PPDR is not a typical audience research company.
We work exclusively with museums, and other interpretive organizations, using Environmental Psychology to understand visitor experiences and behavior, and research to inform planning. Our approach makes it clear that we work within the parameters of your planning process – helping to identify and solve problems, and informing decisions in a timely manner. Interested? We invite you to contact us to discuss your needs and interests.
Here is a synopsis of our conceptual approach:
A researcher/evaluator is part of a team. We act as a resource to the team about audiences, and sometimes serve as a facilitator for team decisions concerning visitor experiences. We do not make decisions for the team.
All research and evaluation activities can be forward-going. Research can inform decisions before they are made. For example, even a summative evaluation (conducted after an exhibition opens to the public) can inform institutional planning about how a team achieved its goals, suggest fine-tuning or non-structural revisions of an exhibition, and provide useful data for fundraising on the next round of projects.
Our perspective is about problem-solving. Audience research produces clearer results when it is tied in directly with objectives to be achieved and problems to be solved.
Audience research has two primary outcomes. It provides hard data and it informs the intuitions of project team members.
Audience research for planning and development should be multi-faceted. To be most insightful, ideally, research involves various perspectives and uses two or more methods. The outcome should not be one person’s opinion but a synthesis of a variety of points of view.
The most useful research produces quantitative as well as qualitative information to inform decision-making. In practice, both are helpful to give substance and meaning to the results. Qualitative information is often the most appealing, but it is subject to biases (e.g., seeing what you want to see in the open-ended comments of a small sample of people, being swayed by idiosyncratic experiences). Quantitative information and analysis is essential in most evaluations, although the precision of quantitative data can be misleading, depending on how good the measurement tools are.
Evaluation must recognize variation in the audience. We avoid the trap of creating an “average” or “typical visitor” by investigating potential differences across age groups, racial groups, special-interest audiences, or other appropriate dimensions. Ideally, variation in the audience (segmentation) should be based on systematic audience analysis and applied to exhibit development as well as audience development.