A visual map of participation within heritage

A visual map that systematizes the participatory cultural projects selected for the study of cases within my doctoral research. The goals is to highlight the levels of social engagement that particular modes of participation may promote, in relation to the roles that participants assume during the experience of heritage.

The horizontal axis represents participant’ roles in a ladder ranging from collectors, to critics, to creators, while the vertical axis represents the three levels of social engagement – indirect, mediated, or direct – that may be pursued and activated by a participatory experience of heritage. Cases are visually identified in the map by seven diverse icons representing the tool used to enable participation in each case. It is possible to observe that the nine map’s quadrants – defined by the intersections of participants’ roles and levels of social engagement – presents five areas of density, each one corresponding to a specific mode of participation, that reflects the main action required to visitors in order to participate.

This pattern suggest that certain modes, supported by specific tools, demand participants to act according to a specific role, and are more suitable than other in order to promote the desired level of social engagement. Those cases that presented more than one modes of participation have been categorized considering the predominant action required to visitors, i.e. the participants’ action without which participation cannot occur.

Five main actions that have been identified are:
- Contributing objects and stories;
- Commenting;
- Voting;
- Creatively expressing themselves;
- Co-designing.

The map is not intended as a quantitative research tool. Rather, it has been used as an instrument useful to identify how the visitors’ experience, in terms of roles and social engagement, may be influenced by the use of different modes of participation in actual, mixed reality, and virtual environments. Another purpose of this analysis is trying to understand which modes of participation are best suited in order to achieve particular institutional goals.


PhD research project.

View my PhD thesis on Politesi