Spring Quarter is now upon us and with that there is plenty of “spring cleaning” to get done in the Cyberlab prior to the surge of visitors to Newport over the summer months. For a free-choice learning geek like me, this period of data collection will be exciting as I work on my research for my graduate program.
The monitoring and maintenance of the audio and video recording devices continues! Working with this technology is a great opportunity to troubleshoot and consider effective placement around exhibits. I am getting more practice with camera installation and ensuring that data is being recorded and archived on our servers. We are also thinking about how we can rapidly deploy cameras for guest researchers based on their project needs. If other museums, aquariums, or science centers consider a similar method to collect audio and video data, I know we can offer insight as we continue to try things and re-adjust. At this point I don’t take these collection methods for granted! Reading through published visitor research projects, there was consideration for how to minimize the effect of an observer or a large camera recording nearby and how this influenced behavior. Now cameras are smaller and can be mounted in ways that they blend in with the surroundings. This helps us see more natural behaviors as people explore the exhibits. This is important to me because I will be using the audio and video equipment to look for patterns of behavior around the multi-touch interactive tabletop exhibit.
Based on comments from our volunteers, the touchtable has received a lot of attention from visitors. At this time we have a couple different programs installed on the table. One program from Open Exhibits has content about the electromagnetic spectrum where users can drag an image of an object through the different sections of the spectrum, including infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and x-ray, while providing information about each category. Another program is called Valcamonica, which has puzzles and content about prehistoric petroglyphs found in Northern Italy. I am curious as to the conversations people are having around the table and whether they are verbalizing the content they see or how to use the technology. If there are different ages within the group, is someone taking the role as the “expert” on how to use it? Are they modeling and showing others how to navigate through the software? Are visitors also spending time at other exhibits near the table? There are live animal exhibits within 15 feet of the table and are they getting attention? I am thinking about all of these questions as I design my research project that will be conducted this summer. Which means…time to get back to work!