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Henley Beach

South Australia

I create for a better future.

Be Bold.

© LOU DOS. All rights reserved.

MOD. - keep it simple

Welcome to MOD. The Museum Of Discovery, at Uni SA, in Adelaide.


The MOD. presents itself as a place to be inspired by ideas in the conjunction of science, art and innovation. Their goal is to motivate youthful individuals about science and technology, showcasing how research shapes knowledge about the world and what the future might become. The primary audience is 15 to 25-year-olds, whereas the exhibits should be accessible to all ages.


The museum invites researchers, students, digital designers, artists, and professors to create exhibitions. The displays follow specific design principles, and three of them will be analysed in this evaluation:

1. They need to embed Aboriginal knowledge;

2. They need to be inclusive;

3. They should challenge the traditional by creating bold, emotional experiences.


Alongside these three principles, the target audience, the interactivity, and the presentation of the exhibits are examined. Examples of shows are given to illustrate the arguments.


First off, one of the unique features of this museum is the intensive use of interactivity. Designs respond to the visitors’ touch on screens and their movement in specific spaces. This way, a visitor activates two senses, both touching and feeling. Music plays everywhere to enhance a visitors’ engagement, which creates another sense’s activation, hearing. To create an optimal visitor experience, the stimulation of these senses needs to be well-designed and straightforward. When too much mixed-media or too much interaction comes into play, visitors can quickly feel bedazzled, lessening their engagement with the shows.


This depreciation occurs in the exhibition room of the show Reflect. This space includes stories from the Kaurna people. The exhibition speaks about what it means to be present in shades of absence, speechlessness and invisibility. The room offers large screens presenting Country’s nature, recorded voices filling the room, and written poems on two walls. These three information influxes are too overwhelming to consume, leading rapidly to disengagement. An emotional connection with the stories is created only when using one sense, listening.


Reflect is one of the three shows that embed Aboriginal knowledge within the museum. Another one is Kinship.


Image 1


When first entering MOD., a representative at the entrance notably suggested experiencing Kinship due to its significance in combining data with Aboriginal storytelling. It is an exhibition that proposes cultural relevance through Adam Goode’s data and the Adnyamathanha kinship system. Machine learning translated several Aboriginal Languages, footage of the Country, and stories of an Elder Uncle into a three-dimensional, animated tree. It is an impressive, beautiful, massive visualisation (image 1). Nevertheless, it is easy to overlook the explanatory content for this 3D work, as the information is not viewable close to or in the space itself. Visitors can feel left not engaged as, without an explanation, the screen simply shows an animated tree. The narrative is critical and requires a better location for any visitor, young or old, to read.


Visitors exploring the museum at the time of visiting were families with young children, up to elderly over the age of 65. Thus, the museum attracts a diverse audience. This diversity can become a challenge as the museum designs for 15 to 25-year-old people. As inclusivity is one of their principles, all exhibitions should be accessible to all audiences. Focusing on a specific age group yet being inclusive for all is a considerable contradiction. Interactive shows for 15 to 25-year-old people have different technical and visitor specific needs and requirements than shows for the general public.


Image 2


For example, the interactive Wodliworngatti (image 2), contains stories presented on a long, horizontal screen that responds to touch on specific locations. Once touched, an Aboriginal story shows in text and animations. The method of storytelling is lovely, showing one sentence at a time supported with validating graphics. The stories are simple and easy to follow. Furthermore, there are multiple indications to start a story. These signals are placed at a suitable height for any person to touch. On the other hand, the story’s content disappears rapidly. The letter type is not easy to read, and the story shows up about 2 meters from the ground. All these points make this show not accessible to children. Therefore, it lacks engagement and will not create a profound emotional experience with them. The inclusivity principle needs work in either rethinking the target audience, making all shows accessible for all audiences, or finding a better way to target the primary audience.


Creating an emotional experience is another principle the museum listed. It wants to challenge the traditional by building emotional experiences that are audacious. The principle is vague, as it does not explain the concept of ‘traditional’ for their shows. The meaning of traditional is assumingly a conventional place with objects a visitor cannot interact with. This assumption landed as MOD. does the opposite, giving each exhibition various quantities of interactivity. The museum does an excellent job on this component. Nevertheless, interactivity does not directly lead to a more elevated visitors’ emotional experience or a more audacious show.


Image 3


To illustrate this point, let us look at the temporary exhibition Invisibility (image 3), designed by a PhD student. The student aims to reveal the unseen with its display. The experience starts in a dark room with four enormous upright screens on the four corners of the space. Tension-filled music plays softly in the space’s background. While wandering in the space, ghost-like strange-shaped figures present themselves on the screens. It creates wonder about their origin. Quickly it becomes clear that the figures represent the visitors. Once this is known, the interest and engagement in this space drop rapidly. There is no other trigger or information piece that incentivizes the visitor to keep engaging or wondering about its meaning. Although the attempt to reveal things that do not exist is there, the show misses a story with which a visitor can connect easily. The interaction is too limited and does not create an emotional connection with visitors.


The museum aims to use data to create sensory and interactive experiences for its visitors. It stands out in its use of interactivity compared to many other museums. It does excellent in embedding Aboriginal knowledge in its shows. However, the shows need a revamp to ensure that the level of interactivity creates an optimal visitors experience. Suggested is to add two design principles: keep it simple, and make experiences visitor-first. Furthermore, the museum would benefit from either finding better ways to attract the right target audience or making the exhibitions more accessible for all visitors.