This is a compilation of front-end, formative, and a partial summative evaluations, and an exploratory study using the xMacroscope, a data visualization technology developed for generating data from an exhibit using data captured from visitor actions. The studies were interrupted by the pandemic, and the summative study was unable to be completed. The project was an Innovations in Development AISL project led by Indiana University along with the Science Museum of Minnesota, the University of California, Irvine, and COSI's Center for Research and Evaluation.
Sense-making with data through the process of visualization—recognizing and constructing meaning with these data—has been of interest to learning researchers for many years. Results of a variety of data visualization projects in museums and science centers suggest that visitors have a rudimentary understanding of and ability to interpret the data that appear in even simple data visualizations. This project supports the need for data visualization experiences to be appealing, accommodate short and long-term exploration, and address a range of visitors’ prior knowledge.
The Run exhibit was designed to be installed at SMM, IU, UCI, COSI, and other possible sites that might have been identified as the project continues. This exhibit asked participants to input some personal data into a computer at the beginning of their experience. They then ran or walked, depending on the site, along a track and sensors recorded starting and ending times. These data, as well as the data entered by the participant, helped populate a data table and data visualizations that appeared on a monitor at the end of the running/walking track using the MAV software developed by the project. The goal of the software is to turn visitor activity and entry characteristics into graphic data that compares their unique data against the most recent 50 prior visitors who engaged in the experience. Participants had the opportunity to manipulate different types of data visualizations using the data they entered at the beginning of their experience as well as data entered from previous visitor participants.
Front-end evaluation occurred during the spring and early summer of 2019 at IU and at COSI. Based on results of this evaluation, SMM and IU made software and hardware changes to the exhibit components and shipped them to COSI in January 2020. After doing some testing of the final exhibit prototype, summative evaluation commenced in late February 2020 and continued through early March 2020 until the pandemic shut-down. In its place, an exploratory study of transfer of the xMacroscope to other exhibits was conducted.
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