Digital media has become ubiquitous within exhibition spaces. However, with touchscreens now such an integral part of our daily lives too, some are questioning whether we should take a fresh look at analogue. We hit pause for a moment to consider the pros and cons.

Reasons for using digital participatory digital media:

  • research has shown that computer-based exhibits contributed significantly to visitor understanding and enjoyment of the exhibition
  • they act as an attractor leading to longer dwell time, following their use
  • the medium provides an opportunity for visitors to participate in their visit
  • they can appeal to visitors with different learning styles
  • enhance comprehension by presenting bite-size information
  • reveal or reconstruct what could not be otherwise shown.

Reasons for not using digital participatory digital media:

  • singular activities hinder social interaction. Moreover, attempts by onlookers to interact may be unwelcome
  • according to Heath and Lehn, ‘…it assumes that activities derive from plans and goals, and that actions are organised in terms of rules that determine patterns and sequences of conduct to allow those rules to be achieved’
  • motives for its use may be misplaced e.g. a need for accountability or social inclusion or led by  a desire to incorporate the latest bit of ‘cool tech’.

What to consider when designing an interactive:

  • like any other interpretation, content is king. Although a balance needs to be struck in the quality and quality of the experience. An application which tries to hide a lack of content through ‘interaction and spectacle’ will fall short of visitors’ expectations
  • the ‘waterfall’ model for development is unsatisfactory. Meanwhile, the ‘agile’ model provides an iterative process. Typically a three-stage development and evaluation process
  • remain focussed on the objectives, as it’s better to do one thing well than try and do too may things and incorporate all the bells and whistles
  • we can provide systems that allow clients to updated/add content themselves, via a content management system.

On-going implications for using in-gallery interactives:

  • responsiveness of the screen and design of the interface are important in reducing user frustration and therefore the hammering visitors will give screens
  • ask for copies of software and instruction for how it is installed/restored
  • conduct summative evaluation but remember that increased dwell time can be a result of queuing or battling with the system. A better measure is increased dwell time, following using the interactive


As with any form of interpretation, focusing on your audience is key. I am a firm believer that you can’t please all of the people, all of the time – ask any politician! Who do you want to address and what do you want them to leave knowing, that they didn’t know before they visited? Considering these questions will help you decide what is the most appropriate means of engaging visitors with your story. Feel free to talk to us about different options and associated costs.