Understanding and Telling Stories across Online and Real-world Cultural and Historical Artefacts

Wolff, Annika (2016). Understanding and Telling Stories across Online and Real-world Cultural and Historical Artefacts. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

Storytelling is a natural way for humans to make sense of their world. Narratives structure experience into expected forms that improve understanding of relationships between discrete objects and events. This is the rationale behind museum curation, which organises objects in the physical museum space to reveal how they are related. This thesis explores how to support people to tell and experience narratives across multiple objects. For the online world, a model of curatorial inquiry is introduced which is designed to support a historical inquiry from online sources. This model extends existing inquiry models and is inspired by museum practice in which curators organize objects into museum narratives. For the physical world, a model is introduced that describes navigation through both the physical and conceptual neighbourhood of a set of objects. It is designed to support tourist activities across a non-portable set of cultural objects, such as statues, buildings, or landscape features. Key findings, based on both participant studies and analysis of data from Foursquare, is that while people are keen to understand stories that link places in a physical space, they prefer to navigate using physical, rather than conceptual proximity, and to visit places that are popular. This is counter to many mobile tour guides that focus on prompting navigation to similar places. The proposal of this thesis is therefore to develop applications that support tourists in understanding both what is physically nearby and conceptually nearby. This would allow them to use physical proximity - or any preferred alternative – to select where to go next, whilst supporting them to make links between the places they visit. In this way tourists would be provided with enough information about the relationships of places within a physical neighbourhood that they can start to understand and create their own stories about them.

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