XXVIII.5 September - October 2021
Page: 50
Digital Citation

Interaction design inspirations from children’s drawings in a mixed-reality museum exhibition

Rojin Vishkaie

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In this article, we contribute to child-computer interaction (CCI) as an evolving area of research and design. Our goal is to explore children's, as well as their families', understanding of Greek culture in the mixed-reality (MR) exhibition Take Me There: Greece (TMTG) at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. We collected children's drawings based on interactions with physical and digital interactive installations at the exhibition. The drawings served as a useful entry point for envisioning interaction design inspirations. We realized that interactivity in the museum exhibitions fostered overall cultural empathy in our participant children and their families.

back to top  Insights


back to top  Building Cultural Empathy Through MR Exhibitions

To increase visitor engagement, museums are adopting MR features where real and virtual worlds merge. Fostering cultural empathy through MR hybrid, physical, and digital spaces, however, is open for further exploration [1,2].

Inspired by the research and the design of MR technology for children's museums, we took a step toward understanding the role of MR environments in cultural empathy, particularly among children, the so-called digital generation [3].

back to top  The Process

Asking children and their families to explain their experience and understanding through a quick drawing is both effective and fun [4]. Hence, we asked participants to draw the one thing they learned about Greece that they would continue thinking and talking about after the exhibition.

Over one week, we engaged 30 children and their families—a total of 95 participants—who visited various physical and digital installations of the TMTG exhibition to participate in the drawing activity.

The TMTG exhibition is one of the largest MR exhibitions on modern Greece ever mounted in the U.S. It is also an exhibition that affords many opportunities for families to engage in both physical and digital technology. The use of tangible manipulatives and touchscreen-based interaction in the MR environment is somewhat unique among children's museums because many of them do not incorporate as much MR technology as they could, according to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis [5].

We grouped the drawings and our interpretive insights in the form of proposed interaction design inspirations. These cluster into nine categories aligning with specific installations at the TMTG exhibition. Our interaction design inspirations abstract our interpretations of the drawings into generalized takeaways that may inspire interaction design targeted at promoting cultural empathy.

The drawings in this article were gathered or commissioned by one of the authors and the Children's Museum of Indianapolis with required permissions from all participants.

back to top  The Drawings

We present the drawings as artistic contributions in the following sections.

Boarding the plane. Drawing 1 captures the airplane as the first MR installation in the TMTG exhibition. Families, role-playing as passengers, boarded a pretend airplane. Passengers were greeted by a video of the flight crew presented on the displays mounted in the plane. The plane's seats created an illusion of landing in Athens through haptic feedback simulation and video footage mounted in the plane windows. Drawing 1 was created by a family of four (the two children, a girl and a boy, were between the ages of four and eight). The girl made the drawing while her parents described some of the plane's details to her. As we talked to the family about their experience, the daughter indicated that she had never been on a plane before. She immediately began talking about her upcoming flight to Chicago. The interactive and immersive experience of the MR airplane enabled her to extend her perception of traveling to another place, using a means of transportation that she had not experienced before.

ins02.gif Drawing 1.

Interaction design inspiration: Simulating MR environments by means of mixed physical and digital installations can foster children's imaginations in a way that prepares them for real-world events.

Fishing boat. In the fishing boat installation, children cast nets to catch pretend fish for local markets. Some children overcame their reluctance to touch fish and other aquatic animals. The five images shown here were completed by four different families. Two brothers between the ages of 10 and 12, accompanied by their parents, drew a fisherman and a blue fish in drawings 2 and 3. Drawing 4 shows a blue and a purple fish done by a five-year-old boy, who was accompanied by his parents. The fishing boat in drawing 5 was done by a teenage boy. A boy of about five years old contributed drawing 6. Both the teenager and the five-year-old boy were accompanied by adults. Similar to the pretend airplane, the fishing boat in the installation was a half-size mock-up. The teenager, however, depicted a full-size boat.

ins03.gif Drawing 2.
ins04.gif Drawing 3.
ins05.gif Drawing 4.
ins06.gif Drawing 5.
ins07.gif Drawing 6.

Interaction design inspiration: An interactive MR-simulated experience can help children visualize real-world contexts by means of real and virtual objects, which motivate empathy and learning about these contexts.

Turtle conservation. The turtle conservation was among the most popular installations at the TMTG exhibition. Children could examine the turtles' living conditions to help save them; they could also care for rescued loggerhead sea turtles; count, measure, and protect turtle eggs; and feed the turtles their favorite meals, such as pieces of squid, shellfish, and fish. Drawings 7 to 13 were by seven different families who captured various aspects of the installation such as the turtles and their eggs. Children between ages three and 10 were the main individuals who drew the pictures while being cued and assisted by their parents or grandparents. Drawing 12 depicts the Turtle Rescue Center building.

ins08.gif Drawing 7.
ins09.gif Drawing 8.
ins10.gif Drawing 9.
ins11.gif Drawing 10.
ins12.gif Drawing 11.
ins13.gif Drawing 12.
ins14.gif Drawing 13.

Interaction design inspiration: Immersive simulated experience can help children understand important animal-human interactions and create engagement with species conservation.

Restaurant and bakery. Drawings 14 to 17 show the restaurant and bakery installations. Adults sat at tables outside the restaurant and bakery, while children gathered locally sourced food and took food orders from their families. To prepare authentic Greek meals, the children followed a cooking video and recipes. Drawing 14 was done by the mother of two girls who appeared extremely engaged in baking bread and baklava. The children were more focused on and interested in preparing food than drawing. Their mother, who was sitting in the courtyard, was more interested in talking about her experience, stating, "I always wanted to try and cook authentic Greek meals." After watching the cooking videos, she said, she was inspired to make dolmades. The remainder of the drawings were done by young children who were cued by their parents about the ingredients used in the bakery and restaurant. Drawing 15 was by a boy, about four years old, who depicted himself eating traditional Greek baked goods. Drawing 16 was done by a boy of about seven who depicted a gyro as his favorite Greek dish. Drawing 17, which shows two loaves of bread and a fish bone, was created by a girl about four years old, who was accompanied by her mother.

ins15.gif Drawing 14.
ins16.gif Drawing 15.
ins17.gif Drawing 16.
ins18.gif Drawing 17.

Interaction design inspiration: Food, and its contexts of recipe sharing, preparation, serving, and enjoyment, is a foundational means to promote multicultural and intercultural awareness.

Olive mill. Drawings 18 and 19 depict the olive mill installation, where families could use multiple knobs and handles to pass faux olives through the hopper, washing bin, and olive press, eventually filling a large tank and individual bottles with olive oil. Drawing 18, contributed by a girl of about four, shows the olive trees. This child was assisted by her parents. Drawing 19 was completed by a mother visiting the exhibition with family and friends. While these two drawings do not include the olive mill, they do show that the olive mill was memorable to these families, who expressed their understanding of the mill by drawing the trees.

ins19.gif Drawing 18.
ins20.gif Drawing 19.

Interaction design inspiration: Simulating environments by mixing tangible artifacts and simulated crops from a real-world traditional process can promote understanding of traditional means of growing and distributing organic food.

Traditional outfits. Drawings 20, 21, and 22 were inspired by dresses on display, as well as outfits that visitors could try on at the cultural center installation. These drawings were done by three girls between the ages of five and 10, who were visiting the museum with a large group of family and friends. Drawing 20 is an attempt by one of the girls to reconstruct a traditional yellow dress that she enjoyed looking at. Drawing 21, which depicts an outfit, was done by a girl who loves flowers. Drawing 22 does not appear to be a direct representation of the outfits displayed at the exhibition. Nonetheless, the girl who drew it said that she thought the traditional Greek outfits were beautiful and memorable. Interestingly, all the individuals who made drawings of outfits were female, even though outfits for men were available at the cultural center installation.

ins21.gif Drawing 20.
ins22.gif Drawing 21.
ins23.gif Drawing 22.

Interaction design inspiration: By mixing the displays of traditional fashion with opportunities to try on such apparel, children can appreciate the beauty of traditional clothing. Eliminating gender barriers to such appreciation is a goal.

More traditional outfits. Drawing 23 was made by a woman and her two daughters, one of whom was between three and five, and the other a toddler. The mother did most of the drawings at the bottom showing the traditional clothes, crown, shirt, and wings displayed at the cultural center installation. The mother and her daughters mentioned that they enjoyed trying on the clothing and accessories. Drawing 24 is by another four-year-old girl who was accompanied by her mother. The girl appeared to have also enjoyed the outfits.

ins24.gif Drawing 23.
ins25.gif Drawing 24.

Interaction design inspiration: MR experiences connected to the processes of traditional handicrafts encourage deeper appreciation of the time and effort that goes into the creation of such designs.

Traditional art. Drawings 25, 26, and 27 represent traditional Greek metalwork in the form of coins and furniture that were displayed in the cultural center, restaurant, and bakery. Visitors sat on traditional metal furniture to rest, socialize, and be served authentic "meals" by the children. Drawings 25 and 26 were done by families who enjoyed the furniture. Drawing 27 was made by two sisters, both between six and eight, who were intrigued by the coins on display.

ins26.gif Drawing 25.
ins27.gif Drawing 26.
ins28.gif Drawing 27.

Interaction design inspiration: MR installations can create the feeling of visiting another place.

Musical instruments. Drawing 28 shows a traditional Greek musical instrument displayed in the cultural center installation. The teenage girl who did this drawing was visiting the exhibition with her nine siblings, her mother, and a couple of friends. While drawing, she mentioned that she likes to play a musical instrument and sing. She also said that visiting the TMTG exhibition inspired her to pursue her interest in music.

ins29.gif Drawing 28.

Interaction design inspiration: Displays of traditional instruments are especially appealing to visitors with an interest in music.

Greek culture: An in-depth Greek cultural exchange through art, food, music, outfits, architecture, and nature is captured in drawings 29 and 30, made by two American families. Drawing 29 was produced by two teenage girls and their parents. The girls appeared interested in learning the Greek alphabet through a multitouch digital game. They also showed interest in the music, food, fishing boat, turtle conversation, and olive mill installations. Drawing 30 was captured by a group of eight female siblings between the ages of four and 12, their mother, babysitter, and cousins. The girls talked enthusiastically about their broad interest in Greek culture. They were especially impressed by the dances, clothing, books, art, buildings, and food at the exhibition. Both families who participated in the group drawings mentioned that being immersed in the exhibitions increased their understanding of another culture.

ins30.gif Drawing 29.
ins31.gif Drawing 30.

Interaction design inspiration: MR is an effective space to foster multicultural and intercultural understanding.

back to top  Takeaway

From the drawings, we learned that the TMTG exhibition offered hybrid, physical, and virtual installations that encouraged building empathy for and a more comprehensive understanding of Greek culture by children and their families.

In the future, we plan to deepen the lessons of empathy fostered by the MR exhibition. We will especially explore how designing MR exhibitions can augment visitors' understanding of space and time, as well as the interfaces of other cultures through both virtual and real means.

back to top  Acknowledgments

We thank all the children and their families for their participation and inspiration. We especially thank the associate researchers, and curators, docents, and staff at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis for supporting this work.

back to top  References

1. Benford, S. and Giannachi, G. Performing Mixed Reality. MIT Press, 2011.

2. Ciolfi, L., Damala, A., Hornecker, E., Lechner, M., and Maye, L. Cultural Heritage Communities: Technologies and Challenges. Routledge, 2017.

3. Montgomery, K. Generation Digital Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet. MIT Press, 2009.

4. Nicol, E. and Hornecker, E. Using children's drawings to elicit feedback on interactive museum prototypes. Proc. of the 11th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children. ACM, New York, 2012, 276.

5. Take Me There: Greece. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, 2019; https://www.childrensmuseum.org/exhibits/take-me-there

back to top  Author

Rojin Vishkaie is a user experience researcher. Her research focuses on user-centered design for interactions and experiences aimed at social innovation and impact. rojin.sv@gmail.com

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