Fomichova O. S., & Fomichov. V. A. (2003). A New Paradigm for Constructing Children-Oriented Web-sites of Art Museums. Educational Technology & Society, 6(3), 24-29 (ISSN 1436-4522)

A New Paradigm for Constructing Children-Oriented Web-sites of Art Museums

Olga S. Fomichova
Studio "Culture, Ecology, and Foreign Languages", Moscow Children
andTeenagersPalace for Creative Work
Kossygin  str.  17, 119991 Moscow, Russia

Vladimir A. Fomichov
Department of Mathematical Methods and Programming  for Information Processing and Control Systems
Faculty of Applied Mathematics
Moscow State Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (TechnicalUniversity)
B.Tryochsvyatitelsky 1-3/12, 109028 Moscow, Russia


The paper describes the central ideas of a new approach to creating Web-sites of art museums; it is proposed to take into account the peculiarities of the child’s cognitive-emotional sphere for constructing children-oriented Web-sites of art museums. The idea is that usual Web-sites are created to inform the users, to display the treasures, to show the gems of the collections in order to attract the attention of the audience. The way information is provided is based on the expected background of the possible users and on possible motivation.

In case of children, everything is different: information acquisition is to be based on strong interest. It means that the child should be struck by the vision, then be emotionally touched and have enough time for establishing links between the images already existing in his/her conceptual picture of the world and new, just found images. In respond, the child will positively or negatively react to the acquired piece of information and inscribe his/her interpretation of the new found vision into his/her conceptual system, including his/her estimation of the vision. The significance of such Web-sites for creating cognitive foundations of sustainable development and the role of natural language interfaces are discussed.

Keywords: Children-orientedWeb-site, Art Museum, Natural language interface, Sustainable development, Semantic representation


In the recent years, one has been able to observe the growing interest of the researchers in the studies aimed at creating cognitive foundations of sustainable development, that is at making the person feel himself/herself as a link in a chain of previous and future generations. The eternity is wearing the dress of the time. The “dress” of our time is Web technologies. Eternity dressed in Web technologies reveals in the Web-sites of art museums.

The existence of the access to the Web-sites of various world-known museums makes it necessary to put forth the problem of creating children-oriented Web-sites of such museums. Presenting art galleries on computer screens makes it easier for children to make an effort and have a look at the world of art, because the way of presenting it is clear and familiar to them. It is one of the ways of inscribing the gems of art into the child’s conceptual picture of the world. And, consequently, one of the ways to make the child visit art gallery and not only see the masterpieces but interact with them, decoding the messages from the previous generations conveyed by the masterpieces.

Inscribing the world of art into the child’s conceptual picture of the world will contribute to expanding his/her system of cognitive-emotional coordinates by means of developing the sense of beauty. “Beauty” is defined by German philosophers of the 19th century I. Kant, F.W. Shelling and by Russian philosophers of the same time V. Solovyov, P. Florensky as a combination of ideal and material, including moral values. For example, the pictures are the combinations of light that is inspiration and skills of the painters expressed on the canvas.

Perceiving the world of art is one of the ways of forming the domain of “beauty” in the conceptual picture of the world and to expand the cognitive coordinates system in order to base the motive “profitable – unprofitable” on eternal categories in contrast to the motive “here and right now”. The Web-sites of art museums may help to establish a link between the child and the world of art.

The world of Art being distributed among various keepers (private keepers, state keepers) exists in the consciousness of connaisseurs of art, art specialists, educated people as a unique boundless space being spread in time as well as concentrated in a kind of sphere in the center of which there is a viewer in the process of viewing the picture.

Each human being establishes a system of coordinates of his/her existence in time and space. This system of cognitive coordinates influences his/her decisions, the system of estimations, and the vision of the world.

In case a person lives in a system of coordinates {“profitable – unprofitable”, “here and right now”}, he/she can’t regard time and space as infinite, boundless categories of his/her existence and, as a consequence, would not regard his/her personality as a link in the chain of previous and future generations in the cultural space, closely linked with the space of Nature.


The Principal Ideas of Constructing Children-Oriented Web-sites of Art Museums

A children-oriented Web-site of an art museum should be regarded as a kind of interaction between the painter (via his/her works of art) and the child (a visitor of the site). In this way the researches on the use of information and communication technology in education considering the possibilities of technology to facilitate social interaction can be very helpful (Lehtinen, 2001).

In this paper we describe the results of our many-year investigation dealing with the child – museum interaction and with the possible ways of making this interaction interesting and fruitful. The idea is that it is possible to expand the world of child’s interests in order to make the world of art a part of the world of child’s interests. The preliminary results and conclusions on the subject are discussed in our works  (Fomichova & Fomichov, 1996; Fomichova, 2000; Fomichov & Fomichova, 1997, 1998, 2001).

We’ve discovered that there are such four ideas that if a guide in an art museum is discussing with children the works of art, proceeding from any of such ideas then the visit to a museum makes a considerable trace in the inner conceptual picture of the child.

The central idea of a children-oriented art presentation is to choose a picture (a landscape) in such a way that some details depicted on the canvas are easily recognizable by children. In this case their reaction can be, for instance, as follows: “I’ve seen the forest near my country house, but there is something special in this one” or “I like sitting on the bank especially at dawn, and watching the river sparkling and swirling and bubbling,, but huge stones in the foreground are much more impressive then the foaming river, though they are motionless, look like sentinels’.

It is the first step of getting acquainted with the world of art, when the child is impressed by something new, makes his/her own discovery. In general, a landscape is recognizable, and that is why a landscape usually finds an emotional respond of the child.

The presentation of the pictures on a children-oriented Web-site may be done according to the four steps shortly described below.

Step 1. The recognition of the transition moments, or moments of astonishment. This theme is explained in detail in (Fomichova & Sidorova, 2003).

B. Sellers-Young quoted Antonio Damasio and KonstantinStanislavsky saying that we are in constant state of  the adaptation to changing circumstances (Sellers-Young, 2002). The landscapes help to make  children become aware of ongoing processes and recognize the transition moments (in comparison with the so called stationary situations). In the modern society, the child – computer interaction makes children get accustomed to be carried away with action but not with observation and perception. And perception could be considered as a kind of a dialogue between emotional and cognitive component. The landscapes chosen in a special way stimulate the emotional sphere of the child and evoke interest and amazement that will cause future interaction with the world of art.

Step 2. Landscape as a portrait of the state of the soul of a painter.

The second step helps to reveal a link between a work of art and the inner world of a painter and, as a consequence, helps to establish a link of the kind between the child’s inner world and the work of art, that is a kind of “plunging” into the world of art, which is very important in order to experience admiration and to feel oneself as a part of the world of art.

Revealing the link between the emotions and the weather-coloured scenery and time of the day makes it easier for the child to find a correspondence between his/her emotional state , nature, and the painter.

It helps to establish a very personal link between the child and the scenery being familiar since childhood. On the other hand, the reflection of the necessity to express one’s mood and to understand “storms” and “tranquility” in one’s inner world will be seen in a particular masterpiece.

Step 3. Eternity is wearing the dress of the time.

The third step deals with the still life as a splendid opportunity of realizing the existence of another way of expressing one’s ideas about the world and a person in this world. Decoding still life is the first serious experience of understanding the symbolic language of painting.

The idea of this step is to reveal the subjects of the art: the person, the world of thought, dreams and emotions, nature in all its manifestations, and the world of various things with the help of combinations of various objects, such combination is a still life.

Step 4. Portrait as a double mirror.

The fourth step is important for realizing the fact that the behaviour of a person, his/her appearance are mirrored by the consciousness of the partner of communication in a special his/her own way. It proves that estimations depend on the conceptual picture of the world. This approach to perceiving the world of art stimulates child’s interest in history and his/her own communication experience.

This step reveals the reflection of the sitter in the consciousness of the painter and the reflection of the painter in the mirror of time.


The role of natural language processing systems and semantic languages

If a Web-site of an art museum is children-oriented, the information acquisition is to be based on strong interest but not on a considerable background of the child.  It means that the child is to be allowed for asking various questions in natural language (NL) instead of following in a fixed order numerous menus of a Web-based information system. That is why we suppose that children-oriented Web-sites of art museums are to include the subsystems being NL-interfaces.

It seems to be important to give the child the opportunity to search the pictures with the contents satisfying certain conditions. That is why the pictures represented on a Web-site of such kind are to have the links to their NL-descriptions and, besides, to semantic representations (SRs) of such descriptions.

During the last decade, the most popular approached to building SRs of NL-texts have been Theory of Conceptual Graphs (Sowa, 1991, 1999), Discourse Representation Theory (van Eijck & Kamp, 1996; Kamp & Reyle, 1996), and Episodic Logic (Hwang  & Schubert, 1993; Schubert & Hwang, 2000). Each of these approaches made a contribution to the study of NL semantics. However, the  expressive possibilities of each of these approaches are rather restricted as concerns building SRs of natural language descriptions of art works (see Fomichov 1996). The main restrictions pertain to representing the descriptions of sets, concepts, goals, destinations of things, constructing SRs of discourses with references to the meanings of phrases and larger fragments of texts, reflecting external links of the texts.

Much broader expressive possibilities are provided by the class of standard K-languages (knowledge languages) proposed by the theory of K-calculuses and K-languages, or the KCL-theory (Fomichov 1992 – 2002). The KCL-theory proposes a system consisting of such 10  operations on structured  meanings (SMs) of NL-texts that, using  primitive conceptual items as "blocks", we are able to build  SMs of arbitrary NL-texts (including articles, textbooks, etc.) and arbitrary pieces of knowledge about the world. As a result, the KCL-theory is a discovery in mathematical linguistics. The formal definitions can be found in (Fomichov, 1996).

Example.   The  landscapeThe Quiet Abode “, painted by the famous Russian artist I. Levitan, may be associated with the NL description T1 = “This is a sunny landscape. It was painted in 1890 by  IsaakLevitan. In the middle ground on the steep slope leading down to the river there is a convent with a steeple, a chapel, and a church.”.

The text T 1 can have the following object-oriented SR being a string of a standard K-language:

Certn art-work * (Is, landscape)(Mark, z1)(Title, ‘The Quiet Abode ‘) (Author, certn man *

(First-name, ‘Isaak’)(Surname, ‘Levitan’) : x1)(Year, 1890)(Contents1, (Property (z1, sunny)

Ù Represented (Middle-ground(z1), certn convent * (Situated, certn slope1 * (Property, steep)

(Lead-down, certnriver : x2) : x3) ) Ù  Include1(x3, (certn steeple : x4

certnchapel : x5 Ù certn church : x6)))) : m1027 ,

where  m1027  is a system mark of the informational object associated with this landscape, certnis the informational item corresponding to the word “certain”.

The advantages of the KCL-theory in comparison with Discourse Representation Theory and Episodic Logic  are, in particular, the possibilities: (1) to distinguish in a formal way objects (physical things, events, etc.) and concepts qualifying these objects; (2) to build compound representations of concepts; (3) to distinguish in a formal manner objects and sets of objects, concepts and sets of concepts; (4) to build complicated representations of sets, sets of sets, etc.; (5) to describe set-theoretical relationships; (6) to describe effectively structured meanings (SMs) of discourses with references to the meanings of phrases and larger parts of discourses; (7) to describe SMs of sentences with the words "concept", "notion"; (8) to describe SMs of sentences where the logical connective "and" or "or" joins not the expressions-assertions but designations of things, sets, or concepts; (9) to build complicated designations of objects and sets; (10) to consider non-traditional functions with arguments or/and values being sets of objects, of concepts, of texts' semantic representations, etc.; (11) to construct formal analogues of the meanings of infinitives with dependent words.

The items (3) – (8), (10), (11)  indicate the principal advantages of the KCL-theory in comparison with the Theory of Conceptual Graphs. Besides, the expressive possibilities of the KCL-theory are much higher than the possibilities of TCG as concerns the items (1), (2), (9).

In the paper (Fomichov, 1996), the hypothesis is set forth that the class of standard K-languages allows for building semantic representations of arbitrary real texts in arbitrary application domains.

That is why it appears that it would be reasonable to use standard K-languages in the design of NL-processing systems (or linguistic processors) being the components of children-oriented Web-sites of art museums.



We elaborated and simulated at lessons and discussions with children a new approach to designing children-oriented Web-sites of art museums. Our study has been aimed at elaborating the appropriate cognitive foundations of creating such sites by the specialists on art, programmers, and Web-designers.

The study has proved the necessity of elaborating such kind of sites with respect to the peculiarities of child – computer interaction. The realization of the stated ideas can be interpreted as a contribution to the creation of cognitive foundations of sustainable development.

The paper underlines the possibility of “plunging” the children in the world of art and making it interesting for them to visit not only Web-sites of museums but museums themselves in order to feel the difference between the picture on the screen of the computer and the picture in the art gallery.

The main purposes of constructing children-oriented Web-sites of art museums are to establish a bridge between the world of art and the inner world of the child during the process of perceiving masterpieces, to expand the world of interests of the child.

The experience obtained in the field of distance education and technical means elaborated in this field seem to be of considerable use for constructing children-oriented Web-sites of art museums. Besides, it appears to be very important to elaborate natural language processing interfaces for the  use by children visiting such sites.

The most broad expressive possibilities for building semantic representations by natural language processing systems  being either NL-interfaces of such sites or the components of search engines are provided by the class of standard K-languages.



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