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9 November, 2004

Alone in a crowd - please

In describing interactive viewing/interpretation technology used at an art gallery in Firenze, Italy, Ben Hammersley mentions disadvantages of giving visitors handheld devices or audio commentary players.  One of his points surprised me:

... it usually distracts people from each other, ruining the social experience of a museum visit.
Er, good?  I certainly welcome anything which decreases my awareness of others in the room; I'm there for the art, not the company.

Even if I visit with my mother or Helen (few others seem to share my interest), we tend to separate and view alone, occasionally meeting briefly to draw the other's attention to items of particular interest. I can honestly say it had never occurred to me to act otherwise. The secondary aspects, of travelling to the gallery, meeting for a 'half-time' drink in the café and discussing the art afterwards, are indeed social, but not the primary activity, of focusing fully on the artwork.

[Update 18/11/04: It seems someone else at the Guardian agrees!]

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