team to experiment with different ways to manage the flow in the galleries and to mange access to exhibits.

And third and maybe most importantly, considering that many visitors come with friends and family the design team could use the space to experiment with the provision of resources that facilitate and encourage collaboration at computer-based exhibits. The observations at the Sketchrobots where parents provide their children with access to the exhibit illustrate that visitors are interested in experiencing the exhibits together, yet the interfaces often prioritise individual users over collaboration. It would be fascinating to see experiments with novel interfaces that encourage visitors to collaborate with others in the gallery, and also with people in remote locations.

References

Heath, C., & vom Lehn, D. (2008). Configuring Interactivity: Enhancing Engagement in Science Centres and Museums. Social Studies of Science38(1), 63-91.

Heath, C., & vom Lehn, D. (2004). Configuring Reception: (Dis-)Regarding the “Spectator” in Museums and Galleries. Theory, Culture & Society21(6), 43-65.

Heath, C., Luff, P., vom Lehn, D., Hindmarsh, J., & Cleverly, J. (2002). Crafting participation: designing ecologies, configuring experience. Visual Communication1(1), 9-33.

Hindmarsh, J., Heath, C., vom Lehn, D., & Cleverly, J. (2005). Creating Assemblies in Public Environments: Social interaction, interactive exhibits and CSCWJournal of Computer Supported Collaborative Work (JCSCW)14(1), 1-41.

vom Lehn, D., Hindmarsh, J., Luff, P., & Heath, C. (2007). Engaging constable: revealing art with new technology. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on HumanComputer Interaction (pp. 1485-1494). San Jose,CA: ACM Press.

vom Lehn, D. (2010). Generating experience from ordinary activity: new technology and the museum experience. In D. O’Reilly & F. Kerrigan (Eds.), Marketing the Arts. A fresh approach (pp. 104-120). Abingdon: Routledge.

vom Lehn, D., & Heath, C. (2005). Accounting for new technology in museum exhibitions.International Journal of Arts Management7(6), 11-21.

vom Lehn, D., Heath, C., & Hindmarsh, J. (2001). Exhibiting interaction: Conduct and collaboration in museums and galleries. Symbolic Interaction24(2), 189–216.

@dirkvl

http://www.vom-lehn.net

 

interaction, interactivity, museums

Human-robot interaction at the Computer Lab in Cambridge – visiting Laurel Riek

interaction, Robots, Technology

In Star Trek Next Generation the android Data is on the constant search for techniques that make him more human. His creator, Dr Soong, has made him look human, if a little pale, but what the particular techniques and what the particular rationale of actions are that would make him human, he has to explore and find out by living with human beings.

Yesterday, I spend some time at the Computer Laboratory in Cambridge where a group of scientists conducts research with human-looking robots. I was invited by Dr Laurel Riek – congratulations, Laurel, on passing the viva early in the week! –  to give a short talk and then have a look at the humanoid robots she has been working with over the past few years.

The robots are realistic looking busts that are equipped with a complex system of motors underneath their skulls. They have been created by a US-American company called Hanson Robotics.

Laurel used Charles and other robots of a similar kind for her research on natural human-robot interaction. Drawing on the growing body of studies concerned with social interaction, including gesture studies, the study of emotion and such like, she strives to improve the communication techniques of robots in order to enable their use in interaction with humans, in particular people in need of help, such as the elderly and disabled people.

Whilst in Star Trek Data discovers the human world by interacting within it, I found in my short encounter with Charles that human-robot interaction may provide us with resources to learn about ourselves and our actions. I think this is something Laurel is working towards when confronting people in healthcare settings with humanoid robots. Thereby, Laurel addresses current debates about how to improve the lives of those living alone or in care homes by deploying robots as companions or at least as other beings they can talk to and interact with.

Publications by Laurel Riek can be found here:

http://www.laurelriek.org/

I found her paper “Cooperative Gestures: Effective Signaling for Humanoid Robots” very interesting but the papers on emotional displays in human-android interaction, I suppose, are where Laurel’s interest lies these days.