Dr. Patricia Gillard
User Insite Pty Ltd
Keywords: exhibitions, digitising, communities
Topics of interest: Testing the Quester: new research about the interpretations of online visitors and the contents they require
The following paper will include a demonstartion of examples such as pictureaustralia.org, where visitor research has led to new navigation and interpretation. The presenter will conduct a brief User Insite workshop, and give results of Quester Testing, to give a sense of the novel information they reveal, and where the results might lead.
Description of the paper: Current thinking and online creative work for cultural institutions define visitors as central to the activity of interpretation and communication.. Curiously, the ways of conceptualizing visitors, and researching them, are mostly based on marketing or education concepts from mass media or cognitive research. We speak of Ītargetingā messages or of Īretainingā knowledge and information. User Insite, a communications and user research consultancy has invented new technologies, based on audience ethnography, which closely describe the meanings and interpretations of difference audiences and cultural groups. These are presented in relation to the contents and exhibitions which cultural institutionscreate, as part of their mission. Research which directly studies and documents audience engagement with contents makes it possible to test the mission of cultural institutions in relation to the audiences it serves. For cultural websites and online exhibitions it is especially important to identify major user groups and their uses of content.
Websites represent a new medium that can be customised to the purposes that are most meaningful to particular visitor groups. At present, websites are hardly being used as they could be, to extend visitor experiences on site and to convey additional research material before, after or instead of actual visits. Full use of this new medium by cultural institutions awaits a transformation in understanding of visitor activity, and practical research methods which reveal the major kinds of visitor engagements. User Insite has been doing this work for two years.
The paper will describe the conceptual basis of our work, centred on the concept of the 'quester'. Examples of websites will be shown, such as Pictureaustralia.org, launched by the National Library of Australia in September 2000, to which User Insite made a major contribution. User research which is based on dynamic and interactive notions of audience engagement is essential for cultural institutions if they are to understand what visitors gain from their online interpretation work.
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