The Interaction of Casual Users with Digital Collections of Visual Art. An Exploratory Study of the WikiArt Website
As many cultural institutions are publishing digital heritage material on the web, a new type of user emerged, that casually interacts with the art collection in his/her free time, driven by intrinsic curiosity more than by a professional duty or an informational goal. Can choices in how the interaction with data is structured increase engagement of such users? In our exploratory study, we use the WikiArt project as a case study to analyse how users approach search interfaces for free exploration. Our preliminary results show that, despite the remarkable diversity of artworks available, users rely on familiarity as their main criterion to navigate the website; they stay within known topics and rarely discover new ones. Users show interest in heterogeneous datasets, but their engagement is rarely sustained, while the presence of slightly unrelated artworks in a set can increase curiosity and self-reflection. Finally, we discuss the role of the database’s perceived size on users’ expectations.
This research was funded by EPSRC and AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Media and Arts Technology (EP/L01632X/1).
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