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Towards the wild : evaluating museum installations in semi-realistic situations

Hornecker, Eva and Nicol, Emma (2011) Towards the wild : evaluating museum installations in semi-realistic situations. In: Re-Thinking Technology in Museums 2011, 2011-05-26 - 2011-05-27.

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In this paper we discuss our experiences of conducting user evaluations of technological installations for the new Robert Burns Birthplace museum and the challenges associating with doing this. We believed it to be important to avoid a sterile lab situation, and to be able to observe the social dynamics that evolve around museum installations. As we were unable to conduct studies in the museum itself we devised ways of taking them out of the lab by basing them in a more museum-like or semi-realistic setting. We took efforts to recreate the installation setup when this was likely to influence interaction patterns and could reveal usability issues. Moreover, we invited young families and adult groups to take part in the evaluation sessions to investigate how they would interact with these as a group. We explain our motivations and the tradeoffs involved. We focus on discussing the effects that the semi-realistic setting may have had on the user feedback obtained, reflect on the differing user behaviours that might emerge in the genuine museum setting and make recommendations for future studies.