Haptic interaction with visual information : tactile exhibition as inclusive interface between museum visitors and the Bronze Bust of Sophocles

Onol, Isil (2011) Haptic interaction with visual information : tactile exhibition as inclusive interface between museum visitors and the Bronze Bust of Sophocles. (PhD thesis), University of Huddersfield, .


Through creative practice research this thesis investigates the concept of touch and its application to museums with the process defined as ?practice of touch?. The main practical outcome of this thesis is an interface between the museum visitor and an untouchable museum object as part of the object interpretation. The implementation of this idea is realised with the ?Tactual Explorations? project. The format of this project is a tactile exhibition consisting of virtual and conventional artworks combined. The subject of the study focuses on interaction between museum visitors and exhibits in order to create an accessible and tactile solution around museums? ?do not touch? policy; without being limited to but being especially for blind and partially sighted visitors. The reason behind paying special attention to these members of the audience is the significance of the sense ?touch? in communicating with the world around them. While the main objective of this research is to gain more understanding of the concept of ?touch?, on a deeper level it investigates whether or not a haptic interaction with untouchable visual information can be achieved with the aid of a creative interface between the museum visitor and an untouchable museum exhibit. By using this creative interface, the aim of the research extends to gaining a better understanding of touch through curating with information design and artistic methods. The purpose behind the idea is to form an inclusive museum experience free from assumptions of just one interpreter without rejecting the traditional methods of object interpretation. The practical outcome enhances dialogue with the existing information by paying special attention to tactile properties of a museum object through a set of artworks. The project is supported by other practical experiments in order to understand the value of visual/photographic information attached to an untouchable object and involve other scholars and artists in interpreting this information tactually. While accepting museums? policy of ?do not touch?, the praxis of this thesis is proposed as a method of interpretation that aims to bring in the ?missing interactivity of touch? through an engaging tactile exhibition of physical and virtual artworks made by various artists. In contrary to more common approaches of involving artists in interpreting museum objects, in this model created works are not inspired by the original, but directly based on its texture information in order to create haptic interaction, without using a direct replica or embossed copies. In other words, this interface is presented as an addition to the object?s formal interpretation, not to replace it. The research adopts creative practice research methodology in general; and realises it with a reflective and participatory approach borrowed from action research within interpretive research paradigm. The main research strategy deployed is practice-led. Rather than staying in the boundaries of qualitative research, the study takes guidance from the manifesto of performative research which is declared as an alternative to the qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, by offering creative approaches to conducting a research project.

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