University of Leicester
2015hetheringtonakphd.pdf (9.67 MB)

Designing for the Post-Millennials: What assumptions are made by staff in museums about child digital literacy when designing digital interactives?

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posted on 2015-09-21, 13:22 authored by Amy Kristine Hetherington
This research seeks to examine issues surrounding digital literacy discourse and its place within the museum. Using the design of digital interactives as an example, it asks what assumptions museums have made about child digital literacy, and how these assumptions have changed over the last fifteen years. The study proposes a new application of digital literacy theory that can usefully differentiate between what it categorises as realistic and optimistic perceptions of child digital literacy, and then uses this theory to understand how museums view their child visitors and how they design for them digitally. The research adopts a historical approach in its methodology to look at the design processes and digital interactives over the last fifteen years, in three museums of digital interactive design. The thesis explores what it characterises as the ‘four-step’ design process (from user-centred design theory) to help it uncover where assumptions are made and what effect this has had on the resulting interactives. The intention has been to make a case that when designing in-gallery digital interactives for children, the museums tend to adhere more to an optimistic discourse of digital literacy than one that might be seen as realistic, and that furthermore, this is a tendency that has persisted over the course of many years of design in three English museums. The significance of the thesis rests in the appropriation of digital literacy theory to form a greater understanding of museums’ perception of their young visitors, by uncovering the influences on staff in their digital interactive design considerations.



Parry, Ross; Unwin, David

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD


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