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addition to this, users may own and be familiar with their devices. Another benefit is that
the network needed for delivery of location-dependent content is built and maintained by
the mobile communications sector.
Content sharing
The lines that separate different cultural heritage institutions are
dissolving.The ability to search across institutional resources enables content developers
and users to build their own links and interconnections between information units.
Disadvantages
The technology `gap'
There are still large groups of visitors who do not have their
own devices or whose devices will not enable them to take maximum advantage of the
available resources. Institutions need to ensure that new technology does not become yet
another barrier to inclusion.
Visitor isolation
Individualised ownership and use of devices will isolate visitors
from each other, although at least two of the projects described earlier in this chapter sug-
gest that novel uses of these devices can actually create new kinds of communities and
communication opportunities.
Interface issues
The process of interaction between user and device is not always
convenient. There is a general lack of customisable interfaces. There is also a lack of
cross-organisational standardisation in this area.
Technology-centric
The use of mobile devices may have the potential to distract
visitors from the items on display. Seamless linking between devices and artefacts is still
very difficult to achieve.
Equipment malfunctions
While mobile devices are extremely reliable, the inter-
faces between them and the local content servers provide a key point of failure.
User power
The increasing presence of visitors to institutions with handheld devices
with sensitive cameras worries many custodians because they realise their limited ability to
stop users recording images of what they see or sounds of what they hear.
Lack of back-end services
Few institutions have the back-end content management
systems and data about their holdings to support rich applications of technology.
Introducing the Technology
Policy and Organisational Framework
The standard approach in museum design is to allow the objects on display to speak
more or less for themselves, with some contextual or explanatory information provided
on wall-mounted labels or plaques.Traditionally visitors have been treated as passive recip-
ients of information rather than active participants in its packaging, interpretation and use.
As a result, presentation materials were designed to provide visitors with similar impres-
sions of and information about an exhibit. If there was a difference in impression, this was
nurtured by the guides who delivered information with their own styles or emphasis.The
delivery of content to match the interests, level of knowledge, and ways of learning of a
particular visitor was dependent on the skills, knowledge and experience of the guide and,
to a certain extent, the curator.
Mobile Access to
Cultural Information
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