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The entrance of Universeum
The entrance of Universeum at Korsvägen in Gothenburg.
Photo: Universeum
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How interaction design can pave the way for digital exhibitions – a student project with Universeum

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In a project together with Sweden's national science center, Universeum, the students in the master's programmes Interaction Design and Game Design & Technology have developed interactive experiences.

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Porträtt av Josef Wideström
Josef Wideström, lecturer at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

"The students have created projects with the aim of digitising and making the Universeum's operations more accessible", says Josef Wideström, responsible for the project which is carried out every year together with various partners from the industry.

In the past year, the situation with covid-19 has placed high demands on society. For better or worse, it has accelerated the digitalisation of many Swedish organizations. Josef Wideström, lecturer at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, holds a course for master's students at Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg, where they every year carry out a project together with a partner in the industry. Letting this year's project focus on how we can use digital solutions to continue to interact with each other despite physical distance was a given.

"Since covid-19 came, society has had a challenge to create meetings, exhibitions, conferences and events. That is the reason why we started the project with Universeum, which is a very interactive and exciting environment, containing knowledge that relates a lot to science and technology", says Josef Wideström.

The project aims to prepare students for working life – at the same time as the result will fill a need in society. In the collaboration with Universeum, the students' task was to provide inspiration and propose solutions to perhaps the biggest challenge in 2020 – to maintain the audience's commitment despite visitor restrictions. The idea is a digital platform where the visitor should be able to explore Universeum without being physically there.

"The idea of developing a digital Universeum has been topical for a long time. Since covid-19, the project has become highly topical and has now been launched. The students have given us valuable insights and inspiration for what we can fill the new digital Universeum with", says Catharina Djurelind, pedagogue at Universeum.

Read more: About the digital Universeum

Sustainable and accessible

The digitalisation of society is an ongoing challenge, which has been brought to a head with the corona pandemic. Universeum's digital platform is just one example of a digital solution that came to life earlier than was actually intended.

"The pandemic is a critical situation, but it is also something we in society still have to think about. We may not always have to meet physically, or travel to a place to participate in something. It is more sustainable to do certain things digitally. For example, if we replace a long trip with a video call, it can have some positive sustainability effects", says Josef Wideström.

He continues:

"There is also an accessibility aspect to it. Everything exciting at Universeum is only accessible to people in a certain geographical area. Opening up a virtual Universeum provides a completely different accessibility – and suddenly makes the Universeum a global arena. Then a school class from, for example, Kiruna could just as easily visit Universeum as a school class from Västra Frölunda."

Projects where you use your own data

The 66 students in the two master's programmes created 13 projects whose purpose was to encourage digital interaction. The theme was "Quantified Self" – a growing movement that aims to use data produced by the user himself. One example is the ScreenTime project, which was developed by students Carl Dreyer, David Granqvist, Hannah Malmback, Markus Wallander and Julia Wallen. ScreenTime is an interactive quiz designed to get the participant to reflect on their own screen use.

"The goal was to encourage reflection among young people regarding their screen time on their smartphone. An important factor for us was not to point the finger and say that all screen time is bad, because that is not true. However, there are applications for smartphones that are addictive. We wanted our quiz to make users pay attention to how much time they spend behind the mobile screen and make them reflect if they think that time is well spent", says Markus Wallander.

Read more: About the project ScreenTime

Digital Universeum under development

Digital Universeum is now launched and full of exciting experiences. The hope is to integrate some of the student projects on the platform.

- We hope to be able to take the ideas we got from the students into our new digital platform, which is still under development, says Pia de Gysser, responsible for digitisation at Universeum.

Text: Julia Persson

About the department

The Department of Computer Science and Engineering is a joint department between Chalmers and the University of Gothenburg. The department conducts research and education at both universities – and is responsible for the two master's programmes Interaction Design (at Chalmers) and Game Design & Technology (at the University of Gothenburg).