Far away is close at hand : an ethnographic investigation of social conduct in mixed reality museum visits
This thesis investigates how museum companions organise their conduct regarding their engagement with the exhibition and their social interaction with each other in the course of a visit. The main objectives of the thesis are the empirical investigation of social conduct in casual group museum visits and the exploration and understanding of social conduct in real-time distributed museum visits through mobile mixed reality technology. A third area of interest is the application of qualitative methodology, based on ethnomethodology and ethnographic methods, for the fulfilment of the above objectives. In particular this thesis presents and discusses fieldwork of collocated casual group visits alongside video recording and interviews collected in distributed museum visits during trial sessions in the Mack Room mixed reality museum environment. Drawing on vignettes of activity among collocated and distributed participants, the thesis develops discussion around three themes: the collaborative exploration of museum artefacts, aspects of the collaborative management of shared museum visits and the constitution of the visiting ‘order’ in and through social conduct. Among others, issues of collaborative alignment, awareness, indication of engagement and disengagement and conflicting accountabilities are discussed. The contribution of this thesis in current research in museum studies, CSCW and social science is explored. Findings reported in this thesis extend current visitor studies research to include the study of social conduct in the management of collocated visits and the constitution of visiting order. They also suggest that studies of sociality among distributed visitors may open opportunities for museums to support mutually complementing local and distributed experiences. With regard to understanding asymmetries in mobile mixed reality environments, the thesis points out that asymmetries could be better understood with reference to the activity in context rather than the technological features themselves. This thesis also makes a contribution to social studies research with regard to exploring the changing character of talk in distributed collaborative settings. Future research with respect to mixed reality applications for museum visits is also outlined.