Title:Personal and Social? Designing Personalised Experiences for Groups in Museums
Authors:Lesley Fosh, Katharina Lorenz, Steve Benford, Boriana Koleva
Publication:MW2015: Museums and the Web 2015

The designers of mobile museum guides are increasingly interested in facilitating rich interpretations of a collection’s exhibits that can be personalised to meet the needs of a diverse range of individual visitors. It is commonplace to visit these settings in small groups, with friends or family. This sociality of a visit can significantly affect how visitors experience museums and their objects, but current guides can inhibit group interaction, especially when the focus is on personalisation towards individuals. Our design approach embeds sociality from the beginning, treating personalisation as a social rather than computational issue, an idea that has potential reach beyond our own project.

We describe our design of an interactive visiting experience that lets visitors create interpretations of exhibits for their friends and loved ones that they then experience together, letting them scaffold a visiting experience by setting up prompts, information, and emotive triggers around individual exhibits. The result is a personalised, one-off mobile tour crafted by the visitors themselves to directly communicate interpretations to others that they know well. We present the results of two pilot studies in which this approach was used in different museum settings and with different types of small groups. We report on how visitors designed highly personal experiences for one another, analysing how groups of visitors negotiated these experiences together in the museum visit, and revealing how this type of self-design framework for engaging audiences in a socially coherent way leads to rich, stimulating visits for the whole group and each individual member. We present a replicable design for engaging audiences, increasing visitor participation, and realising the potential for meaningful group experiences.