Where the Web meets the road: Representing science and cultures in the digital age

Professional Forum
Jenny de la Hoz, USA

Museum practitioners and researchers have long understood the benefit of presenting information in multiple modalities.  The Internet has allowed us to utilize this expertise and made our information available to new audiences– audiences which are larger and more diverse than those who typically have visited museums.  But do museum practitioners truly understand the varying perspectives and identities that make up this online audience?  How do we respectfully represent cultures using such a dynamic medium?  Can we benefit from the Web’s constant evolution to create responsive online exhibits?  What research topics are most important to consider in the near future in order to support museums in putting their content online for a global audience?  This panel introduces exhibit developers and researchers who have tried answering these questions with online exhibits and programs.  The people that produce the content are valuable voices in helping us understand new and persistent issues regarding how people interact and learn from content online.

Issues to think about and discuss in the forum: representation of cultures and science (science as a culture) through language, images, and voices; the non-Generalized representations of cultures and peoples; who’s science and science for whom; connecting people to culture and science to help visitors identify with science.

The forum host, Jenny de la Hoz, is a PhD student in Free Choice Learning at Oregon State University.  Her research interest includes utilizing the Web as a format to connect culturally and linguistically diverse audiences with science content.  Her desire to find answers led her to find practitioners and researchers utilizing the Web for similar reasons. The panel is constructed of museum researchers and practitioners.

Dr. Shawn Rowe– Shawn’s background is applied linguistics and developmental psychology in education, specifically the Mediated Action (Wertsch, 1998; Rowe and Wertsch 2002) and MultiModal Discourse Analysis (Norris and Jones, 2005). Most of his work is with museums, both history museums and science museums looking at family group interactions and at how exhibitions are structured to support or undermine certain kinds of learning. His Sea Grant Extension position combines academic work on free-choice learning with practice-based research in the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center.  He is embarking on creating online tools that allow researchers to study visitor museum interaction remotely.

Dr. Deana Dartt-Newton (Coastal Chumash) currently serves as Curator of Native American art at the Portland Art Museum and is an assistant professor at University of Washington, American Indian Studies. Her research examines issues of Native American representation in museums and the role museums play in collective memory about Native peoples.  She curated a successful online exhibit at the Burke Museum, Truth versus Twilight, which addressed the misrepresentations of the Quileute people in the popular Twilight books.

Dr. Jennifer Bachman is an instructor at Oregon State University.  She coordinates the online Free Choice Learning Master’s Program in Science and Mathematics Education.  Her research interests include science and math learning in free choice learning contexts including the utilization of digital environments.  She has developed an online certificate program for informal educators and is interested in how diverse (culturally, linguistically and neurodiverse) learners find and utilize online materials to learn science. Her research included a look at home-educating families resources and web use.

Two other panelists yet to be confirmed:

  • Stephanie Parrish, Director of Education and Public Programs, Portland Art Museum
  • Eric Nardone, Manager of Interpretive Media, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Panelists will start with comments about their experience with these issues and what they have found in their practice that may be of most interest/most important to consider. The aim of the discussion will be to set a research agenda looking into people interacting with science on the web. We hope to at least begin to answer the question–What research will support museum web science content for diverse audiences?