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Bringing Meaning into Making: How Do Visitors Tag an Exhibit as Social when Visiting a Museum



It has been 20 years since the adoption of the 'meaning-making' paradigm as a lens for reaching a better understanding of the museum experience. My paper presents parts of my doctoral research which micro-analyzed visitors' encounters in order to explore the ways and means they use to shape and share their meaning-making. It argues on the nature of meaning-making as a social activity by exploring the process of making rather than evaluating the depth or validity of meaning. Towards this direction, I conducted qualitative research across three non-national museums in London, UK, and collected data by implementing audio and video-based research that successfully captured visitors' interactions in their context. Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis provided the key concepts of the analysis which revealed three major patterns, all highlighting the performative, social and sequential character of the meaningmaking process. By bringing together theory and practice, my paper invites museums to consider meaning-making as a process as well as the product of this process through which visitors socially make meaning about themselves, others, the exhibits as well as the institution in which their interaction occurs.
The International Journal of the
Inclusive Museum
Bringing Meaning into Making
How Do Visitors Tag an Exhibit as Social when Visiting a
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Bringing Meaning into Making: How Do Visitors
Tag an Exhibit as Social when Visiting a Museum
Dimitra Christidou, University College of London, Institute of Archaeology, UK
Abstract: It has been 20 years since the adoption of the 'meaning-making' paradigm as a lens for reaching a better
understanding of the museum experience. My paper presents parts of my doctoral research which micro-analyzed
visitors' encounters in order to explore the ways and means they use to shape and share their meaning-making. It argues
on the nature of meaning-making as a social activity by exploring the process of making rather than evaluating the depth
or validity of meaning. Towards this direction, I conducted qualitative research across three non-national museums in
London, UK, and collected data by implementing audio and video-based research that successfully captured visitors'
interactions in their context. Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis provided the key concepts of the analysis
which revealed three major patterns, all highlighting the performative, social and sequential character of the meaning-
making process. By bringing together theory and practice, my paper invites museums to consider meaning-making as a
process as well as the product of this process through which visitors socially make meaning about themselves, others, the
exhibits as well as the institution in which their interaction occurs.
Keywords: Meaning-making, Social Interaction, Museum, Visitors
Meaning-making in Museums1
t has been twenty years since the adoption of the ‘meaning-making’ paradigm and its
implementation in the museum realm in a systematic attempt to achieve a better
understanding of what takes place in the galleries (Silverman 1990; 1995). Apart from
triggering excitement across the members of the museum community -both scholars and
practitioners, its adoption resulted in a series of publications in which authors explored the
process of visitors’ meaning-making. Their way to investigate the specific process was mainly by
capturing and analyzing visitors’ conversations within the museum as well as interviewing them
before, during and after their visit (e.g. Allen 2002; Leinhardt, Crowley and Knutson 2002;
Leinhardt and Knutson 2004).
In this article, I argue that just as learning is both a process and the product of this process,
meaning-making is not only the result of the process of making sense but also the process of
making sense. For convenience, I will refer to the process as making and to the product as
meaning. Additionally, this article argues for the nature of meaning-making, irrespective of its
duration, depth or validity, as a social activity. It presents parts of my doctoral research at the
Institute of Archaeology, University College of London, which micro-analyzed visitors'
encounters across three museums in London (the Courtauld Gallery, the Wellcome Collection
and the Horniman Museum and Gardens) in order to explore the ways and means they use to
shape and share their meaning-making. Thus, rather than evaluating the meaning as expressed
through visitors’ experiences with the exhibits, I explored the making in a systematic attempt to
understand how visitors share aspects of the ‘context’ and ‘content’ with each other.
1 Throughout this article, I use the term “museum” to refer to numerous institutions of informal learning, such as art
museums or institutes, history, anthropological, science centers, zoos, natural history museums, historical sites, national
parks, archives and so forth.
The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum
Volume 6, 2013,, ISSN: 1835-4432
© Common Ground, Dimitra Christidou, All Rights Reserved, Permissions:
Visitors and their Meaning-making in the Museum
The meaning-making paradigm treated the museum learning as a social process with language as
one of its social practices and an uttered expression of the participants’ personal and social
context. Meaning-making widened our perception of who our visitors are and how this museum
experience looks like by appreciating the variance and diversity existing across the visitors, their
meaning, and agendas (Silverman 2013) as well as acknowledging the social functions and
foundations of the museum itself. Meaning-making was the first step towards the transformation
of the museum into an inclusive and democratic place where all possible meanings can find their
‘home’. Additionally, its adoption shifted the interest from identifying and measuring “cognitive”
and “affective” outcomes to the experience itself; that is, what people see and do in the
exhibitions (Schauble, Leinhardt, and Martin 1997).
“Opening museums to multiple voices and views” (Roberts 1997, 152) leaves space for debate,
discussion and engagement, allowing the same exhibit to trigger different responses and
meanings and subsequently, experiences. That is, at least as I see it, one of the main reasons why
we prefer talking about making meaning in the museum rather than learning as the visitor is an
active co-meaning maker, constantly (re)shaping his/her interpretations and understandings of the
world (Silverman 2013) through social interaction, exchange and engagement.
Meaning-making and the Sociocultural Means of Making
Research has shown (Allen 2002; Blud 1990; Falk and Dierking 2000; Litwak 1993; Moussouri
1997) that the majority of visitors come to museums as part of a wider social group. In particular,
motivational studies have indicated that social interaction and collaboration are among the most
prevalent reasons for visitors coming to museums with others (Falk et al. 1998; Packer and
Ballantyne 2002) with “spending time” and “a day out with friends and family” being one of the
six main reasons for visiting museums across the UK (Moussouri 1997). Visitors use the content
of the exhibition as a source of information, based on and through which they develop and
negotiate their ongoing relationships and learn more from and for each other. Litwak (1993, 11)
explains that visitors actually choose the museum as a setting for “a shared mutual experience
with their companions” during which they discover things and create a deeper understanding
about themselves, their companions as well as the surrounding world.
One of the basic sociocultural means visitors use to make meaning is through talking.
Researchers have captured and analyzed visitors’ conversations (Allen 2002; Leinhardt and
Crowley 1998; Leinhardt, Crowley and Knutson 2002) by exploring the talk that focuses on the
context and content of the exhibitions while excluding the verbal exchanges addressing planning
and managing decisions (Leinhardt and Crowley 1998). Apart from being one of the basic
sociocultural means for visitors’ meaning-making, conversations were further treated as the
result of the negotiation between elements of visitors’ ongoing encounters and those gained
through previous experiences (Allen 1997; Blud 1990; Leinhardt, Crowley and Knutson 2002;
Leinhardt and Knutson 2004), what Falk and Dierking (1992; 2000) referred to as “personal
context” while Doering and Pekarik (1996) as “entrance narratives”.
Although the multimodality of meaning-making was acknowledged (Lemke 1998), the analysis
focused on individual, verbal responses rather than treating everything as chained in order to
make meaning (Goodwin and Heritage 1990). Addressing the aforementioned gap, a few
researchers included in their analysis visitors’ non-verbal behaviors (Meisner et al. 2007; Rahm
2004; Rowe 2002; Weier and Piscitelli 2003; Wells 1998). Bolstered by those studies conducted
in the last decade, my research treats communication as one, with visitors drawing upon both
verbal and non-verbal behaviors in order to get their message through to the others.
Acknowledging the multimodality of the museum encounter was further reflected in the
transcripts used for the analysis of data and embedded in my thesis. This way of representing
social interaction and communication is considered suitable in giving the simultaneous, minute-
by-minute occurrence of the finer details that comprise social interaction.
Exploring Meaning-making in Museums
Exhibits are social objects” (Simon 2010), sparking our visitors’ imagination, stories, and social
sharing. Other visitors, exhibits, interpretation resources, aspects of the context all interplay in
the making of meaning. Back in 1998, the PISEC project (Borun et al. 1998) tested a number of
observable behaviors as learning indicators for family science learning in the museum and found
as unrelated to learning the following ones: calling someone over, pointing at an exhibit,
expressing like/dislike, and approaching/withdrawing from an exhibit. A year later, Griffin
argued that especially pointing gestures indicate that visitors share “learning with peers and
experts'' (Griffin 1999, 116). Based on those two findings, I explored the PISEC-unrelated-to
learning-behaviors as indicators of social interaction and means of sharing meaning-making by
audio and videotaping visitors' encounters with seven exhibits. Following the key concepts of
Conversation Analysis and Ethnomethodology (Garfinkel 1967; Sacks 1992), I focused on the
making of meaning and micro-analyzed the sociocultural means visitors use when experiencing
the exhibits with others in order to share their focus of attention and meaning-making. What
visitors do and say in front of the exhibit came under the term performance, a term borrowed by
Goffman (1959) and used to refer to visitors’ verbal and nonverbal interaction. I captured visitors
at least in dyads -and thus, in different types of social groups- a choice allowing me to realize the
variations existing in the interaction emerging across different groups of visitors.
Three broad patterns were identified with “attracting an audience” as the most frequently
recurring performance across the three case studies as it addressed visitors' social need to share
something with others (e.g. Blud 1990; McManus 1989; Moussouri 1997) and included their
attempts to attract the others' attention. The second category, coined “telling and tagging”, refers
to the practices of storytelling and pointing out something (verbally and non-verbally). These two
practices may often be detailed by either the authoritative voice of the museum through “text-
echo” (McManus 1989) when visitors quote passages directly from the provided interpretive text,
or the voice of the visitor through his/her own storytelling. Apart from “text-echo”, visitors may
rephrase the interpretive text as they filter the provided information to tailor their own needs as
well as their co-visitors (Allen 2002; Crowley and Jacobs 2002). By adopting aspects of the
institution’s language into their own discourse through direct or rephrased text-echo- and detail
their meaning-making through their own storytelling, visitors discover the exhibit not only in the
light of the institution’s authoritative voice, but also in relationship to their own personal context,
blending together their own personal reflections and stories and those provided by the museum.
The third category, coined “animating through “displaying doing”, includes those incidents when
visitors use their own bodies to bring the exhibit, or aspects of it, into life. This category comes
under scrutiny for the first time concerning non-interactive exhibits, exploring the ways in which
visitors use their bodies to elaborate and enrich their meaning-making. These three categories
bring forward the fact that being the recipient of one's attempt to share his/her meaning-making
allows experiencing the exhibit through this person’s eyes; that is, the exhibit is infused through
what this person says and does. This social sharing actively constitutes and occasions the exhibits
as well as the ways in which visitors will experience them (Heath and vom Lehn 2004).
In the following incident (Table 1), involving two women, W1 is the “designated reader”
(Hirschi and Screven 1988, 60), responsible for reading the interpretive text aloud to W2, who is
older in age. As they reach the painting, W1 starts reading the label silently while W2 is standing
at her left. Another visitor, M, arrives at the painting and stands behind those two women. When
W2 leans towards the label, W1 says “it’s another of his”, introducing the painting to W2 by
linking it to the one they had just looked at. W1 positions herself closer to the label, followed by
W2. The presence of those two women in front of the label blocks M’s view, who then
repositions himself in order to have visual access to the label and continue his reading. W1 starts
reading the second paragraph of the label aloud. She animates the text through pointing and
iconic gestures in an attempt to draw relevance and attention to what she is quoting. W1 uses her
right hand and points at the label text to demarcate that she is reading it. As she is quoting from
the text, she gives out an iconic gesture of doing dots while reading aloud the “small dots of
colour” part of the text. Then, she points at the painting’s frame and rephrases the text (“he
painted far, creating more like a frame”) moving her hand up and down, right and left to make
the frame more salient. Her gesture is noticed by M, who happens to share the same space. He
attends her gesture and then he moves away. As W1 keeps reading, she once again animates the
text when she comes across the phrase “robust figure”: she points with her right hand towards the
painting. Upon reading “delicate” aloud, she immediately gives an iconic gesture by extending
her hand, folding her three fingers and moving them slightly towards the floor. Then she
continues reading and before finishing the paragraph she performs another pointing gesture
towards the painting, when she reads the phrase “frivolity of her actions”. When W1 finishes her
reading, she flicks her gaze on the painting and then moves away. W2 lingers for ten seconds,
looking at the painting and label and then moves away, joining W1.
Table 1: Incident from the Courtauld Gallery [05.07.2010, 12:50 pm]
W1 and W2 are walking towards the painting, with W1 looking at the painting while
W2 is looking at and talking to W1.
W1 and W2 are close to the painting’s label. W1 is facing the label.
W2: She is up, to California.
W1 is reading the label while W2 is standing next to W1 on her left.
M is standing behind W1 and W2, facing the painting.
W2 is approaching the label.
W1: It's another of his.
W1 approaches W2 in front of the label. Shifts her right hand and points at the label.
M tries to read the label but W1 shifts her posture and blocks his view.
W1: Seurat's divisionist technique of painting (points with right hand at the label
text) with (doing a gesture animating dots) small dots of colour has been extended
here to the dark border (points with right hand at the label text).
M walks to the left side of the painting in an attempt to read the label. M stands
behind W2, reading the label.
W1: He painted far (-) creating more like a frame (pointing at the frame of the
painting. She starts pointing from the bottom left corner to the right, then top right,
top left corner, ending at bottom left corner).
M shifts his head and follows W1's hand.
M moves away
W1: (pointing hand is now lifted and close to her face) The subject, a woman at
her toilette, seems to be a return to the themes of nature and artifice, and public
and private life, which Seurat had earlier explored in his scenes of outdoor
recreation. The imbalance between the robust figure (lifts her right hand and
points to the painting).
W1:= and the delicate domestic objects seems intentionally ironic, as does the
contrast between the (her hand now makes an iconic gesture meaning delicate by
attaching her fingers together, which immediately shifts to a pointing gesture).
W1: =gravity of her classical pose (swings her right hand forward) and the
frivolity of her actions (pointing at the painting).
My research brought forward the fact that visitors use their fingers to link the interpretive text
to the actual exhibit especially when visual links are provided through the labeling as seen in the
previous example. The next incident from the Horniman Museum and Gardens (Table 2) starts
when the person who arrives second at the exhibit (W) spots something familiar within the glass-
case. Specifically, W is drawn by the canopic jars, a discovery that prompts her to turn to her
right, where M is, and share it by using a deictic adjective (“these”) elaborated by a deictic
gesture towards the objects. This performance falls under the “attracting an audiencecategory
while it further succeeds in engaging the other two members of her group (M and D) in a
collaborative exploration of the exhibit. W notices the label on her right side of the glass-case
and she approaches it in an attempt to find more information. Her movement reflects her desire to
spend more time with the exhibit, a performance acknowledged my M, who rejoins with W and
D. Once M has approached the exhibit, he takes the lead and points at the first paragraph of the
text. His performance not only confirms his attendance but also his desire to become the
“designated reader” (Hirschi and Screven 1988, 60) of his group and thus, participate actively in
their shared meaning-making. M starts reading the text aloud, paragraph-by-paragraph (“Ptah-
Soka-Osiris. A figure, placed in the tomb, which contained text from”) while using his finger to
indicate the source of his text-echo, which in this case is the first paragraph of the label text. He
stops reading aloud only to share again after a second a comment on the specific exhibit (“that’s
before Christ”). This information is a rephrasing of the interpretive text, which reads “713-332
After three seconds, M expands his identification by using the location description provided in
the interpretive text (“it says centre”), a performance acknowledged by W who in return, points
at the center of the case while elaborating her gesture by using a deictic adjective (“that”). Her
performance reflects her awareness of the density of exhibits in the specific glass-case and thus,
W combines a deictic gesture with a deictic adjective in an attempt to ease their identification
process. W then leans closer to the case and D, while still pointing at the center of the case, and
repeats M’s quote (“that’s before Christ”), a performance that is seen as a means of confirming
and securing D’s attention. They all look at the case in silence for a couple of seconds and then,
W’s next performance coincides with the start of D’s utterance and as a result, there is no
expansion but just a couple of “that’s” and “so”. This gap in their interaction allows M to take the
lead once again, who this time lifts his hand and points out the exhibits while elaborating them
further with deictic adjectives and adverbs that link the exhibits to their specific locations within
the case (“left is that” “left bottom which is just there”). W immediately shares the information
that she just found in the interpretive text (had that in coffins, here in the afterworld”), followed
by a pointing gesture towards the label on the right. She then puts her hand down, allowing M to
take the lead anew, who this time shifts his hand and points at the interpretive text while using
text-echo (“amulets top right, this one and”), linking visually the location description (“top
right”) to the deictic adjective (“this one”).
The frequency of these pointing behaviors is reinforced when numbers are used to address the
exhibits as well as when location description is given (such as 'top left: canopic jars'). The
pointing fingers are means of confirmation of validity of what is being told as they link the 'voice
of the museum' (labels) to the objects while it is of great sociocultural use as they encompass in
one action the body of the visitor, aspects of the exhibit and of the wider context in which the
performance is situated, and parts of the discourse. By doing so, pointing gestures facilitate the
creation of visual links/vectors among the visitors and the exhibits which demonstrate a type of
connection/correlation; a possible bond.
Table 2. Incident from the Horniman Museum and Gardens [2010-11-06, 14:53 pm]
M, W and D approach the exhibit. M walks ahead fast with W and D following him
slowly. As they walk ahead, W turns her face towards the Life after Death glass case.
D attends her shift in gaze, and also turns towards the same direction.
W is facing the case.
D is a few steps behind her, looking at the case.
M moves away.
D turns her face away and leans towards W.
W: These (-) (points with left hand, facing M)
W places her hand down and faces the case.
W approaches the label text.
M approaches W.
M points at the label's first paragraph
M: Ptah-Soka-Osiris. A figure, placed in the tomb, which contained text from...
(moves his finger along with text)
M: That's before Christ (puts his finger down).
M lifts his right hand and points at the label. M moves his finger along with text.
M: it says (.) centre.
D stops talking.
W and M point at the centre of the case.
D attends their indications.
W leans closer to the case and says to D while still pointing with left hand.
W: that's before Christ.
M puts his hand down, followed by W.
W points again with her left hand.
W: That's.
D: = so.
W approaches M, who is in front of the label.
D is looking at the objects.
M lifts his right hand and points at the text.
M: left is that (pointing towards the case) from figurines (points again at the label's
next paragraph) left bottom (points towards left bottom side) which is just there
(points again in text's next paragraph).
W: (shifts her left hand and points at the label text) had that in coffins (.) here (.) in
the afterworld.
W puts her hand down.
M is still pointing at text.
M: I knew it! Top right (shifts his hand and points at the object)
W and D also have shifted their left hands and point
M: This one and
Using your Camera: A Ubiquitous Sociocultural Means
Taking pictures is a common behaviour within the gallery space (Weilenmann, Hillman, and
Jungselius 2013). My analysis treated the performance of taking a photograph as a sociocultural
means of directing attention. Shifting your camera to take a picture is considered a pointing
device, an alternative way to tag something, and a performative means in a twofold way. Firstly,
it constitutes an observable and a reflective performance, as other people in the gallery space can
see someone taking a picture. In addition, apart from being connected to a person’s identity,
taking pictures is also a social performance. Van Dijck (2008, 62) refers to pictures as “the new
currency for social interaction” and objects that function as souvenirs, tools for remembrance and
reminiscence, which are subsequently shared with others. Hence, taking photographs in the
museum is both a memory tool and a communicational device moving “from sharing (memory)
objects to sharing experiences” (van Dijck 2008, 60). This is a sociocultural means that calls for
more attentive analysis as it is a ubiquitous performance, especially in the 21st century museum
where almost everyone is an owner and user of a digital camera or gadget that takes pictures.
This article argues for the importance of social interaction for the shaping of the forthcoming
meaning, irrespectively of its depth or validity. Experiencing the exhibits is a process that takes
place at the confluence of a number of ‘contexts’ that are constantly negotiated through visitors
themselves. Meaning-making can be found at the intersection of all those contexts. Listening to
visitors’ conversations allow us to grasp only a glimpse of those contexts while setting aside the
possible ways through which visitors infuse their experiences through social interaction and by
deploying resources provided by the institution itself. In addition to studying conversations,
micro-analyzing the sociocultural means through which visitors make and share their meaning
contributes to achieving a holistic understanding of the meaning-making process and realizing
the multiple contexts in which even a fleeting encounter takes place.
My research is resonant with previous findings and observations that explored the museum
experience by investigating social interaction (Heath and vom Lehn 2004; Meisner et al. 2007)
while my findings reinforce previous arguments on the importance of “identification” (Allen
2002; Fienberg and Leinhardt 2002; Silverman 1990) and the existence of a sequence in the
meaning-making process with visitors tending to identify first and then proceeding to making
meaning. During this stage of identification, which is the foundation on which visitors build their
experiences, visitors enact aspects of their identities by drawing upon the physical context while
reshaping those further through their ongoing interaction. My research, among others, showed
that mutual interest is socioculturally negotiated and manifested through visitorsperformances.
If, according to Falk and Dierking (2000), narration or storytelling and observation are two of the
possible means for sociocultural information to be shared in the museum, my research argued
that reference (verbal or non-verbal) is also a way for information to be represented and shared in
visually complex environments such as museums. This finding may have further implications for
Additionally, as seen in the examples, visitors use their fingers to link the interpretive text to
the actual exhibit. Reference (verbal and non-verbal) was of great sociocultural use as it
encompasses in one performance the body of the visitor, aspects of the exhibit and of the wider
context in which the performance is situated, and parts of the discourse. This is a part of a very
powerful sociocultural design as pointing something out is a strong dissemination tool. As
identification is the first stage of meaning-making, exhibit designers should aim at easing
visitors’ identification processes. By building upon visitors' entry points to their interaction with
the exhibits and each other, museums can participate in visitors' naturally emerging conversations
and thus, become more inclusive. Some suggestions towards this direction are the following:
Front-end, formative, and summative evaluation can help improve the relevance,
functionality, and effectiveness of the exhibits and their framing on visitors’ meaning-making.
Design to encourage social interaction:
- Design exhibits and provide interpretive text visibly accessible to multiple participants.
- Provide visual links to the objects in the interpretive text. Point out things to notice.
- Challenging information may spark a buzz around the exhibit but visitors first have to
be able to identify the exhibit and locate the artefacts, especially when displayed in a glass-case
among others. Support direct experiences with the exhibits by writing labels that direct attention
to those objects. Do not let your visitors get lost: if you use numbers to address the exhibits,
place them in ascending order. If you use location description, do not allow the density of objects
to trouble them. When addressing an exhibit that displays a number of objects, consider placing
the interpretive text within the case to facilitate visitors in drawing links between the text and the
relevant objects without having to move back and forth.
I would like to express my gratitude to I.K.Y. (Greek State Scholarships Foundation) for their
financial support throughout my studies at UCL. I would also like to thank the three museums
and their staff members for their collaboration as well as the amazing visitors who participated in
my project. I would like to dedicate this article to my mentor, teacher and super-hero, Vassiliki
Vemi, who passed away last December.
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Appendix Transcript Conventions
Capital letters to indicate raised intonation.
Bold letters to indicate verbal exchanges.
(laughs) to indicate laughing.
(.) to indicate a pause less than a second, less than taking a breath.
(0.5) to indicate a pause of 5 seconds.
Numbers in parentheses indicate elapsed time in silence in seconds.
= when utterances are one after the other with no interval in-between them.
(-) to indicate inaudible words.
( ) to place nonverbal behaviours simultaneously occurring.
M male participant.
W female participant.
D female child (up to 18 years old).
S male child (up to 18 years old).
Dimitra Christidou, PhD: Dimitra Christidou holds a PhD in Museum Studies from the
University College of London, UK (2012). Funded by the Greek State Scholarships Foundation
(I.K.Y.) (September 2008 March 2012), her doctoral research sought to explore visitors’ social
interaction by focusing on the sociocultural means they use in order to achieve shared attention
and subsequently, meaning making. Dimitra has worked as a museum educator at the State’s
Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, Greece and had a six month internship at the
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK at the Department of Learning, Interpretation and
The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum
addresses a key issue: In this time of fundamental social
change, what is the role of the museum, both as a
creature of that change, and perhaps also as an agent
of change? The journal brings together academics,
curators, museum and public administrators, cultural
policy makers, and research students to engage in
discussions about the historic character and future
shape of the museum. The fundamental question of
the journal is: How can the institution of the museum
become more inclusive?
In addition to traditional scholarly papers, this journal
invites case studies that take the form of presentations
of museum practice—including documentation of
organizational curatorial and community outreach
practices and exegeses analyzing the effects of those
The International Journal of the Inclusive Muse um is a
peer-reviewed scholarly journal.
ISSN 1835-2014
... Here, both conditions do not exist as Lucy does not react nor respond to Jeremy's visible and audible vectors towards the painting created through gestures and verbal deixis. His performance in front of the painting is not sufficient enough to 'attract Lucy as an audience' (Christidou, 2013). ...
... The pairs' movement, gestures, speech, posture and footing become part of the visitors' repertoire of attentional practices for 'attracting the other as an audience' (Christidou, 2013), facilitating them in the creation of both their "personally edited" and a "socially edited" version of the painting which potentially extends or elaborates the meaning of the painting in ways relevant to the personal and social history of the pairs. During their engagement with the painting, both pairs have arranged themselves in different types of interactional "formations" (e.g. ...
... By foregrounding the means through which visitors mediate their meaning making with others, it also extends previous research adopting sociocultural theories of learning (i.e. Christidou, 2013;Knutson & Crowley, 2010;Morrissey, 2002;Steir, Pierroux, & Krange, 2015). Moreover, understanding the ways in which visitors learn about art on the move and the ways in which they negotiate their attention and time may inform relevant research and further the developments in the design of digital museum applications requiring the collaboration and, thus, the alignment of attention between two or more visitors (i.e. ...
Most visitors arrive at museums and navigate their way through the galleries as part of a group, a constellation requiring them to oscillate their attention between their companions and the curated exhibition. This paper focuses on two examples of videotaped data collected at an art museum in the UK to explore the ways in which visitors achieve joint attention with their companions in front of a painting. The analysis draws on interaction analysis and foregrounds the ways in which pairs of visitors achieve joint attention, especially when there is distance between them and they are not attending the same artwork. The findings contribute to a better understanding of attention as a resource for meaning making in the museum and complement the line of research exploring how visitors negotiate and make meaning in and through social interaction.
... Encountering an object may provoke further sharing of memories and stories and thus, transforming the object into a "social object" an "engine of socially networked experiences, the content around which conversation happens" (Simon 2010, 127). During these socially networked experiences, visitors embody their responses to the exhibits (Hubard 2007;Heath et al. 2002) and the on-going interaction, facilitating in this sense the construction of meaning making while publicly sharing it with those who happen to be at the same place, at the same time (Christidou 2012;2013). ...
... Furthermore, her choice to snap her fingers is seen as an alternative way to call M over while causing the minimum level of noise and hence disturbance and W can thus be viewed as a visitor being sensitive to the social and physical context of her visit. Her design of "attracting" M as "an audience" (Christidou 2012;2013) through the beckoning gestures and the snapping of fingers is considered part of what Goffman calls "body gloss" (Goffman 1971, 129): the bodily behaviours that individuals in interaction perform to signal to others their intentions to participate in or avoid an encounter with the rest sharing the same space. These behaviours are considered part of the embodied repertoire that visitors have that allows them to regulate and negotiate their flow and their on-going encounters with other visitors and the exhibits (Christidou 2015). ...
... Free-choice learning is the term that describes experiences where the learner exercises almost complete control and choice over what and where they are learning (Falk, 2006). As such, one of the most important units of study in research on freechoice learning is that of the individual as they interact within their immediate social group (Christidou, 2013;Crowley at al., 2000;Geerdts, Van de Walle, & LoBue, 2015;Palmquist & Crowley, 2007). As a subset of free-choice learning institutions, free-choice wildlife education settings such as zoos and aquariums are unique in their capacity to provide up-close encounters with animals. ...
... The literature related to the use of digital devices in young children's museum experiences have shown that digital games and virtual reality-connected games are immersive ways for learning and experiencing different environments (Korhonen and Kinanen, 2018;Petrelli et al., 2013). Finally, Christidou (2013) showed that use of camera can be considered an action of a social performance in the museum, as well as a memory tool and a communicational device moving 'from sharing (memory) objects to sharing experiences' (p. 81). ...
Full-text available
The aim of this article is to investigate ways that young children interact with touchscreen devices during museum visits and during the process of making a digital story in their kindergarten classrooms related to these visits. Drawing on children’s communicative embodied museum experiences and the notion of wayfaring and lines of movement, I discuss that digital stories become children’s visual lines of movement in time and place, and that through the process of making a digital story, children become digital wayfarers. Data include pictures, videos, children’s drawings and their digital story. In particular, I argue that this way back to the museum can be seen as children’s visual and digital ways of connecting with, interacting with and inhabiting the museum. This article gives insights on children as creative meaning makers, by looking at children’s perspectives and by exploring children’s visual lines of movement through their digital story.
... Close analysis of the video data collected revealed the complexities of visitors' interactions and highlighted, among others, the heavy use of pointing gestures throughout their process of meaning-making (Christidou, 2013). Two critical communication functions of pointing gestures emerged during the initiation, as well as the elaboration of visitors' interaction: (a) negotiating and identifying visitors' foci of attention, and (b) using these to reinforce and validate their discourse by pointing towards the interpretive text. ...
Conference Paper
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The weak characters of the students become the underlying problem of this study. Therefore, it requires the appropriate technique in building and strengthening students characters especially related to nationalism character. The concept of outdoor learning has been increasingly implemented by most of the schools in Indonesia, including in elementary schools. In an elementary school in Kuningan, Linggarjati museum becomes a historical and interesting place to be visited by the students. This study is aimed at investigating how Linggarjati museum strengthens students' nationalism characters. This study was conducted using a descriptive study. Data sources consist of informants (Museum Head, Museum Manager, Social Studies Teachers, Elementary School Students grade 5), and documents. The data collected through observation and interview. Having analysis qualitatively, the result shows that Linggarjati museum has been utilized as the media in strengthening nationalism characters such as appreciation of the culture and history of the nation, willing to sacrifice, love the country, protect and keep the environment, respect and maintain culture, ethnicity, and religion.
The present study proposes a theoretical investigation concerning the digitization of art works, situated in the frame of the relationship between technology, museum and the contemporary art world. The new technologies of information and communication are changing the social and cultural landscape, bringing under discussion the museum function, that of the museology and of art, as well as its representation in the public sphere. From museum sites to online museums and the more recent virtual tours, the internet proves to be a useful tool for art and museums, trustees, experts, museographers being thus able to envisage new forms of cooperation between the exhibitions creators and the visitors - users. The virtual tour is an interactive tool allowing a 360 degrees view of a museum space or an exhibition, the online collections of the Romanian National Art Museum being an example. Key-words: digitization, art, internet, virtual tours, new technologies of information and communication
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This article argues that museum visiting and the act of ‘spectatorship’, both of which are often assumed to be ocularcentric, are multimodal events. Anchored in Goffman’s dramaturgy and frame analysis theory, as well as Kress’s multimodal and social semiotic theory of representation and communication, this article presents an apposite interpretative and methodological framework to account for what has not been widely addressed by museum studies; that is, the multimodality of the museum experience. By drawing upon audio-visual excerpts of museum encounters, this analysis brings to the fore the embodied visiting and viewing practices of visitors in museum galleries. Specifically, this article highlights the range of modes of communication and representation, beyond gazing and looking, which are employed, negotiated and regulated within the social context of the visit. The article suggests that visitors’ experiences are embodied and performative interactions with the exhibits and other visitors. Key words: embodiment, multimodality, museums, social interaction, visitors
Surprisingly little is known about the processes by which objects in museums come to hold meaning for visitors. Reconceptualizing the museum within a mass media framework in which visitors actively negotiate meaning through talk with their companions, this study explores four questions: 1) What are the kinds of interpretive acts that visitor pairs make in museums? 2) Are there patterns to these responses? How might they vary depending upon museum type and gender configuration of pair? 3) What are the social functions of such talk? 4)What does this suggest about the role of the museum in society? To investigate these issues, the talk of 60 visitor pairs - 15 male-female pairs and 15 female-female pairs at one art and one history museum respectively - was tape-recorded as these pairs viewed a target exhibit at their own pace. Each visitor completed an individual interview and questionnaire afterward. The content of visitor talk was analyzed and a 7-step qualitative procedure utilized to compare and interweave the three types of data. All visitor talk in both museums was found to consist of five major interpretive acts - establishment, absolute object description, relating competence, relating personal experience, and evaluation. Visitor pairs combined and emphasized these acts in seven different ways to form interpretive frames - distinct ways of talking and thinking about objects. These frames further collapsed into three major modes of meaning-making - Objective, Subjective, and Combination. In addition to making meaning of objects, visitors' talk was found to communicate several aspects of their individual and relational identities. The invocation of interpretive frame varied most by relationship type, as represented by gender configuration and amount of time pair members knew each other. In sum, visitor pairs filter their competencies and tendencies through the context of their relationship to produce a shared interpretive approach. The resulting talk constructs and reflects the meaning of objects and of selves operative within the relationship. The museum is concluded to be a modified mass medium, a locus for the negotiation of cultural meaning, particularly identity.
February 19 Poetics; Tracking co-participants; Touched-off topics, Stepwise topical movementMarch 4 Produced similarities in first and second stories; Poetics; ‘Fragile stories,’ etc.March 11 Poetics; Requests, offers, and threats; The ‘old man’ as an evolved natural object
In this study, 178 groups of visitors were interviewed and recorded during their visits to museums. Three clusters of elements were shown to influence learning: the identity of the visitors, their response to the learning environment, and their explanatory engagement during the visit. A structural equation model using these variables fit well. Further examination revealed that not all conversational behavior was supportive of learning; some actions, such as making frequent personal connections, were detrimental to learning; additionally, silent contemplation was modestly associated with learning. This paper discusses these findings through the experiences of four couples whose outcome measures placed them at the extreme high or low end of the learning distribution.