Creating DIY Interactive Exhibits

Dick van Dijk, Waag Society, The Netherlands, Daniela Petrelli, Sheffield Hallam University, UK, Luigina Ciolfi, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Emotion, affect, and sensation are essential parts of our experience of heritage, but often information overload overrules the material qualities of an object, and formalized content presentation is valued over personal experience, in ways that may inhibit and even preclude affective responses. There is however an opportunity for interaction design to take advantage of visitors’ embodied experience with cultural heritage and to integrate technology into it, instead of creating a parallel and detached digital experience. Coincidentally, the current trend of Do It Yourself (DIY) technologies and FabLabs provides an opportunity to address this gap and will allow curators to explore interactions with tangible technologies more easily themselves.

The meSch project aims to empower curators, artists and designers to create exhibits that bring materiality and physical interaction to the forefront of visitors’ experience. Though many curators welcome this ability to create and integrate interactive exhibits into the design of exhibitions, for the majority there is a significant knowledge gap, both on the technological as on the dramaturgical side – and the tools required to create interactive exhibits have been out of reach.

Through a design-led approach, the meSch project aims to create – in collaboration with museums – a simple hardware and software platform that allows curators to conceive, design, make, alter and maintain interactive tangible devices themselves. Our vision is of a cultural space with smart objects, each with their own digital content embedded therein, which will be revealed if and when conditions are right, e.g. when visitors have reached the proper time in the storyline, or a group is acting in a certain way, or another object is close by. The proposed workshop is an exploration of DIY and DIWO (Do It With Others) interactive exhibits and smart replicas, based on the preliminary results of the project and aims to shed new light on the opportunities presented through the advance of DIY technologies.

The workshop brings museum experts and creative professionals together in a hands-on design session, assisted by a team of (interaction) designers and researchers. The workshop will challenge the participants to quickly explore new ideas and to make a tangible representation of their ideas. The workshop consists of two parts: introduction to the work-in-progress of the meSch partners and DIY (paper) prototyping. During the prototyping part of the workshop  participants are divided in small groups with people from different backgrounds.

The duration of the workshop is a half day. In the process of making (paper) prototypes the participants will actively exchange and elaborate ideas and concepts and use simple electronics and sensors. Our experience with design workshops is such that we are able to explore the values, practical experience, insights, and aspirations of the assembled parties, which in turn will allow the meSch consortium to further steer its project’s deliverables towards an open and accessible toolkit for curators in a way that curators find useful and relevant to their professional practice.

Workshopleaders: Waag Society; University of Limerick; Sheffield Hallam University; University of Stuttgart

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