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Scott, Susie; Hinton-Smith, Tamsin; Härmä, Vuokko; Broome, Karl (2013)
Publisher: University of California Press
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: HM
Identifiers:doi:10.1002/SYMB.74
In an effort to facilitate public engagement, contemporary art galleries and museums house interactive exhibits incorporating digital media. Despite removing traditional barriers of cultural capital, however, these exhibitions now presume a level of technological and performative competence, which can feel equally intimidating to visitors. Reporting on an UK-based ethnographic study and using dramaturgical theory, we show how interactive exhibitions can evoke situational shyness in visitors, through the combination of a demand for active, performative engagement and the deliberate restriction of instructional and explanatory information. In this ambiguous setting, visitors search for a social script to guide their action, the absence or opaqueness of which creates self-conscious inhibition. Actors adapt to this resourcefully by looking toward others to provide a replacement script; these may be companion visitors, strangers, or imaginary audiences. Some visitors, meanwhile, demonstrate resistance by refusing to engage with the interactive art agenda altogether, preferring to assume a role of detached spectatorship.
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