Personalization and customization in Dutch science museums
MetadataShow full item record
Personalization is often regarded by museums as the holy grail to make a meaningful connection with every single visitor. However, the term personalization (defined as a process in which a system makes adaptations to increase the personal relevance to the visitor) is often used interchangeably with customization (defined as a process in which the visitor him or herself is in control of the adaptations to increase the personal relevance). Previous research shows that personalization and customization have several strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the context and goals of a museum, the benefits can outweigh the drawbacks. This study aims to make an inventory of the functions of science museums and investigate how personalization and customization can contribute to fulfilling those functions. First of all, the functions of science museums were assessed by means of a thematic analysis of 32 websites of science museums in the Netherlands. This has resulted in a framework containing 9 meta-functions, 13 organizational functions and 31 public functions. Secondly, nine interviews were held with Dutch science museum professionals regarding the functions of science museums and the perspectives of the interviewees on the use of personalization and customization in science museums. This has resulted in an overview of perceived strengths and weaknesses of personalization and customization examined through the lens of six themes: Personal relevance, information presentation, social experience, free-choice learning environment, technology and data collection, and costs and effort. The results suggest that customization is a less complicated and more economical approach to creating an personal experience than personalization. Customization in the physical world is already omnipresent in science museums, but a digital layer can provide more customization possibilities for science museums that are yet to be exploited. Customization shows potential to fulfill various educational, leisure and identity functions. Several implications for design are presented in the discussion.