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Topic: Culture Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Carlo Maiolini

Published on August 03, 2009

  • Description and goals

    The interactive exhibition AVATAR aims to inform a wide audience about the technology, the anthropology and the philosophy around online virtual worlds.
    More in particular AVATAR aims to foster a discussion on the social and cultural implications of these three dimensional worlds, where millions of people meet, build, commerce and live together through their avatars: digital alter egos, strange citizens of these brave new worlds.
    Norrath, Svarga, Paragon City are some of the thousands of lands where humans wander, fleeing from the real world. From what they are fleeing and where they are going is the topic of AVATAR.

  • Development process and challenges

    AVATAR proposes a new kind of exhibition itinerary: it is hosted into a rela museum but it develops COMPLETELY through digital 3D environments. The visitors of the museum access the exhibition halls from the inside of hi-tech computer kiosks. And each visitor is asked to drive a digital alter ego, created for the occasion. An extraordinary journey will thus begin through imaginary scenarios, where each avatar-visitor is free to communicate with the others and visit the exhibition together.
    The graphic simulation is studied to be detailed and pleasant so to involve also the profane to virtual worlds and videogames. The interface with he 3D will be also extremely easy to use.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    We learned A LOT from Avatar. Its organization and summative evaluation, as well as visitors interactions has been object of two Master Thesis in Sociology.
    As fast facts of we learned can be put forward:

    1. The videogame-like medium (serious game) was able to bring to our museum the “forbidden” target of adolescent and pre adolscent.

    2. If carefully studied the interaction with the digital medium can be friendly and pleasant also to people that don’t usually use computer or videogames (e.g. ageing people).

    3. Travelling through a 3d exhibition creates in the visitors the same sense of moving than a physical itineray.

    4. The avatar customization is very important also if visitors know that they’ll be using that avatar only for a couple of hours.

    5. Art direction and aesthetic care is important in the 3d environments, maybe even more important than in real world exhibits.

    6. We had not few cases, especially through the teenagers, of people coming back to the museum to “re-play the game”.

    7. 10% avr of our visitors suffered from dizziness in moving through the 3d environment. I think this is unavoidable because it depends on population statistics of vestibular organ sensitiveness.

    8. The guest book at the end of the exhibition contained many philosophical reflections written by the visitors. The thoughts adressed themes like the importance of the mask and of the role in the society, and what is real and what is not.

  • Exhibition Opened: October 2008

  • Traveling Exhibition: Yes

  • Location: Trento, Italy

  • Estimated Cost: Less than $100,000 (US)

  • Size: Less than 1,000 sq ft.

  • Website(s):  http://www.avatarexperience.eu

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