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Situated knowledge and the virtual science and industry museum: problems in the social-technical interface

Hemmings, Terry and Randall, David and Francis, Dave and Marr, Liz and Divall, Colin and Porter, Gaby (1997) Situated knowledge and the virtual science and industry museum: problems in the social-technical interface. Archives and museum informatics, 11 (2). pp. 147-164. ISSN 1042-1467

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Abstract

The Museum is a perspicuous site for analysing the complex interplay between social, organisational, cultural and political factors which have relevance to the design and use of virtual technologies. Specifically, the introduction of virtual technologies in museums runs up against the issue of the situated character of information use. Across a number of disciplines (anthropology, sociology, psychology, cognitive science) there is growing recognition of the situatedness of knowledge and its importance for the design and use of technology. This awareness is fostered by the fact that technological developments are often associated with disappointing gains for users. The effective use of technology relies on the degree to which it can be embedded in or congruent with the local practices of museum users. Drawing upon field research in two museums of science and technology, both of which are in the process of introducing virtual technologies and exploring the possibilities of on-line access, findings are presented which suggest that the success of such developments will depend on the extent to which they are informed by detailed understanding of practice-practices that are essentially socially constituted in the activities of museum visitors and the daily work of museum professionals.

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