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Mobile Access to
Cultural Information
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Nowadays, however, designers of museums aim to ensure that they are enabling the
telling of the story (or stories) about or behind the objects. How an object is best presented
may also differ from visitor to visitor depending on their interests, preferences and cultural
background. Much current work in information technology is focused on the personalisa-
tion of delivery.Virtual communities and avatar guides can play a role here.
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The problem
is not only to introduce new devices into the museum setting, but to develop content that
will suit the needs of various types of visitors.
In summarising the problems that the new technology addresses, it becomes clear that
its successful implementation will depend on following a few simple guidelines:
- Content must be presented in a way that satisfies a diversity of user groups, including
access issues for users with disabilities.
- The interface of the device used must be effective and convenient enough to offer the
visitor a personalised experience.
- Mobile devices offer a number of functions that can be better met by other technologies
(for example, anything involving a large amount of text).They should only be used
where no other device can perform as well or as conveniently.
- Education and enjoyment potential must be maximised.
- Inclusion must be emphasised.
- Institutions must consider whether they will continue to be able to afford to develop
the content and the forms of its presentation so that it does not become stale and
repeat visitors begin to lose interest.With the use of technology comes the expectation
of freshness and newness on each subsequent visit.
What Existing Technological Infrastructures are Needed?
The necessary technological infrastructure will differ according to the specifications
of the solution that is to be implemented. An institution might consider which of the
following features they wish to implement, and plan personnel and technological deploy-
ment accordingly:
- The creation and maintenance of user profiles;
- Whether profile-defined tours will be used or whether a single tour will be offered
for all visitors;
- The use of positioning and tracing/tracking functions;
- Whether games will be developed and how often they might be renewed;
- Links between mobile devices and a virtual community comprising current visitors,
past visitors, and friends of the institution.
Some of these are targeted specifically towards keeping in touch with the visitors.The
core features for mobile access technologies will be the positioning component, user profiles,
and the personalisation of tours. At the heart of these services must be a rich information
base from which to draw content that can be packaged and presented in different ways.
On the technological side, institutions intending to use PDAs in conjunction with
175 See the sections on Cultural Agents and Avatars, Electronic Programming Guides and Personalisation (above) and
Collaborative Mechanisms and Technologies (below) for more links between these related topics.
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