Tangible User Interface for Europeana’s API

I have been working with TUIO for the main interface in between Europeana’s API and a user. One of my main research questions is how to can users make questions through tangible interfaces. In this case, users should be able to make questions about cultural heritage content from different organisations. In this case users can be to access data from over 30 million metadata records that include books, photos, art, audio and artefacts among others. On one hand having access to all this content may benefit users since they will have vast sets of information to answer their questions. On the other they might get lost with all the data that is available for them.

When working with vast sets of information, users can benefit by dissecting specific items of the information that they are looking for. Nevertheless, this process might prove difficult might require a lot of concentration. By offloading this mental process onto physical objects, users might pace their thinking process and assist themselves by using the physical objects as an aid.

My intention is to produce such objects that can help users solving questions and finding information from a data portal such as Europeana. For this I have created a starting skeleton of essential objects that can then be transformed to queries on the API.

Essential Queries

Who – What

Some of the most essential queries might include who or what are looking for. These will be represented individually.

who and what icons

query = who:"string"
query = what:"string"



By positioning the fiducials on top of a map, users can be able to add geoCoordinates on to the query. This can be used by adding two values either by tapping or by using two fiducials.


qf=pl_wgs84_pos_lat:3A%5B01+TO+02%5D & qf=pl_wgs84_pos_long:3A%5B03+TO+04%5D


Countries are different to geoLocation. Countries are defined by name that are part of a human perception and not a geographic one. This way this fiducial will detect it’s x and y position and add the name of the closest place to the query. There will be several of these fiducials for adding more places to the query.


query = COUNTRY:string


Another value that can be added to the query are the dates for the time period that you want to constrain the data to. Time being abstract, its very difficult to represent and manipulate. Europeana provides a starting year and an ending year. For this reason this will be using two ‘dials’ to forward or rewind starting or ending year.


query = YEAR: 0000 TO 0000

Boolean Operations

Basic boolean operations can be added to the query to produce a more specific question. Operations such as AND, NOT and OR can be used. This fiducial has to be used in addition of the fiducials previously mentioned otherwise there will be no values to compare to.

This marker commonly will require one of the three options. Nevertheless, users might benefit by looking at all the options to analyse what they are asking.


query  = where:(Paris NOT France)


To put everything together, users might benefit of structuring their thoughts on a template where they can finalise their sentence or question. This does not mean that they must place artefacts in such order but is merely a starting point to give an approach of how they might structure questions.


There is still a wide variety of query options that can be added, but this is the essential information that users will require to input at a specific time in order to retrieve meaningful results.


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