Designing Across Disciplines: negotiating collaborator interests in a digital museum projectGeri Gay , Cornell University, USA
Robert Rieger , Cornell University, USA
Wendy Martin , Cornell University, USA
Studies of educational technology projects often describe in detail a software interface and theoretical rationale for the design, and then report on the results of studies conducted using the software. What this presentation explores, however, is another very important aspect of the software development process, namely, the negotiation that takes place when diverse groups come together to collaborate on a common project. This presentation will describe the Global Digital Museum software, and will also examine the unique characteristics of the members of the Global Digital Museum development team and how those characteristics had an impact on the eventual design of the software. Each of these groups has its own understanding of what makes a digital collection educationally useful, and these beliefs had to be accommodated in the final product. The creation of educational electronic environments, especially those that provide access to museum or other institutional collections, require the participation of technical, content/curatorial, design and education professionals. In order for all of the members to be satisfied with the outcome of their development efforts, it is important for each group to try to understand and appreciate the concerns of other groups.
It is important to keep in mind that the Global Digital Museum was a research prototype rather than a fully implemented system, although the information gathered about the prototype would be used for further development of digital collection management tools. The prototype was created to test different technical applications for information access and manipulation, such as annotation tools, distributed search engines and user content creation. However, the project illuminated more than the technical possibilities of an integrated museum database. What it also brought to light were the complex challenges that software developers face when different professional cultures intersect.