Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 5–34 | Cite as

Sotto Voce: Facilitating Social Learning in a Historic House

  • Margaret H. SzymanskiEmail author
  • Paul M. Aoki
  • Rebecca E. Grinter
  • Amy Hurst
  • James D. Thornton
  • Allison Woodruff


This study examines visitors’ use of two different electronic guidebook prototypes, the second an iteration of the first, that were developed to support social interaction between companions as they tour a historic house. Three studies were conducted in which paired visitors’ social interactions were video- and audio-recorded for analysis. Using conversation analysis, the data from the use of prototype 1 and prototype 2 were compared. It was found that audio delivery methods were consequential to the ways in which visitors structurally organized their social activity. Further, the availability of structural opportunities for social interaction between visitors has implications for the ways in which the learning process occurs in museum settings.

Key words

informal learning museum historic house electronic guidebook conversation analysis 



We are deeply grateful to Tom Rogers and Anne Taylor of Filoli Center for their assistance with this project. We also thank Tom for his perceptive comments on the design of the prototype; Bob Moore, Mark Newman, Morgan Price, Peter Putz, Terkel Skaarup, Ian Smith, Michaele Smith, Erik Vinkhuyzen, and Marilyn Whalen for helpful insights; Maribeth Back for assistance in recording the Study 1 audio clips; and Shane Nye for editing the Study 2 audio and video data. Amy Hurst performed this work during two internships from the College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology. This work was funded by the Computer Science Laboratory of the Palo Alto Research Center.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret H. Szymanski
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul M. Aoki
    • 4
  • Rebecca E. Grinter
    • 2
  • Amy Hurst
    • 3
  • James D. Thornton
    • 1
  • Allison Woodruff
    • 4
  1. 1.Palo Alto Research CenterPalo AltoUSA
  2. 2.College of ComputingGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Human–Computer Interaction InstituteCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.Intel ResearchBerkeleyUSA

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