Of meSch and much else

Here is a much overdue blog update…Mainly due to workload and successive deadlines that have kept me busy over the past few months!

A recent highlight is the very successful workshop on “Explorations in Social Interaction Design” at CHI 2013 in Paris, where a very interesting group of participants engaged in quick design exercises focusing on the relationship between physical and tangible interaction and social data and connections. I have also been very busy working on the meSch Project working as a senior researcher here at SHU, an advisor for UL and participating in project meetings and events.

The most recent project activity has been an intensive co-design workshop that took place last week in the Netherlands and was hosted by three of our Dutch partners, the Allard Pierson Museum (University of Amsterdam), Museon and Waag Society, and coordinated by our colleagues at UL IDC. The goal was to focus on possible technological interventions featuring tangible interaction in museums, and on highlight the potential for curators and other heritage stuff to contribute to their design.

We started work on Wednesday with updates from all partners on current activities, followed by a guided tour of Allard Pierson Museum, its curatorial approach and specific interest in the role of technology. Our group was led by the director of the museum, Dr. Wim Hupperetz, who explained the history of the collection and of the exhibition, and their interest in technology and interactive experiences – a challenge for an archaeology museum!

Dr. Wim Hupperetz leading us on a guided tour

Following the tour, all partners working on design explorations presented concepts and prototypes representing design ideas and themes. The session was quite hands-on and was followed on a group exercise where all the prototypes and concepts that were showcased were classified in terms of interaction potential and areas of application.

Examining the demos from the University of Stuttgart

Our second day was dedicated to Museon in The Hague, an educational museum targeted mainly at children and their families with a strong focus on hands-on engagement and interactivity. The museum covers a broad set of topics revolving around the history of the Earth and of mankind, with themed exhibitions on many topics from space exploration, to human rights, and underwater life. Thanks to our hosts, we were also able to visit the museum’s storage – which was easily my favourite part: we got to explore the huge collection housed by Museon and including anything from natural history to “vintage” technology. It was such an interesting experience to see the contrast between the “raw” collection and how artefacts are then selected and used in the context of themed exhibits.

Fritz showing us one of the "bugs" drawers from Museon's storage

The discussion that followed our tour of Museon was aimed at preparing for the last day of the workshop and at addressing the specific concerns of our partner museums

Exercise: Linking content, context and interaction

Our final day saw us back in Amsterdam and hosted by Waag society in their wonderful historic building in the Nieuwmarkt. This final day started with a tour of Fab Lab Amsterdam and then featured a creative design exercise where small groups concentrated on creating a visualising design scenarios for each of the partner museums.

Group design at Waag

We finished the day with viewing the video prototypes created by all groups and with some discussion on how to continue our work on design explorations…Until our next workshop in Trento in October!

By luiciolfi

I am Professor of HCI in the School of Applied Psychology at University College Cork (Ireland). I research the design, use and evaluation of interactive technologies. I am interested in heritage technologies, mobility, collaborative computing, interactive spaces.

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