Despite our fancy technology, there are some pieces of data we have to gather the old-fashioned way: by asking visitors. One piece we’d like to know is why visitors chose to visit on this particular occasion. We’re building off of John Falk’s museum visitor motivation and identity work, which began with a survey that asks visitors to rate a series of statements on Likert (1-5) scales as to how applicable they are for them that day, and reveals a rather small set of motives driving the majority of visits. We also have used this framework in a study of three of our local informal science education venues, finding that an abbreviated version works equally well to determine which (if any) of these motivations drives visitors. The latest version, tried at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, uses photos along with the abbreviated number of statements for the visitors to identify their visit motivations.
We’re implementing a version on an iPad kiosk in the VC for a couple of reasons: first, we genuinely want to know why folks are visiting, and want to be able to correlate identity motivations with the automated behavior, timing, and tracking data we collect from the cameras. Second, we hope people will stop long enough for us to get a good reference photo for the facial recognition system. Sneaky, perhaps, but it’s not the only place we’re trying to position cameras for good reference shots. And if all goes well with our signage, visitors will be more aware than ever that we’re doing research, and that it is ultimately aimed at improving their experience. Hopefully that awareness will allay most of the final fears about the embedded research tools that we are hoping will be minimal to start with.