This chapter explores the use of a practice-led research methodology in the design of generative data visualisations that can be used to record and reveal the details of an empiric museum visit. The object of capturing this visitor information is to assist in the future design and development of tools for the creation of interactive museum experiences that can be improved by connecting the physical dimension of museums and exhibitions with digital information in new and novel ways. The main concern in this research is with how user engagement in the museum can be captured, visualised, and represented back to a visitor, museum curator, or the broader community in a way that might bring added value or insight. Moreover, the capturing of the visitor experience becomes an archival process and practice. It can be used in the design of future exhibitions, and more fundamentally to inform thinking around the ongoing ontological and epistemological position of the museum.
Physical distancing in response to the global pandemic has posed the challenge of if and how co-design work could continue without face-to-face interactions. One of the authors (SK) set up an open-access online document for researchers to share suggestions about how this challenge could be overcome (Knowles et al, 2020). This was widely shared and commented on, demonstrating that researchers were anxious to ensure co-design activities were not abandoned in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19.
Reflecting on the suggestions and questions added to the document, one anxiety in particular stood out: ‘Which platform should I use?’. The document’s main focus became an expanding list of different digital meeting packages, and the pros and cons of each (considering cost, security, recording options, popularity, and more). Despite SK frequently condensing this section, as of January 2021 it runs to seven pages (almost half the document). By contrast, a suggestion (instigated by JL) to explore (non-digital) cultural probes did not provoke further discussion.
The document is evidence of how committed researchers were to ensuring co-design continues. But the focus was largely on how to replicate common co-design events, such as face-to-face workshops, via online meeting platforms. This may have been pragmatically driven; researchers had access to computers and meeting software. But it also suggests a missed opportunity to expand our repertoire of co-design tools and think more creatively about how (remote) co-design could happen out in the world, as part of people’s lives, distinct from how co-design typically looks in research. Rather than consider how co-design might look beyond a university meeting room, digital platforms put meetings inside people’s homes and the realities of digital exclusion were largely unaccounted for.