The purpose of this paper is to contribute to understandings of how documents are experienced by looking to work in reception studies for methodological examples. Based on a review of research from literary studies, communication studies and museum studies, it identifies existing approaches and challenges. Specifically, it draws attention to problems cited in relation to small-scale user studies and suggests an alternative approach that focusses on how infrastructures influence experience.
This paper presents data collected from over a year of ethnographic work at a cultural archive and exhibition space and analyses the implications of infrastructural features such as institutional organization, database structures and the organization of physical space for making available certain modes of reception.
This research suggests that infrastructure provides a useful perspective on how experiences of documents are influenced by larger systems.
This research was conducted to explore the implications of an alternative research methodology. Based on the ethnographic study presented, it suggests that this approach produces results that warrant further work. However, as it is intended only to be a test case, its scope is limited, and future research following the approach discussed here should more fully engage with specific findings in relation to the experience of documents.
This paper presents an alternative approach to studying the experience of documents that responds to limitations in previous work. The research presented suggests that infrastructures can reveal ways that the experience is shared across contexts, shifting discussions from individuals and objects to technical systems, institutions and social structures.
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