Has a painting ever brought you to tears or a live performance made your heart race? Have you felt stressed trying to negotiate the crowds at Tate Modern or found yourself alone and blissfully relaxed in a gallery?
When people talk about the value of arts and culture to society, they often make the case that they offer new perspectives on the world and illuminate our own creativity. Imagine the world without libraries, museums, theatres and galleries. A society with no tradition of pantomime, satire, historical painting, or public record of its history. Take a moment to think about how that society would understand its past and its future.
It’s not just the physical archives and collections cultural venues hold that act as a record, we also hold dear the experiences these places offer us. Not only do they give rise to other forms of expression, but the experiences we have in cultural organisations are a chance to understand ourselves and our society. As spaces to reflect, be surprised, shocked, scared, entertained, or amused this is what they offer us. The project aims to capture how they contribute to our health and wellbeing.
As part of my PhD project: The Emotional Geographies of Museum, I’m exploring whether biodata can help us better understand young people’s use of and engagement with museums. The project will use wearable sensors to understand the emotional effect museums have on us. A small sensor, worn on the wrist like a watch or like a Fitbit fitness tracker, will record the emotional responses triggered in the museum. In collaboration with National Museums Wales, I’ll be working with visitors and using their responses to map how different areas of the museum trigger feelings and memories. There are interesting questions ahead. For example, how might these responses vary by age and gender? How do children and young people interpret their bio-data? Can we plot maps that show how exhibiting and exhibits have different emotional intensities?
I’ll be updating this blog throughout the project. If you’d like to ask a question please do so in the comments, on twitter or via email.