Contextual approaches to visitor studies research: Evaluating audience segmentation and identity-related motivations
This paper is relevant to anyone seeking to evaluate the impacts of public engagement or other forms of communication on audiences or visitors. The abstract states, "This paper assesses the use of audience segmentation in visitor studies research through an analysis of its application in the identity model of museum visiting proposed by Falk (2007, 2009). As an example of audience segmentation within visitor studies, we critically examine this model’s application in a specific case at US zoos to elaborate some of its limitations. We argue that conventional short-term, episodic approaches to visitor research should be challenged and supplemented by a more contextually sensitive and longer-term model. We contend that audience segmentation approaches, and in particular Falk’s theorisation and operationalisation of an identity model of museum visiting, is problematic. As such, we argue that research should place museum visits within a holistic and long-term framework of individual life circumstances, relationships and trajectories. We discuss how research and theory from education and cultural studies could complement existing visitor research approaches by acknowledging complexity, change over time and the interwoven and developmental nature of the socio-cultural variables influencing visitors’ appropriation of new ideas and experiences in museums."
Keywords: Audience segmentation, Identity, Visitor Studies, Museum, Zoo, Research Methods, Evaluation
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