Understanding and Modeling Visitor Behaviours for Enhancing Personalized Cultural Experiences

Understanding and Modeling Visitor Behaviours for Enhancing Personalized Cultural Experiences

Laura Pandolfo (University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy), Sara Spanu (University of Milano Bicocca, Milano, Italy), Luca Pulina (University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy) and Enrico Grosso (University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/IJTHI.2020070102


Nowadays, there is an increasing interest in using adaptive technologies in cultural heritage sites to personalize and enhance the user's visit experience. However, personalizing the cultural experiences is still a challenging task that requires a deep knowledge of those user aspects that influence the visit. In order to facilitate the learning process during the visit, adaptive systems should consider differences between individuals for personalizing access to cultural heritage collections. This article calls into question the role that technologies can play both to enhance a user's visit experience and to attract new audiences through personalized interactions with cultural objects. It addresses a specific understanding of visitors' needs and behaviours by means of empirical data collected through a survey questionnaire. Knowing the main factors underlying visitors' styles it allowed formalization of this knowledge into a user model ontology which collects the main visitors' characteristics in the use of cultural heritage contexts.
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In the last decades, the use of technologies is increasingly gaining popularity in the cultural heritage domain by playing different roles, ranging from conservation and preservation to real-time consumption of cultural exhibitions by visitors. Focusing on the access of the heritage, new technologies can provide innovative ways to consume the culture by enhancing the interaction between people and cultural objects. With the advent of the Web, several museums, libraries and archives – usually referred as memory institutions, a concept that is underpinned by the idea that materiality of memory is often associated with physical places (Stainforth, 2016) – started to digitize cultural resources and make them available and accessible on their websites. Nowadays, these online platforms often provide personalized interaction with the users, for example, by allowing them to create their own personal digital collections (Hackney & Pickard, 2018). In a broader perspective, the cultural experience concerns not only the visit in itself, but it should be seen as a continuous process, which starts before the visit itself and it might never end (Chianese, Piccialli, & Valente, 2015).

The use of personalized services has become pervasive in cultural heritage domain because of the huge amount of information to present, which must be delivered in a relatively short time to the users, for example, when they prepare their visit and during the visit on-site. Considering a museum scenario, there is a lot of information material and often users have limited time and want to get the right information, according to their preferences, at the right time. Adaptive technologies represent a trend since they could provide twofold benefits: on the one side, they support visitors by filtering and personalizing the information in order to enhance the overall cultural experience (Chianese, Piccialli, & Valente, 2015), on the other side, they can attract new groups of population, thus enlarging the museum audience by including also traditionally excluded individuals.

Museum participation must be considered in a twofold sense. Firstly, participation recalls the process of public enlargement since the second half of the 20th century that hinder to a fundamental change of the social role played by museum, that went from being about something to be for somebody (Weil, 1999). It is no coincidence, therefore, that in the last decades the public's interest in cultural experience has increased1. Secondly, participation in museum calls into question the widening of opportunities for interactions mediated by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). In this sense, the concept of “Participatory Museum” (Simon, 2010) can help to better focus on the opening up of museums to new actors, such as creators, consumers, critics, with the aim of including a wider audience in novel activities related to contribution, collaboration, co-creation and hosting.

The topic of new technologies that increasingly accompany our daily life points out the risk of possible exclusion of a part of individuals who do not have appropriate skills or abilities to interact with specific tools and processes. According to (Sandell, 1998, 2002), “museums can be seen to represent institutionalized exclusion”. The reason is that they “operate a host of mechanisms which may serve to or prevent access to their services by a range of groups”. Moreover, they “might also be viewed as institutions which reinforce exclusionary practices” in economic, political and social terms. In the field of cultural heritage there is a growing need to democratize the use of new technologies with the aim of including otherwise marginalized individuals. This is an interesting framework for discussion and application, in particular if we take into account the effects that cultural experience is able to produce in terms of increasing awareness and self-esteem among vulnerable populations that are traditionally excluded from cultural opportunities (Galloway & Stanley, 2004; Newman, McLean, & Urquhart, 2005; Mason & McCarthy, 2006; Coleman, 2018).

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