As I wind down the first year of my Master’s program, I have had a chance to reflect on the different accomplishments achieved within the Cyberlab, the classroom, and professionally. I have had the chance to wear many hats beyond the typical “grad student” role. For example, I have been a server administrator, sound engineer, exhibit maintenance support, logistics manager, and lab ambassador…to name a few. So many different opportunities have led to new learning experiences that I had not anticipated. As there is no manual for setting up a “Cyberlab,” I feel I have so much more insight now to share with other groups that may attempt this in their institution for learning research.
As of this week, 30 cameras have been installed around multiple exhibits to capture interactions and movement. We now have great views of the octopus tank, the touch pools, wave tanks, the touchtable, touchwall, and Magic Planet. The image included in this post is an example of one such view in our Rhythms Room. Several cameras can be used to monitor the traffic flow and patterns as visitors circulate the center. Our BlackFly and Flea (facial recognition) cameras recently came in, which creates unique issues with mounting these small pieces of technology. We have enlisted the support of an engineer with access to a 3-D printer that can be used to custom build to our needs. We hope to have these cameras installed within the next few weeks to begin testing the facial recognition capabilities. More progress with each passing day.
One of the Cyberlab cameras captures the Rhythms Room at Hatfield Marine Science Center.
Today I am heading to St. Paul, Minnesota, for the Science on a Sphere workshop at the Minnesota Science Museum. As we have the Magic Planet exhibit (pictured above), a globe that displays different visualizations of environmental processes, this will be a chance to connect with other institutions that have this form of exhibit in a public space and talk about use and the direction of this technology. I am excited for the chance to help represent the Cyberlab and showcase what is in place at Hatfield Marine Science Center to support other researchers around the country and world. Hopefully we will meet some potential collaborators and new Cyberscholars. I am also looking forward to visiting a science museum I have not been to before. My perspective of the museum has changed, meaning that I often take a step back to analyze the exhibit and the interactions taking place around it. I need to remind myself to also be a “visitor” as I will be wearing my researcher “hat” plenty this summer!
This summer my research will start on visitor use of the touchtable. I have been looking for content that is relevant and engaging beyond sorting or scanning through a collection of images. Many of the programs utilize these tasks and I am seeking something a bit more robust. Finding software that is coded in a way that will run on an oversized “tablet” and apply to a public informal learning environment seems to be a unique combination.
Being new to the world of communicating science via exhibits, there is a lot to learn about the integration of physical, personal, and sociocultural dimensions within an informal learning environment. If we are using technology as a medium for an exhibit, what can make it an engaging exhibit beyond the table itself? Research on visitor interaction with exhibits has advanced immensely in recent decades. One of the first papers I read in this area was Bitgood’s 1987 article on “Principles of Exhibit Design” in Visitor Behavior. Bitgood outlines aspects of exhibit design that influence viewing time. Some of these factors involve appealing to the senses or by using motion, where the object is placed, or how “real” it looks, and whether it facilitates personal meaning and social interaction between visitors. This last concept is particularly relevant to the touchtable as that it allows for multiple users at once, but if crowding occurs, that may influence the overall visitor experience. It is a fine balance!
So putting my software design cap on and thinking aloud for a moment… If I had access to a program I could install on the touchtable today, it would be formatted in a way that the public could interact with data to generate models or create visuals. For example, giving access to a dataset that can be manipulated and then transformed into something visually meaningful to the visitor. What might this look like? It might be a graph or some other creative means to represent their interpretation of the data. At OSU, there are so many different forms of data coming out of Hatfield alone, how might we allow a visitor the chance to make meaning from it? If there was a way for them to share this interpretation, how might it compare with what other visitors have created? Hmmm, I could be creating a future project for myself…I will continue to play detective as I search out what is useful for our environment at this time and for my project. Curious to hear what others might have to say about science “apps” or educational software for the museum setting. Feel free to share!
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!
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.
My name is Zach and I’m a graphic designer working at the Hatfield Science Center. I handle all kinds of work that needs to be done for exhibits, posters and signage for the center. Its a new field for graphic designers and I’m very excited to be a part of it.
My work with the Tsunami exhibit started with a need to build some posters to explain the content and material the exhibit was focused on. That remains the primary focus of my work, but the idea of the exhibit has changed to that of a whole experience and how to adequately handle the volume of people that move through the exhibit, making it easier to understand, easy to follow and easy to interact with the various activities. All of this goes into how I design the visual material. Its like telling a story and having all the material presented in a way that the viewer can follow through and learn systematically. I also really enjoy working on changes to signs because observations are giving the organizers feedback as to how people are interacting with the signage, allowing me to design them better.
It has been a unique experience for me and one that is not just limited to making decisions on a poster as a stand alone unit. My design work has to fit into a bigger and broader picture and I learn quite a bit about how people respond to design and signage through the observations, which influences my design decisions.
Did you know?
…In the deep open ocean, tsunami waves can travel at speeds approaching a jetliner (500 mph)?
…The States in the U.S at greatest risks for tsunamis are Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California
These are some of the interesting information pieces we have been working with in our signage work for the wave lab exhibit. It is such hard work and require great interpretive skills to decide what bits of info to include in what signage piece and how to keep it all cohesive, attractive, while still conveying the overall message of the exhibit. In this case, the message is that “waves affect human life in a variety of ways”.
Then we brake into three sub themes to explore the topics of beach erosion, coastal living/tsunami challenge, and wave energy. Before she left to her new job in California, Laura Good had been working on the overarching themes and sub themes, while designing signage pieces meant to represent those themes. She came up with this construction zone idea to tie all three spaces together as belonging to the same exhibit. Below are some photos showing some of these area signage pieces as they have materialized. Note the yellow bar with black stripes symbolizing the construction zone.
Lego Table Sign Caution wet floor sign Beach Erosion Warning Sign Coming together
Keep in mind this is a work in progress and in prototype phase. I will keep post on the wave lab as we progress. Wait until you see the big banner being designed to go in the back blue wall for prototype next week. It is all coming together, although not at the speed of a jetliner :).