Exploring the challenges of interactive technologies in museum spaces
In recent years, a growing emphasis is placed on the introduction of new technologies in museums and heritage sites which is based on the idea that these technologies can offer many advantages to the overall visitor experience. Thus, a growing amount of literature focuses on the investigation of the potential of different technologies and their advantages (Smithsonian Institution, 2001; Witcomb, 2010; Stogner, 2011; Kounavis et al., 2012; Johnson et al., 2015; Freeman et al., 2016).
Indeed, the application of new technologies in museum spaces offers many advantages to their visitors, which is why their effect has been characterised as ‘catalytic’ (Parry, 2007, p.140). The advantages are multifaceted and it has been argued that ‘the opportunities offered by today’s digital technology are bringing museums even closer to their goals of accessibility inclusion and democratisation of culture’ (MacDevitt, 2018, p.2). In many cases the future of museums has been associated with new technologies, which have also been defined as ‘the catalyst for change in the future of museums’ (Stein, 2018).
Despite the undisputable advantages that new technologies offer in museum environments, however, the use of interactive technologies comes with a set of challenges that should also be discussed. These challenges are somewhat ‘neglected’ by relevant literature and therefore the possible implications and limitations of these technologies remain an under-studied area. Thus, we argue that before discussing or envisioning the future of technology in museums it is imperative to first examine the current challenges so that these can inform our future decisions.
The research presented in this paper is based on a research project currently carried out at the Research Centre on Interactive Media, Smart Systems and Emerging Technologies (RISE), which focuses on the uses of interactive and emerging technologies in museum spaces and on what the future holds for technological applications in museums and heritage sites. More specifically the project investigates current technologies used in museum spaces, explores technology-related problems faced in museum environments and investigates the limitations or challenges that are associated with the use of such technologies in museums. The research also identifies potential gaps that technology can fill in museums. Thus, one of the aims of the project is the identification of key theoretical and practical debates, as well as the creation of specific directions and guidelines for the ideal future technology in museums and for the application of emerging technologies in museum spaces. The produced directions/ guidelines will be addressed to museum professionals and designers and will be based on the actual needs of museum professionals and the potential challenges they have identified.
As such this paper focuses on the exploration of some of the challenges of the interactive technologies currently used in museum spaces and concludes with some suggestions on how these challenges can be addressed as we move forward.
Nicosia Unconference Proceedings_Shehade and Stylianou Lambert_2019.pdf