9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN07 Sociology of Culture

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Culture and Information and Communication Technologies Building II, C4.08

ICT for Cultural Heritage Communication: Investigating the Impact

For more than a decade cultural institutions (mainly form the Anglo-Saxon area) have experimented ever more sophisticated forms of computer-mediated communication, ranging from ?traditional? websites to mobile devices and now the new frontier of web 2.0. Important issues like usability and users? engagement (with interaction and content) have also been explored through different user studies.
Still, as we discuss in this paper, the issue of the (deep) cultural impact, beyond the engagement and curiosity that computer mediated communication may raise, has not yet been adequately addressed. Does ICT-based communication help conveying the cultural message (of a museum, an exhibition?)? Under which conditions? Is this impact long-lasting? When is the ?right timing?: before a visit, during a visit, after a visit?
This paper aims at discussing this fundamental issue based on the results of an extensive survey that took place between July 2008 and January 2009. In spring 2008 the TEC-LAB of University of Italian Switzerland built a multimedia multi-channel application (exploiting 1001stories, a tool developed at HOC-LAB of Politecnico di Milano) for the exhibition ?Enigma Helvetia? that was held at the Museo Cantonale and Museo d?Arte of Lugano. The application was highly innovative, from a technological point of view, but also very user friendly: the aim was to provide non-techy users with an agile tool for introducing the exhibition?s cultural message.
The user study was organized as an online survey proposed to more than 1000 ?friends of the museum?; 119 answered. In addition, the survey was also proposed to on-site visitors; 82 answered. Therefore on the whole we had 201 questionnaires for the analysis. Interesting results have been obtained; just to mention a few, a very high percentage used the web site for more than 5 minutes, and 26% more than 20 minutes (an incredible amount of time). Both users who visited the exhibition and those who did not, felt that the multimedia helped them to understand better its cultural themes.