Title:A ‘Smart’ Authoring and Delivery Tool for Multichannel Communication
Authors:Paolo Campione, Nicoletta Di Blas, Marco Franciolli, Michela Negrini, Paolo Paolini
Publication:MW2011: Museums and the Web 2011

The recent proliferation of technologies and devices (including iPhone, iPad and alike) provides new perspectives for the use of multimedia applications for cultural heritage. Users are no more just sitting in front of their PC at home, but they also access multimedia information walking in the galleries or in archeological parks, sitting in a cafeteria, driving a car, travelling on a train, etc.

In addition, and most important, all the different devices and technologies are important, and institutions can't anymore decide which are preferable for their users, who are free to choose according to their (permanent or temporary) needs.

In relation to the above, this paper wants to raise two basic issues concerning: (1) effective authoring environments and (2) adaptation of content to different devices, technologies and situations of usage.

The current generation of authoring environment is quite unsatisfactory. Many authoring tools are officially aimed at specific technologies for specific situations (for example, an iPhone in a gallery). Other tools are apparently aimed at multiple devices/technologies and multiple situations of usage, but they are actually biased towards a limited set of choices, especially as far as situations of usage are concerned (e.g. try to listen to a mobile guide for a gallery, while sitting at home) and their structure (information architecture) cannot be easily bended to fit new needs.

The need for content adaptation is the other side of the same coin. It should take into account:

  • The device (obviously)

E.g. large screens can deliver a lot of visual information while small screens cannot even show an image's caption. Audio can be appropriate for a mobile device (e.g. the iPod in the car) but not for a touch table being used by many users in a large room.

  • The user experience

E.g. The user looking at an exhibit or at a virtual reproduction of it, does not need a detailed description, but rather a good interpretation. A user driving a car must get some kind of description, before digging into any interpretation.

  • Cultural profile of the users (also obvious)

Information filling cultural gaps may be needed, when specialized or not globally known cultures are dealt with. Very few users could relate well, for example, geographical or historical references concerning a small, far away country.

  • The context of discourse

A video that is consumed in the context of ARTBABBLE, for example, could be easily related to its context (i.e. which museum, which country, which exhibition, …). The same video in a "vacuum" (say on YOUTUBE) may need supplementary information.

In this paper, we will extensively discuss the above issues and present a general frame both for identifying the problems and for suggesting possible solutions.

Real-life examples will be taken from "Nippon", a set of four different exhibitions (in different ways related to Japan) that take place in Lugano (Switzerland) from October 2010. A large variety of technologies is being used (web, podcast, iPhone-applications, Smartphone, iPad …). An innovative authoring environment has been developed to coordinate all the different productions. A novel "adaption" strategy is also being experimented. A user study (the results of which will be available at the time of the M&W conference), will allow to assess the impact upon the users.