Go back to article: Turning energy around: an interactive exhibition experience

Decisions made – first reactions and outcomes

The exhibition opened on 14 February 2017 and we were pleased to see that over 420,000 people have visited the exhibition in one year (the exhibition runs until 18 August 2018). Up to 14 July 2017, 22,650 game assessments had been conducted. By sheer numbers only every eighth visitor appears to have played the game. But first observations conducted by the exhibition’s hosts show that visitors often participate in the game in a group – deciding together on which possible measures and discussing pro and con-arguments. This means that the visitors take their time to deliberate about the different topics, exchanging ideas and opinions. Another interesting observation is that visitors actually use the Thematic Rooms as knowledge repositories when they are indecisive about their political decision. Naturally, this insight is only based on first observations. However, the conducted assessments already provide interesting data.

The most common energy transition type is ‘Global’ (30 per cent), followed by ‘Ecological’ (22 per cent) and ‘Social’ and ‘Scientific’ (both 16 per cent) pursued by ‘Economic’ with 12 per cent. Only 4 per cent of our visitors have been assigned to the ‘Regulative’ type (Figure 18 and 19).

Figure 19

Pie chart depicting distribution of energy transition types

The Distribution of Energy-Transition Types on 14 July 2017. For further description of the types see Figure 18

Not all participants answered all ten questions, but except for the decision station associated with the Thematic Room ‘Organic Resources’[5] the number of visits to each station was comparable (third column Table 1). Which answers were chosen at which decision station is shown in Table 2. The three political measures provided always follow the same pattern: the first measure (A) paraphrases the stakeholders’ demand; the second one (B) describes an opposing option; while the last option (C) represents a third independent measure.

Table 1

Table showing ten exhibition topics their associated questions and the number of visitors who answered that question

Ten exhibition topics, their associated questions and the number of visitors who had answered that question up to 14 July 2017

The pattern of chosen political measures will be analysed in depth after the evaluation. But at first glance visitors do not seem to be influenced by the stakeholder’s opinion. Only the questions regarding ‘Living Space’ and ‘Trade’ are answered in their favour. In ‘Living Space’ a married couple working for a tenancy association argue for higher subsidies for building insulation and in ‘Trade’ a teacher demands binding global production standards for energy efficient production. Whether these first results reflect the visitors’ original views, something learned in the exhibition or even the actors’ appearances require further investigation. Although the nuclear phase-out has long been agreed on in Germany, 13 per cent of our visitors consider nuclear energy an essential part of their energy transition and chose to ‘Build more nuclear power plants’. Contrary to our anticipations, implementing a smart meter is the second favoured option to bridge periods of little sun and wind (Table 2). As people often feel patronised by controlling devices such as smart meters we expected a stronger reaction against them (Renn, 2017, p 63). Whether the exhibition has influenced that outcome – in particular with the quite impressive interactive model of a future energy landscape where visitors perform themselves as the ‘Smart Grid’ – is still to be found out.

Table 2

Bar graph showing political measures chosen by visitors to the museum

Political measures chosen by our visitors up to 14 July 2017

An ongoing PhD project, carried out by Sarah Kellberg and the Kiel Science Outreach Campus (KiSOC)[6], is going to invest the exhibition’s remits further. What is it that people take away from a visit to energie.wenden and how does that depend on whether they participate in the exhibition’s role-playing game?

The project ‘Promoting Energy Literacy with an Interactive Exhibition’ is based on the premise that exhibitions in general are able to foster scientific literacy (Falk and Dierking, 2010) and that energie.wenden as a ‘critical issues-based exhibition’ (Pedretti, 2004, p 34) even carries the potential to increase desired behaviour (i.e. productive participation in the energy transition) by fostering positive attitudes and dialogue between visitors (Goodman, 2015). Within the project it is investigated how a visit to the exhibition influences young visitors’ cognitive, affective and behavioural dimensions of energy literacy (DeWaters, Powers and Graham, 2007), which are necessary to make informed energy related decisions and to engage in the societal debate about energy transition. The investigation focuses especially on the aspects of socio-scientific reasoning (Sadler, Barab and Scott, 2007) – incorporated in the role-playing game – and visitors' pre-existing school-based knowledge about energy. The goal is to identify good working design elements of informal learning situations as well as to learn about how visitors' prerequisites like school knowledge and attitudes influence their engagement within the exhibition and the outcomes.

Ultimately, we would like to find out how best to connect museums and schools to engage future decision makers with the topic of energy transition. Investigating these questions will help us to gain further insight in how to best tackle ‘wicked problems’ in the future.

The authors would like to sincerely thank everyone who was, is, and is going to be involved in the energie.wenden project. Our thanks go to our colleagues at the Deutsches Museum, our scientific advisory board, who helped establish the content and to Space4 and teamtratenwerth, who did a great job designing this exhibition. We also want to thank the Ministry of Federal Economic Affairs and Energy, the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology as well as the Linde Group and the innogy Foundation for Energy and Society along with several others who generously helped us realise the exhibition.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/180909/007