Jones, S. J., Hall, L., & Hilton, J. (2012). Exploring Childrenʼs ʻIndexical Encounterʼ with Real and Digitised Archive Photographs Using Tablet and Large Flat Screen Technologies. Interaction Design and Children (IDC).
Archive photographs are used widely in heritage education, but the photographic experience and our understanding of it, is poorer than it could be. This is primarily because the learning often fails to harness a photograph’s tangible indexical link with the past, but also because the instability of photographic meaning requires that we assign explicit labels for historic purposes, without always being fully cognisant of the impact. Research has shown that manipulating defined realness does affect adults emotional and cognitive responses to photographs, but no similar studies have been undertaken to date with children. Pragmatics of re-creating the experience of looking at actual archive photographs remains a significant barrier, but the uptake of small, mobile tablet devices offers new opportunities to investigate what we have described here as children’s indexical encounter with photographs. In this study children were shown matched pairs of natural and staged archive images, across three viewing conditions, (i) as real archive photographs and as (ii) digitised images on tablet and (iii) large flat screen devices. Children’s emotional responses to natural archive images was significantly stronger when these were viewed as real archive photographs, but cognitive responses to natural photographs were significantly greater when these were viewed on tablets. Results are discussed with reference to the indexical experience and how an understanding of photographic properties can help tailor better visual learning experiences for children both in a heritage education context and in other disciplines.