Re-purposing museum experiences: A design-after-design approach

Petros Ioannidis

Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


This thesis explores the conflicts of incorporating playful installations that make use of
digital technologies in an exhibition space of a cultural institutions. The research is situated in
the exhibition space of the Danish Architecture Center (DAC), a cultural institution about the
dissemination of architecture. Museum experiences often employ digital technologies and
support play to bring forward the qualities of exploration and free-choice, thus attracting
visitors and improving the quality of their visit. Including play in their space is valuable but
also controversial. Stakeholders seem to disagree on the value that play brings, and had
trouble accepting some of its elements. The creative, personal, exploratory, and self-
expressive qualities of play lead to visitors discovering new ways of interacting with the
installations, based on their personal motives and interests; re-purposing them in the process.
While established museum design processes often involve participation of visitors during the
pre-deployment phase to inform the design of such experiences, those processes rarely re-
design them once they are deployed; as a result, any use discovered by visitors during the
post-deployment phase does not inform their overall design. Those newly discovered
interactions can create new engagement opportunities, as well as technical and curatorial
challenges. Because of that, there is a need for design approaches that can include that re-
purposing by investigating and using it to inform the design of experiences.
To address that need, this thesis conducts empirical research on the re-purposing which
happened during real use in the exhibition space of DAC. I approached those research
endeavours by employing research-through-design while gathering in-the-wild data from the
exhibition space of DAC, where I conducted three out of four of my studies. Initially, through
the study of Bio-sonic Sense, I worked with elements of ambiguity to support exploration and
free-choice. Then, through the study of We Dare You I gathered ethnographic data, which
allowed me to build an understanding of the specific challenges DAC faces when deploying
hybrid playful experience in their exhibition space. Finally, the subsequent studies of City
Lights and Light House allowed me to try out a specific iterative design process which is built
on the ideals of design-after-design. The process I tested aimed to use that re-purposing as a
tool to re-design the artefact. That process is divided into two stages. First, the initial phase
focus on creating undetermined artefacts by designing for flexible affordances that promote
openness in the possible uses of the object. Second, during the post-deployment phase, those
artefacts are followed and their re-purposing is used as a source for re-designing by through
specific changes in their affordances. Specifically, the artefact is re-designed to highlight the
discovered uses for future visitors.
This research contributes by using the results of that approach to identify three themes that
led to conflicting expectations from play. First, there is a disconnection between the bodily-
sensorial experience of those playful installations by the stakeholders and their cultural
understanding of play when they observed visitors using the same installations. Second, their
educational background seemed to affect their ideals on education, with some following
realist ideals while others idealist ideals. Third, it was difficult for the ones following realist
ideals to accept the unproductive and frivolous aspects of play in the exhibition space.
Overall, incorporating play in museum installations that use digital technologies has
challenges since it can lead to technical failure and it can be opposed by the stakeholder’s
views; however, since newer educational theories, visitor satisfaction, and contemporary
museology ideals can benefit from including such installations into their space, there is value
to explore further how to properly support digital technologies and play to create museum
experiences. Further research can investigate potential design processes that can support the
specific needs of exhibition spaces to address the occurred re-purposing of those installations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages124
ISBN (Print)978-87-7949-413-8
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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