Experiencing Exhibitions: ‘eMotions’ As an Interdisciplinary Study of Measuring and Analysing Visitor Experiences in Museums

Activity: Talk or presentationGuest lecturesResearch

Volker Kirchberg - Speaker

The interdisciplinary structure of the eMotion research has evolved out of the idea to gain knowledge about art and art exhibition in an innovative manner. What forms of knowledge in art can be gained? What is conveyed by the artistic practice that cannot be conveyed via other types of scientific research? What is the epistemological output of art?
Via a triangulation of methods from entrance and exit questionnaires, movement tracking and physiological measurements, an empirical grounding of three dimensions of exhibition experience could be given for the general subjective assessments of the exhibition, the individual ratings of the artworks, as well as for the differing spatial behaviors and the embodied reactions of the three visitor types. Most of the empirical studies concerning visitor experiences assume that social, personal, or physical characteristics influence the visit experiences. In line with this assumption, these studies follow the general idea that chronology and causality, socially and personally determined expectations, form experiences. Contrary to this presupposition, we found no impact based on personal context, nor the biographical background on the exhibition experience; furthermore, we found no indications that socio-demographic predispositions influence the individual museum experience.
We found that the encounters with the artworks, the design of the exhibition, the atmosphere, and/or the social interaction were the driving factors for how visitors experience exhibitions. The cartographies showed that the spatial behavior of the “enthusing” type seem to be strongly affected by the space itself and its atmosphere; additionally, this type shows the strongest physiological reactions, experiencing familiar and famous artworks and immediately communicating this experience seems to be important as well. Unlike the “enthusing” visitor group, the “cognitive” visitors demonstrate the clearest object orientation in their spatial behavior. The single artworks appear to attract them, which is indicated by the visitor paths and their focused physiological attraction centers close to the artworks. Generally speaking, their physiological reactions are weaker in comparison to the other two visitor groups. According to their self-assessments, they are more interested in curatorially refined exhibitions, oriented towards content and they enjoy information about the artworks. They seem to be interested in artworks, both new and unknown to them. Also, the “contemplative” visitors seem to be the most critical, which is evidenced by their evaluation of the individual artworks. Quite different is the “social” type, who frequently talks during their visit and is less interested in experiencing the exhibition or reading labels and texts. This was shown in the self-assessment and the cartographies. For the “social” type , the museum visit is a highly social/shared occasion.



CHE Methods Collaboratory - 2013

16.03.13 → …

Melbourne, Australia

Event: Other