Social Media and Interaction Design in Art Museums

By Rolf Steier and Palmyre Pierroux

InterMedia, University of Oslo

In art museums, the integration of digital representations, texts, and interactives in gallery spaces has contributed to both changing professional practices and new social and cognitive challenges for visitors (Pierroux & Ludvigsen, in press). In contrast to earlier ‘stand-alone’ multimedia presentations accessed on kiosks and computers in the physical gallery space, interactive interpretive resources are increasingly providing opportunities for visitors to generate content or participate in other forms of creation through social media. In this paper, we will examine two instances of in situ visitor content creation in interactives at the National Gallery of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, Norway.

The interactives were collaboratively developed by university researchers and museum curators in the CONTACT project, exploring the design of digital resources and social media to engage visitors with the work of Edvard Munch. The  ‘Myself’ interactive invited visitors to study self-portraits by Edvard Munch by reproducing their own versions of his works. Visitors ‘posed like Munch’ and took a photograph, and were then invited to caption and share their photos on the museum’s Flickr stream. They were also allowed to send their pictures to an email address of their choosing. The second station, entitled ‘My Friends’, encouraged visitors to sit at a table and read about Munch’s social network of artist friends, and to participate in an activity that involved writing a ‘tweet’ to be posted on Twitter. Both of the interactives facilitated online content sharing (Flickr and Twitter), with the products appearing both on the museum’s website and on screens in the project room.

In this presentation we discuss the pedagogical approach to integrating social media in the interaction design of the two activities, and analyze log data and video recordings of visitors’ use. The purpose of the analysis is to critically reflect on how features of social media may be designed to support visitors’ engagement and meaning making in art museums.


Pierroux, P. and Ludvigsen, S. (in press) Communication Interrupted: Textual Practices and Digital Interactives in Art Museums. In Schrøder, K. & Drotner, K. (Eds.) The Connected Museum: Social Media and Museum Communication. Routledge: London.

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