Outdata-ed museums: creating ethical and transparent data collection processes in museums

Cameron, Harriet R (2023) Outdata-ed museums: creating ethical and transparent data collection processes in museums. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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UK museums are contradictory sites of education and community outreach, and emblems of colonial legacy and elitism. Physical and socioeconomic barriers prevent meaningful engagement for audiences, but particularly marginalised peoples. To identify and overcome these barriers, museums and cultural institutions are seeking technological solutions that capture and analyse personal data. However, current legislation and attitudes towards personal data also risk perpetuating exclusionary barriers. Many governments and organisations use personal data to suppress, undermine, and violently target minoritised or marginalised communities whilst upholding the status quo that marginalised them in the first place. This inequality is further entrenched by the powerlessness most people feel in the face of how data is collected and used on a day-to-day basis.

Drawing on Human Computer Interaction, Human Geography and New Museology, this PhD thesis seeks a solution to these concerns that empowers museums to safely collect the data they need whilst enabling audiences to become active in their own data curation. Using co-creative principles, input is sought from museums and audiences to answer three questions:

• How are discourses and practices surrounding personal data negotiated, defined, perpetuated, and resisted in museums?

• What is the value of personal data to museums and audiences?

• Can mutually beneficial and transparent data exchange foster meaningful, long-term relationships between museums and audiences?

To address these questions, a novel theoretical framework that explores museums as place, technology as mediator, and relational personal data through a lens of power is generated. Four sequential studies are then conducted utilising a post-structural feminist epistemology. The first study presents a content analysis of privacy policies to explore what data museums typically collect and how that information is conceptualised and shared with audiences, showing that museums collect a broad range of quantitative data but inadequately express to audiences what, how, or why. The second study presents a workshop with museum staff to determine what data would benefit the museum and what prevents it from being captured. It shows that museums seek qualitative, behavioural data but are limited by resource constraints. The third study uses workshop style activities to ask audiences to conceptualise the value of their desirable data and speculate different ways for their data to be used in the museum. The study highlights barriers to data engagement including fatigue and lack of understanding, and shows trust and transparency to be key motivators in data sharing. The fourth study uses a novel methodology to speculate a data-enabled museum visit, from which a technology probe called ‘MuNa’ is developed and tested in a virtual museum visit with real audiences. Evaluation shows how transparency and trust can be synchronously developed through meaningful engagement with data. This is shown to increase the engagement of audiences with both museum and data, fostering long-term, meaningful relationships between venue and visitor and the creation of data subjects able to advocate for their own data rights.

The implications of this research reach across each of its disciplines and into the everyday practices of cultural organisations and audiences. Contributing novel paradigms of understanding surrounding the museum visit experience including different stakeholder perspectives addressing museums, technology, and personal data, the thesis presents evidence of an equitable and sustainable, data-enabled future.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Koleva, Boriana
Benford, Steve
Spence, Jocelyn
Coen, Stephanie
Keywords: Personal Data, HCI, Human Computer Interaction, Privacy, Ethics, Museums and Galleries
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA 75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Computer Science
Item ID: 73608
Depositing User: Cameron, Harriet
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2023 04:40
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2023 04:40
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/73608

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