bog and I remember taking off my
shoes. And I have a picture of myself in
“Why did you take off your shoes?”
“Because they cut the turf, you
remember, off the brow, and it was soft
“It was like a cushion.”
“Yeah...it was a lovely feeling. It was
like walking on a soft mattress. It was
wet. And the ooze would go up between
your toes, remember that?”
“I used to love that walking, and then
you used to have a slane [a spade for
“For cutting down, then you lift it
out and you foot the turf. Five and one
In another episode, the same family gathers around the freshly baked
cake in the kitchen of the Loop Head
House. The granddaughter notices
the basket used to hold the tokens
on the windowsill behind the table.
She takes one and looks at it. There
is an indication as to where another
memory can be found and a souvenir recipe.
“I found the clue: ‘Life in the moun-
tains is difficult during the winter.’”
“So where do we go next, then?”
“Mountain farmhouse No. 5.”
The souvenir itself is actually a
recipe for the Porter Cake that they
have just tasted in the house:
“You should make that now when you
go home… You keep that now and make
it; it’s really nice and ’tis easy to make.”
In this example, we see how the
token’s presence is noticed first as
part of the exploration of the house;
then it suggests to visitors where
they can find more memories.
Additionally, the token triggers a
conversation around the souvenir
itself and then around how the
souvenir will lead to an activity to
be performed at home. In examples
such as this, the tangible tokens
link the site to the sensory qualities
just experienced by visitors in the
house and create a connection from
one building to the next and to what
comes after the day at the museum.
Often the sight of participants
scanning QR codes, recording com-
ments, or opening a token also led
onlookers to strike up conversations.
People were particularly interested
in the content recorded by others;
their stories, comments, and reflec-
tions provided different perspectives
on what they encountered.
lation helped visitors make sense
of their encounters with places in
the museum as they connect to
people’s lives in times past, and
often to their own experiences and
understandings. It also encouraged
the sharing of participants’ own
reflections, comments, and recollections, thus marking their physical presence in the museum with
enhanced personal significance.
Overall, place-sensitive design is
useful for augmenting physical
settings with a concern for how
people experience them and shape
them. Consideration of the material
qualities of the environment and of
personal memories and feelings, as
well as the social interactions and
the cultural understandings linked
to a place, are a powerful frame for
designing engaging interactive experiences in the physical world.
1. Russo, A. Great expectations: Sustaining participation in social media spaces. In Proc. of Museums
and the Web 2009. D. Bearman and J. Trant, eds.
Archives and Museums Informatics, Toronto, 2009.
2. Tuan, Y-F. Place and Space. University of
Minnesota Press, 1977.
3. Bannon, L., Benford, S., Bowers, J., and Heath,
C. Hybrid design creates innovative museum experiences. Comm. of the ACM 48, 3 (2005), 62-65.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Luigina Ciolfi is a lecturer and
researcher at the Interaction
Design Centre in the Department
of Computer Science and
Information Systems, University of
Marc McLoughlin is a recent Ph.D.
graduate from the Interaction
Design Centre, University of
Limerick. His research is con-
cerned with the design and devel-
opment of ubiquitous computing
installations in public places (heri-
tage sites, in particular). He is particularly interest-
ed in design practices that concentrate on visitors’
activities and on how technology can best be
shaped to support them.
September + October 2012
© 2012 ACM 1072-5520/12/09 $15.00