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‘See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Hear Me’: Trajectories and Interpretation in a Sculpture Garden

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‘See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Hear Me’: Trajectories and Interpretation in a Sculpture Garden Lesley Fosh 1 , Steve Benford 2 , Stuart Reeves 2 , Boriana Koleva 2 , Patrick Brundell 2 University of Nottingham Nottingham, UK 1 [email protected], 2 [firstname.lastname]@nottingham.ac.uk ABSTRACT We apply the HCI concept of trajectories to the design of a sculpture trail. We crafted a trajectory through each sculpture, combining textual and audio instructions to drive directed viewing, movement and touching while listening to accompanying music. We designed key transitions along the way to oscillate between moments of social interaction and isolated personal engagement, and to deliver official interpretation only after visitors had been given the opportunity to make their own. We describe how visitors generally followed our trajectory, engaging with sculptures and making interpretations that sometimes challenged the received interpretation. We relate our findings to discussions of sense-making and design for multiple interpretations, concluding that curators and designers may benefit from considering „trajectories of interpretation‟. Author Keywords Galleries; museums; trajectories; interpretation; art; sculpture; collaboration; audio; instructions. ACM Classification Keywords H.5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI). INTRODUCTION A „Holy Grailfor galleries and museums is to create a deep personal engagement with exhibits that leads visitors into making interpretations. This is challenging for a combination of deeply-rooted reasons. First, many public visitors are not able to easily make interpretations, lacking either specific knowledge or a general training in how to interpret art works or historical artefacts. Indeed, this is one reason why cultural institutions suggest interpretations through labels, catalogues and interactive technologies. Second, visitors may find it difficult to instantaneously switch into a mode of deep engagement with an exhibit. While films and books are able to engage a viewer or reader over considerable time, a museum exhibit has only a few seconds in which to attract attention and frame engagement. Finally, even when visitors do engage, numerous distractions may interfere, notably the presence of other visitors and the demands of group members. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, galleries and museums have proved fertile ground for HCI research. Much of this has focussed on the design of new interactive technologies including mobile guides, especially those exploiting location-based services [1, 2] and augmented reality [23], tangible and tabletop technologies [12], and also more unusual bespoke interactive artworks [8, 14]. There have also been numerous studies of visitor behaviour in both HCI and museum studies, covering issues such as dwell times [20], categorising visitor behaviour [21] and collaborative interaction [13, 14, 24]. In spite of this extensive body of work, the fundamental challenge remains it is notoriously difficult to create a deep engagement between visitors and exhibits. In this paper we explore whether a recent idea to emerge from HCI that of „trajectories‟ – might offer a solution. The notion of „interactive trajectories‟ emerged from studies of collaborative behaviour in galleries and museums in which visitorsinteractions were seen to shape those of subsequent visitors. These studies inspired a series of trajectory-related concepts including principles for the design of spectator interfaces [17], chaining public displays [15], and a general framework for designing extended cultural experiences in terms of canonical, participant and historic trajectories [4, 5]. To date, these concepts have been used to compare existing experiences or to analyse data from studies [10], with a focus on interactive performances [3]. They have not, as yet, been proactively applied to the design of new experiences, reflecting a wider challenge for HCI of putting theory into practice [18]. In response, we describe an attempt to directly apply the concept of trajectories to the design of a visiting experience from the outset. The experience in this case is visiting a sculpture garden. We describe how we designed a global trajectory through the garden, as well as detailed local interactional trajectories through each sculpture, weaving together instructions, music and interpretation in an attempt to frame moments of deep personal engagement. We describe how pairs of visitors experienced this trajectory, very often following it, but not without some interesting tensions. We conclude by affirming how existing trajectory concepts were helpful in designing the visiting experience, describing our own contributions to the theory, and introduce the broader idea of designing „trajectories through interpretation‟. Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. CHI 2013, April 27May 2, 2013, Paris, France. Copyright © 2013 ACM 978-1-4503-1899-0/13/04...$15.00.
Transcript

‘See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Hear Me’:

Trajectories and Interpretation in a Sculpture Garden

Lesley Fosh1, Steve Benford

2, Stuart Reeves

2, Boriana Koleva

2, Patrick Brundell

2

University of Nottingham

Nottingham, UK [email protected],

2[firstname.lastname]@nottingham.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

We apply the HCI concept of trajectories to the design of a

sculpture trail. We crafted a trajectory through each

sculpture, combining textual and audio instructions to drive

directed viewing, movement and touching while listening

to accompanying music. We designed key transitions along

the way to oscillate between moments of social interaction

and isolated personal engagement, and to deliver official

interpretation only after visitors had been given the

opportunity to make their own. We describe how visitors generally followed our trajectory, engaging with sculptures

and making interpretations that sometimes challenged the

received interpretation. We relate our findings to

discussions of sense-making and design for multiple

interpretations, concluding that curators and designers may

benefit from considering „trajectories of interpretation‟.

Author Keywords

Galleries; museums; trajectories; interpretation; art;

sculpture; collaboration; audio; instructions.

ACM Classification Keywords

H.5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI).

INTRODUCTION A „Holy Grail‟ for galleries and museums is to create a

deep personal engagement with exhibits that leads visitors

into making interpretations. This is challenging for a

combination of deeply-rooted reasons. First, many public visitors are not able to easily make interpretations, lacking

either specific knowledge or a general training in how to

interpret art works or historical artefacts. Indeed, this is one

reason why cultural institutions suggest interpretations

through labels, catalogues and interactive technologies.

Second, visitors may find it difficult to instantaneously

switch into a mode of deep engagement with an exhibit.

While films and books are able to engage a viewer or

reader over considerable time, a museum exhibit has only a

few seconds in which to attract attention and frame

engagement. Finally, even when visitors do engage,

numerous distractions may interfere, notably the presence

of other visitors and the demands of group members.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, galleries and museums have

proved fertile ground for HCI research. Much of this has

focussed on the design of new interactive technologies including mobile guides, especially those exploiting

location-based services [1, 2] and augmented reality [23],

tangible and tabletop technologies [12], and also more

unusual bespoke interactive artworks [8, 14]. There have

also been numerous studies of visitor behaviour in both

HCI and museum studies, covering issues such as dwell

times [20], categorising visitor behaviour [21] and

collaborative interaction [13, 14, 24]. In spite of this

extensive body of work, the fundamental challenge remains

– it is notoriously difficult to create a deep engagement

between visitors and exhibits.

In this paper we explore whether a recent idea to emerge

from HCI – that of „trajectories‟ – might offer a solution.

The notion of „interactive trajectories‟ emerged from

studies of collaborative behaviour in galleries and museums

in which visitors‟ interactions were seen to shape those of

subsequent visitors. These studies inspired a series of

trajectory-related concepts including principles for the

design of spectator interfaces [17], chaining public displays

[15], and a general framework for designing extended

cultural experiences in terms of canonical, participant and

historic trajectories [4, 5]. To date, these concepts have

been used to compare existing experiences or to analyse data from studies [10], with a focus on interactive

performances [3]. They have not, as yet, been proactively

applied to the design of new experiences, reflecting a wider

challenge for HCI of putting theory into practice [18].

In response, we describe an attempt to directly apply the

concept of trajectories to the design of a visiting experience from the outset. The experience in this case is visiting a

sculpture garden. We describe how we designed a global

trajectory through the garden, as well as detailed local

interactional trajectories through each sculpture, weaving

together instructions, music and interpretation in an attempt

to frame moments of deep personal engagement. We

describe how pairs of visitors experienced this trajectory,

very often following it, but not without some interesting

tensions. We conclude by affirming how existing trajectory

concepts were helpful in designing the visiting experience,

describing our own contributions to the theory, and

introduce the broader idea of designing „trajectories

through interpretation‟.

Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for

personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are

not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies

bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise,

or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior

specific permission and/or a fee.

CHI 2013, April 27–May 2, 2013, Paris, France.

Copyright © 2013 ACM 978-1-4503-1899-0/13/04...$15.00.

DESIGN OF THE SCULPTURE GARDEN EXPERIENCE

The setting for our experience is Rufford Abbey, a historic

country house whose extensive grounds include the

sculpture garden that is the focus of our design. It attracts a

wide population of visitors, from elderly couples to family

and school groups, and from those interested in art, to those who have come to enjoy the countryside. The sculpture

garden is home to over 25 works that have been collected

and commissioned over a 30 year period. These vary in

form, structure and materials (stone, metals, ceramic, etc.).

The sculptures are arranged along a path with relatively

little additional interpretation; three are accompanied by a

plaque giving the name of the sculpture, the artist, and a

short thematic description, while the remainder stand

unadorned. This provided us with a „blank canvas‟ against

which to explore how to enhance engagement and

interpretation. While no formal observations studies were

carried out into how visitors experienced the sculpture

garden without our intervention, our initial observations

were that visitors tended to walk around in groups,

sometimes stopped to look at sculptures, but did not on the

whole engage very deeply or for very long, touch

sculptures or otherwise engage physically with them.

Our overall process was to commission a sound designer

and a performance poet to help us compose an extended visiting experience. The sound designer chose a specific

piece of music for each of the nine sculptures we had

selected from the garden. The performance artist then

designed a series of performative interactions to match each

sculpture and music track, encouraging visitors to engage

by standing or moving in certain ways, adopting unusual

viewpoints, or touching the sculptures. The net result was

an unusual experience in which visitors were invited to

engage with a series of sculptures alongside other artists‟

responses to – or interpretations of – them. The experience

was designed to be used by groups of visitors who are

visiting the sculpture garden together, interacting with both

the sculptures and each other. The whole experience

evolved over several months of iterative design and testing.

Our approach was to work with the idea of trajectories from

the very outset, broadly following the framework of

concepts set out in [4, 5]. To quickly recap these: cultural

user experiences may extend over multiple and hybrid

spaces, timescales, roles and interfaces and can be expressed using three types of trajectory. The designer‟s

plan for the experience is expressed by one or more

canonical trajectories which pass through key transitions

including beginnings, endings, role and interface

transitions, access to physical resources, episodes, and

seams in the underlying infrastructure. Participant

trajectories express what each participant actually does and

the designer needs to consider how these may diverge and

reconverge with canonical trajectories, but also how they

interleave through encounters, moments of isolation and

pacing. Finally, historic trajectories provide opportunities

to reflect on and recount experiences. We now consider

how these various concepts informed our design.

Designing the canonical trajectory

We first set about designing our canonical trajectory

through the experience. This involved thinking at two

levels of scale: establishing a global trajectory through the

garden based on a sequence of episodes involving

individual sculptures, and designing local trajectories that would enhance engagement with each individual sculpture.

At the global level, a visitor can choose to experience up to

nine sculptures, presented as a list on a smartphone

interface. We arranged the list to reflect the order in which

the sculptures would naturally be encountered when

following the highly visible path that runs through the

garden. We anticipated that visitors would most likely

follow this existing canonical trajectory, though they were

free to diverge and visit the sculptures in any order they

wished. Key to our design was the structure of local

trajectories into and through each sculpture. We divided

these into five stages – approach, engage, experience,

disengage and reflect – as shown in Figure 1, with each

requiring us to consider key transitions.

Approach

The approach phase describes the journey from choosing a

4sculpture, finding it in the garden, to standing in front of

it. This is supported by a series of textual instructions

delivered on the smartphone. The initial list gives the name

of each sculpture along with two words that suggest the

kind of experience that is to follow, so as to provide a

gentle framing. We used the set of words: “contemplate”,

“look”, “imagine”, “interact”, “pretend”, “touch”, “move”,

“pose” and “think”. On selecting a sculpture the visitor

learns its title, the sculptor‟s name, the material, a one

sentence history, and also a clue as to where to find it.

We considered the key transition of seams, gaps and

inaccuracies in the underlying infrastructure of positioning

and communications systems. Early testing revealed that

the seams in GPS would cause glitches in the experience.

However, we also realised that visitors should be able to

find the sculptures for themselves from just an image and a

clue given their distinctive form, the constrained nature of

the garden and the visible path. We therefore dropped GPS

(or indeed any other automated positioning service) in favour of simply showing visitors an image of the sculpture

and asking them to manually confirm when they had found

it. The approach therefore ends when the visitor stands in

front of a chosen sculpture and presses “I am here”.

Engage

They now enter the engage phase that aims to prepare them

for a deep and personal engagement with the sculpture. The

first step involves a further key transition, that of putting on

an interface. The visitor is given the text instruction: “when

you are ready to start the experience, put on your

headphones and press OK”. The donning of headphones is

intended to signal a shift of focus, isolating the visitor from

the outside world. They now hear a series of audio

instructions that have been written and recorded by our

performance poet and that ask the visitor to undertake a

particular action while at the sculpture.

Figure 1. Design of the local trajectory through each sculpture

Table 1. Musical accompaniment and instruction chosen for each sculpture

These instructions were designed to encourage the visitor to

access the physical resource of the sculpture in a

distinctive way, adopting specific viewpoints, moving in

particular ways, and reaching out and touching. A key part

of this transition involved presenting the instructions as

audio in order to disengage the visitor from the screen,

reengage them with our poet‟s performative voice, and

enable them to gracefully fade into the subsequent music.

The audio track began with an opening introduction

designed to set the tone for subsequent instructions: “Hello,

my name is Francesca Beard. I‟m a poet, and I‟ll be your

guide on this tour of the sculpture garden …”

Sculpture Musical accompaniment Physical action

1 The Hand

Music For a Found Harmonium by

Penguin Cafe Orchestra

There are words written on this sculpture. How many will

you read today? What story do they tell you?

2 Highs and Lows

Three Divertimenti Waltz by Benjamin Britten

Rest your eyes on the bottom of this metallic structure. Now

let your mind weave in and out of the passages, along and in

between the branches. Where do you end up?

3 Golden Delicious

Noah‟s Ark by CocoRosie This man has brought you an apple. Why don‟t you take it

and put it in your pocket? Or maybe you would like to eat it?

4 Two Vessels

Sonata V by John Cage Take your hands and move them down the pillar to feel the

texture. How did it get like that?

5 Young Girl

Girl by PJ Harvey Why don‟t you take a closer look at this girl? Who is she? What does she look like?

6

Chimney Stacks

and Iron Bridge

Archway

Allegro Maestoso (Water Music Suite

2) by George Frideric Handel

Is anyone around? Why don‟t you hold your head high and

march through the arches? There are many different paths,

but which one will you choose?

7 Fruit Gatherers

Heartbeat Drum Song by Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble

Choose a place in the group and stand there, still as a statue.

Who are the others in your group? What is your story?

8 The Shrine at

Nemi

Dovehouse Pavan by Alfonso

Ferrabusco

Diana might be watching you, but climb up the steps and

peer into the tiny temple. What do you see?

9 Pine Cube

Mentiras by John Zorn Why don‟t you take a seat? If you close your eyes, count to

ten and then open them, have the shapes moved?

Experience

The experience stage begins as the voice fades out and the

selected music track fades in. At this point, we expect the

visitor to carry out the suggested action. Table 1

summarises the musical accompaniment and action chosen

for each sculpture (numbered 1-9 in the order they would be encountered along the path), while the following

paragraphs outline the rationale behind these choices.

Physical actions

We designed a range of actions so as to sustain novelty and

surprise at each new episode of interaction. It was

important that each action was meaningful in the context of

its particular sculpture, encouraging an unusual but relevant

form of engagement. For example, the sculpture Pine Cube

is surrounded by benches, so it seemed natural to ask

people to sit here, while Two Vessels had an interesting

texture that begged to be touched. Some sculptures did not

suggest such obvious physical interactions, leading us to

suggest more figurative instructions that stimulated the

imagination. Thus, instructions might ask visitors to look

closely at particular parts of a sculpture, answer questions, imagine stories, or undertake physical actions such as

sitting, standing or climbing, marching or stroking.

Drawing on our performance poet‟s experience of leading

improvisation workshops, we decided that the wording of

the instructions should be gently persuasive rather than

prescriptive, using opening phrases such as “Why don‟t

you...” rather than simply telling the visitor what to do. We

expanded upon the basic instruction to set the mood for the

engagement and to encourage the visitor to reflect. For

example, at The Hand, the instruction reads, “There are

words written on this sculpture. How many will you read

today? What story do they tell you?” The frequent use of

„you‟ was intended to personally engage the visitor.

Music

The selection of music was designed to reflect the actions

at a sculpture while gently reinforcing its themes and

materials. Our sound artist listed keywords for each

sculpture, drew up a shortlist of songs, and then listened to these while viewing the sculpture in situ. Tracks that

worked especially well were those that evoked a strong

mood or mirrored visual form. The final selection ranges

across genres, mixing pop and classical. Almost all tracks

were instrumental, and the few vocals that were present

were very much in the background, as it was felt that lyrics

would distract the visitor from the sculpture. By way of

example, the steel sculpture The Hand was assessed by

studying the sculpture and reading background information,

revealing the key themes of communication, inclusivity and

positivity with respect to disabled children. Music for a

Found Harmonium by Penguin Café Orchestra was chosen

as its rhythm, tempo and simple structure were deemed to

match the sculpture‟s busy form while the upbeat melody

fitted with its themes.

Disengage

Each musical accompaniment was edited to play for up to

one and a half minutes before fading out, at which point we

anticipated that the visitor would disengage. We had

discussed enabling the visitor to control the timing of the

track for themselves, ending it when ready or even allowing the full track to play on. However, we eventually decided

against any design features that would invite the visitor to

look at or interact with the smartphone while engaged with

the sculpture. Fading the music before its normal end might

also leave a sense of something being unfinished, a hanging

question that invites closure. The visitor is then asked to

remove the headphones, a key transition in reengaging with

the surrounding world.

Reflect

Building on the concept of the historic trajectory, a key

feature of our design was the idea to give the official

interpretation of a sculpture only after encountering it. Our

intention was to invite visitors to make their own

interpretations (encouraged by the physical actions and the

music) before explaining ours. We extracted key material about each sculpture from the official visitor centre website

and combined those with information about the musical

accompaniment (including why it has been selected) to

produce a single screen of official interpretation that was

presented to the visitor shortly after they had been asked to

remove the headphones and that they could digest while

walking away from the sculpture.

Interleaving trajectories

The trajectories conceptual framework emphasizes the

importance of considering how different participants‟

trajectories may overlap and the need to explicitly design in

moments of isolation as well as encounter. In response, the

above trajectory was designed to consciously switch the

visitor from being engaged with their partner while moving

between sculptures, to being „isolated‟ from them when

experiencing a sculpture. The use of text instructions during the approach and reflect stage allows for talking,

while additional information during the reflect stage was

intended to stimulate discussion. In contrast, donning

headphones was intended to isolate visitors from social

interaction while at the sculpture, and the relatively unusual

physical actions were designed to signal to others that the

visitor was engaged in a special activity and so should not

be interrupted. The problems of using headphones in group

visiting have been discussed in previous literature, and

novel solutions have been proposed such as group members

being able to eavesdrop on others‟ audio guides [2]. Our

solution here is to employ them to create and mark a key

transition between isolation and encounter. Our aim was

not to make the visit any less (or indeed more) social, but

rather to achieve a more balanced and productive

separation between moments of contemplative reflection

and of rich discussion between partners.

STUDYING THE SCULPTURE GARDEN EXPERIENCE

While we have described the intended trajectory through

the experience, we now consider how visitors actually

experienced it, and how it shaped their experience.

We studied our experience being used at the sculpture

garden over a period of two weeks. The application was

uploaded onto two Apple iPhone 3GS smartphones that

were given out to (mostly) pairs of visitors. Overall, 29 people took part in the study, 26 in pairs and 3 lone visitors

who were enthusiastic to try the technology while their

partners preferred to experience the sculptures in the

traditional way. Of these 29, 17 were female; 12 were

male; 4 were aged 16 – 25; 12 were aged 26 – 40; and 13

were older than 40. 17 visitors were recruited by being

approached at the site while a further 12 were recruited

beforehand through a network of people interested in

interactive cultural experiences.

Once recruited, visitors were asked to sign a consent form,

given a mobile device each and a set of over-ear

headphones, before being introduced to the system,

including how to operate the touch-screen and use the

volume controls. Visitors were then told to commence their

visit when they were ready, using the guide. They were

informed that while only a subset of sculptures had content

loaded onto the guide they were free to explore the entire

set of sculptures. Visitors spent between 20 minutes and an

hour on the experience.

We used video to record visitors‟ interactions from a

distance, capturing an overview of their physical actions but without interfering with the experience. When visitors

had finished touring the sculpture garden they were

interviewed in pairs. The interview followed a semi-

structured format, covering their experience of the

instructions; physical actions; musical accompaniments; the

information they received; and their interactions with

partners. They were also asked how their experience of

using the system compared to their usual visiting habits and

were given opportunities to offer views on topics of their

own choosing.

In the following, we report our findings under three themes:

Did visitors follow our trajectory? How did they engage

with individual sculptures? And how did this lead them into

making interpretations?

Following the trajectory

In general, the technology worked very reliably and visitors

quickly picked up how to use it and understood what they were supposed to be doing. Figure 2 provides a summary

overview of the extent to which visitors followed our

trajectory and engaged with the sculptures. Each row

represents an individual visitor (with pairings highlighted),

while each column represents a given sculpture (numbered

as in Table 1). Each cell is coloured with an estimation

(from reviewing the videos) of the extent to which this

visitor followed the instructions at this sculpture. Red

shows when they did not appear to follow the instructions

at all, standing at a distance, looking away or making no

attempt to act in the prescribed way. Orange represents

partially following the instruction, clearly making an

attempt, but one that was hesitant, for example only briefly

touching a sculpture. Yellow shows cases of closely

following an instruction over an extended time, for

example completing a prescribed sequence of movements

or continuing to touch for the duration of the music. Grey-

shaded cells show where a visitor missed out this sculpture

altogether; asterisks show sculptures that were visited out of sequence (i.e. not in the canonical order); and musical

notes show where the music was replayed.

Figure 2. Table showing visitor behaviour at sculptures

Our table reveals that the large majority of visitors

followed the global trajectory, completing all nine

sculptures, and mostly in the canonical order (only one pair

stopped before the end, two pairs missed out the second sculpture, and the occasional reversals of order in the

middle of sequence). We see just a few examples of

repeating the music; this always involved just one partner

in a pair and was carried out immediately. In two cases the

action was also repeated, once when one play of the music

was not enough to fully complete the action (Chimney

Stacks) and once to repeat the action from a different

viewpoint (Fruit Gatherers).

There is also evidence that many people followed our local

trajectories through sculptures. It was the case in all of the

examples that visitors listened through to the end of the

music before disengaging. Moreover the rough coding of

physical actions in the table suggests that people very often

attempted to carry out the instructions to some degree, and

appeared to closely follow them more than half of the time.

Sculpture 3 (Golden Delicious) was perhaps the most problematic in terms of visible engagement, and it is

notable that this calls on the imagination by demanding an

impossible physical action.

Pairs mostly stayed together throughout the visit, attending

to the same sculptures at the same time and walking

together between sculptures. They often attempted to

coordinate putting on their headphones and triggering the

audio instructions and music, usually when they had

arrived at a sculpture, but sometimes as they approached.

We did not see any visitors deliberately starting the audio

separately, for example, taking turns. Pairs also tended to

wait for each other to finish before moving on to the next

sculpture. Pair 6 was the only one to separate during the

experience (visiting different statues) and they varied

greatly in their responses. Pair 11 was unusual in that they

were the only couple who discussed and shared the

decision about how to respond before physically engaging.

A small number of visitors kept their headphones on

throughout the experience, which caused uncertainty for

their partners.

In short, the initial impression from video observations is that visitors followed our trajectories to a first

approximation. The next question is what did this involve

in detail, specifically how did the trajectory shape their

engagement with the sculptures?

Engaging with sculptures We now consider how our trajectory led visitors to engage

with the sculptures: how they performed the physical

actions, and how they coordinated this as pairs.

Performing physical actions

We noted above that visitors most often made an attempt to

follow the instructions for physical action. However, the

fine details of what this meant and how they felt about it

varied considerably. For example, at Fruit Gatherers,

visitors were asked to “Find a place in the group and stand there, still as a statue”. Responses ranged from standing

still near the sculpture for only a few seconds, to standing

visibly still among the figures for the duration of the music.

Instructions that directed visitors‟ attention to detailed

features and information were very often followed, for

example at The Hand (“There are words written on this

sculpture. How many will you read today?”) and at The

Shrine at Nemi (“Climb the steps and peer into this tiny

temple”). At these sculptures, visitors tended to begin the

audio while standing back from the sculpture, on the path.

Upon hearing the instruction, they would begin moving to

see the parts of the sculpture that had been pointed out. For

example, having approached The Hand and positioned

themselves in front of it, the two visitors in Figure 3 hear

the instruction and then physically move around the

sculpture to read the text written around its sides. This level

of compliance at The Hand was seen by 23 of the 29

participants, as shown in Figure 2.

Instructions that required a slightly higher level of physical

engagement, such as touching a sculpture or adopting a

pose, were often followed. Upon hearing an instruction, most visitors did not hesitate before carrying it out and

remained physically engaged throughout the music. For

example, at Two Vessels (“Take your hands and move them

down the pillar to feel the texture”) visitors would typically

hear the instruction, approach the sculpture to begin feeling

it, and remain at the sculpture, touching it and looking at it,

until the music had faded. This level of compliance at Two

Vessels was displayed by 22 out of the 29 visitors (as

shown in Figure 2). Most visitors welcomed being given

license to touch the sculptures: “I especially liked ones

where it was like „touch it‟, because I always want to touch

sculptures and I‟m never sure if you‟re really meant to”.

Indeed, we observed that once instructed to touch one

sculpture, visitors became more tactile with subsequent

sculptures. However, some remained nervous at breaking

what is seen as a taboo behaviour: “I‟m very conscious of

walking through art when you‟re not allowed to touch ... the very first one it said „what does it feel like?‟ and I just

thought, I can‟t touch it, surely?”

Figure 3. Reading the text at The Hand

Instructions demanding theatrical rather than tactile

engagement, for example marching through the arches of

Chimney Stacks, invoked greater reluctance. Having been

asked, “Is anyone around? Why don‟t you hold your head

high and march through the arches?” some visitors stood

back to listen (Figure 4), while others hesitated before

carrying out the action, and many performed it half-

heartedly as if to minimise their visibility. In fact, 8 out of

the 29 visitors at Chimney Stacks made no attempt to

follow the instruction, and 11 followed it only partially.

When asked in the interviews how they felt about carrying

out these more performative actions, visitors admitted to

feeling “silly” or “self-conscious” about doing them. As

one commented: “I did not march with my head high,

because I was conscious there were people around who

were already looking at us thinking what on earth are they

doing?” That said, a minority embraced being asked to

perform this sort of action and did so in a flamboyant way.

Finally, other instructions were challenging because they

demanded impossible actions, for example “This man has

brought you an apple. Why don‟t you take it and put it in

your pocket? Or maybe you would like to eat it?” at Golden

Delicious couldn‟t be followed literally. Most visitors were

not able to interpret it as a clear instruction for action and

remained stood still in front of it. However, a few (only 5

out of 29) made attempts to touch or grab the apple.

Figure 4. Standing back from Chimney Stacks

Coordinating engagement

The large majority of conversations took place while

moving between sculptures or after the audio had finished

and headphones had been removed at a sculpture. For the

most part, visitors did not try to talk to or otherwise

interrupt one another once the headphones were on and the

audio was underway, apart from the occasional short

exclamation (e.g., “It‟s warm” on touching Two Vessels)

which largely passed unacknowledged. In a few

exceptional cases, visitors moved their headphones off of one ear to hear a partner‟s comments, while there were

occasional periods where pairs communicated intensively,

for example taking a series of photographs of one another.

However, such behavior was atypical, and for the most part

visitors seem to mutually respect their isolated engagement.

There were, however, many examples of tacit coordination

in synchronizing engagement with sculptures. We noted

earlier that pairs generally tried to begin their engagement

together. However, the two devices were not technically

synchronised and so there was often a few seconds delay

between them. We often observed a quick exchange of

glances and smiles between pairs to confirm that they had

heard the instructions before both had followed them.

Figure 5. Exchanging glances while engaging

Physical contention for the sculptures was usually not a

problem as the garden was relatively quiet, but there were a

few problematic cases where limited physical access meant

that one partner had to wait for the other, for example at

The Shrine at Nemi where visitors are invited to climb the

steps and look through a small aperture. Chimney Stacks

provided another example of coordinating actions, with

cases of one partner following the other, sometimes

copying their actions in solidarity, but with at least one case of one partner marching ahead and the second following

with reluctance. Local coordination was also evident when

one partner would wait nearby while the other replayed a

music track before both moved on together, as we see in

Figure 6 where one partner takes photos while the other

repeats her experience at Chimney Stacks.

Figure 6. One partner waits while the other replays the music

Making an interpretation

This shaping of engagement with sculptures could often

lead to a deeper understanding. Our interviews showed that

an important part of this was how the physical actions led

to distinctive ways of viewing them. At Pine Cube, one

visitor found after closing and opening their eyes: “you can

actually see the shapes, and then it like reframes itself,

things like that”, while at The Shrine at Nemi a visitor

described discovering further detail: “I went up the stairs

and looked through the thing after she said because I

wouldn‟t have known that was there otherwise”.

Furthermore, visitors found this led to a deeper

understanding: “because you were being prompted to look

at certain things … possibly helps you to understand what

the artist was trying to achieve and the mood they were

trying to set, and, you know, the cultural or ethical reasons they made the art. So yeah, I guess from that point of view,

it defined what you needed to look at a bit more.”

Interviews also revealed the significant role of the music in

interpretation. Visitors mostly judged the music choices on

whether they „worked‟ or not, meaning whether they could

make a connection between the music and the sculpture.

One of the ways music was deemed to work for visitors

was by setting a general emotional tone for engaging with

the sculpture. A slow, dragging guitar piece (Girl by PJ

Harvey) was selected to accompany the sculpture Young

Girl, with the intention of creating an eerie mood to

accompany the headless sculpture. Visitors picked up on

this mood, with one even reporting feeling apprehensive

before approaching the sculpture: “I didn‟t like the one for

the statue without the head, because that made me not want

to go near it.” More positive emotional reactions were

reported at Golden Delicious: “It kind of cheered me up… I

was kind of looking at him and then the music and the app

encouraged me to like, engage with it and feel jolly, and get

into a cheeky mood and it, it was quite uplifting. The music

definitely influenced that one.”

Others looked to make specific meaningful connections.

The sculpture Fruit Gatherers abstractly depicted a group

of Native American women carrying fruit on their heads.

The traditional Native American music chosen for this sculpture enabled one visitor to focus on it: “It did make

you look at it and realise what it was, and picture the ladies

actually there, actually putting the fruit on their heads.”

Ultimately, it was the performing of physical actions, as

seen by most visitors, and the effects of the music, which

the interview data suggests prompted visitors to engage

intellectually or emotionally with the sculpture, that

suggested that visitors were experiencing deep engagement

and which fostered interpretation: “What you were being

asked to look at and contemplate, and after you‟d done that

for a little second then obviously your mind drifts because

of the music, but, that was a nice experience because it

allowed you to think about it in your own way as well,

rather than just the way you‟re being told.”

This notion of „not being told‟ seems to have been

especially important, and had been directly embedded in

our trajectory in that interpretive information was only

provided at the visitor‟s completion of the trajectory. The

majority of visitors appreciated learning the official

interpretation after engaging with the sculpture rather than

before: “I think you need to look at it first. And then have the information. Because if you have the information up

front it colours how you look at a sculpture.”

As a result, visitors‟ interpretations were not always in

agreement with our own. Some criticized our musical

interpretation of the sculptures. The choice of the

experimental jazz piece, Mentiras by John Zorn, to

accompany the sculpture Pine Cube was criticized by

several people: “I thought that the last Pine Cube, the

music for me was completely alien to what we were looking

at. I couldn‟t understand... I know it was explained but it

didn‟t feel right for me.” Another criticized our musical

choice for The Shrine at Nemi: “I didn‟t think that, since it

was a sculpture about Roman things, and the music was

about from Italy, they were totally different eras, they

didn‟t seem to quite, it didn‟t add anything.” There were

also disagreements with our visual interpretation of the

statues: “At the start it told you to look up into the tree, and

that twisty metal sculpture. It hadn‟t registered that that

was what it was trying to do because it didn‟t, it was a sculpture that was enclosing, it didn‟t open out like a tree

does to the sky.” It seems then, that our trajectory did help

visitors reach their own interpretations, importantly, ones

that were not always in agreement with the „official‟ view

derived from the visitor centre‟s website.

DISCUSSION

We now discuss the implications of our work. Practically,

how trajectories shaped the design of our experience, what

new contributions we have made to the theory, and how

these can be used in designing cultural visiting experiences.

Theoretically, how might we relate trajectories to wider

notions of engagement and interpretation within HCI?

Using trajectories to design visiting experiences

Our experience shows that it can be productive to apply the

idea of trajectories to the design of mainstream cultural

visiting experiences. Several innovations in our design can

be traced back to key concepts from the framework. At the

heart of our design is a canonical trajectory that follows the

existing path through the sculpture garden, passing into and

through each sculpture. This led us to consider how the

journey might unfold through key phases of approach,

engage, experience, disengage and reflect. It was especially

productive to consider key transitions along this trajectory:

considering interface and role transitions led us to

consider the moment of putting on and taking off

headphones as being critical to a visitor‟s engagement

with a sculpture. Consequently, we made a sharp

distinction between using text and image instructions during the approach and reflect stage versus audio

instructions during the experience phase;

considering access to physical resources led us to

design a series of distinctive physical actions at each

sculpture that would shape how visitors view and

engage with them through posing and touching;

considering seams led us to reject the use of location-

based content in favour of the manual triggering of

interactions by visitors themselves.

Another key aspect of trajectories is considering how each

participant trajectory might diverge from the canonical

trajectory, and how it might be orchestrated so as to

subsequently reconverge. In response, we allowed visitors

to choose the order of the sculptures, self-orchestrating

their experience to fit with local conditions such as the

presence of other visitors. Conversely, we decided to take

firm control of the local trajectory at each sculpture,

including choosing exactly how long the accompanying

music would last. The framework also encouraged us to consider how visitors‟ trajectories might interleave, leading

us to design a trajectory that deliberately oscillates between

moments of social encounter and isolated personal

engagement. Key to our design was the use of instructions

that told the visitor how to traverse the global trajectory

into each local trajectory, how to experience sculpture

within the local trajectory, while preventing the need for

any live orchestration. Previous research on instructions has

identified four aspects of compliance with instructions:

locational, sequential, comportmental and relational [22],

however in our experience we separated the locational and

sequential aspects, delivered as text, and the comportmental

and relational aspects, which were presented as audio.

Finally, the concept of historic trajectories inspired us to

reconsider at what point visitors should receive „official‟

information, inspiring the idea that this should be delivered

as they walk away.

Extending the trajectories framework

In addition to using existing concepts of the trajectories

framework, we found it necessary to extend the framework

in a number of ways unique to our design. First, we

structured the canonical trajectory at each sculpture into five stages – approach, engage, experience, disengage and

reflect. By splitting the trajectory into these stages we were

able to judge where best to place interface transitions and

switches in media modality in relation to the visitor‟s

experience. We also found it useful to break down the

previous idea of multi-scale trajectories into clearly defined

global and local trajectories. By designing trajectories on

these two levels we were able to separate out the flexibility

required in the order in which visitors experienced

sculptures with the carefully thought out local trajectory

that would enhance engagement at each sculpture.

Our study suggests that pairs of visitors mostly followed

the local trajectories, often leading to a deep engagement

with and consequent interpretation of sculptures. We saw a

strong tendency for visitors to experience the sculptures

together (rather than splitting up to visit different

sculptures) which led to various tensions in following the

trajectory. The most evident of these was the desire to

synchronise the beginning of each engagement with a sculpture, for which there was no technical support.

However, engaging in the same physical actions at the

same time resulted in some contention for key viewpoints

(relating to the seam of access to physical resources). Some

visitors wanted to repeat the experience at a sculpture,

while their partner did not and had to wait for them. This

suggests a deeper consideration of the pacing of local

trajectories at each exhibit.

Finally, we recognise that in designing an experience for

pairs of adult visitors at a sculpture garden, we have chosen

a relatively easy setting for this initial work. We anticipate

further challenges in adapting our trajectory to other more

crowded settings or to larger groups, which will heighten

the challenges of local pacing and interruptions. Busy

museums and galleries will involve greater contention for

exhibits, noise and other distractions, as well as the

presence of strangers. In addition, it will be important to

design accessible trajectories that support varying abilities,

an important concern for many cultural institutions.

Trajectories through interpretation

Our final contribution to the theory of trajectories is the

broader idea of designing trajectories through

interpretation. A fundamental goal of galleries and

museums is to engage visitors with exhibits in order to

foster interpretation. Interpretation has also been an

important topic within HCI, initially in terms of cognitive

approaches to interpreting the workings of interfaces, but

more recently widening out to consider more cultural

interpretations of interfaces and their content. There is a

sense in which our experience combines multiple

interpretations from the sound artist, the performance poet

and us „curators‟, but the openness of our design lies in

when interpretations are made and given. Our trajectory

organises this by first leading visitors into a relatively open

situation in which they are presented with deliberately

juxtaposed materials – sculptures and music – but without

being given an explanation as to how they relate. This

ambiguity [11] asks a question – inviting them to make an interpretation in order to resolve the experience. However,

a novel twist is that we subsequently offer our „received‟

interpretation, but only after they may have reached their

own. Thus, we move between being open to multiple

interpretations at some moments while suggesting specific

interpretations at others. In short we establish a trajectory

through interpretation, establishing mood, engaging the

senses and the imagination, openly inviting sense making,

before then revealing our own interpretation.

Of particular relevance here is a body of work that

emphasizes the importance of embodied experience [9] and

the roles of interpretation and reflection in making sense of

sensory experiences [16]. In our case, the embodied and

multi-sensory nature of our visitors‟ experience, adopting

unusual viewpoints, touching sculptures and listening to

music, appear to have been important in stimulating their

imaginations and inviting them to resolve relationships,

most notably between the sculpture and accompanying

music. A key aspect of our trajectory is that it frames the experience in a way that gives visitors license to engage in

unusual ways, for example touching sculptures. This may

involve taking them out of their comfort zone or requiring

them to act in unusual ways in a public setting, reflecting

recent discussions of the deliberate use of discomfort,

including the idea that discomfort can arise through the

visibility of one‟s actions, and that moments of discomfort

should be embedded into a trajectory [6]. Others have

called for interfaces that are open to multiple interpretations

rather than focussing on a single received interpretation.

We suggest that trajectories through interpretation, moving

back and forth between openness and closure and through

multiple interpretations, may be suitable for many cultural

experiences, especially ones that involve a didactic element

such as museums and exhibitions. Thus we suggest ways in

which we might create richer trajectories of interpretation.

In relation to [11], we could open up the space for

interpretation by exposing different visitors in a group to

different and contrasting experiences at each exhibit, for

example different musical accompaniments or instructions.

This relates to the much discussed idea of personalisation and how we can create personalised visiting experiences

that adapt to individual‟s interests or visiting styles [25].

Our final proposal takes us back to the concept of the

historic trajectory, which suggests that participants should

be provided with opportunities and resources to tell their

own stories from an experience. While our experience

invited visitors to reflect between sculptures, we did not

support them in reflecting on the whole experience

afterwards or on creating their own accounts of the

experience, nor did we follow up the study with further

interviews to investigate how interpretations had developed

over time. This is currently a popular idea with many

museums and galleries who are keen to reflect the visitor‟s

own voice. Carefully designed historic trajectories may

allow visitors‟ interpretations to form another layer in the

multiple interpretations that surround cultural experiences,

along with those of artists, historians, and curators.

FINAL WORD

We have described a conscious attempt to apply trajectories

to the design of a cultural visiting experience. Our

experience suggests that thinking in terms of trajectories

has purchase for engaging people with exhibits in new

ways and provoking interpretation. Whereas discussions of

trajectories to date have tended to focus on the structural

aspects of experiences, we suggest that it may also be

beneficial to also think about „trajectories through

interpretation‟ in which visitors‟ own interpretations are

mixed with canonical ones, and are fed back into the

experience through historical ones.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Lesley Fosh is supported by the Horizon Doctoral Training

Centre at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No.

EP/G037574/1). This work was also supported by the

CHESS project (http://chessexperience.eu), which is co-

funded by the European Commission (Grant No. 270198),

and also by EPSRC Dream Fellowship award

EP/J005215/1.

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