The Interpretive Equation

The Interpretive Equation   (KR + KA) x AT = IO   is a metaphor for understanding the foundational elements of interpretation – it provides a memorable way to visualize, analyze, articulate and balance the substance of any interpretive program or product.

KR = Knowledge of the Resource

  • Information about the resource
    • Honest, accurate, current
    • Past and present uses and issues
    • Current conditions, potential threats
    • Compelling stories
  • More than “the facts”
    • Meanings associated with the resource
    • Intangibles and universal concepts
  • There are many “truths”
    • Multiple perspectives, values

  “Information… is not interpretation.  Interpretation is revelation based upon information”

KA = Knowledge of the Audience

  • Recognition and familiarity with their backgrounds
  • Acknowledgment and sensitivity to their needs
  • Meanings they may associate with the resource

 “Any interpretation that does not somehow relate… to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile”

AT = Appropriate Technique

  • Involve/engage the audience – passively and/or actively
  • Provide access to resource meanings
  • Facilitate opportunities for intellectual and emotional connections to resource meanings

 “The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation”

 “Interpretation is an art, which combines many arts…”

IO = Interpretive Opportunity

  • “Opportunity” – a favorable set of circumstances
  • “Their own” – a personal connection to something in their own life, experience or interest
  • “Connections” – moments of intellectual and/or emotional revelation, perception, insight or discovery related to the meanings of the resource.

IO = an opportunity for the audience to form their own intellectual and emotional connections to the meanings and significance inherent in the resource. The interpreter creates the opportunity; the visitor makes the connection – the connection happens in the visitor.

Last revised 14-Jul-13

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