Interpretive Product Types — Strengths and Limitations


Interpreters need to understand the strengths and limitations of the various methods for delivery of interpretive content in order to make informed choices. Understanding these differences can enable a good match between audience, message, resource and interpreter. Selecting the wrong media type will likely lead to wasted time and money, frustration, and unengaged visitors.

In general, the primary differences between personal services programming and media services are as follows.

Compare personal services with media services:

Personal Services Programs…

  • Are “real person” experiences: the audience can ask questions; the interpreter’s personality can enhance or detract from the program’s interpretive success
  • Are “adjustable”: the interpreter can tailor the experience to each audience and can personally engage individuals within the audience
  • Generally provide a linear presentation of concepts: the audience must follow along the linear path that the interpreter presents; the interpreter has more control over the direction of the audience’s thinking and experience

Media Products…

  • Allow the audience more control of their experience with greater freedom to choose their own level of participation and exposure; visitors/the audience select what they will focus on and when/how/if they will interact
  • Provide a greater opportunity to appeal to different learning styles and attention spans, which, while increasing options for interpretive effectiveness, also greatly increases the complexity
  • Provide multi-dimensional and multi-directional access to the concepts presented
  • Can provide access to unseen time and space
  • Are more complex to develop because of integrated elements, overlapping layers, and audience options
  • May not be easily adjustable, depending on the media type

Compare different types of media services:

See the helpful charts in these handouts for comparisons of interpretive media strengths and limitations: Interpretive-Media-Types and Interpretive Media Matrix.

Additional Resources

You’ll find more resources and job aids for developing media products in the Interpretive Media Toolkit.

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