In the past decade alone, several engaging and provocative exhibitions with a global significance have been staged within museums. Museums have reinvented and reinvigorated themselves in order to attract visitors and survive economic turmoil. Creating spectacle has become an inherent part of both the curator’s and exhibition designer’s repertoire, but there has also been a need to reconnect with the visitor and to design more personally meaningful exhibitions. This refocusing — achieved by the production of exhibitions addressing key societal and historical issues — allows for the elaboration of the museum as a social instrument, as a participant in a dialogue with the visitor and hence as a discursive space.

While it appears that current visitors to cultural institutions desire a more sense-rich, personally engaging and relevant experience, the rise of social media has also altered people’s expectations of what makes experiences meaningful or engaging. People expect to be allowed the privilege of identifying and redistributing cultural content, not just examining it. Through self-direction and in response to the increasingly interactive media they consume, they seek opportunities for creative expression. They want their unique identities and interests to be acknowledged,, while they recognize and connect to likeminded communities around the world. These shifts are changing the way that cultural institutions of all types, public or private, from museums to libraries to experiential environments, express themselves to – and communicate with – their ever more demanding audiences.

Discursive spaces within museums can be established and created through the rhetoric of difference, allowing the participants to affect existing narratives and to reflect on their own particular circumstances. The inclusion of one’s own identity within the experience of the museum is likely to promote the culture of the people rather than the traditionally dominant culture of the institution itself. Thus a space of discourse might therefore be created where multiple dialogues can begin to take place – between the institution, the spaces and the people within.

Possible themes include, but are not limited to:

+ Temporal and spatial barriers
+ Barriers of thought
+ Barriers of gender and other forms of difference
+ Barriers of participation and barriers of culture
+ Barriers of technology, media and education
+ Visitor experience

Building on the success of – and with input from the organizers of – two previous conferences in this area, Creative Space (2005) and Narrative Space (2010)*, Discursive Space invites designers, museum professionals and design researchers to explore breaking barriers to effective spatial communication in art, design and exhibitions.

Discursive Space invites participation from contributors that challenge traditional conference expressions, as alternative and novel papers/ presentations will receive additional consideration.

We invite the submission of abstracts of 400 words (excluding references) by 15 January 2013.  Authors of selected abstracts will subsequently be invited to submit extended abstracts (1000-1200 words) by 4 May 2013.  

All submissions must be in English. All submissions are subject to double-blind peer review. Accepted contributions should be revised according to the review reports.


1 December 2012:

Submission system opens

15 January 2013:

Abstract submission deadline for:

– Full papers

– Exploratory papers

– Exhibition artifacts/installations/performances

– Workshop proposals (workshop participation will be advertised later)

– In gallery discussions

– Panel presentations

Please submit all proposals and abstracts to Prof. Jana Macalik, Ryerson University, School of Interior Design ( or ( by January 15, 2013.

REVISED 18 March 2013:

Author notification

REVISED 4 May 2013:

Submission of extended abstract / final version

*Both of these events were hosted by the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, the latter being part of an ongoing collaboration with the Department of Architecture and Built Environment at the University of Nottingham. Publications arising directly out of these conferences included edited volumes in the Routledge Museum Meanings book series.

Enquiries may also be sent to: Prof. Jana Macalik, Ryerson University, School of Interior Design ( or (