Technology as a tool to study visitor behaviour in museums: positioning and neuropsychological detection to identify physical & cognitive barriers
Authors: Michela Benente, Valeria Minucciani, Paolo Dabove
Abstract: Inclusive communication projects in museums and cultural sites often start from generically applicable assumptions referring to the principles of accessible and inclusive design, without considering the peculiarities of a cultural experience.It therefore seems important to study the audiences’ behaviour in museums, with particular attention to the different types of visitors: regular audiences with appropriate backgrounds; occasional audiences with very different backgrounds; and disaffected audiences who do not consider cultural experiences important or rewarding.It is precisely the latter that an inclusive design must carefully target, with the aim of understanding the reason for this exclusion and thus overcoming it, hence it is important that such studies do not observe only the first two types of audience, whereas this is often the case.The experiments the authors are carrying out monitor movements, times and stops of the public within the museum, in relation to the exhibits, the spatial features of the rooms, and the communication and display solutions, relating them to information resulting from ad hoc surveys.From the positioning point of view, one of the main problems is represented in tracking people in indoor environments, where the GNSS is not available, and there are often cramped spaces. Besides, if the number of people to be tracked is high, the level of difficulties increases dramatically. The problem of positioning even large numbers of people within closed and delimited spaces presents some difficulties and technical criticalities. On the other hand, the restitution of such data requires accentuated reliability: the behaviour and reactions recorded in the public during the experiment must be related to precise spatial positions, since the emotional responses of the public can vary in a very short time.At present, the aim of these experiments is not to consider the behaviour of numerous groups of people but to study individual visiting experiences. The system developed by the research team is briefly described and commented on in the paper.The technological challenge in these contexts goes beyond mere technical effectiveness. Indeed, the instrumentation required to track individual visitors, in certain solutions, risks influencing people's behaviour because it is moderately ostrusive: conversely, the challenge at present is to integrate the various sensing devices into compact and unobtrusive solutions. The Authors have implemented a Python code on a portable Raspberry device that guarantees the users’ location by exploiting signals coming from beacon devices. Communication systems between the device detecting neurophysiological reactions and monitoring physical movements can be implemented and optimised, fusing this technology with another one related to positioning purposes, exploiting electromagnetic signals such as ultra-wide-band technologies or Bluetooth, which guarantees the possibility of reaching positioning solutions even in indoor environments without afflicting the signals for neurophysiological parameter estimations.
Keywords: cultural experience, indoor positioning, visitors' behaviour study
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