Art is Emotion: emotions guide the experience to the museum

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What happens when a person is faced with a work of art? What paths do we find ourselves naturally taking when we are inside a museum? What attracts attention and what happens emotionally during an exhibition?

These are just some of the research questions we asked ourselves when evaluating the experience of users who took part in the “2050. A brief history of the future” exhibition, curated by Desaives and Beauloye, which was held at the Palazzo Reale in Milan.

The exhibition promotes an experience in which visitors are invited to enjoy the works of art and become aware of the present reflecting about possible next futures. We felt that this theme was the right springboard for one investigation modality that will outline the future perspectives of research related to the experience of people.

Today we are putting solid foundations for the evaluation of an increasingly customized experience of the user, tailored to his needs. Emotions and implicit responses are mechanisms that govern our behavior. Being able to analyze these components allows us to structure an innovative experience that focuses on the consumer and does not simply leave him in the shoes of a passive spectator. Taking part in an exhibition does not exclusively mean seeing a series of works of art: everything that leads us to enjoy the artwork becomes an integral part of experience itself of that artwork.

The stimuli to which we are exposed in our daily life become increasingly complex. The experience of an exhibition starts from the moment we become aware of it, passes through the retrieval of information and it is only by monitoring what users actually experience that we can improve it. Without forgetting that even the phases before and after the visit constitute important points of engagement in order to satisfy the customer. Understanding what people experience during a museum visit will allow us to define and structure useful approaches to amplify the communicative effects of the exhibition.

Psychophysiological and behavioral responses were monitored through the following wearable device:

  • theEmotiv brain-tracker Epoc +, for the detection of EEG tracks;
  • wristbandEmpathic E4, for the detection of traces of GSR, Heart-rate, Inter-zone adjustment Interval, Temperature;
  • theTobii Pro Glasses 2 Eye-Tracker, for gaze data and visual detection attention related to the user’s visual field during the visit to the exhibition;
  • anenvironmental web-cam, for the take of the scene from a non-subjective point of view, to monitor the visitor/work of art interaction.

In particular, the use of Neuralya, software developed by Qwince, allows the identification of three indexes that relate all the psychophysiological responses analyzed.

In detail they are defined:

  • Engagement Index: indicates the overall emotional reaction to stimuli detected by brain analysis and by the nervous system;
  • MotivationIndex: it is a continuous real value, variable between -1 and +1, correlated to the frontal asymmetry modulations in the alpha power spectral density (AF3 and AF4 channels in the 8-13 Hz band) of the EEG traces;
  • Impact: is an index correlated with the probability of memorization of the stimulus, deriving from the analysis of the engagement path.

At the end of the exhibition and 40 days later interviews were given and the Net Promotion Score (in acronym NPS), a metric that can be used as a valid alternative to the traditional search for customer satisfaction (Reichheld, Frederick F., One Number You Need to Grow, Harvard Business Review, December 2003).

The results allow to integrate the analyzes deriving from the standard tests with the information normally found by the observation of the users, with the analysis of the psychophysiological components. This approach therefore allows to have a more complete and realistic picture in order to identify the motivations that produce certain behaviors. In this way it will also be possible to structure an environment tailored to human needs.

Concretely, an experiment of this type makes it possible to obtain indexes for each analyzed work. It is also possible to define within the museum the areas that most easily attract attention and can therefore enhance the characteristics of the artwork itself and enhance the visitors’ journey. The future of the museum passes through its key element: the user experience.

On November 28th we were invited to present the study and the mixed-method adopted a Mindcare 2016 – “6th EAI International Symposium on Pervasive Computing Paradigms for Mental Health”. The team of cognitive psychologists and TSW researchers presented the methodology that combines quantitative and qualitative analysis, with the aim to provide a vision as complete as possible of the experience lived by people in the interaction with environments, contents and information, and therefore to have the information necessary to improve it.

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30 November 2016 Simona Carniato

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