Fail Better: Lessons Learned from a Formative Evaluation of Social Object Labels

This paper presents Social Object Labels as an in-gallery commenting platform and reports on a formative evaluation of the concept focusing on visitors’ awareness and mental models of the developed prototype. Findings confirm many design assumptions underlying the evaluated prototype but also flag up serious problems resulting in low engagement levels. They suggest a need to de-emphasise optical markers in the user interface, to provide visitors with a clear idea about the potential rewards of engagement and to align the interaction design with users’ expectations shaped by the wider interaction environment. The paper concludes with an tentative outlook on future design directions.

Keywords: Social Object Labels; User Generated Content; Pervasive Displays; Ubiquitous Annotation; Mobile Interaction.

Winter, M., Gorman, M.J., Brunswick, I., Browne, D., Williams, D. and Kidney, F. (2015). Fail Better: Lessons Learned from a Formative Evaluation of Social Object Labels. 8th International Workshop on Personalized Access to Cultural Heritage, PATCH @ IUI 2015, March 29–April 1, 2015, Atlanta, USA.

Ad-hoc Registration and Configuration of Social Object Labels

This poster and demo presents Social Object Labels (SOLs) as a ubiquitous annotation platform and highlights the specific aspect of ad-hoc registration and configuration. It argues that this quality reduces costs and risks for organisations trialling and adopting the system, as it allows deployment in the target environment without custom development, workflow changes or technical assistance. The paper discusses functionality related to ad-hoc deployment and registration and their implementation in a current SOL prototype.

Keywords — Ubiquitous annotation; Pervasive displays; Digital signage.

Winter, M. (2014). Ad-hoc Registration and Configuration of Social Object Labels. Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium on Pervasive Displays (PerDis 2014), Jun. 3-4, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Social Object Labels

This position paper introduces and discusses Social Object Labels, small pervasive displays for ubiquitous social object annotation. Taking an HCI perspective, it relates user experience problems with ubiquitous annotation described in the literature to a lack of dynamic information available to users and argues that small pervasive displays can address these problems by providing dynamic situated information that supports users before, during and after interaction. The paper describes three potential application domains for ubiquitous social object annotation and presents related scenarios to illustrate possible uses and interactions in concrete terms. It defines the design space for Social Object Labels with reference to related display concepts such as ambient displays and interactive public displays, and structures the defined space by discussing salient design aspects. The paper concludes with a summary and outlook on future research.

Keywords— HCI; Pervasive Displays; Ambient Displays; Interactive Public Displays; Ubiquitous Annotation; Pervasive Sociality; Social Object Labels; User Generated Content

Winter, M. (2014). Social Object Labels: Supporting Social Object Annotation with Small Pervasive Displays. Proceedings of the 2014 IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (PerCom 2014), Mar. 24-28, Budapest, Hungary, pp. 489-494.

Inch-scale Interactive Displays for Social Object Annotation

This paper offers an HCI perspective on ubiquitous annotation with a focus on social object annotation. It suggests that user experience issues with static-display visual markers and radio frequency tags are due to a lack of up-to-date information about the related object or service. To provide that information it proposes small situated displays that can encourage engagement and support interaction with dynamic user-generated content services. The paper describes a platform for research into small pervasive displays in the context of social object annotation and briefly discusses the relevance of the research for the wider field.

Keywords: HCI; Ubiquitous computing; Pervasive computing; Ubiquitous annotation; Social Object Annotation; Pervasive displays; Digital signage

Reference: Winter, M. (2013). Inch-scale Interactive Displays for Social Object Annotation. Adjunct Proceedings of the 2013 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2013), Sep. 8-12, Zurich, CH.

Ubiquitous annotation user experience

Research seminar at the University of Portsmouth’ School of Computing last Wednesday, 13th February 2013:


Ubiquitous annotation involves attaching digital information to physical objects and places. As applications of ubiquitous annotation rapidly evolve from static content delivery to dynamic, social, user-generated content, the user experience of discovering and accessing ubiquitous annotation services through static touchpoints needs to be reviewed. This talk will look at the impact of different technologies on the user experience of ubiquitous annotation and identify common usability issues with static service touchpoints. It will map out on-going research into dynamic touchpoints that combine service triggers with digital signage to enhance the user experience of ubiquitous annotation and describe a scenario of use in the cultural heritage domain.

Artwork-centred sociality in museums and galleries

Poster at The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC. Notes on the workshop available from Claire Ross and Mia Ridge.


The concept of object-centred sociality (Engeström, 2005) is well established on the Web and has been transferred to physical museums and galleries to explain how visitors engage with each other around social objects (Simon, 2010). While designers of Web-based museum experiences have a wide range of well-established tools at their disposal to support object centred sociality and user generated content, curators of physical exhibitions typically rely on feedback boards and visitor books to foster engagement and encourage interpretation.

Ubiquitous annotation, described by Hansen (2006) as attaching digital information to physical objects and places, offers a way to go beyond the limitations of physical feedback boards. It enables unobtrusive, in-situ annotation of specific artworks and results in digital content that can be readily re-used and re-mediated. Recent efforts to employ ubiquitous annotation in museums include a bespoke system by Hsu & Liao (2011), iPad based object labels by Gray et al. (2012) and a platform involving custom mobile devices by Seirafi & Seirafi (2012). Adoption of these systems requires substantial commitment from host organisations in the form of financial investment, custom development and change of work practices. Furthermore, visitor interaction with these systems is problematic due to usability problems with static touchpoints that cannot display state information or interaction feedback.

The project is developing a light-weight, generic ubiquitous annotation platform that makes artwork-centred commenting and rating feasible even for smaller, low-budget arts organisations. It enables visitors to browse and create comments and ratings using their mobile phone. The project is developing novel dynamic touchpoints that address many of the usability problems associated with static touchpoints. For curators, the system provides an analytics backend to maintain editorial control, re-use contributed content and analyse engagement levels with a view to enhancing the visitor experience. The project is at an early stage and seeks discussions with researchers and museums professionals to inform the design and research.


Engeström, J. (2005). Why some social network services work and others don’t – Or: the case for object-centered sociality. Blog post 13 April 2005. Available: Accessed 7 December 2012.

Gray, S., Ross, C., Hudson-Smith, A. & Warwick, C. (2012). Enhancing Museum Narratives with the QRator Project: a Tasmanian devil, a Platypus and a Dead Man in a Box. Proceedings of Museums and the Web.

Hansen, F. (2006). Ubiquitous annotation systems: technologies and challenges. Proceedings of the seventeenth conference on Hypertext and hypermedia HYPERTEXT’06, pp. 121–132.

Hsu, H. & Liao, H. (2011). A mobile RFID-based tour system with instant microblogging. Journal of Computer and System Sciences, 77(4), pp. 720–727.

Seirafi , A. & Seirafi, M.K. (2012). FLUXGUIDE: Mobile Computing, Social-Web & Participation @ the Museum. Institut fuer Creative, Media, Technologies. Available: Accessed 26 March 2012.

Simon, N. (2010). The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz, California: Museum 2.0, 2010. Available: Accessed 7 December 2012.