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N°16 | Museum mediation through the prism of digital technology

Call for papers of La Revue française des Sciences de l’information et de la communication directed by Cristina Badulescu & Valérie-Inés De La Ville | May 2019

Notes de l’auteur

Directed by Cristina BADULESCU, Associate Professor in Information and Communication Sciences, University of Poitiers, CEREGE EA 1722 Laboratory. Mail:, and Valérie-Inés DE LA VILLE, University Professor in Management Sciences, Director of CEPE (European Centre for Children’s Products), University of Poitiers, CEREGE EA 1722 Laboratory. Mail:

The logic of digital cultures (Open Data, co-creation, collaboration, online mediations, diversionary practices on the Internet, etc.) make experiencing the collections in cultural institutions a form of "participatory museology" (Chaumier, 2007), a process of self-extension, of co-production and appropriation. Questionning the aspects of museum and heritage promotion made possible through digital media requires, on the one hand, looking at interactive mediation tools, their creation and the strategies envisaged by institutions in the implementation of these techniques.

On the other hand, this project aims to analyze the new usage practices of the public. Digital devices and the forms of mediation they bring have an effect on the changes that have taken place in museology where borders are shifting towards copying, virtual duplication, a now competing reality and where notions of appropriation and sharing also need to be re-evaluated.

Cultural institutions are currently positioning themselves in a context of organizational redefinition where digital strategies are part of the practices of cultural professionals as well as in the mediation offerings of museums. The use of digital innovations in the museum field constitutes a opportunity for both promotion and communication for cultural professionals. Museums are thus confronted by the challenges of major projects for digitalising collections, by the mutualisation of shared catalogues, and by the creation of digital devices. We also observe a willingness on the part of museums to be part of the movement of contemporary digital culture, dominated by the public’s experiential expectations that are both interactive, fun and cognitive. Therefore museums need to be aware of and integrate the digital cultural practices of visitors (children, adults, family visits) and take into account their growing interest in the renewed experiences that digital technologies provide…

The emergence of digital devices in museums (for communication, mediation or display) marks a profound transformation in the museum field and is part of a symbolic implication of the museum that requires us to reconsider its relationship with the collections, the documentation and the museum’s history, as well as the status of the public. Florence Andreacola (2014) highlights the various challenges surrounding the introduction of digital technology in museums: interaction, adaptation, personalisation, appropriation and participation are all promises that accompany the design and deployment of digital tools for online and in situ cultural mediation.

Reflecting on the promotion and mediation of knowledge and know-how in a digital context means questioning the changes in the cultural field on three aspects:

1/ The notion of ‘mediation’ deserves to be re-examined. If the first studies present this concept as an integrated aid to museology (in this case, the heritage aspect operates as a vehicle for mediation, Davallon, 1999), the later research emphasises the role of the third party, of the mediator as a courrier (Caune, 2002, Caillet, 1999, etc). The emergence of digital media forces us to reexamine this concept, and above all to develop it towards the idea of "joint mediation" which encompasses digital, museum and social mediation (De la Ville, Badulescu, 2018).

A study of the scientific literature reveals that the expression "digital mediation" carries within it a semantic ambiguity because it can suggest both the mediation of technology and cultural mediation through technology (Sandri, 2016). If from an institutional point of view, the expression "digital mediation" refers to the accompaniment of the public in their use of technology, research in the humanities and social sciences follows two trends. On the one hand, certain works (Gentès 2008; Belaën, 2011; Lesaffre, Watremez and Flon, 2014) approach digital mediation as a juxtaposition of the technological and the cultural and question the issues and consequences of the first on the second, in terms of analysing the interfaces and uses. On the other hand, other research addresses digital mediation as the articulation between cultural content and digital practices aiming to establish a bridge between the museum discourse and the public (Casemajor Loustau, 2012; De Bideran, 2017).

How does digital technology lead us to rethink the relationship with mediation, collections as well as public practices?

2/ Evoking the development of the digital museum requires us to determine and analyse the mediation and communication mechanisms along two lines of research: one dedicated to "cultural and digital spaces/objects" in their relation to knowledge; the other linked to the usage practices of "targeted audiences" in an institutional approach to the democratisation of knowledge and culture. The analysis of digital mediation systems also allows us to question the major promises of digital technology (Sandri, 2016), whether in terms of the technological potential of media (interactivity, dematerialisation, transparency and accessibility) or the effects of the senses of digital content on the visitor (interpretation, reflexivity, collaboration, but also gamification and conviviality).

The introduction of digital mediation devices within the museum environment must be seen as a media and interactive updating of more traditional documentary content such as guided tours (Gellereau, 2007; Fraysse, 2015). In this sense, one may wonder how these digital technologies never before used in an exhibition fit into existing devices and practices? Is it a case of replacement, juxtaposition or hybridisation? What is the future of museums that are fixed and wish to continue with traditional formats? Concerning the status of objects, contributions to this paper may question the role of the collection item in a context where digital mediation devices, designed to improve or enrich the item, frequently deploy layers of important information around it. How is the relationship with this type of object evolving, now weighed down by some much information,? If in museums this weight of information makes it possible to improve the visit by enlarging the space for interpretation (Gentès and Jutant, 2012), for other cultural structures (Le Musée du Parfum, La cité du vin), in the absence of artifacts, the digital item replaces the collection item and becomes the mechanism, no longer just for an improvement but rather for a thematic and perceptive immersion (De Bideran, 2018). It is appropriate here to question the limits of this pervasive mediation (Boullier, 2016) which engages visitors in an informational immersion that is both situated and global.

Questioning the types of design of digital mediation techniques for the museum requires us to examine the status of the digital tool. What are the conditions for it to be a cultural mediator? Should the strategy be education or political? These tools are specific to the digital approach of the institutions and subscribe either to an informational approach (Frayesse, 2015) like the Wikipedia platform for museums, that are as much sources of information as co-production, or to a communicational perspective such as virtual museums (Google Arts Project), or even in to social media networks which represent as much the politics of increasing the visibility of cultural institutions.

3/ Finally, examining the forms of digital mediation for heritage and museum calls for a questionning of the new uses and the new experiences of the public.

From the 1990s onwards, the figure of the receiver, considered in various ways, moved from a simple spectator to that of a user, or even a hyperactor of the museum system. Museumshave reconsidered their relationship with the public, who can now negotiate their relationship with the transmitter by adapting or adjusting the content through cultural interpretation (Mattelart, Neveu, 2003).

With a strong computer and Internet culture, users often use multimedia devices with ease to be more efficient, more active in a context of dissemination and access to museum content. Because of their expertise with technical mediations, users feel free to choose their path, extend their visits and freely make use of the information being diffused.

The enhanced visit enables us to experience the museum differently (museum website, immersive web experiences) which can be a source of inspiration to draw visitors to the museum or conversely, which can constitute a kind of enriched experience when the user wishes to prolong his visit with a digital experience. The museum strategies that adapt to the digital skills of visitors lead us to question the length of the museum visit, from immersive visits (Belaën, 2005) and experimental visits in situ via digital prostheses (mobile applications) to enhanced visits that allow us to anticipate the experience and prolong it.

Terms of submission:

The complete articles expected (no prior submission of abstracts), in French language, will contain approximately 30 000 characters including spaces, excluding bibliography, and will be sent to Cristina BADULESCU ( Associate Professor, University of Poitiers, CEREGE (Centre de Recherche en Gestion) - EA1722

and Valérie-Inés DE LA VILLE (, University Professor, University of Poitiers, CEREGE (Centre de Recherche en Gestion)-EA1722 laboratory, before 15 october 2018, for double-blind evaluation by the journal’s scientific committee (

Articles with epistemological and theoretical aims as well as proposals supported by empirical research may be proposed. Clarity and precision of purpose will be privileged. For standards, refer to those in the journal:


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BELAEN, Florence (2005). Immersion dans le musée de sciences : médiation ou séduction ?, Culture & Musées, n°5, p. 91-110

BIDERAN (de) Jessica, BADULESCU Cristina, LA VILLE (de) Valérie-Inés (2018). « La Cité du vin : un choix d’interprétation universelle entre immersion pervasive et médiation polysensorielle », dans Les terroirs viticoles (titre provisoire), sous la direction de Jean-Louis Yengue et Kilien Stengel, CNRS Éditions, à paraître

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