Investigating teenage visitors to science discovery centres : the case of Technquest

Simons, NC 2014, Investigating teenage visitors to science discovery centres : the case of Technquest , PhD thesis, The University of Salford and Technquest Science Discovery Centre.

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Science discovery centres and science museums have been considered one of the most important institutions in the public understanding of science and technology (Lewenstein 2001). However, science discovery centres attract few teenage visitors. Visitation to cultural attractions has often been dominated by visitors with a higher socio-economic status and a higher educational background (Rowe 2011). It is nonetheless the case that few teenagers visit science discovery centres, regardless of their socio-economic background. Prior research into the motivations of adult visitors to museums has indicated that cultural factors, which may be correlated with demographics, but are not determined by them, can explain why some people visit and some do not (Merriman 1991, Hood 1983). Further research has suggested more nuanced explanations relating to personal identity issues (Rounds 2006, Falk 2006, Falk 2011) and agendas (Doering and Pekarik 1996). Much of the previous research that has been undertaken focuses on the museum cultural landscape and adult visitors. This research provides an investigation into teenage attitudes towards, and perceptions of, Techniquest Science Discovery Centre in Cardiff, with a focus on how they perceive informal science learning and the relationship between education and entertainment. The study used a mixed-methods approach (Creswell 2006) utilising an attitude survey (n=647) and a series of focus groups (n=39) with teenagers. Statistical and thematic analysis was applied to the resulting data. The research found that the majority of teenagers had complex interpretations of Techniquest, in which prior experience of it shaped perceptions of what it could offer them now. Although these interpretations encompassed a mixture of structural, personal, and situational factors, key to their interpretation was the memory of having had to negotiate various social roles when at the centre. These roles often challenged their personal entry agendas. The teenagers demonstrated a 'performative’ element (Goffman 1959, vom Lehn 2006) in their behaviour, which was based on social interaction with others and was also connected to how they ‘framed’ the situation (as education or entertainment or both). This was linked to an idea of 'identity maintenance', whereby they sought to preserve social and situational experiences that they had predefined. While it was found that many of the younger teenagers saw a more synergic relationship between education and entertainment, the older teenagers had a more complex and ambivalent view; they saw the science discovery centre as both a leisure destination and a school resource and identified some conflict between these two things. This study provides much needed data and analysis that can inform future practice and improve engagement with teenage audiences in science discovery centres.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Themes: Media, Digital Technology and the Creative Economy
Memory, Text and Place
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Depositing User: NC Simons
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2015 09:01
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 13:37

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