hide logo

Nicole Schimkus

(Re-)imagining Interfaces through Dis/ability. Designing Interactive Encounters for Museums

Museums, as public places and trusted sites of learning, generally aim to be accessible and inclusive to everyone. Considering the advancing level of digitalisation since and before the events related to Covid-19, interface constellations become an increasingly relevant point of contact between the visitor and the collection. Default interaction paradigms claim a human-centred perspective and strive for intuitive/seamless usability and desirable user experiences. Based on this, this dissertation project asks not only what it means that disabled people are often not accommodated by the design of computational technologies, but also how people are marked as disabled by their lack of accessibility and inclusivity. If interface constellations model and materialize, and are modelled and materialized by conceptions of a “normal” user based on common sense assumptions of their cognitive, physical and sensory dis/abilities, how does their “abnormal” counterpart, by means of exclusion and othering, become manifest? How is difference coded into (im)material environments and how might they be reconfigured to undo their marginalising and discriminating effects?

Instead of treating disability as a regulatory supplement to conventional design processes, resulting in explicit or implicit attempts to overcome, fix or eliminate disability, this research aims to (re-)imagine design processes through dis/ability. Putting embodied and analytical encounters of dis/ability at the centre acknowledges the generative potential and ingenious creativity of disability, comprising a range of conceptual knowledge and lived experiences of skilfully and artfully negotiating inaccessible and hostile socio-technical environments. This research project therefore turns to disability studies and research around the body to productively critique, complicate and diversify well-established and taken for granted design processes, and to examine universalising/normalising forces in and through design. The research will be informed by the planning and execution of participatory design formats to develop prototypes for interactive museum experiences, as well as a framework for their evaluation.

Brief Bio
Nicole Schimkus studied spatial design at Wismar University of Applied Sciences and holds a master’s degree in interface and interaction design from Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. She is interested in the diversification and personalisation of museum experiences, which translated into her master’s thesis as well as her work as exhibition designer. Since 2018, she has been a PhD fellow at the research group SENSING: The Knowledge of Sensitive Media, researching how embodied and analytical encounters of dis/ability can inform the reconfiguration of digital interaction between visitors and museums.