Towards engaging design methods of digital collections

Wednesday, April 5th: 12:15pm - 1:00pm

Paper Abstract

Methods in learning, communication, and user experience studies have inspired scholarship in digital museology, offering tools for museums to reinvent their digital collections with the goal of improving accessibility and user satisfaction. Parallel to this, there is a growing body of research on evaluating the activities of online audiences, producing a proliferation of frameworks for analyzing interactions with interfaces (MacDonald 2015; Villaespesa 2019). However, few discussions (Olesen 2015) have taken the perspective of design process to examine the role of engagement in driving the development of experience with digital collections. Specifically, there is a lack of understanding of the factors that influence museum professionals’ choices and use of their digital collections’ stakeholder communities. This article asks how the engagement approach underlies the development of digital collections, and proposes a framework that helps identify the factors implicated in this phenomenon.

This study focuses on engagement as a construct of relationships created in activities in the design practice of digital collections. It examines how professionals involved in digital collection projects use different rationales and methods to perceive, measure, or work with stakeholder communities from various backgrounds. Based on ten semi-structured interviews with staff from museums and design agencies, this research adopts framework analysis to outline core decisions made during the design process, and how the design goals are translated into actions and outcomes. Engeström’s (1987) activity system is applied to identify six key elements that affect the process: designers (including museum staff), strategies, targets, work communities, users, and constraints. Inspired by Ingold’s (2000) idea of meshwork, the analysis generates themes about engagement by observing the ways in which the development of skills, disruptions, improvisations, and creativity links one element in the

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