Eghbal-Azar, Kira (2016). Affordances, Appropriation and Experience in Museum Exhibitions: Visitors‘ (Eye) Movement Patterns and the Influence of Digital Guides. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.


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This thesis provides new research about visitor (eye) movement patterns and accompanying cognitive processes surrounding the particular affordances of exhibition design and particular appropriation strategies. New methods in visitor studies and socio-cultural anthropology were applied, in particular mobile eye tracking (MET). Previous visitor movement behaviour research has mainly been conducted by unaided observation. By using MET, new insights can be gained concerning the micro level of visitor movement patterns. Furthermore this thesis suggests a new cognitive science approach in visitor studies by combining anthropological and psychological theories and methods. The research settings were two different museum exhibitions in Germany: an ethnographic exhibition providing an audio guide and a literature exhibition providing a tablet-like medium. A subsidiary aim was to investigate the differences between experts and novices. In sum, 26 movement patterns and sub-patterns were found. It was shown that visitors’ movement patterns are more complex than just stopping and attending to particular exhibits. These movement patterns serve the exploration of exhibits in a detailed manner from the visitors’ own perspective creating a unique experience. The usage of digital guides leads to increasingly broad ranges of different movement patterns. Visitors using digital media tend to be more actively engaged visually and cognitively when visiting museums than visitors who were not using digital guides. The main difference between audio guides and tablet-like guides is that audio guides allow a parallel way of appropriation by viewing exhibits and listening to the audio guide at the same time. The comparison between experts and novices showed that both groups behave and process similarly when viewing exhibitions, although experts are more active visitors than novices. Finally, the difference between visitors that were found are primarily determined by digital guides rather than by expert status. Findings from this research can help to support exhibition makers to create visitor-centered exhibition designs. Finally, this thesis also helps to enable visitor researchers and socio-cultural anthropologists to decide whether MET could be advantageous and applicable for their field research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Eghbal-Azar, KiraKira.Eghbal-Azar@t-online.deUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-76063
Date: October 2016
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Fächergruppe 4: Außereuropäische Sprachen, Kulturen und Gesellschaften > Institut für Ethnologie
Subjects: Psychology
Customs, etiquette, folklore
Uncontrolled Keywords:
visitor studies, socio-cultural anthropology, cognitive science, affordances, appropriation, museum experience, exhibitions in Germany, exhibition design, (eye) movement patterns, digital guides, experts and novices, mobile eye tracking, cued retrospective reporting, observation, reflection on methodsEnglish
Date of oral exam: 11 January 2017
NameAcademic Title
Widlok, ThomasProf. Dr.
Schneider, KlausProf. Dr.
Schwan, StephanProf. Dr.
Funders: BMBF, Universität zu Köln
Projects: "Wissen & Museum: Archiv - Exponat - Evidenz"
Refereed: Yes


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