Guided Expectations: A Case Study of a Sound Collage Audio Guide

This paper is a user evaluation of a mobile phone audio guide developed for visitors to use at the National Gallery of Denmark. The audio guide is offered as a downloadable MP3 file to every incoming visitor who is carrying a mobile phone with an open Bluetooth connection. The guide itself is structured through association, offering an experience more comparable to an audio documentary than a traditional guided tour. Instead of directing visitors' focus of attention to selected points and objects provided by the museum as a producer, the sound collage relates indirectly to the various objects of the exhibition, emphasizing visitors' agency and authorship.
The paper reports on a number of strategies developed by visitors when experiencing an unfamiliar guide structure. These strategies reflect both a conflict between the initial expectation of guided instruction and the freedom of making choices according to personal interest, and a conflict between the expectation of a learning experience rather than an aesthetic experience. Results indicate that most visitors are able to make sense of the guide and to use it successfully, in different ways, to enrich their visit. Evaluation also shows that visitors are fond of using their own mobile phones - but they have several problems with their phones in downloading the MP3 file.

6 April 2011 to 9 July 2011