Monday, February 18, 2008

Multidimensional Evaluation Based on Story Telling and Scenarios

The interest in narratives has a long tradition. Bruner (1990) considers narrative a primitive function of human psychology, lying at the heart of human thought. The representation of experience in narratives provides a frame which enables humans to interpret their experiences. In this way narrative is a fundamental aspect in the construction of meaning.

Although narratives have been studied in many areas of psychology, the idea of exploiting them for system design and evaluation is quite recent and still not consolidated (Erickson, 1995). It is based on the need to understand user requirements through the collection of implicit knowledge that a user may have gained through experience. In particular, the use of narratives for system evaluation does not aim to provide quantitative results but to structure a framework within with users may express knowledge otherwise difficult to verbalize Stories make it possible to study the complexity of the context (media, internal/external environment, actors); details about critical events that can be observed very seldom; personal involvement; emotional details; and the concreteness and veracity of personal experiences.

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This chapter applies the narrative approach to the evaluation of an electronic tourist guide. The evaluation was carried out in an Italian museum, the Museo Civico, in Siena, with real visitors recruited at the museum entrance. The tourist guide is a prototype system developed within a project called Hyper Interaction within Physical Space (HIPS),' funded by the European Commission within the I-Cube (Is) Programme. The system is very advanced since it exploits cutting edge technologies (positioning technology, dynamic language generation) and visionary interaction design concepts (access to the information space through the physical movement in the museum; user modelling for content adaptation).

The system guides visitors by generating audio messages: users can get instructions on how to find items of interest, hear descriptions with references to items seen earlier and to ones that will follow, or ask for additional information. Information is generated dynamically, adaptive, and integrated with maps and spatial directions. When interacting with users, the system integrates their requests with a customized user-model, the user's browsing history, and their physical location at the moment of the query, providing highly contextual and personalized information (Marti et al, in press). The information content varies according to the user's location, preferences, and to the information already given. From a hardware point of view the system is based on a client-server model; the clients that visitors carry around are pen-driven palmtop computers with a screen, headphones and no keyboard. Localization is performed by various means: infrared, radio and GPS (Global Positioning System). Connectivity to the server is wireless.

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