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The interactive museum and its non-human actants

Journal article
Authors Jonathan Westin
Published in The Journal Nordic Museology
Volume 1/2011
Pages 45-59
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Conservation
Pages 45-59
Language en
Keywords Interactivity, non-human actant, technology, communikation.
Subject categories Media and Communications, Cultural Studies


This explorative study highlights the different strands of interactive learning technologies available to museums and educational institutions, and analyzes their function as non-human actants from a perspective of power and discipline. Through a generalized symmetry I describe a specific technology — the interactive display — as an actant exercising the same autonomy as the other actants. This raises the non-human actant to the same level as the human actants and emphasizes how it controls an equal part of the communication. In this way I try to map out how an exchange is manifested through a network of actants where the technologies conserve the inquiring actant's knowledge space rather than broaden it. Despite being offered as a technology to make the visitor heard, the result is as curated as the classic exhibition. I conclude that by themselves, interactive displays do not challenge authority at museums but instead reinforce it.

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