Constructing a public around social object labels

In their report on the Imperial War Museum’s Social Interpretation project, Giannachi and Tolmie (2012) suggest that QR codes need suitable framing that gives visitors a clear reason why to scan the code and why to share their thoughts. They point out that this requires a comprehensive organisational effort to promote an active and social visitor experience.

A theoretical grounding for this idea is provided by DiSalvo, Maki and Martin (2007), who offer the concept of “constructed public” based on John Dewey’s (1927) idea that a public does not exist a priory but is brought together around a meaningful social condition.

Accordingly, designers should acknowledge the limited scope of any public and carefully consider who the public is and how it came together. This move away from “the public” as a general population towards “a public” as a selective subset of that population primed for engagement has important implications for the design and evaluation of interactive public systems.

In a design context, it presumes awareness of the system’s existence and interest in, or even agreement with, its purpose and aims, shifting part of the responsibility for these aspects from system design to the wider user experience design.

In an evaluation context, it takes into account whether and how a public was created around the system as an important factor in its adoption, going beyond classic aspects such as perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use (Davis, 1989) and perceived social norms (Venkatesh and Davis, 2000) as the main factors for technology acceptance.

How can we construct a public around social object labels?

Davis, F.D. (1989). Perceived Usefulness, Perceived Ease of Use, and User Acceptance of Information Technology. MIS Quarterly, 13(3), pp. 319-339.

Dewey, J. (1927). The public and its problems: An essay in political inquiry. Penn State Press, 2012.

Disalvo, C. and Ave, S. H. (2007). MapMover : A Case Study of Design-Oriented Research into Collective Expression and Constructed Publics. In Proc. CHI 2007, pp. 1249–1252.

Giannachi, G. and Tolmie, P. (2012). Info-Objects: Embedding objects with audience interpretation. Project report. Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. 

Venkatesh, V. and Davis, F.D. (2000). A Theoretical Extension of the Technology Acceptance Model: Four Longitudinal Field Studies. Management Science, 45(2), pp. 186-204.


No to NoUI – Timo Arnall

A comprehensive and immensely readable rebuke to invisible interfaces by Timo Arnall, creative director at BERG in London and research fellow at the Oslo School of Architecture & Design: No to NoUI



Understanding the Mobile V&A Visitor

Very useful statistics about technology use in the V&A (download PDF)

Some highlights (many more in the report):

  • Almost two thirds of visitors to the V&A own a smartphone and carry it with them in the museum
  • Two thirds of smartphone owners visiting the V&A are already using their phones to enhance their cultural visits
  • Visitors are enthusiastic about the free WiFi service provided by the V&A and the idea of accessing museum content (however, low awareness levels)
  • Younger visitors express a preference for using their own device (over museums audio guides)

Here’s an interesting blog post by Andrew Lewis, digital content delivery manager at the V&A, comparing the findings with a yet-to-be-published survey across Tate, the National Gallery and IWM.

Center for the Future of Museums: The Fractal Taxonomy of Museums

Have been looking for a taxonomy of museums, galleries, etc. but no luck. Even formulating a suitable search query on Google, which nowadays is so powerful that it finds me almost anything with just a few tries, seems a tricky business. However, in the process I stumbled upon the Fractal Taxonomy of Museums, which at least gives a long list of different types and aspects of organisations.

Understanding Sharing Habits in Museum Visits

Interesting study by Galena Kostoska, Beatrice Valeri, Marcos Baez and Denise Fezzi presented at Museums and the Web 2013:

“…initial attempts to facilitate the sharing and experiencing of the content and emotions originated by an exhibition have met limited success. To address this problem, we did several studies to understand if and how people share, and which technologies can help increase sharing.

…results tell us that, although the technology is there, we are missing the opportunity to increase participation and enjoyment. We argue that the reason is the lack of interaction design that makes it easy and fun for people to share content and emotions during the visits (but having the opportunity to enjoy the visit without spending all the time looking at their phones), the lack of simple ways to easily consume shared information.”

Overview of results available at

The Bibliography Behind A Theory of Design Thinking

Charles Burnette, 2.2.2013
The Bibliography Behind A Theory of Design Thinking

Pervasive Advertising

Power to the People (Symmetric Communication) 
Classical advertising follows a mass media approach in which a small number of advertisers distribute their advertisements to the masses. This unidirectional communication model produces an asymmetrical distribution of power. All the power is  concentrated  in  the  hands  of  advertisers  who  decide  which  ads  to  show  when and where. At best the audience has the option to ignore, protest against, or vandalize  the resulting  ads.  For  some  people,  such  an  asymmetrical  distribution  of power creates a feeling of being at the mercy of advertisers. Since pervasive computing is interactive it offers the opportunity to transfer a significant degree of power to the audience. This fundamentally alters the unidirectional  communication  model  by  allowing  the  audience  to  communicate  opinions directly to advertisers and other audiences. Companies must treat customers as equals. This can benefit both consumers and companies since a closer bond is created between the two and because it allows companies to learn from their customers  much  faster.  Practical  examples  include  the  ability  of  the  audience  to choose the content they like and even to submit their own content. Eventually, this may  lead  to  a  democratization  of  advertising  and  the  look  of  public  spaces…

Source: Müller, J., Alt, F. & Michelis, D. (eds) Pervasive Advertising. Springer, 2011