Situated Knowledge

Good example of research performed at the end of the nineties around the new function a museum could/should play. This paper was presented at ‘Museums and the web: an international conference’ in Los Angeles (March 16-19, 1997).

Situated Knowledge and the Virtual Science and Industry Museum: Problems in the social-technical interface.

This paper was produced by the Information in Museums Project, Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University. UK. URL:

The Museum is a perspicuous site for analysing the complex interplay between social, organisational, cultural and political factors which have relevance to the design and use of ‘virtual’ technologies. Specifically, the introduction of virtual technologies in museums runs up against the issue of the situated character of information use. Across a number of disciplines (anthropology, sociology, psychology, cognitive science) there is growing recognition of the ‘situatedness’ of knowledge and its importance for the design and use of technology. This awareness is fostered by the fact that technological developments are often associated with disappointing gains for users. The effective use of technology relies on the degree to which it can be embedded in or congruent with the ‘local’ practices of museum users. Drawing upon field research in two museums of science and technology, both of which are in the process of introducing virtual technologies and exploring the possibilities of on-line access, findings are presented which suggest that the success of such developments will depend on the extent to which they are informed by detailed understanding of practice- practices that are essentially socially constituted in the activities of museum visitors and museum professionals.

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