Computer applications in cultural heritage (CH) mainly aim at improving the processes of digital preservation, digitization and documentation of artifacts and sites, typically in 3D (Pavlidis et al. 2007), with the consequence that their primary users are CH professionals like archaeologists, architects, and civil engineers. Nevertheless, over the last few years, we are witnessing an increasing number of ‘high-tech’ interactive systems to the service of enhancing the user experience (UX) of visitors at museums, exhibitions, archaeological places and various other cultural sites including cities and places with a historic or cultural tradition. These interactive CH systems are made up of various contemporary and emerging technologies, like mobile apps, location-aware audio guides, interactive multi-touch public displays, online and mobile games, VR/AR (virtual/augmented reality) systems, 3D virtual worlds and various types of interactive installations including those with kinesthetic control. This corpus of this diverse landscape of interactive systems in CH is growing fast.
This paper reviews empirical evaluations of interactive systems in CH. The motivation of the review is two-fold. Firstly, a holistic and systematic review of the mixed landscape of empirically evaluated interactive digital CH systems can outline established or underdeveloped applications of respective interactive technologies as well as their impact on the UX. Secondly, a critical analysis of the evaluation approaches and methods employed can provide a record of which particular issues of UX and CH are indeed investigated and how rigorously are these empirical evaluations conducted so far; additionally it may provide an outlook for further research and a means to reflection and re-appreciation of researchers’ own work and practice.
The paper reports on interactive systems in CH and methods of empirical evaluation based on a systematically selected sample of 53 publications from 2012-2016. It starts by presenting some background and related work on empirical evaluation methods. Then, it presents an overview of key features of interactive systems in CH, outlining their purpose and goals, main technologies, cultural content and intended users. Then, it reports on the empirical evaluations: on the dimensions examined, the overall method, the particular techniques for data collection, the users (participants) and comparative approaches. Last but not least, the paper discusses various issues stemming out of this review by acknowledging good practices, critically analyzing some identified shortcomings of the current state of the art and providing outlook in various areas.