Institute of Archaeology


Conducting Visitor Studies with the Experience Recorder

This study represents a full-scale experiment with mobile and ubiquitous computing technologies building on previous pilots undertaken by the research team that built confidence in the feasibility of this approach. Specifically, the Experience Recorder (ER), a pervasive computing platform developed at Birkbeck College was used to capture, replay and analyse visitor experiences.

The ER is a hardware and software prototype that allows the continuous capture, archival and reconstruction of personal experiences. In this case, specially modified smartphones were used to record fine resolution location information of families during their visit to the London Zoo and in some cases additional parameters such as spatial density. From these inferences were able to be made about their spatial behaviour and their interaction with physical objects in general and specific exhibits in particular.

Researchers used ER to capture patterns of visitor spatial navigation which were used to explore how they relate to the family agenda and specifically to their understanding of the subject matter, their motivations and expectations, using the London Zoo as a case study. To do so, visitors were asked at the beginning of the visit to construct their Personal Meaning Map (PMM) related to the exhibition. Then, their visit was recorded with the ER and repeated the PMM at the end of the visit. The pre- and post-PMMs were compared and cross-related with patterns of spatial navigation. To extract these patterns from the raw location data machine-learning techniques were used to discover specific characteristic behaviours. For example, the observed visit trails correspond to a so-called Levy flight, which is frequently encountered in biological systems and is often related to efficient strategies for foraging. Moreover, the parameter of the related power law distribution of displacements recorded for a particular family appears to be related to their agenda for the visit.

Related outputs


  • UbiComp Grand Challenge Initiative fund ('UbiCompGC') administered by the University of Nottingham and funded by the EPSRC