Digital CHPs?

Excuse the the dreadful pun. CHP stands for Cultural Heritage Professionals, and the paper I am reading today is Maye, Laura A., Bouchard, Dominique, Avram, Gabriela & Ciolfi, Luigina. 2017. Supporting Cultural Heritage Professionals Adopting and Shaping Interactive Technologies in Museums, which starts off with the sentence “The role that cultural heritage professionals, including curators, museum directors, and education officers, are playing in creating interactive technologies in museums is evolving.”

I think it will be useful in slightly reframing my academic work as that of a Cultural Heritage Professional exploring in what ways interactive technologies can support my profession’s “goals through active experimentation in context and in depth.”

The paper looks at a partnership between the Interaction Design Centre at The University of Limerick and The Hunt Museum in Limerick, Ireland. The aper describes in more detail an I will go into here projects involving the Loupe, one of the tangible interaction ideas discussed here. Now I think I have already shared my feelings that this is a museum interface that only adds extra complication to a visit (and one that is after all only a phone disguised as a magnifying glass and so not a thing that pulls the visitors’ eyes away from a screen to the object. So I won’t spend much time on that – rather I will look at what they learned about CHPs creating content for interactive technologies.

“From the beginning of the project, it was clear that CHPs needed to know how different interactive technologies could support their intended visitor experience.”

page 9

The paper betrays a certain frustration with CHPs rushing to a conclusions about what they want Digital interventions to do “here the CHPs chose to focus on a particular kind of narrative experience: a guided tour rather than exploring what they might be capable of. ” While CHPs collectively agree that technology should serve a meaningful purpose, the findings from this project suggest that understanding the implications of adopting those tools in context requires further, hands-on experimentation and experience.” Well I am pleased to say this is what my PhD has all been about – I am a “CHP,” and I have been doing hands on experimentation. And indeed my experimentation encounter the issue that the authors move on to – having to find workarounds to bend the low cost tools I was using to the my needs. “However, these workarounds could require CHPs to build additional skills (as seen in this case) or make compromises between the narrative they intend to portray and the available behaviours provided by the functionalities of the interactive technology.”

Now what’s interesting about the case they mention is that the workaround that they mention “as seen in this case” is very much a product of the unintuitive interface enforced by the Loupe. The CHP involved explains: “Intern Deirdre: We printed it [the content] off because it’s easy to forget the screens that come and go. So the ones that say like ‘tilt right to continue’ it’s easy to forget that was there. But when you have it on the paper, you have to pretend to do that! Turn it over or something like that!” This is touted as good, lo-fi interactive experimentation, and so it might be – but the conclusion seems to be that CHPs should spend more time learning to use the technologies that they have available. Keep in mind that that heritage organisations generally spread their CHPs thin, covering a lot a projects at the same time. Indeed the paper does, eventually, admit that “due to financial costs, it may not be feasible for CHPs to experiment with the actual technologies” and talks of “bodystorming” which is a lovely word and kind of what I was doing at Chawton. Its also good that my “Untours” were one of the things that these researchers were hoping for when they say “other types of experiences: for example, games or free exploration visits.

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