This research investigates the cultural factors affecting the use of interactive science exhibits including interactive science and technology exhibits (ISTEs) by visitors to science museums worldwide. Visitors bring differing characteristics and experiences to bear upon the task of using these exhibits. These affect the nature and quality of their interaction with the exhibits. This research has focused on the cultural issues, and has defined them using 10 distinct and coherent ‘dimensions’. This has been achieved by extensive review of relevant earlier research work and building on this with experimental studies with visitors and interviews with science museum experts in the UK and Thailand.
Interactive science exhibits now take many forms, and therefore for scientific investigation of their use it is essential to classify them in a form which promotes research validity and reliability. This research has developed a new classification of interactive science exhibits into four classes based upon the user’s perception, cognition and the nature of the interaction. The classes are: (1) simple interaction with direct understanding; (2) simple interaction with complex understanding; (3) multiple interactions with direct understanding; and (4) multiple interactions with complex understanding. This classification was used in experimental studies of interaction with exhibits at science museums. The research methods used mixed methods of quantitative and qualitative research through three separate studies. The data collection methods were: interviews, questionnaires, and video recording observation. The findings were that not only language issues and conceptual understanding are important factors, but other cultural factors were also inter-related and affect visitors’ learning through ISTEs.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST),Thailand