|Author(s)||Christian Heath, Dirk vom Lehn|
|Title||Configuring 'Interactivity': Enhancing Engagement in Science Centres and Museums|
|Tag(s)||EMCA, interactivity, museums, science centres, social interaction, technology|
|Journal||Social Studies of Science|
There is a growing commitment within science centres and museums to develop exhibitions that engender new forms of participation that contribute to the public's understanding of science. Information and communication systems play an important role in this regard, enabling new forms of `interaction' with and around exhibits. In this paper we consider how visitors respond to these exhibits and explore the forms of interaction that arise within these new exhibition areas. The analysis addresses the ways in which these so-called `interactives' create highly constrained sequences of action that prioritize the individual user while undermining the opportunities for co-participation and collaboration. It examines the ecologies of participation that arise with, around and within different types of exhibit and exhibition. The paper suggests that many `interactive' exhibits rely upon a model of `interaction' and the `user' that pervades computer-based systems, a model that has been subject to sustained criticism over some years. In other words, the paper points to the ways in which `interactivity' is conflated with social interaction and how the seemingly innovative and entertaining exhibits may fail to engender the co-participation and collaboration that is seen as critical to learning and engagement.