Members of the Cyberlab were busy this week. We set up the multi touch table and touch wall in the Visitors Center and hosted Kate Haley Goldman as a guest researcher. In preparation for her visit, there were modifications to camera and table placement, tinkering with microphones, and testing the data collection pieces by looking at the video playback. It was a great opportunity to evaluate our lab setup for other incoming researchers and their data collection needs, and to try things live with the technology of Ideum!
Kate traveled from Washington D.C. to collect data on the interactive content by Open Exhibits displayed on our table. As the Principal of Audience Viewpoints, Kate conducts research on audiences and learning in museums and informal learning centers. She is investigating the use of multi touch technology in these settings, and we are thankful for her insight as we implement this exhibit format at Hatfield Marine Science Center.
Watching the video playback of visitor interactions with Kate was fascinating. We discussed flow patterns around the room based on table placement. We looked at the amount of stay time at the table depending on program content. As the day progressed, more questions came up. How long were visitors staying at the other exhibits, which have live animals, versus the table placed nearby? While they were moving about the room, would visitors return to the table multiple times? What were the demographics of the users? Were they bringing their social group with them? What were the users talking about? Was it the technology itself or the content on the table? Was the technology intuitive to use?
I felt the thrill of the research process this weekend. It was a wonderful opportunity to “observe the observer” and witness Kate in action. I enjoyed seeing visitor use of the table and thinking about the interactions between humans and technology. How effective is it to present science concepts in this format and are users learning something? I will reflect on this experience as I design my research project around science learning and the use of multi touch technology in an informal learning environment such as Hatfield Marine Science Center.