The Role of Tangible Interaction to Communicate Tacit Knowledge of Built Heritage

Eslam Nofal*, Rabee Reffat, Vanessa Boschloos, Hendrik Hameeuw, Andrew Vande Moere

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Meanings and values of built heritage vary from factual and explicit meanings which are relatively easy to present, to more tacit knowledge, which is typically more challenging to communicate due to its implicit and often abstract character. In this paper, we investigate how tangible interaction influences the communication of this tacit knowledge of built heritage, and howit affects the experience of visitors. Through a between-group comparative study in a real-world museum context, we examined howthe tangible characteristics of an interactive prototypemuseuminstallation influence how visitors perceive a particular story containing tacit heritage knowledge. The communicated story relates a historical journey in ancient Egypt to the physical and architectural characteristics of the entrance colonnade at the Djoser Complex in Saqqara. Our experimental conditions consisted of an interactive navigation (input) and a passive representation (output) components, ranging from traditional digital displays to fully tangible means of interaction. We report on our findings, which showed various differences and commonalities between our three experimental conditions. We conclude with a number of discussion points and design recommendations: (a) to strive for balance between navigation and representation modalities in terms of affordance and the required cognitive effort; (b) to take advantage of physical representation and grasping, such as conveying particular physical details and characteristics; and (c) to consider design aspects of embodiment, physical abstraction and materiality for future research or potential further development of communicating the meanings and values of heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-436
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • tangible interaction
  • tacit knowledge
  • built heritage
  • communication
  • physical affordance
  • embodiment
  • Saqqara
  • museum studies


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