I’ve been undertaking some open coded analysis of visitor contributions to the QRator iPad’s in the Grant Museum for my PhD. It is fascinating to assess the contributions and try and create categories based on the types of visitor comments. At the most basic there three key categories; comments about the museum, comments about the topic discussed on the iPad and associated specimen cases, and then there’s Spam (not as much as you would expect). But then there are comments like this one:
“This museum make no sense! Everybody kn[o]ws that GOD created man and beasts and that there is no such thing as evolution. You should be ashamed!!”
I don’t quite know how to categorise this. This is one of the big problems with analysing textual data, without having any background information on the visitor who provided the comment. I don’t know if this is a true belief or a joke. It is really hard to remain neutral and not create researcher bias when a comment like this comes up. If it is a visitor’s honest opinion, then how cool is that? It is something that I haven’t really seen reflected in a Science Museum before, that I am aware of anyway (other than the creationist museum). How do you deal with concepts from religious beliefs when working with zoological or in fact any biological collections? Should there be an alternative interpretation to that of the scientific? I’m a firm believer in the idea that there are multiple interpretations to objects, as every visitor brings their own interpretation, whether it is based on ‘fact’ or not, it is always based on previous experience. So should museums be encouraging more religion based labels in their interpretative programming? But then again, if it’s a joke, how do I categorise it? Should I take it as face value and class it as a visitor opinion about the museum? Should it count as spam as it isn’t really relevant to the topical discussion? How would you categories comments like this?
Regardless of how to categorise it, comments like this one highlight the usefulness of digital content creation between visitors and the museum. It’s changing the way people think, not only visitors and curator but researchers like me. I love it when interesting visitor comments make me think differently about how to categorise, how to interpret and how to represent objects in new ways. Gotta love digital technology for opening up the conversation.