[New Publication] Scripted or spontaneous? Two approaches to audio describing visual art in museums

Maija Hirvonen & Betta Saari (2022): Scripted or spontaneous? Two approaches to audio describing visual art in museums, Perspectives, DOI: 10.1080/0907676X.2022.2046816


We report on a comparative analysis of two approaches to live audio-describing (AD) visual art in museums: the first case is a tour with scripted AD (the guide reads written descriptions out loud), and the second case is spontaneous AD (AD is intertwined with the guide’s talk). As previous studies have mostly analyzed pre-recorded AD, our aim was to describe how AD occurs in and as direct interaction between a museum guide and visitors, and how interaction affects the art experience of the (blind and partially sighted) visitors. Data were collected from two authentic settings in which groups of blind, partially sighted, and sighted people visited art museums on guided tours. The data consist of video recordings of the tours and retrospective interviews with visitors. The analysis revealed how the interactive constitution of the tour and the AD format enables or disables the visitors’ participation in experiencing visual art. Most importantly, we show how AD-enriched interaction between the guide and visitors facilitates joint meaning-making about vision and art, in which visually disabled visitors actively participate with multifaceted communicative practices and resources. Our study contributes to the research on (live) AD, demonstrating the role of interaction in the process.