New Heritage: New Media and Cultural Heritage

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New Heritage: New Media and Cultural Heritage

N E W H E R I T A GE The use of new media in the service of cultural heritage is a fast growing field, known variously a

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The use of new media in the service of cultural heritage is a fast growing field, known variously as virtual or digital heritage. New Heritage, under this denomination, broadens the definition of the field to address the complexity of cultural heritage such as the related social, political and economic issues. This book is a collection of 20 key essays, of authors from 11 countries, representing a wide range of professions including architecture, philosophy, history, cultural heritage management, new media, museology and computer science, which examine the application of new media to cultural heritage from a different point of view. Issues surrounding heritage interpretation to the public and the attempts to capture the essence of both tangible (buildings, monuments) and intangible (customs, rituals) cultural heritage are investigated in a series of case studies. Current discourses arising subsequent to the marriage of new media and cultural heritage are explored, such as the ongoing debate regarding the status of the original and the copy. Challenges addressed in creating cultural heritage virtual environments, such as engagement and evaluation, are presented, and lessons learned from case studies of digital applications in both formal and informal learning environments as well as theoretical and technical frameworks are discussed along with the related methodological limitations. This book is essential reading for those people wishing to understand the key debates in ‘new heritage’ and appraise the growing innovations applied to cultural heritage. Yehuda E. Kalay is professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and former director of UC Berkeley’s interdisciplinary Center for New Media. Thomas Kvan is currently Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Melbourne. Janice Affleck’s background is in Architecture; her interests in digital media and heritage conservation were focused in her PhD and research activities in the area of New Heritage.

N EW HE RIT A G E New media and cultural heritage

Edited by Yehuda E. Kalay, Thomas Kvan & Janice Affleck

First published 2008 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2007. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2008 Yehuda Kalay, Thomas Kvan & Janice Affleck for editorial matter and selection; individual contributions, the contributors All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Kalay, Yehuda E. New heritage : new media and cultural heritage / Yehuda E. Kalay, Thomas Kvan & Janice Affleck. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-415-77356-0 (pbk. : alk. paper) – ISBN 978-0-415-77355-3 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Cultural property–Digitization. 2. Digital media. 3. Virtual reality. 4. Technological innovations. 5. Interpretation of cultural and natural resources. 6. Cultural property–Digitization–Case studies. 7. Digital media–Case studies. 8. Virtual reality–Case studies. 9. Technological innovations–Case studies. 10. Interpretation of cultural and natural resources–Case studies. I. Kvan, Thomas. II. Affleck, Janice. III. Title. CC135.K35 2008 363.6’9–dc22 2007022530 ISBN 0-203-93788-0 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 10: 0-415-77355-5 (hbk) ISBN 10: 0-415-77356-3 (pbk) ISBN 10: 0-203-93788-0 (ebk) ISBN 13: 978-0-415-77355-3 (hbk) ISBN 13: 978-0-415-77356-0 (pbk) ISBN 13: 978-0-203-93788-4 (ebk)


List of figures and tables List of contributors Preface

viii xii xv

Introduction: Preserving cultural heritage through digital media


Y E H U D A E . K A LA Y


New heritage overview: Media, affordances and strategies 1 Cultural heritage in the age of new media

11 13


2 The vanishing virtual: Safeguarding heritage’s endangered digital record


A L O N Z O C . A D DI S O N

3 Virtual heritage: Mediating space, time and perspectives



4 Through form and content: New media components and cultural heritage sites management, in the Jewish traditional society



5 History is 3D: Presenting a framework for meaningful historical representations in digital media SA R A R O E GI E RS A N D FR EDER I K T R U Y EN




P A RT 2

Essence: Digital representation and interpretation of cultural heritage 6 Chasing the unicorn?: The quest for “essence” in digital heritage




7 Memory capsules: Discursive interpretation of cultural heritage through new media



8 Cross-media interaction for the virtual museum: Reconnecting to natural heritage in Boulder, Colorado



9 Experiencing the city through a historical digital system



P A RT 3

Discourse: The marriage of new media and cultural heritage


10 Consuming heritage or the end of tradition: The new challenges of globalization



11 The politics of heritage authorship: The case of digital heritage collections



12 Explorative shadow realms of uncertain histories



13 Making a livable “place”: Content design in virtual environment X IAOLEI C H EN A N D Y EH U D A E. K A LA Y





New heritage in practice: Virtual environments


14 The components of engagement in virtual heritage environments



15 Educational tool or expensive toy? Evaluating VR evaluation and its relevance for virtual heritage



16 Designing a virtual museum of architectural heritage



17 Place-Hampi: Co-evolutionary narrative and augmented stereographic panoramas, Vijayanagara, India



18 Digital Songlines: Digitising the arts, culture and heritage landscape of aboriginal Australia



Conclusion: A future for the past







Figures 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.5

7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7

Scenes from Ur video sequence (Taisei 2006) Scanning Banteay Kdei temple and elevation of 3D point cloud Reconstruction at Pagan, Myanmar Sequence of views from GoogleEarth showing UNESCO World Heritage sites UNESCO’s World Heritage online portal, with a page detailing the Galápagos site Ancient civilization virtual trip (Taisei 2001) History of architecture web (Wishna 2005) Archeoguide augmented reality reconstruction (Vlahakis et al. 2001) Virtual characters in ancient Pompeii (Miralab 2005) Western Wall and Dome of the Rock Map of Jerusalem’s old city (Above) and Figure 4.4 (Below). Parts of the computerized model, Davidson center (Above) and Figure 4.6 (Below). Simulation of the Jewish temple on temple mount and the “menorah,” one of the temple service vessels English memory capsule home page Cantonese memory capsule home page Albums screen top frame, the Help function bottom frame Memory capsule site top frame. Contribute instructions bottom frame Dim Sum Example contribution Tram going through central viii

28 31 33 36 38 45 46 46 47 55 56 58

59 97 98 99 100 101 103 103


7.8 7.9 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5


8.7 9.1 9.2 9.3 12.1 13.1 14.1


Tsing Yi Selected contributions An area of Boulder’s open space and mountain parks (© OSMP) Ways of experiencing natural heritage along the Boulder Creek (© OSMP) Images from the testing of the locative application (© Politecnico di Torino) Prototypes of the Web interface based on MapServer (left) and Google APIs (right) (© L3D) Prototype of the tangible social interface based on the L3D’s envisionment and discovery collaboratory technology (Arias et al. 2000) (© L3D) Overview of cross-media interaction: (1) GPS satellite tracking; (2) Participants in open space; (3) Locative interface for sound collection; (4) Wireless connection (when available); (5) Web server; (6) Web interface for collaborative mapping on the web; (7) Tangible social interface for collaborative mapping in the public space (© Alessandro Grella) Scenes and material from current OSMP Natural Selection Hikes (© OSMP) The Passages des Princes (left) and Choiseul (right) Part of Rio de Janeiro historical model (courtesy: LAURD/PROURB/UFRJ) Two screen images of Rio-H displaying an image of the city in 1928 and today Project unreality (courtesy: Andrew Dekker, Mark Hurst and Erik Champion) Spatial navigation with (left) and without narrative model (right) Photorealistic rendering of heritage sites: here the virtual reconstruction of Place Garibaldi in Nice, France using modelling-from-images techniques Preparing the visitor for the experience is an integral part of the “story”: (left) visitors queuing to enter the pre-show at the British Museum’s “Mummy: The Inside Story” exhibition; (right) the visitor information video at the entrance of the Foundation of the Hellenic World’s VR exhibits informs visitors while, at the same time, raising expectations ix

104 106 113 115 119 120


121 125 139 145 147 201 216






16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4a 17.5a 17.6 17.7 17.8 17.9 17.10 18.1 18.2


Museum visitors use a haptic interface, built by PERCRO, to reconstruct, piece-by-piece, a section of the Doric temple of Ancient Messene in Greece A robot character called “Spike” guides children through the construction of a virtual playground by enacting a pre-recorded sequence of actions CD-ROM façade and cover Main foyer Catalogue room foyer Modes of display in the catalogues Architects foyer and example ‘gallery wall’ display Map room Index page and navigation buttons Virupaksha temple, Hampi 2005 Augmented photographic scene, Hindu gods at Hampi Panoramic scene projected into the AVIE, stereographic display at scale (Above) and 17.4b (Below). Roundshot VR panoramic camera and ambisonic microphone in situ (Above) and 17.5b (Below). Motion capture and the god Shiva dancing as Nataraja, Place-Hampi 2006 Demonstrator 1. PLACE-HAMPI, installation premier Lille3000 October 2006–January 2007 Navigating the virtual landscape of stereo cylinders¸ Place-Hampi 2006 Demonstrator 2, AVIE, detail, showing stereo projection setup Visitor participation and interaction captured by the vision system in AVIE Vision system creates voxel models visualization Screen images of the Digital Songlines interface Mt Moffatt cave paintings ‘The Tombs’. Archaeological excavations have shown that Aboriginal people inhabited these sandstone rock shelters for some 19,500 years Screen image of animated fish with representative contemporary indigenous art work



237 264 264 265 266 266 267 270 276 277 278 283 285 286 286 287 288 289 298

299 299


Tables 2.1 Digital capture technologies 2.2 Accuracy of data 2.3 Data longevity 2.4 Proposed virtual heritage metadata 12.1 How new media can help new heritage

28 32 34 36 191

Cover image The cover image depicts data from Square Tower House of Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in southwest Colorado. Square Tower House is one of the architectural remains of the Ancient Puebloan culture. In September 2007 CyArk executed a 3D laser survey combined with high resolution photography to capture this monument which has become subject to potential structural failure. This 3D point cloud model will be used as a base line to monitor future movement and to plan for stabilization procedures. The nonprofit CyArk High Definition Heritage Network is a project of the Kacyra Family Foundation, and was founded by the pioneer of long range 3D laser scanning, Ben Kacyra. CyArk operates with the mission of “Preserving cultural heritage sites through collecting, archiving, and providing open access via the internet to heritage data created by laser scanning, digital modeling, and other state-of-the-art technologies.” Cultural heritage site data from around the world, like that of Square Tower House, may be viewed on the open access CyArk 3D Heritage Archive,



Alonzo C. Addison, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 7 place de Fontenoy, Paris 75352, France. Janice Affleck, The Department of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong SAR. Nezar Alsayyad, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Architecture, 232 Wurster Hall #1800, Berkeley, CA 94720-1800. Chris Barker, Queensland University of Technology, Australia. IEP, ITEE, University of Queensland, Australia. Australian CRC for Interactive Design (ACID) Australia. Neil Brown, iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research, The University of New South Wales, P.O. Box 259, Paddington NSW, Australia 2021. Fiona Cameron, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney. Erik M. Champion, Media and Design, UNSW-Asia, Tanglin Campus, 1 Kay Siang Rd, Singapore 248922. Xiaolei Chen, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. Bharat Dave, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, Parkville VIC 3010, Australia. Dennis Del Favero, iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research, The University of New South Wales, P.O. Box 259, Paddington NSW, Australia 2021. Maria Economou, Department of Cultural Technology and Communication, University of the Aegean, Harilaou Trikoupi & Faonos Str, Mytilene, 81 100, Greece.



Stephan Gard, Queensland University of Technology, Australia. IEP, ITEE, University of Queensland, Australia. Australian CRC for Interactive Design (ACID) Australia. Elisa Giaccardi, Center for LifeLong Learning & Design (L3 D), University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, SAYA Architecture and Consultancy, Hahad Ha’am 7/1 Jerusalem, Israel. James Hills, Queensland University of Technology, Australia. IEP, ITEE, University of Queensland, Australia. Australian CRC for Interactive Design (ACID) Australia. Sarah Kenderdine, Museum Victoria, Melbourne Museum, Carlton Gardens, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3053. Yehuda E. Kalay, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Architecture, 382A Wurster Hall, #1800, Berkeley, CA 94720-1800, USA. Jose R. Kos, Graduate Program of Urban Design, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Thomas Kvan, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia. Brett Leavy, Queensland University of Technology, Australia. IEP, ITEE, University of Queensland, Australia. Australian CRC for Interactive Design (ACID) Australia. Hannah Lewi, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia. Jeff Malpas, School of Philosophy, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 41, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Australia. Laia Pujol Tost, Department of Cultural Technology and Communication, University of the Aegean, Harilaou Trikoupi & Faonos Str, Mytilene, 81 100, Greece. Sara Roegiers, Maerlant Centre, Faculteit Letteren K.U. Leuven, Blijde Inkomststraat 21, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium. Maria Roussou, Makebelieve Creative Design and Consulting, Athens, Greece. Jeffrey Shaw, iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research, The University of New South Wales, P.O. Box 259, Paddington NSW, Australia 2021.



Neil Silberman, Ename Center for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation, 13-15 Abdijstraat, B-9700 Ename, Belgium. Frederik Truyen, Maerlant Centre, Faculteit Letteren K.U. Leuven, Blijde Inkomststraat 21, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium. Theodor G. Wyeld, Queensland University of Technology, Australia. IEP, ITEE, University of Queensland, Australia. Australian CRC for Interactive Design (ACID) Australia.



Cultural heritage sites all over the world are under threat due to tourism, aggressive urbanization, speculative development, conflict, and general neglect. The complement of traditional methods to cultural heritage management has been augmented with the introduction of digital or new media. Individual researchers, professional societies, museums, universities, and governments have embraced computer modeling and visualization to create virtual reconstructions and databases of living, threatened or lost cultural heritage sites. These efforts have typically focused on the tangible aspects of the site, in the form of 3D models. While these are important components, they often fail to capture the complexity of intangible cultural heritage and the related social, political and economic issues surrounding the sites or artifacts. Digital media could be utilized for much more than re-creation and re-presentation of physical entities. It has the capacity to become a tool to capture both the tangible and intangible essence of both the cultural heritage and the society that created or used the sites. Yehuda E. Kalay, Thomas Kvan, and Janice Affleck, March 2007


I N T R O DU C T I O N Preserving cultural heritage through digital media Yehuda E. Kalay

Abstract The apparent limitless affordances of digital technologies make them the choice media for the re-presentation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage. Digital media are used to create cultural content through scanning, modeling, and archiving; to manage that content through powerful search engines and database management tools; and to disseminate the content through the world wide web to audiences who otherwise might never be able to access it. Yet, like every medium ever used to preserve cultural heritage, digital media is not neutral: it impacts the represented information and the ways society interprets it. Perhaps more than any older technology, it has the potential to affect the very meaning of the represented content in terms of the cultural image it creates. This chapter examines the affordances and implications of digital media for the preservation of cultural heritage through two metaphorical paradigms: rounding a square peg to fit a round hole, versus the horseless carriage. The first implies a dysfunctional relationship between the media and the task they are applied to, the later a misunderstanding of the affordances of the media for changing the tasks themselves. Both paradigms are used to argue that much more research is needed before we can unequivocally recommend New Media as a vehicle for preservation of cultural heritage.

Introduction Cultural heritage sites all over the world face rapid decline due to aggressive urban expansion, speculative development, wars, and general neglect. In places where resources are available for their maintenance, emphasis 1


is largely given to preservation of and improving access to major disused sites, such as old palaces and temples. In other places, artifacts are moved into (sometimes remote) museums, thereby separated from the context in which they were found. Neither approach preserves the vibrant life of the heritage – the way it appeared when the site was inhabited, except in paintings or static dioramas. As a result, examples of living heritage, such as buildings in use, traditional everyday life and special ceremonies, are at high risk of becoming lost. A technology-driven alternative to preserving cultural heritage has emerged through the advent of new, digital media. Individual researchers, professional societies, museums, universities, and governments have embraced the modeling and visualization abilities afforded by computers to create re-constructions and databases of threatened or altogether lost cultural heritage. These efforts have typically focused on the sites themselves, in the form of models of buildings and other structures, and the documents and artifacts found therein. The new technology has the potential to move the state of the art of preservation beyond static displays, capturing in cinematic or interactive form the social, cultural, and human aspects of the sites and the societies who inhabited them. Yet, paradoxically, the relative ease of creating digital re-constructions, and media’s added data management and communication capabilities, have accentuated and brought to the fore two questions that have been dogging cultural heritage preservation all along: 1. What is the “appropriate” way of utilizing digital media in the service of preserving cultural heritage? 2. What is the impact of digital media themselves on the content they purport to preserve and to communicate? Both questions pertain to current practices and future directions in which to expand and re-define the scope and nature of digital media in the service of cultural heritage. They also acknowledge that the choice of media has an impact on the content it represents, and seek to understand those impacts in relation to cultural heritage. The two questions are not independent of each other: the very affordances of the media dictate, to a large extent, what form the preservation will assume, and thus impacts on its content. This chapter, therefore, treats the two questions as one. The question of the impact of media on content is, of course, as old as cultural preservation itself. The introduction of papyrus and vellum as means of recording oral epics, such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in the sixth century BC, forced a standardization of what until then had been a memorized collection of verses, performed and interpreted by the poet. The codex (book), which began to substitute the scroll in the second century AD, allowed easier transport and maintenance of literary collections, 2


but because it was at first used to record everyday, low-level events, it was considered inferior to the scroll. Hence, many of the more “serious” literary works were never transcribed into the new format, and consequently were lost. The invention of the moveable type printing press by Johann Guttenberg in the fifteenth century directly contributed to the wide dissemination of information in Europe, ushering, or at least supporting, the emergence of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Age of Enlightenment. Much as these older media have impacted the preservation of cultural heritage, the use of digital technology today raises questions that are situated at the convergence of the arts, technologies, and socio-cultural “memory-preserving” institutions (museums, libraries), challenging traditional notions of how cultural heritage can and should be represented, interpreted, and disseminated. But the apparent limitless affordances of digital media make these questions more profound, affecting the very meaning of the represented content in terms of the cultural image they create. This chapter looks at these dual premises. On one hand, it examines the affordances of digital media as means of re-presentation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage. On the other hand, it questions the impact of digital media on the nature of the information it communicates – in this case, cultural heritage. These questions form a kind of cost–benefit analysis: what is gained, what is lost? How does the media change the content? Is this change beneficial, or does it destroy the very culture it attempts to assist?

Re-presentation In his seminal book The Language of New Media (MIT Press 2001), Lev Manovich identifies five so-called general “principles” that characterize digital media: numerical presentation, modularity, automation, variability, and transcoding (the ability to move information from one medium to another). When applied to a specific domain, such as cultural heritage, these principles acquire specific meanings. The ability to represent environments and artifacts in digital form makes it possible to manipulate the information in both spatial and temporal ways, then transmit it to remote viewers who have the power to further manipulate it. Digital re-presentation profoundly influences content re-presentation, management, and communication. It endows this new form of cultural heritage re-presentation with abilities (i.e. affordances) that older forms of re-presentation could never achieve, and consequently – with new interpretations. Environments and artifacts that have fallen into disrepair can now be re-constructed to their original glory at little cost. Even entire cities can be digitally re-built, to a level of detail that depends only on the patience of the artists. The reconstructed artifacts can be observed from any point of view 3


(literally and metaphorically), at any degree of abstraction, at any time – past, present, or future. They can be viewed under peace-time conditions or at periods of national distress, in everyday or festive circumstances. In addition to the physical artifacts themselves, the activities these sites are used to support – for which they were created in the first place – can also be simulated, providing an “in-use” image which can be quite different from “at rest” views. What use is a vast, empty throne room, unless it is filled with glitter-attired dignitaries? How different is an empty coliseum from one filled with the excitement – and gore – of gladiatorial games? How empty are the streets of a model of ancient Olympia or medieval Cairo compared to the hustle and bustle that characterized them in the past? The digital “re-construction” process, however, is quite different from physical re-constructions. It sometimes begins with the actual remains, captured in digital form through photogrametry, laser scanning, or simply measuring of what exists. This information is converted into 3D models, complete with texture maps and weathering effects. When physical evidence is scarce or controversial (for example, because it cannot be differentiated from artifacts belonging to other periods), other means of re-construction may be used. They include ancient maps, textual accounts of travelers (a kind of ancient “news” articles), period paintings (after non-factual embellishments have been removed), even MRI and CT scans of mummies or other remains.1 If the heritage is relatively young, interviews with people familiar with site or events can be used to help artists flesh out the historical narrative (e.g., Spielberg’s Shoah Project).2 What makes this digital content creation possible is transcoding. Hence, the 3D point clouds generated by laser scanning can be used to construct 3D surface models of sites and artifacts. Building contours traced on maps can be extruded into walls, paintings and photographs can be literally “mapped” over them to provide realistic or assumed textures. And travelers’ accounts can be choreographed to produce a living image of the heritage, providing the script for people’s activities, customs, and rituals. Yet each source presents different difficulties, even controversies. Laser scanning – a highly accurate method – captures not only ancient artifacts but also the many modifications and adaptations they have undergone through the ages. Foundations and building contours – often the only physical remains – must be completed into 3D structures, with little hard evidence for what the buildings may have looked like at height. Travelers’ tales must be verified by correlating them to other, “reliable” sources, and “cleaned up” from personal biases. Paintings must be scrutinized for artistic license, and MRIs only reveal the artifacts’ skeletal structures, not their surface properties. Often, it is the very abundance of the information that is a problem, rather than its scarcity: what to do about contradictory evidence? Which evidence should be kept, which discarded? The false realism 4


assumed by the re-constructed image does not afford the vagueness and abstraction of physical reconstructions; missing details must be filled in, even when they are no better than guesswork, otherwise the entire model is rendered useless.

Management Historical re-construction is an inexact practice. Archaeologists rely on a variety of sources, which are often incomplete and contradictory: documents may be missing, buildings may have been modified in unexpected or unexplained ways, and artifacts may have been displaced or intermingled with ones from a different period or culture. The data also comes in different levels of abstraction: from texts to maps to paintings to artifacts to whole buildings. Reconciling all this information into a single, unified, coherent narrative is often impossible. Digital media can help: its discrete (rather than analog) nature lends it the ability to deal with chunks of data, which can be stored separately but linked to one another in meaningful ways. It is possible, therefore, to connect a text to a specific building, and a found texture to one appearing in a painting. It is possible to connect existing buildings to similar remains elsewhere, and fill in missing details. This ability is known as data management – the process for which computer technology has practically been invented. But the relative ease of making such connections can lead to less judicious scrutiny when making them. For example, when physical books are shelved in a library, much thought must go into determining their logical proximities. But when the books are virtual and the “shelving” is digital, a search engine will easily retrieve correlated materials, as well as nonsensical associations. The relative low cost of creating digital re-constructions affords yet another advantage: developing alternative narratives. Often, one interpretation of the historical evidence competes with another interpretation. The prohibitive cost of physical conservation and restoration forces choosing one interpretation over another. But which expert’s interpretation is more valid than another’s? Even if a consensus can be found, what seems like a logical interpretation at one point in time may be contradicted by newly discovered evidence, or better developed theories, at a later time, forcing painful (and costly) reconciliation of past efforts with modern understandings.3 Digital re-constructions, on the other hand, afford keeping multiple different interpretations side by side. Not only does such “versioning” eliminate the need to choose one interpretation over another, it also permits students and scholars to compare and contrast the different accounts, teaching them about evolution of the knowledge preservation process itself. But which one of these side-by-side interpretations is more valid? 5


The relatively low-cost of digital re-construction and data storage also affords storing vast quantities of data, which no physical site, museum, or library could possibly store. And the ability to rapidly search the data provides unparalleled abilities to correlate otherwise disparate evidence, to the benefit of constructing more complete – and possibly more accurate – narratives of the past. But it also diminishes the power of official gatekeepers, such as academic journals, museums, and governmental agencies, and opens the floodgates to “un-authorized” evidence and interpretations – the product of amateurs or charlatans. The ease of digital data storage and maintenance is paralleled by its fragility. The problem of choosing which data to preserve, and which to discard, has arisen every time transcoding was made possible by a new medium. Which oral epics have been transcribed to scrolls, which ones were not? Which scrolls were transcribed into books, which were not? Which books were typeset, which were not? Which books will be scanned by the Alexandria Digital Library Project,4 which will not? And then, what format will be used to encode them digitally? What machines will be available 5, 10, 50, 100, 1000 years from now, to read the preserved data? How many vinyl record players do we have access to today? Eight-track tapes? Video tapes? 5-1/4 inch floppy disks? 3-1/2 inch floppies? In short, if the intent of using New Media is to enhance the preservation of cultural heritage, are we not entrusting our most precious possessions to the safekeeping of a rather unproven, fragile technology, whose short history is replete with discarding the “old” for the “new”?

Dissemination Once captured in digital form, the content can be easily disseminated. Everyone with access to a computer – and soon to a cell phone or to a cable TV – will be able to view the data. But unlike traditional means of dissemination, digital media presents viewers with the unique problems of authenticity, interpretability, guidance, and contextuallity – or rather, lack thereof. One of the most powerful features of physical heritage is its authenticity: the ability to touch ancient walls, to literally walk in the footsteps of some historical figure, or just to view – in an un-mediated way – artifacts that were crafted by some ancient civilization. Such un-mediated engagement creates a palpable connection with the past; viewing the same places and artifacts through the mediation of a computer monitor, does not. The screen acts as a barrier, engendering a sense of detachment that encourages disbelief. We have been conditioned from childhood to disbelieve what we see on the screen – otherwise, it would be hard to watch gory films and play vicious computer games. The ability to manipulate what we see has been exploited by special effects artists, as well as by unscrupulous advertisers. 6


Polls taken after the first Gulf War in the US have shown a detachment from the action, a video-game-like feeling when seeing images taken through the lens of smart bombs (Moore 2001).5 What will be the impact of video-based cultural heritage? Will it become as believable as physical cultural heritage, or will it take on the detachment of a video game? What are the consequences of lessening the believability in our cultural heritage? It is naïve to believe that the enormous effort involved in physical re-construction and preservation of cultural heritage can be justified by purely academic, cultural reasons. Individuals, organizations, and whole nations use cultural heritage to justify present-day positions or claims. It was the pretext used by countless nations to wage aggression against other people, to justify continued occupations or to denounce them. Most recently (1996), the discovery of the so-called Kennewick Man on the banks of the Columbia River in the state of Washington – a 9,000 years old fossilized skeleton of a man whose life may prove false traditional theories about the inhabitation of North America – has been fraught with court battles intended to literally bury the evidence.6 Digitally reconstructed cultural heritage makes such political and other claims easier to present and to justify.7 What guarantees do we have that the version told by one New Heritage producer is more true and believable than another’s? Un-mediated and un-narrated access to cultural heritage renders it difficult, if not impossible, to understand by the lay public: what is the significance of an arrowhead found in a particular site? What do the markings on a stone wall mean, other than decoration? Why would a small piece of pottery or parchment generate so much excitement? To understand cultural heritage, lay people need guidance. Such guidance is provided by the curators of the heritage, in the form of signage, guided tours, audio-narration, guide books, and the like. Like most stories told, these are linear narratives: they have a well-defined beginning, middle, and end. Digital media, in contrast, puts much of the authority – and responsibility – for constructing the narrative in the hands of the viewer. For example, the ability to virtually “walk” through a model of an ancient city may let the viewer visit sites out of the “prescribed” sequence, or ones not intended for public viewing at all. The problem is further compounded if the technology allows virtual time-travel, as the narrative may become temporally, as well as spatially, confused. On one hand, such freedom to explore the heritage at one’s own volition may be desired; there is nothing more enjoyable (and instructive) than “getting lost” in some ancient city. On the other hand, the overall understanding gained from a chaotic visit may be jumbled, contributing little to the communication of the cultural heritage. 7


Moreover, the very effort needed to access a (physical) cultural heritage site is instructive in and of itself. It often involves making travel arrangements, spending money and time, and considerable mental and physical preparations. These efforts both contextualize the experience, and set the mood for its understanding. Much like the difference between in-class learning and e-learning, the “event” of visiting a site is part of the cultural experience. It conditions the visitor to partake in the experience, and thus be more acutely attuned to it. The journey itself – whether flying to another country or trekking through a jungle – provides a larger context to the experience. The instant access provided by digital media strips away these “conditioning” and “contextualizing” preconditions from the experience. They render the event of cultural heritage more sterile, more detached, and less engaging. The cultural experience must contend with other worldly contexts, such as being immersed in one’s own culture while learning about another’s, or being in no context at all,8 which competes for attention and is thus distracting, at the very least.

Conclusion Digital re-constructions of sites, artifacts, people and their activities bring new affordances to the practice of preservation and communication of cultural heritage. The New Media’s properties of numerical presentation, modularity, automation, variability, and transcoding affect each aspect of the creation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage. But its critical implications are not limited to supporting the technical aspects of the practice. Rather, they have the power to transform it, wholesale. The relationship between a technology, its affordance, and a practice can be understood in terms of two different paradigms. The first is that of forcing a square peg into a round hole – implying that the use of the new technology is misdirected, or at least poorly fits the practice to which it is applied. In doing so, the practice suffers. The potentials and pitfalls of applying New Media to cultural heritage, described above, can be understood in terms of this paradigm. But another paradigm may be even more instructive in understanding the implications of applying New Media to the practice of cultural heritage preservation. It describes a state of transformation where the application of the new technology is viewed through obsolete and “backward” terms, much like the automobile was viewed as a horseless carriage in the early days of the twentieth century. It implies a lack of appreciation for the emerging potentials of technology to change the practice to which it is applied. The application of a new technology to current practices often produces a dysfunctional relationship between the tools and a task, either because 8


the task is poorly understood or because the process of displacing a set of traditional technologies is largely one of the substitution of habitual tools with new ones that have the wrong affordances. Understanding this misfit (and resolving the dysfunction it brings in its wake) requires a clear identification of the different actions that comprise the practice, and developing tools that can truly assist it – what amounts to “rounding off” the square peg. The “horseless carriage” paradigm views technology as a means to alter the perception of a practice about itself, as it is transformed by a new technology. In using the term a “horseless carriage” at the turn of the twentieth century, the practice of transportation has been described through the lens of a previous technology, not realizing that travel had been dramatically changed. Understanding this paradigm requires asking different questions than those required by the first paradigm. Rather than how can the new technology assist the practice and how to avoid its pitfalls, the question to be asked is how can the affordances provided by the new technology change the practice itself? Do we understand how having what appears to be more precision in modeling cultural heritage affect our reasoning about culture? Do we understand how digitally-mediated communication fundamentally changes the interpretation of the represented culture? How does cultural knowledge, once invested only in professionals, but now ingrained in the digital artists who create the re-constructions, affect the practice of cultural heritage preservation? Both paradigms assume that the fundamental task does not change (i.e. the task of preserving and communication cultural heritage). But unlike the first paradigm, the second one assumes that the practice of preservation and communication is not only assisted, but is changed through the influence of the new technologies. In both paradigms, the technology is connected to an image of practice. This image is comprised of a collection of methods, habits, organizations, knowledge, and a culture of preservation. Professionals often hold such an image of their practice, but not always explicitly. They may know how something is done, but are less aware of the values implicit in a particular way of working. New Media experts (modelers, animators, programmers) also hold an image of practice. Not being cultural preservationists themselves (with few exceptions), their image of the practice of cultural heritage preservation is articulated in the assumptions they make about the kinds of methods and approaches needed to execute that practice. Both paradigms require an explicit understanding of the technology’s affordances in relationship to the practice. But, according to the second paradigm, both cultural heritage experts and New Media specialists have the added responsibility to understand the implicit embodiment of the values associated with the practice in the tools they use, and their reciprocal influence on each other, in terms of shaping New Cultural Heritage. 9


Notes 1 Consider, for instance: “Study of Kennewick Man,” New York Times July 22, 2005; and “Unraveling the mysteries of King Tutankhamun,” 2 3 Consider, for example, the evolving (physical) model of Jerusalem in AD 66, which had to be modified numerous times to keep up with new archaeological discoveries ( 4 5 “New Tools Showed Gulf War on TV,” Frazier Moore, Washington Post, Sunday, Jan 14, 2001 ( 6 See the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture web site at: 7 See, for example: 8 Consider for instance the “edge of the world” effect in the 1999 movie “The Thirteenth Floor,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.


Part 1 NEW H ER I TA G E OV E R V IE W Media, affordances and strategies

The field that utilises new media in the service of cultural heritage is known by different names, such as virtual heritage and digital cultural heritage. The use of the term ‘new heritage’ broadens the definition of the field in order to address the complexity of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage such as the related social, political and economic issues surrounding the sites, artefacts and aspects of cultural heritage. This part examines some of the affordances brought to cultural heritage management and interpretation by the application of new media, issues raised in the process and strategies employed to manage the resulting data.

1 CU LT U R AL H ER I T A G E I N T H E A GE O F N E W M E D I A Jeff Malpas

Abstract Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, constitutes one of the earliest reflections on the way in which the cultural experience and interpretation is transformed by the advent of what were then the ‘new’ media technologies of photography and film. Benjamin directs attention to the way in which these technologies release cultural objects from their unique presence in a place and make them uniformly available irrespective of spatial location. The way in which old media technologies apparently obliterate the place of cultural objects is also a feature of new media. However, the apparent obliteration of place that occurs in this way is itself problematic, in giving rise to a loss of the sense of spatial and temporal distance, and so of the relative locatedness of both experiencing subject and interpreted object. The loss of a sense of place of the object threatens a loss of the sense of place of the subject, and with it, a loss of a proper sense of heritage.

Introduction Although the latter half of the twentieth century has seen enormous technological changes that have had, and continue to have, a direct impact on the modes of experience and interpretation of cultural heritage, discussion of the impact of what were then the ‘new’ media (now perhaps better designated as ‘old’ media), primarily photography and film, was already well underway in the first half of the century. One of the most important of these discussions occurs in Walter Benjamin’s famous essay from 1936, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (Benjamin 1969). In that essay Benjamin focuses on the particular form of cultural heritage that is the artwork, arguing that mechanical techniques of reproduction and re-presentation such as film and photography, but also advances in 13


printing, have had the effect of destroying what Benjamin calls the ‘aura’ of the artwork – its character as a uniquely existing object. In this respect, one of the key points in Benjamin’s analysis concerns the spatio–temporal character of the changes associated with the new technologies at issue. Thus Benjamin writes that: Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of the original. (Benjamin 1969: 220) The mechanical reproduction of the artwork, according to Benjamin, destroys the presence of the work, that is, the work no longer has a unique existence at a place (and it is important to recognise here the way in which ‘place’ encompasses both the spatial and the temporal), and it is this that Benjamin takes as referred to by the concept of ‘aura’. Benjamin may have been writing seventy years ago, before the advent of new digital media, and with a focus on the artwork, rather than on cultural heritage in any broader sense, and yet the connection he indicates between modern media technologies, whether new or old, analogue or digital, and space, time and place, seems an enduring and essential one – indeed, Benjamin himself notes that the phenomenon he describes is ‘a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art’ (Benjamin 1969: 221). It is the nature and implication of this connection, and more specifically the impact of new media on the character and experience of place (the full implications of which remain rather undeveloped in Benjamin’s account), that I wish to take as the focus for my discussion here today. How are place, and space and time, altered in the age of new media, and what does this imply for the experience and interpretation of cultural heritage?

Heritage and materiality Let me begin with some comments about the nature of cultural heritage as such, particularly since Benjamin’s comments, focusing as they do on the uniquely existing artwork and its reproduction, may seem to be at odds



with the emphasis in contemporary cultural heritage practice, not only or even primarily on material culture, but on the non-material, and on issues not so much of reproduction as of interpretation, and, more pointedly, of the multiplicity of interpretations. While it is undoubtedly true that much contemporary heritage practice – a practice codified in the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO 2003) – has shifted away from a focus on the individual object, and onto the narratives, practices, representations, systems of knowledge, and broader socio-cultural contexts within which such objects were originally embedded, this should not be taken necessarily to imply an abandonment of the material in favour on the non-material. Instead, it reflects a reaction against past heritage practice with its emphasis merely on the collection, conservation and static display of artefacts presented from a single and unquestioned cultural perspective. In fact, the distinction between material and non-material heritage, or material and non-material culture, is itself somewhat artificial. Culture is always tied to its materiality and is inseparable from it. Specific cultural practices, for instance, while they may be construed as themselves ‘non-material’ or ‘intangible’, nevertheless depend upon, and are articulated by means of, specific instruments and arrangements of instruments, specific sites and pathways, specific sequences of concrete actions. Even language has its own materiality in the form of speech, mark and sign, while the very possibility of meaning resides in the inter-relation of speakers with one another and with an objectual world. The materiality at issue here is not to be understood in terms of some simplistic materialism, but rather in terms of the essentially ‘placed’ character of any form of en-cultured, that is, human, existence. To exist in the world in a way that includes a sense of one’s relation to oneself, to others like oneself, and to the things of one’s environment, requires that one have a sense of one’s own locatedness within that world. Such locatedness, which encompasses bodily location as well as a sense of social and cultural location, requires orientation in time, meaning a sense of successive relationality (which includes notions of, for instance, actuality and potentiality), and orientation in space, meaning a sense of simultaneous relationality (including up and down, left and right). Together these forms of orientation constitute the sense of place that is fundamental to being in a world at all, but which are also, therefore, basic to the possibility of culture, and of any human mode of existence. Indeed, having a sense of one’s determinate human identity, whether individually or collectively, is inseparable from having just such a sense of place (and what this indicates, of course, is not only that culture is itself dependent on its ‘material’ articulation, but that the grasp of any object as culturally significant, or as capable



of bearing some specific interpretation, also depends on the orientation of the interpreter). It is because culture is ‘material’ in this way, and because the formation of culture occurs in and through the formation of places, that one cannot understand the idea of cultural heritage independently of the idea of the places of cultural formation and articulation. Thus particular modes of cultural practice and social meaning, those associated with various institutions, for instance, are maintained and also conserved through particular sites and structures, and when we wish to recover some aspect of past culture that is now lost, we do so through a recovery, as far as we are able, of those sites and structures. Similarly, particular cultural memories depend crucially on their localization in the form of public memorial. The naming of places is one form of such localization, as is the construction of monuments. Individual memory exhibits the same essential character: things and places carry memory with them, and so also carry identity and meaning (something explored in exemplary and striking fashion in the work of Marcel Proust). Benjamin’s own comments on the way the unique existence of the artwork is the basis for the historicity of the work itself provides another exemplification of the essential connection of the past with the placed materiality of things. While the artwork does indeed constitute a certain type of cultural heritage, the materiality of the artwork is characteristic of culture, as well as that to which we refer as ‘cultural heritage’. The artwork is not reducible just to the material ‘stuff’ of which it is made, and yet the artwork is what it is through its concrete spatio–temporal existence, its placed presence. It is similarly through the spatio–temporal articulation of persons and things, and their inter-relation, that culture, and so also cultural heritage, is formed and maintained. It is, moreover, the materiality of culture and of cultural heritage in this sense that makes it possible to talk of a multiplicity of interpretations that may attach to any cultural artefact or heritage location. It is sometimes said that one of the great lessons of twentieth century thought, partly following from Nietzsche, but also Heidegger, is that there are only interpretations. The fact is that there are no interpretations unless there are objects of interpretation, and this is so even though there are no objects except as interpreted. It is precisely because of the concrete materiality of that which is the object of interpretation – ‘its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be’, as Benjamin puts it (although without himself drawing out the full significance of this) – that anything that can be interpreted can always sustain more than one such interpretation. In this respect, the emphasis within contemporary heritage practice on keeping open the possibility of multiple interpretations is actually dependent upon a grasp of the placed materiality of that which is interpreted. 16


From old to new media Benjamin’s 1936 claim is that the artwork has an essential ‘materiality’ that consists of its unique spatio–temporal existence, and that this is threatened by the advent of mechanical techniques of reproduction. My suggestion is that this claim about the materiality of the artwork can be extended to culture and cultural heritage more broadly. But to what extent does what Benjamin have to say about the techniques of mechanical reproduction, the techniques of ‘old media’, and the way they transform the being of the artwork, also apply to the techniques of the ‘new media’ of today? Benjamin’s discussion focuses primarily on photography and film, both of which operate by means of their capacity for the reproduction of visual images, and so can be used simply to visually re-present already existing objects and events, but which can also be productive, in that they have a capacity to create new images in their own right. The photograph and the film, as well as the analogue audio recording (another form of media already present, of course, in 1936, although not discussed by Benjamin) can thus be employed, not only to record and reproduce works and performances, but also to create new works – although the truly productive capacity, even of such analogue technologies, was much less evident in 1936 than it is today. The shift from the analogue to the digital brings with it enormously increased reproductive and productive capacities – not only is there greater possibility for realism, such that works and performances can be recorded and reproduced with much greater fidelity to the original, but there also arises a much greater capacity for what we may term ‘virtualism’, the creation of entirely new works, and even new domains, that are nevertheless highly realistic in their own terms. Notwithstanding these differences in reproductive and productive power, however, it is still the case that we can view new media, no less than the old, as having the same two aspects, the reproductive and the productive, that also figure in Benjamin’s discussion. If we consider this in relation to cultural heritage, then we can distinguish between the reproductive use of new media, where the aim is to record or to re-present heritage artefacts or sites (where the term ‘artefact’ includes stories, for instance, no less than tools), and a more productive use of new media to create something new or supplemental to the artefact or site – whether that be an interpretative context within which the artefact or site is situated or perhaps an experiential simulation that is additional to the artefact or site. We can readily cite examples of the reproductive versus productive uses of media in heritage contexts. Straightforward reproduction arises where the artefact or site is for some reason inaccessible or unavailable for display. The archiving of art images on the web has thus made available artworks from galleries and collections around the world to anyone with a computer and web access. From a curatorial perspective, the use of a ‘virtual’ 17


presentation may perform the same role as the museum replica did in the past – the advantage of the virtual re-presentation is not only that it may incorporate dynamic elements, or allow access to aspects of the artefact or site that may otherwise be hidden, but the virtual reproduction, so long as it is evident as virtual, does not masquerade as the real thing. Typically, of course, such virtual presentations are employed, not so much in the presentation of single artefacts, as to provide a mode of presenting complexes of artefacts, entire sites for instance, or parts of artefacts, such as their otherwise hidden interiors. A simple example of this use of new media is in the presentation of interactive displays that allow a visitor to ‘walk-through’ a virtual reconstruction of a site. The ‘Virtual Room’ at the Melbourne museum allows visitors to look into three-dimensional, dynamic scenes as if they were looking into a real space (see the virtual room site at Sometimes, of course, this reproductive use of media is also reconstructive – a particularly good example being the project undertaken by students at the Technical University in Darmstadt in 2000 to build virtual reconstructions of 14 Jewish synagogues destroyed during the Nazi period of the 1930s (‘Synagogues in Germany: A Virtual Reconstruction’, 17 May–1 October 2000, TU Darmstadt). It is perhaps less the reproductive uses of new media that attract most interest, however, as the productive uses – uses where the artefact or site is not simply reproduced, but where something new is created that supplements the artefact or image or perhaps, sometimes, may even substitute for it. Such productive uses include interactive displays alongside the displayed artefact as well as multi-media experiences of the sort exemplified by the Jorvik Viking Centre in York. Moreover, just as the web has been used to make available reproductions of artefacts and sites, so it also provides access to a huge number of interpretative and informational sites that can be viewed as providing further instances of this productive use of media in heritage practice (although the provenance of many of these sites is sometimes unclear). The distinction between the reproductive and the productive uses of media that I have advanced here, as with all good distinctions, is not absolute – and this point is illustrated by a number of the examples just mentioned. More generally, it should be noted that the capacity for a productive use of media is often supervenient upon its reproductive capacity – as the creative, as opposed to documentary use of film, may nevertheless depend on the capacity to record live action (even animation depends on its ability to produce images that stand in some meaningful relation to the actual world); while some forms of reproduction that cannot draw directly on the artefact or site, perhaps because it no longer exists, may be thought to be more like instances of genuine production, while sometimes reproduction may itself give rise to a new artefact or site. An intriguing, if rather extreme and admittedly fictional, example of the latter, is explored 18


in Borges’ famous story ‘Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote’ (Borges 1998), but there are also more straightforward cases where the reproduction becomes, to a greater or lesser extent, a productive work in its own right – the virtual synagogue project in Darmstadt could be viewed as one such case. Benjamin, as I noted earlier, seems to provide examples of both reproductive and productive uses of the media he discusses. Moreover, he also gives explicit notice to the way film, in particular, enables access to what might otherwise remain hidden or unavailable to us. Through the close-up, with slow motion, we see things in a new way such that ‘a different nature opens itself to the camera than opens to the naked eye’ (Benjamin 1969: 236). Both old and new media, both analogue and digital, thus expand our capacity to enter into and engage with the world, the cultural world no less than the world of nature; the inherited world of the past and the present no less than the projected world of the future. Yet it is not just that these new technologies expand the capacity for engagement – the characteristic feature of the reproductive technologies to which Benjamin draws our attention is the way they alter the thing reproduced, the way they dissolve the presence of the thing in its place. In this respect, the reproductive and productive power of new as well as of old media, ought not to blind us to the possible transformations – both positive and negative – that these media bring with them. We need to consider that what is at issue is not simply the enhancement or the extension of the experiential or interpretative engagement with cultural heritage, but of a change in such experience and interpretation; perhaps a change in the way in which cultural heritage itself appears to us, and so also a change in the way we understand, experience, and interpret ourselves.

The obscuring of place Let me return to my comments earlier regarding the materiality of culture and of cultural heritage. Such materiality, I argued, was to be understood in terms of the way in which human life is essentially formed and articulated, and so also understood, in relation to spatio–temporal formation and articulation. New media, as well as the old media discussed by Benjamin, do not destroy the placed materiality of human existence – human life remains tied to specific spaces, times and places – but they do change the way in which space, time and place themselves appear, and are understood, and so too, the way in which human existence appears, is understood, and is experienced. One of the characteristic features of new media technologies, present in those technologies to an even greater extent than is true of the old media technologies of photography and film, is not only their capacity for endless reproduction – for the multiplication of image, sound or sequence – but also 19


their capacity to transform the elements that they reproduce, to produce new such elements, and to juxtapose those elements in new arrangements and forms of connection. This is itself directly tied to the way in which these technologies have, to a great extent, severed the need for any direct connection with the uniquely present object – the artefact, the site, the work. Within some forms of heritage presentation there is no object, not merely because it may be unavailable, but because the object has ceased to be the focal point for the heritage experience or interpretation. This is sometimes a function of the tendency to shift away from supposedly material to nonmaterial modes of culture, but it is a tendency more strongly encouraged by the nature of new media itself, since such media offer so much more in terms of access, information, engagement and even entertainment. In this respect, new media may seem to provide a much greater capacity to meet the guiding principles for heritage interpretation set out by Freeman Tilden, in particular the very first principle that enjoins upon us the need for interpretation to ‘relate what is displayed or described to something within the personality of experience of the visitor’ (Tilden 1977: 9). There can be no doubt that the importance of cultural heritage lies in the way in which it shows us something about ourselves and about the world to which we belong – in this respect even that which we do not take as part of our own heritage can nevertheless be significant to us just by virtue of being part of the heritage of those others with whom we share the same world, so that the heritage of others is also part of our own heritage. The task of heritage interpretation, then, is to enable the visitor to recognise that which is, in a certain sense, already his/her own, but this is not always an easy task. The technologies of new media seem to give us much greater capacity to achieve this sort of recognition, or, at least, to achieve a greater level of engagement with heritage artefacts and sites. Yet does new media actually enable greater engagement with the site or the artefact as such, or does it enable, instead, a greater level of engagement only with the reproduced site or artefact? And even if the latter is true, what does it mean for that to be so, and does it matter? In Benjamin’s terms, what difference does it make if we lose sight of the work of art or the heritage object as a uniquely existing entity, if we lose any sense of the place in which it is properly present? Benjamin’s own analysis of art in the age of mechanical reproduction focuses on the way in which the reproducibility of the artwork changes the role and character of the artwork – no longer is the artwork embedded in a ritual practice where it may be accessible to only a few, instead what becomes essential is its availability for display and exhibition to all. In this respect, the loss of the aura of the artwork, the loss of its specificity, is also a release of the artwork into the realm of the universal and the generic – the realm of what Benjamin calls ‘the masses’. The artwork no longer finds its being in its unique presence in a particular place, but exists instead in its availability anywhere and everywhere. The shift at issue here is one that 20


Benjamin argues is characteristic of modernity, and it rests, according to Benjamin: on two circumstances, both of which are related to the significance of the masses in contemporary life. Namely, the desire of contemporary masses to bring things ‘closer’ spatially and humanly, which is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction … To pry an object from its shell, to destroy its aura, is the mark of a perception whose ‘sense of the universal equality of all things’ has increased to such an extent that it extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction. (Benjamin 1969: 223) The ‘desire’ that Benjamin describes here is perhaps best understood, not in terms of something driven by the ‘masses’, but rather as a tendency that is inherent in modern technologies, including the technologies of new media. One of the key features of many contemporary technologies (and not just those of new media) is, indeed, their drive towards increasing standardization and commodification – ‘globalization’ can be seen as naming one, albeit complex, manifestation of this contemporary tendency. It is significant, moreover, that Benjamin describes this tendency in terms not only as an overcoming of uniqueness, but also as a bringing of things closer, ‘spatially and humanly’. In this respect, what Benjamin describes as the destruction of the aura of the artwork is also a destruction of the artwork’s being in place, and, together with this, a shift away from the particular place as that in and through which a singular encounter with the work is possible towards a generic and uniform space that enables a universal accessibility of the artwork from anywhere within that space. (Elsewhere I have connected the destruction of the aura of the artwork as discussed by Benjamin with the film director Wim Wenders’s account of the present age as characterised by the proliferation of images – see: Malpas forthcoming; Wenders 2003 – and it is notable that Wenders also connects this proliferation directly with a loss of place.) This capacity to release things, and not only works of art, from the places in which they are is perhaps the key element in the transformative power of modern communication and information technologies – although it is equally crucial to older technologies also, the printing press being an excellent example. The web, and the digital technologies associated with it, re-present the most radical instantiation of this capacity – here, place no longer seems to have any significance at all and has instead been replaced by a network of equally accessible locations within a single ‘space’. Similarly, the software and hardware technologies of new media enable the manipulation of space and time so that the past 21


can be apparently brought into the present, what is spatially distant can be brought near, place itself can be recreated, reproduced, manipulated, and transformed. Yet although this capacity for the release from place that seems so characteristic of modern technology (and of the technologies of new as well as old media) is central to the power that technology brings, this capacity also brings certain other changes with it. One of the points Benjamin himself makes concerns the way in which the technologies of mechanical reproduction remove objects from their embeddedness within ‘the fabric of tradition’ (Benjamin 1969: 223) – a particularly significant claim from the perspective of cultural heritage. This removal of the object from its connection with tradition from the past can be seen as partly a result of the way in which the reproduction, in duplicating the original, also duplicates the marks of its history, but it does so without that history belonging to the reproduction as such – the more perfect the reproduction, the more completely will the history of the reproduced work be obscured by its replication of the traces given in the original. Thus the marks of its past that are carried on the original, and which are duplicated in the reproduction, no longer serve to connect the reproduction with a past at all. Perhaps more importantly, however, the disconnection from tradition also occurs through the way in which the reproduction of the original severs it from the original context in which it was located. In Benjamin’s discussion, this means that the artwork is removed from its traditional connection with ritual – the artwork is desacralised, turned into a ‘commodity’ available anywhere and for anyone. More generally, we may say that reproduction removes the object from its original context of significance so that the object does indeed become something generic rather than unique, and as such ceases to have any unique significance, and since its being as a historical object is tied to its uniqueness – to its existence at a particular time and space, and at a certain place or places – so too does the object cease to be historical. It is, in fact, precisely through the apparent obliteration of place, through the overcoming of spatial and temporal distance, that both old and new media technologies enable the increased availability of their objects – whether they be particular artefacts, re-presentations, sites or events. But while this seeming obliteration of place, and so also of distance, brings increased availability with it (Benjamin also sees the destruction of the aura that underlies this as having certain positive political consequences – see Benjamin 1969: 218), it also tends towards an obliteration of difference. Thus what is physically distant is no longer experienced as distant, but neither is what is close experienced as close, since everything is uniformly accessible in more or less the same way (see: Heidegger 1971; also Malpas 2007). Moreover, not only does this mean a change in one’s experience of the object, but it also brings a change in one’s experience of oneself. For in the dissolution of any sense of the near and far in relation to the object, 22


one also loses a sense of the near and far in relation to oneself. The transformation of the experience or ‘sense’ of place under the impact of new media may bring a change in one’s sense of one’s own place no less than of the place of the things around one. To take a mundane example, in playing a computer game the relative locations of the objects around the player and the objects in the game are changed in the playing of the game itself, but so too is the player’s own sense of location altered – the player is as much, if not more, ‘in’ the realm of the game than he/she is ‘in’ the room where the computer is itself situated. Indeed, in computer gaming, one can lose a sense of one’s immediate physical locatedness in spite of the fact that one’s interaction with the game is itself dependent on that physical locatedness. Although the experience and interpretation of cultural heritage is, as Tilden emphasises, what connects with us, of what, in a certain sense, already belongs to us, it is nevertheless also the case that it involves an encounter with that which stands somewhat apart from us – indeed, this is perhaps a central aspect of heritage experience and interpretation, and although it is perhaps under-explored within much heritage literature, it is something to which a great deal of attention has been given in modern hermeneutic theory (see especially Gadamer 1989). The way in which modern technologies tend towards the apparent obliteration of temporal and spatial distance presents a serious problem in the experience and interpretation of cultural heritage. It may lead, in fact, to an inability to appreciate heritage as heritage, and, since the significance of heritage lies in large part in the way in which it contributes to the formation of our own sense of identity, so the loss of such an ability may also entail a loss of a proper sense of ourselves. In short, the way in which the technologies of old and new media appear to remove spatial and temporal distance and difference, the way they release things, including ourselves, from place, may also bring with it a loss of any proper ‘sense’ of place, and so of any proper sense of identity. It is this issue, I would suggest, that should actually be seen to underlie the frequently voiced concern about the possible ‘Disneyfication’ of heritage experience and interpretation that is associated with some aspects of the use of new media as well as with the trend toward business-oriented models of heritage management and administration. Such ‘Disneyfication (which could be seen simply as an extension of the same tendency towards ‘the universal equality of all things’ described by Benjamin) is problematic, not because it may be seen as a form of capitulation to commercial interests or as involving any form of ‘dumbing down’, but rather because of the way it does indeed threaten to obscure and obliterate our own sense of what heritage is, and what it means, and therefore also, our own sense of ourselves. Indeed, the way in which new communication and information technologies may be seen to threaten self identity and social locatedness was something already explored by the media theorist Joshua Meyrowitch in the 1980s (see Meyrowitch 1985). 23


The apparent loss of a sense of temporal distance is one problematic element in heritage experience and interpretation in the age of new media. From a hermeneutic perspective such a loss is especially problematic in that it is through our capacity to stand apart from the past, to gain temporal distance in relation to it, that itself plays a role in enabling critical engagement with the past as well as with our own heritage. However, not only is temporal distance important, but so too is spatial distance and differentiation. We gain a sense of who we are, and so can take a stand on our own identity, including being able to address our sense of ourselves critically, through being able to place ourselves simultaneously alongside others. Moreover, the capacity to engage with our world in a critical and reflective fashion also depends on being able to distinguish our own interpretations of the world, as well as the interpretations of others, from the world itself. Indeed, as I indicated earlier, it is thus that the materiality of the interpreted object turns out to be crucial in underpinning the possibility of interpretation. It is also crucial in enabling us to adopt a critical perspective in relation to the interpretations that we encounter. In that case, however, it becomes essential that we be able to distinguish interpretation from that which is interpreted. We need to have a sense, then, of the object on the basis of which any interpretation can be subject to question. For this to be possible we need to retain a sense of the placed materiality of the object, and so of the placed materiality of that which is interpreted. Inasmuch as new media, as well as old, has a capacity for the proliferation of the object, for its re-presentation and interpretive supplementation, so too do new and old media have a capacity to obscure the difference between object and interpretation, to lose a sense of the object. Sometimes this may be encouraged, not only by the technical capacities of media technologies, but also by a misguided commitment to the idea that there is indeed only the multiplicity of interpretation – that there is no object that has any authority in relation to those interpretations. Here a loss of the distinctness of the object from its interpretations, which is itself tied to a loss of the sense of the properly placed presence of the object, is a loss also, one might say, of a sense of its spatial as well as conceptual difference from its many re-presentations or supplementations.

Conclusion New media offers enormous possibilities for the enhancement and enrichment of heritage experience and interpretation, the question is how to make best use of new media in ways that also maintain the integrity of heritage artefacts and sites, that maintain a sense of the distance and difference between the past and the present, between the original and the reconstruction, between the object and its interpretation. Exactly how this is to be 24


achieved will, of course, vary according to particular heritage contexts, artefacts and sites; it will also differ according to different curatorial practices and different media. One point I would emphasise, however, is something already present in Tilden – a point that can be seen as in part restating my own emphasis on the importance of not losing a sense of the proper place of heritage and of the heritage ‘object’ as well as of the ‘subject’ who experiences and interprets. The penultimate of Tilden’s six principles of heritage interpretation reads as follows: ‘Interpretation should aim to present a whole rather than a part, and must address itself to the whole man [sic] rather than any phase’ (Tilden 1977: 9). The tendency of modern media technologies is one that runs counter to this principle inasmuch as there can be no sense of the ‘whole’, of the integrity or unity of the site, artefact or whatever, without a sense of the integration of its parts, and such integration itself depends on an understanding of the way in which those parts are themselves located in respect of one another and in respect of the whole. To have a sense of a work, or an artefact or site as a whole is, I would argue, to have a sense of its properly placed presence. The reproducibility of the artwork, as described by Benjamin, in which the artwork is amenable to endless repetition, may be viewed as having the consequence of a certain ‘democratisation’ of art – a making available of art to the masses – that could in turn be seen as a positive development (and is indeed something that Benjamin seems, in part, to welcome). Yet such reproducibility also brings with it, as is evident even in Benjamin’s own discussion, some more problematic consequences, and one of these is the dissipation of any sense of the artwork as itself a whole – any sense of its properly placed presence. In the face of its endless reproducibility, the work becomes simply a repeatable mark – it can have no ‘parts’ since there is nothing with respect to which or within which those ‘parts’ can be integrated. Thus, while the artwork may remain a single ‘thing’, as it must be to be repeatable and reproducible, it is not a ‘thing’ that has any singleness in the sense of proper unity or wholeness is obliterated by its reproduction and repetition. For the artwork to be present as a whole is perhaps not for it to be wholly present (at least not as something that is present in any complete determinacy – there is always something indeterminate about what is present, always more that can be seen or said about it), but it is for it to be present in space and time, for it to be present in ‘its unique existence at the place where it happens to be’. The same, I would suggest, is also true of cultural heritage. If we take Tilden’s principle to heart then (leaving aside its somewhat old-fashioned tone), we will look to find ways of deploying the resources of new media in ways that do indeed aim to present a whole, and this will mean presenting the heritage artefact or site as itself an integral presence, existing in its own place and distinct temporally and spatially from us and 25


from its reproductions and interpretations. Since Tilden also talks of maintaining a sense of the integrity of the ‘subject’ to whom the interpretation is presented, so too must heritage interpretation retain a proper sense of the place of the subject. Only by maintaining such a sense of the placed ‘materiality’ of heritage, both in relation to ‘object’ and ‘subject’, can we make sense of the importance of heritage for us, and only then can we properly engage with it. This is, of course, to attempt to find ways of deploying new media in ways that run somewhat counter to that which Benjamin claims is the characteristic tendency of modern media technologies; it means finding ways to deploy new media in ways that maintain, and do not obscure or dissolve, a sense of place, but this may well be essential if we are not to obscure or dissolve a sense of heritage.

References Benjamin, W. 1969 (originally 1936). The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. In Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken Books. Borges, J.L. 1998. Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. In Collected Fictions. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Gadamer, H.G. 1989. Truth and Method. 2nd rev. edn, trans. J. Weinsheimer and D.G. Marshall. New York: Crossroad. Heidegger, M. 1971. The Thing. Trans. Albert Hofstadter. In Poetry, Language, Thought. New York: Harper & Row. Malpas, J. 2007. Heidegger’s Topology: Being, Place, World. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Malpas, J. (forthcoming). “The Role of Memory”: Image, Place and Story in the Films of Wim Wenders. In Film and Philosophy, ed. James Phillips. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Meyrowitz, J. 1985. No Sense of Place. The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behaviour. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Tilden, F. 1977. Interpreting Our Heritage. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina. (Originally published 1957.) UNESCO. 2003. Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Paris. Wenders, W. 2003. In Defense of Places. DGA Magazine 28 (3). Internet. Available from accessed December 2005.


2 T H E V AN I S H I N G V I R T U A L Safeguarding heritage’s endangered digital record Alonzo C. Addison

Abstract With the rapid advance of digital technologies, the documentation, analysis and presentation of heritage has had a renaissance. But alongside this “virtual heritage” boom have come problems. Issues of data quantity, quality, and longevity are becoming acute. Sadly, without careful planning, many of our digital efforts will not outlive the heritage they are meant to record and protect. Following a review of the growth in the field, heritage’s universal value is contrasted with its insular digital record. Metadata and solutions for sharing are proposed. Using UNESCO’s online World Heritage portal as an example, a structure for sharing and preserving technical, statutory, and rich media heritage content is presented.

Introduction Heritage’s virtual beginnings “Virtual Heritage,” or the use of digital technologies to record, model, visualize and communicate cultural and natural heritage, (see Addison 2001) is today a burgeoning field. But a decade ago it was in its infancy and computer reconstructions were a novelty. Advising Japanese construction conglomerate Taisei Corporation in the early 1990s, I was fortunate to watch colleagues produce what were arguably some of the first photorealistic animated digital reconstructions of historic sites. Using DEC minicomputers, early SGI graphic workstations, and nascent commercial animation software targeted at the entertainment industry, Taisei’s team of architects, engineers, modellers, and animators, collaborated with historians, producers, and artists to research, reconstruct and bring to life several of the great cities of the ancient world (see Figure 2.1). 27


Figure 2.1 Scenes from Ur video sequence. (Courtesy Taisei Corporation (Taisei 2006).)

These early attempts were eye opening – both for the quality of the models and the care for historical accuracy. The growth of digital documentation As information technology has grown, 3D documentation tools, from electronic surveying instruments to laser scanners, photogrammatic cameras, and even CAD modellers, have brought more and more heritage data into the digital domain. Over the years 3D has digitally entered heritage documentation from different fields. In the 1970s, the advent of photogrammetry and early workstations allowed the extraction of outlines of key visual components, such as stones in a façade. In the 1980s, with the growth of early computeraided design (CAD) tools, rectilinear surfaces and straight edges became the focus. By the 1990s, geographic information systems (GIS) allowed the contextual linking of data to largely 2 or 2.5D maps and contours. And in the last decade, the growing availability of 3D laser scanners and their associated point cloud software have allowed the detailed capture of surface conditions. Each technology has added to the 3D data set, but in a different way. Although often marketed as universal tools, each has strengths that are missing from the others. Laser scanners for example are quite poor at tracing the corner of a building or outline of a stone in a façade, while CAD tools are based around assumptions such as walls being planar. Today’s recording devices can be grouped into four categories: Table 2.1 Digital capture technologies. Visual Dimensional Locational Environmental

Still/video cameras, color scanners, … 3D scanners, photogrammatic and surveying instruments (EDMs/ TotalStations), GPR, … GPS sensors, … Thermal, acoustic, C14, …



From vivid pixel-based visuals to accurate scanner-produced dimensions, GPS locations and various environmental parameters, digital capture devices have enabled us to document and record at new levels of detail and precision. Analysis and interpretation With the flood of digital data made possible by new input devices have come tools for everything from modeling to analysis, and animation to authoring. Decreasing costs and ease of use have opened digital heritage, bringing hobbyists alongside professionals, and allowing experts from domains outside the computer, CAD, and entertainment worlds to participate. Interactive multimedia presentations featuring animated (e.g. Flash), 3D (e.g. VRML), or panoramic (e.g. QTVR) elements have become the norm, and museum/site kiosks and VR theatres are becoming more common. A rush to the virtual In the ensuing years the academic, commercial, and research worlds tackled everything from the Valley of the Kings to Stonehenge, Delphi and Angkor. By 1998 Virtual Heritage was a main track in the annual Virtual Systems and Multimedia (VSMM) conferences, and in early 2000 several years of special sessions and a discussion group (VIVOH) brought about the creation of the non-profit Virtual Heritage Network (VHN) (see to provide a portal to the work and papers in the domain. As the field has grown and tools have become more accessible in both cost and ease of use, there has been a flood of interest. Today “Virtual Heritage,” “Digital Cultural Heritage,” or “New Heritage” is a common theme in research grants, academic programs, and at numerous conferences and workshops. In the last year, one has had a seemingly endless choice of meetings which touch upon some aspect of virtual heritage. From VSMM to Europe’s VAST, IEEE VR and ACM Siggraph to CAA, ISPRS, ASPRS, CIPA, ICOMOS, Forum UNESCO, Virtual Retrospect, the City of Vienna’s Computer and Archaeology, Ename’s various events, the ETH Ascona Workshop on Cultural Heritage, the US/India Workshop on Digital Archaeology, the US/Italian Space to Place, Museums and the Web, ICHIM, and others, there has been a deluge of activity in the field. Although many gatherings are one-time events organized as part of a project or collaboration, there is a steady stream of now annual venues. Sadly, there is limited coordination between these meetings, splitting a complex field with a great diversity of players into more and more 29


disconnected subgroups. The VR community attends one set, the computer scientists another, the archaeologists their own, and so forth.

Universal values but individual efforts World heritage and the concept of universal value Heritage, be it natural or cultural, by definition has always been recognized as of value. From the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” to the expeditions of Darwin, Audubon and others, mankind has sought to record, preserve, and understand his heritage. We have excavated, listed, explored, painted, sung and written of our heritage. Although the reasons are deep, in this age of globalization the importance is only more pronounced. With the creation of the world’s first National Park at Yellowstone in 1872, the concept of “setting apart” land “for the enjoyment of all” (as US President Ulysses S. Grant wrote) took root. Ninety years later, in 1972, preservation came together in a unique international legal agreement to protect and conserve cultural and natural sites. Officially known as the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO 1972) and ratified by 183 nations as of January 2007, the World Heritage Convention formalizes the concept of places of “outstanding universal value” to humankind and proceeds to encourage their protection and preservation for all.

Divided energy Despite the recognized “universal value” of the 830 (as of 16 July 2006) sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, their documentation, study, and preservation still largely relies upon disparate efforts. Through the World Heritage Convention, UNESCO has played an important role at many of the sites on the List in coordinating efforts, (as well as educating, fostering management plans, defining protected zones, etc.) but at the vast majority of the world’s thousands of other places of heritage, a much wider spectrum of individuals, organizations, and governments are active. This is in many ways beneficial, leading to diversity of data, ideas, and interpretations. But at the same time, with finite funds and seemingly unlimited needs for preservation and assistance, lack of coordination and sharing comes at a great price. The “sexy” sites get disproportionate and often competing attention, while other less known or recognized sites languish. As an example, the World Heritage site of Angkor in Cambodia has received extensive attention over the last few decades, through a major UNESCO Safeguarding Campaign, and through the assistance of many international research and conservation missions. In March 2004 in collaboration with Sophia University, I led a small team and specialized 30


3D scanning equipment to produce detailed 3D measurements of the main causeway of Angkor Wat and the endangered temple of Banteay Kdei. That same spring, unbeknownst to us at the time, two other teams (from India and Japan) brought identical 3D laser scanners to Angkor to perform similar surveys. Although Angkor is a vast site and each team was working at different temples, if we had been aware of the parallel efforts at the time, we all could have reduced costs and covered more ground (we are now in touch and exploring ways to integrate our data). In the digital age the duplication of effort, and especially data, becomes only more acute. Linking and synchronizing data into a common data set and coordinate system is relatively easy with today’s digital tools, yet still seldom done.

Figure 2.2 Scanning Banteay Kdei temple and elevation of 3D point cloud.



Data: Quantity versus quality From reducing visitor impact at fragile sites to creating a scientific record of conditions at a moment in time, or educating young and old, there seems little question that Virtual Heritage has great value. But with its value comes responsibility. And this starts with the data. All too often efforts focus on quantity versus quality and image versus accuracy. Pretty pictures are enticing and needed for presentations and papers, but the actual measurements and records are what have lasting value. Data overload The proliferation of capture and modeling technologies, coupled with burgeoning interest and accessibility of both sites and techniques, has led to a great influx of raw data. With camera “megapixel” counts jumping every year, and new 3D scanners capturing tens of thousands of “accurate” 3D coordinates per second, petabytes of valuable digital fodder are now available. Beyond this raw “captured” material come vast meshes, model files, animations, and multimedia presentations. The challenge quickly becomes how to store, manage, and share such large repositories and make them useful beyond their initial gatherers’ needs.

Data reliability As it has become easier to produce rich media interpretations, the greater visibility of works, along with the decoupling of the diverse multidisciplinary teams commonly required in the early years, have led to increasing questions of accuracy and reliability. In the rush to document, model, and present, crucial elements of provenance are lost. The problem is complex. Sometimes budgets do not allow the time to properly mark up data in the field, for example. But clearly if it is not easy to mark it up, or there is little precedent to do so, and no easy way to share it when it is, few will. The many facets of data accuracy/reliability can be summed up in the error/bias of each piece in the data collection chain: Table 2.2 Accuracy of data. Error/Bias



Sites are not constant – they evolve, weather, are modified, etc. over time, meaning data about them must consider what point in history it is of From rounding errors to calibration and issues like CCD color accuracy, the tools play an important role in accuracy




Table 2.2 Cont’d Error/Bias



From temperature to sunlight and cloud cover, environmental conditions play a role in accuracy Perhaps the hardest to identify, human error/bias is always present to some extent Without an attached record of why, how/with what, where, and by whom, accuracy is limited

Human Provenance

Figure 2.3 Reconstruction at Pagan, Myanmar – any digital documentation today should make clear that it is of an unscientific twentieth century repair of an eleventh–thirteenth century temple.

Data longevity With numerous sites, projects, people, and technologies interacting, we all too often end up with data in many formats and on many systems. Today records exist in every imaginable format, and many proprietary ones as well. Focusing on the problem of only photographic images for example, over the last decade we have amassed pixels in JPEG, TIF, GIF, PICT, PNG, BMP, SGI, TGA, PSD, RAW, and many other formats. Although translators exist or can be written, the lack of convenient data portability 33


leads many to re-gather and abandon or ignore past data. In addition to formats, data life is impacted by the hardware and media it is produced and stored on. In a field where the object of preservation or presentation is often centuries or millennia old, the digital data of it seldom today has a life prospect beyond a few years or decades. Table 2.3 Data longevity. Medium (type of Record)

Lifespan (in years)

Stone (e.g. Monument)

1000s (millenia)

Paper/Wood (e.g. Drawing, Wooden structure)

100s (centuries)

Magnetic/Optical (e.g. CD, disk, tape)

10s (decades)

Encoding (e.g. VRML or JPEG data format)

1s (years)



Toward a shared virtual heritage Despite the progress in virtual heritage, the field is highly fragmented and collaboration remains limited. Yet the importance of the research and documentation efforts cries out for data sharing. All too often new projects require a return to sites to re-measure, re-photograph, and re-record. Why? Sometimes data is available but the quantity is overwhelming and re-collection is easier. Or the accuracy is in doubt and a record of how and why it was collected is not available. Often the data is in a format or on a medium where the cost of recovering it is higher than the cost of re-collecting. But perhaps most common, past data is not reused simply because it is not readily available, known of, or clearly free of copyright. Virtual heritage metadata Just as digital camera manufacturers have come together to create the EXIF standard for captured images, the digital heritage community needs to define basic metadata that can easily be added to all works. Although some would like to see official “standards,” this approach has its limitations. Heritage is a complex field. It is highly interdisciplinary, rapidly evolving, and typically non-commercially funded. Rather than formal standards which could quite possibly be obsolete by the time they are ratified, basic guidelines are needed. Every project/document needs at minimum a few key parameters of “meta” data embedded in it. From CIDOC to the Dublin Core, a variety of standards initiatives exist that have some bearing on heritage, but most lack a focus on digital heritage’s needs and through their size and complexity have discouraged widespread use in this field. In the process of developing the online portal to the terabytes of official World Heritage information available from UNESCO, a great deal of thought went into heritage data organization and classification. Information behind the World Heritage portal is structured in a relational database into one of eight interlinked categories (site, country, theme, funds, project, people, news/events, and documents). Each document within this structure, be it text, image, model, movie, panorama, etc. is additionally tagged with identifying metadata, such as location, author, World Heritage ID, and so on. As shown in Figure 2.4, this enables rich features such as the option of a dynamic globe interface. The working World Heritage portal is available on the internet at The World Heritage metadata structure we have developed is intended for digital files and encompasses both cultural and natural heritage (see Table 2.4). These 15 parameters cover the primary needs in identifying the what, why, how, by whom, when, and where of a digital dataset and are thus a useful starting point for virtual heritage. If even a few of these



Figure 2.4 Sequence of views from GoogleEarth showing UNESCO World Heritage sites. By georeferencing all records (from photos to models and texts) new tools like NASA WorldWind and GoogleEarth provide an easy interface to site specific data. Table 2.4 Proposed virtual heritage metadata. Type


Data Encoding/Format


i. ii. iii.

HeritageID (a superset of existing WorldHeritageID Title/Brief Description Heritage Type/Classification (e.g.: cultural: archaeological, …) Heritage Time Period (e.g.. geologic or historic time) Heritage Time Span Purpose (reason recorded/produced) Recording Device Parameters (type, sample rate, precision, …) Secondary Device(s) (data manipulation) Environmental conditions Submitter and Date of Submission Rights given/withheld Author/Copyright Holder Sponsor/Funder/Client Date (of recording, manipulation) Location (Latitude/Longitude + compass direction if applicable)

iv. Why How


When Where

v. vi. vii. viii. ix. x. xi. xii. xiii. xiv. xv.

basic parameters begin to be embedded with virtual heritage models and datasets, web spiders can find and index them, and official standards from EXIF to CIDOC can grow to encompass and endorse them. Digital rights and learning to share Mark up of data is but half of the problem today – equally important is the issue of rights and ownership. The World Heritage Convention recognized the universal value of heritage to all, yet in the digital world “rights” seem 36


to have overridden the importance of value. Why record if the data is not to be shared? The potential of virtual heritage has been hindered as much by people as by diverse technologies, poor provenance, and changing systems. Quite simply, until individuals are willing to share source data, those that follow will be required to repeat their research. Whether from simple oversight or lack of realization of its importance, to mistaken profit motives, overly protective rights rules required by project sponsors, ego, or limited time at the end of a project, all too often the data behind most virtual heritage efforts is locked up out of reach of future scholars. This is ironic as in some Mediterranean countries the State has long claimed it retains ownership of all images of its monuments. Yes, papers are published, and multimedia produced. But the underlying data holds great value too and was often collected at considerable expense in time, travel, excavation, research, etc. Although protecting a finished work is often reasonable, to copyright and “lock up” the underlying digital record (which in many cases may be the only accurate documentation of a site of “universal value” to all) seems unfortunate. As an alternative the digital heritage community might learn from the software world and adopt the concept of “copyleft.” Copyleft is simply a method for making a work free to all, but requiring that all modified and derivatives versions also remain free (Free Software Foundation 2006) and pass along credit. With attached metadata, a dataset of a monument protected with copyleft could allow the next researcher of a site to add to rather than duplicate prior efforts. Mistakes would be flagged as new data was added and the issue of longevity would diminish since new users would if necessary move the data to new systems and formats as they contributed to it.

Next steps: A challenge and final caveat If our digital efforts are to outlive the heritage they are meant to record and protect, we must actively work to share data, work together and document our documentation. The interdisciplinary bridging and broad collaboration present at the dawn of virtual heritage needs to be renewed. In Europe funding agencies have begun the shift from individual projects (such as the DigiCult activities of the 5th Framework IST funding) to larger coordination networks (such as the 6th Framework EPOCH: Excellence in Processing Open Cultural Heritage). And while we have drifted back into old habits and selfsegregating professional groups and affiliations, the quantity and overlap of conferences and workshops in 2005 triggered some of the larger groups to begin discussions on how to come together and share venues. As a first step, I hope all working with digital heritage will take extra time in moving forward to record their documentation. Markup your data – be 37

Figure 2.5 UNESCO’s World Heritage online portal, with a page detailing the Galápagos site and showing some of the wealth of cross-linked data (location, dynamic map view, description, related documents, images, movies, projects, news, etc.).


it photos, measurements or models – so that those who come after you can readily understand what it is of, why it was generated, and how you recorded, manipulated and presented it. Second, make it accessible (preferably online) and provide rights (such as a copyleft) so others can build on your efforts. If the data is hidden away or undocumented it will rapidly fall into obsolescence and your efforts will have been in vain. But if it is accessible and tagged, it will live on. Finally, although it is easy to come from this discussion and wish to build an all-encompassing digital heritage archive or portal, I hope everyone will first focus on the more crucial – their own data. Without well documented and accessible files, an archive cannot begin to exist. As I have discussed over the last five years VHN and UNESCO’s collaboration toward creating a shared public archive, many have become enamored with the idea, in some cases proposing to build their own digital archives; yet building an isolated repository defeats the purpose. Quite simply, without organized data, permanent funding, a dedicated institution, and open support at an international level, these efforts are not sustainable. Virtual heritage has made great strides in the last decade. But if it is to continue to flourish and contribute to heritage’s preservation, we must all work to make our data and research accessible and reusable in the future.

References Addison, A.C. 2000. Emerging Trends in Virtual Heritage. IEEE MultiMedia, April–June 2000 7 (2): 22–25. Free Software Foundation. 2006. What is Copyleft? – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation. Internet. Available from accessed in 2006. Taisei Corporation. 2006. Ancient Civilizations project website. Internet. Available from accessed in 2006. UNESCO (United Nations, Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). 1972. Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Internet. Available from

Disclaimer The author is solely responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts and for the opinions expressed herein, which are not necessarily those of, and do not commit, UNESCO or any other organization.


3 VIRT UAL HERI TA GE Mediating space, time and perspectives Bharat Dave

Abstract Virtual heritage projects incorporate digital interactivity and media-rich representations to offer passages through time and space that are qualitatively different from what may be possible using traditional media and narratives. This chapter examines such differences and focuses on how digital media may become complicit mediators in grappling with heritage issues. The chapter describes significant shifts in virtual heritage studies by identifying key characteristics of successive generations of interactive digital media, how they may be sympathetic to specific theoretical perspectives in virtual heritage studies, and summarises key challenges for future.

Introduction The advances in digital technologies and consequent rise of informational interactivity and visuality have affected many disciplines including cultural heritage studies. The initial signs of these changes were visible in the early 1980s when the Roman Baths were digitally modelled in three dimensions as part of archaeological studies. Since then ever more complex and ambitious virtual heritage projects have followed, targeting different cultures, continents, and time spans. These projects range from virtual reconstructions of the Dunhuang caves and the Xian terracotta soldiers in China, to the Indus Valley cities of Harappa and the Mughal city of Fatehpur Sikri in India, the Egyptian pyramids and temples, the Mesopotamian stone tablets and palaces, the Greek agoras, the Roman forums and theatres, the Mayan and Aztec cities, the European cathedrals and the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and many other projects (Barcelo et al. 2000; Addison 2001; Moltenbrey 2001; Fisher and Unwin 2002). These virtual heritage projects incorporate digital interactivity and mediarich representations to offer passages through time and space that are



qualitatively different from what may be possible using traditional media and narratives. Despite the increasing diversity and complexity of projects in virtual heritage, it is not easy to identify foundational issues shared between different virtual heritage projects. The work reported over the last two decades surely demonstrates technical advances, but what does this turn to digital interactivity in heritage studies imply in terms of conceptual framing of the very contents it is intended to serve? What are the key conceptual challenges that remain to be addressed? How might we abstract operative principles from seemingly disparate virtual heritage projects in ways that go beyond the demonstration of technical virtuosity and implementation details? This paper is an attempt to raise and respond to some of these questions.

Heterogeneous terrain of heritage and representations No wonder heritage takes forms so diverse as to seem incommensurable … Iron Age forts, Greek temples, Celtic jewellery, runic inscriptions, Georgian buildings, neo-Gothic whimsies, ridge-andfurrow plough marks, steam engines, windmills, Morris dancing, Macaulay’s histories, art-deco cinemas, coronation mugs, 1930s juke-boxes, 1950s dress styles, 1960s movies, Golden Oldies, visits to Rome or Pompeii, the treasures of Tutankhamun and the horrors of Madame Tussaud’s, childhood memories, chats with grandma, seaside souvenirs, family photographs, family trees, old trees, old money – all these connect with some treasured past. (Lowenthal 1985) These links to “treasured past” provide a window on memories of another time and place, a different way of life rooted in rituals different from today, another set of values and beliefs. Heritage also acts as a filter through which to understand the present. Among the benefits offered by the past heritage, according to Lowenthal, include ability to render the present familiar, reaffirmation and validation of the present, sense of identity, guidance for the present, enrichment of and connection to the world, and escape from the present: “The benefits the past confers vary with each epoch, culture, individual, and stage of life”. The past is not only a foreign country but also one that appears different each time we visit it. Heritage as a heterogeneous terrain is simultaneously framed by and frames the perspectives through which it is viewed. Some vehicles through which heritage are sustained include preservation of material culture, emulation, preservation through surrogates and copies, documentation, simulation and rituals. Of particular interest to us here are symbolic representations such as written, graphic and aural narratives through which 41


heritage is inscribed and conceptualised by those who create and access such inscriptions. The forms and technologies for creating and dissemination of such inscriptions often exercise transformative power over what is being communicated. The power and problems of representations were recognised as early as the first century when Pliny penned the Natural History. While describing botanical plants, Pliny noted that the same plant was known by different names in different districts. Pictures did not fare much better either since they “… are very apt to mislead … the diversity of copyists from the original paintings, and their comparative degrees of skill, add very considerably to the chance of losing the necessary degree of resemblance to the originals …” (Ivins 1985). It is only after the advent of printing in the sixteenth century that “exactly repeatable pictorial statements” became possible in the form of portable, pictorial objects that could be carried, compared, refuted and modified. These pictorial statements as “immutable mobiles” (Latour 1986) were instrumental in development of the core body of knowledge in many disciplines such as the natural sciences. Specific representations and technologies for their production are thus capable of shaping and affecting world views. Similar changes followed when manual image making processes were supplemented with mechanical inventions. Photography, “a most blessed invention” as Ruskin termed it, exercised a different kind of transformative power over vision and thought. The early application of photography was for documentary purposes, “… stone by stone” as Ruskin exhorted, to document architecture before precious buildings were wrecked and lost forever. These visual records were novel and utilitarian in the beginning but various incarnations of photographic media – daguerreotype, calotype, paper, etc. became increasingly compact, portable and produced very nearly “exactly repeatable statement” as Ivins called it. The fact that there was no “blundering of the eye and hand” in image creation such as in drawing processes resulted in photography challenging world-views constructed through other media. This is illustrated, for example, by Gombrich (1968) while discussing a hand-crafted engraving and a photograph of the Chartres Cathedral. The 1936 engraving shows pointed arches on the Cathedral facades. The lithograph by Winkles (after a drawing by R. Garland) shows a clear preference for Gothic arches that ought to be on the Cathedral, not what really existed as shown in a photograph of the same time. The advent of photography thus led to reassessment of world views that were received until then without being seriously challenged or contested. Thus the dilemmas faced by heritage studies are two fold. On the one hand, the very notion of heritage and what it encapsulates is heterogeneous. On the other hand, every representation – be it written, verbal, graphic or virtual – imposes its own conditions on what is being represented. 42


This awareness, however, is part of comparatively recent sensibility. The turn to visual in heritage studies originated in descriptive traditions that relied upon travels and travelogues, maps, sketches, books and oral histories to analyse, record, reconstruct and communicate the past and the existing spatial environments. Sometimes visual representations have played a crucial role in human imagination. For example, the real and metaphorical reconstructions of Babylon and Jerusalem have been central to transformation of these cities as magnetic sites over the centuries. Giambattista Piranesi, an Italian draftsman in the eighteenth century, drew not only the existing ruins of Rome but turned them into fantastic, visionary spaces populated with fragments of disparate elements from many archaeological sites. Piranesi’s etchings were the hallmarks of historic and imaginary reconstructions. Subsequently, people such as Austin Henry Layard in 1840s established the modern tradition of graphic reconstructions in his work on the Mesopotamian archaeological investigations (Gilkes 2001). Luigi Canina in the 1850s further extended this tradition in studies of the Appian Way in which he created “before” and “after” drawings of the ruins and reconstructions. It was not until the twentieth century that a different sensibility appears in the discourse on such reconstructions, one which emphasises evidence, veracity of detail and relativist interpretations in place of a singular history marking a shift in how reconstructions are undertaken, understood and communicated.

Technologising representations Virtual heritage projects follow in such a tradition of devising and using representations and technologies of communication. Since representations – be they textual or graphic, are the primary vehicles through which heritage issues are framed, argued and communicated, production and use of representations has been subjected to penetrating analyses, for example, by Benjamin (1970), Berger (1972), Ivins (1985) and Molyneaux (1997). Many virtual heritage projects reported over the last two decades provide a fertile territory for similar analyses. However, the almost irresistible pull exercised by technological advances makes this task difficult. Many virtual heritage projects become fixated with demonstration of technology offering few (if any) cumulative experiences or generalisable observations. Many projects encountered at conferences and in journals focus primarily on the use of technology, or as Huggett (2003) put it “questions are usually couched not so much in terms of whether a computer should be used, but how it should be used”. Even when an attempt is made to discern patterns among these projects, the discussion tends to gravitate towards identification of “trends in technologies used within cultural heritage”, resulting in an “inventory map” of techniques, hardware and software used (Owen et al. 2004). 43


While these are useful and often necessary building blocks for embracing digital media in heritage studies, it is perhaps time to extract the discussion from one-off projects and elevate it to a plateau from where we can see higher order conceptual changes and begin to fill in some gaps identified in the “archaeology of information technology” (Huggett 2003) or “anthropology of computer visualization” (Bateman 2000). One way to address this challenge is to identify key characteristics of successive generations of interactive digital media and to inquire ways in which they may be sympathetic to specific theoretical perspectives in virtual heritage studies. The premise here is that by understanding communicative, interactive, reflective, and other dimensions of representations used in virtual heritage studies, it will be possible to see whether and how digital media may become complicit mediators in grappling with heritage issues. Further, it may then become possible to employ such understanding for design and development of future virtual heritage projects. What follows here is a tentative attempt at building a conceptual scaffold from which we can see significant patterns in technologising representations in virtual heritage studies. The early digital media supported limited interactivity and almost faithfully replicated traditional linear information representations exemplified in print and broadcast media. Such linear structures encapsulate and support a view of history that is definitive, linear, unambiguous or authoritative. Woodwark (1991) recounted some of the earliest experiments in digitally supported historic reconstruction work as early as 1983 at the University of Bath. The work on modelling the Roman Baths in that project represented the first application of solid modelling and computer graphics for reconstructive purposes. The project involved an archaeologist and a team of researchers in computational geometry. The model they developed used only one solid primitive – the planar half space – and did not include any facility for real-time interaction or animation. It was used primarily to generate static views of “reconstructed” three dimensional environment. A decade later, the series of animated reconstructions of ancient city states produced by the Taisei Corporation (Taisei Corporation 2001) illustrates advanced development of digital technology for threedimensional modelling and animation interleaved with audio narratives. In these projects the viewer is presented with a series of well-crafted filmic sequences (Figure 3.1). These “manufactured intensities” (Gillings 2002) are available as linear views (or readings) of non-modifiable animation sequences. These representations – whether as still or animation – reflect only a singular perspective of history with a strong authorial stance. Even if multiple “readers” access the material, the sequence in which such content is structured to be read remains linearly organised, accessed and unchanged. The hyperlinked virtual heritage projects instead offered multiple views and non-linear paths to explore the contents. However, the contents still 44


Figure 3.1 Ancient civilization virtual trip (Taisei 2001).

remained non-modifiable. The hyperlinked multimedia projects first popularised through Hypercard, then Quicktime panoramas, and then the web-based projects such as the Rome Reborn (Library of Congress 1993) were representative of these changes. Such information structures portray history as being accessible through non-linear schemas and which thus need not suggest fixed or causal narratives of history. An exemplary collection of such materials is the History of Architecture web project at the Columbia University (Wishna 2005) which is expected to contain more than 600 interactive image nodes related to architectural exemplars from around the world (Figure 3.2). The modularity of information in such projects makes it possible to partially update contents. Here multiple “readers” may access different strands of history and construct independent historical explanations and understanding. The next level of complexity in information structures is introduced by access to distributed data repositories from which information is retrieved that in turn modifies the project information on-the-fly. This is best represented in location-based services that augment digital information with real-time data as illustrated, for example, in the Archeoguide project (Vlahakis et al. 2001). These projects (Figure 3.3) foster a view of history as situated context that is intimately bound to the “grounded” present. However, the scope and nature of information modifications in such digital information environments is pre-determined and thus may still represent a view of history as a partially closed narrative. The more recent and interesting advances in interactive digital media allow non-linear interactivity combined with contents modifiable by users. The Wiki-based extensible shared annotation environments are representative of this change. An equally interesting possibility has become possible through contingent interaction between a number of users and contents 45


Figure 3.2 History of architecture web (Wishna 2005).

Figure 3.3 Archeoguide augmented reality reconstruction (Vlahakis et al. 2001).

represented using agents or avatars (Figure 3.4). These recent developments make possible extensible, referential and interpretive virtual heritage environments (Dave 2005). These changes represent a fundamentally different view of history, one that needs to be constructed through active social engagement of readers with other beings rather than simply being passive spectators or receptors of information. The questioning, shifting perspectives, power of agency and consequent responsibility, interactions in a social group – all these elements in such environments can transform virtual heritage projects into reflective encounters. 46


Figure 3.4 Virtual characters in ancient Pompeii (Miralab 2005).

Viewed in this light it becomes possible to see that virtual heritage studies are influenced by digital media not just in terms of the technologies and representations they employ but also the underlying conceptual positions such representations encourage or reflect. Whether such shifts were consciously intended or not, characterisation of these shifts allows us to understand a gradual move away from reconstruction to interpretive aims in recent virtual heritage studies. These observations also bring conceptual issues in virtual heritage – especially what such digital heritage studies should facilitate – to the fore and may help us develop more critical attitudes in virtual heritages studies.

Back to the future While the allure of virtual heritage studies draws ever more effort in their continued development, there remain significant conceptual and technological challenges. One waxing issue that virtual heritage studies face is their very future. It is estimated that the amount of new information has doubled in the last three years and about ninety-two percent of this information is stored using digital media such as optical and magnetic devices (Lyman and Varian 2003). At the same time, the Internet Archive of websites is growing at the rate of 20 terabytes per month, more than the amount of text contained in the Library of Congress (Internet Archive 2006). Such phenomenal growth 47


of and possible access to information is a potential boon to virtual heritage projects but it is also accompanied by multiple curses. While not all the available information may be relevant in a given virtual project, it becomes increasingly impossible to avoid exercising a degree of selectivity in terms of information used. It also surfaces the question of how and to what extent processes that inform development of virtual heritage projects should be declared to the readers. These questions are further complicated due to the rapid developments in technology leading to rapid obsolescence of technology and possibly information (unless it is salvaged and re-inscribed in other forms). According to Stille (2002): “One of the great ironies of the information age is that, while the late twentieth century will undoubtedly have recorded more data than any other period in history, it will also almost certainly have lost more information than any previous era”. Stille goes on to suggest that while the quantity of information has risen exponentially, the lifespan of media on which they are recorded continues to shorten. Herein lies the rub. While the Mesopotamian clay tablets used a comparatively low level of technology and still deliver meaningful symbols after many centuries, the readability of digital data and media on which they are stored both continue to decline. The phenomenal capacity for storing information pitted against ephemeral and constantly evolving incarnations of digital media makes the challenge of continued, meaningful survival of digital representations in the coming years ever more pressing and urgent. Typically, digital reconstruction projects demand substantial resources to develop and hence evolve as one-off hand-crafted initiatives centred on a mass of data that are rarely available or useful to any but the original and highly specific objective. For example, most 3D datasets developed in such projects create and follow their own data schemes that are unique to those projects. In order to gain real-time performance increases, many datasets are also optimised for specific applications. As a result, most work remains one-off and rarely usable in other projects except at the level of the lowest common denominator, namely geometric primitives or triangulated faces. Beyond the geometric representations, there is little scope for accessing, extending or reusing such information outside of original project goals. The problems with creating reusable data standards, ontologies and databases are not unique to virtual reconstruction community. The architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector is still grappling with development of data exchange standards. Although these issues have been recognised in the virtual heritage community (Frischer et al. 2002) and a few promising proposals have come forth (for example, EPOCH network in Europe aims to improve the quality and effectiveness of the use of Information and Communication Technology for cultural heritage), how to weigh up gains and losses to be had in adopting one from among the many competing worldviews is far from obvious. 48


On a more conceptual level, the field of virtual heritage also needs to articulate foundational issues and typologies of studies to enable sustained reflection and further development. Some of these issues include the following. Virtual heritage projects are intensely interdisciplinary in nature. While this can be a source of strength, it is not easy to appreciate to whom they are addressed. Just as other forms of discourse gradually develop textured distinctions between content addressed to the scholars, educators, casual readers or young audiences, we need ways to identify to whom virtual heritage projects are addressed. At the very least, such typologies of projects will allow us to resist temptation to be all things to all people, and hopefully separate technology-driven developments from those informed by virtual heritage issues. It also needs to be recognised that virtual reconstructions are partial models and form part of the mosaic of understanding about heritage issues. The temptation to conflate models as the real thing is a real danger in virtual heritage studies. The absence of conflicting or partial information based on which many models are developed can reinforce prevailing worldviews to the suppression of alternate possibilities. As Latour puts it: “Inscriptions allow conscription” (1990). No doubt, all inscriptions – be they traditional paper-based textual ones or interactive digital versions – are capable of exercising conscription. The difference with digital media is that, unlike the traditional publication forms, the author (and with that personal responsibility) tends to recede into the background. In that vacuum, it is quite tempting to bow to the supposedly scientific “facts” propounded by digital media. Perhaps such recognition of dangers and potential of digital media prompted Silberman (2004) to exhort virtual heritage projects to go beyond “theme parks” and instead aim to become vehicles for “common reflection, self-assertion, productive questioning, and historical awareness”. It is in this vein that heritage projects need to be more openly reflective and critical of their undertaking as exemplified in some refreshing work; see for example Hodder (1999), Beacham et al. (2002). As the author and singular voice recede in virtual heritage studies, it becomes even more difficult to trace the provenance or veracity of information. The open-ended information repositories face the dual prospect of democratising historical understanding while at the same time descending into white noise with all the views being accorded the same status. These are not technological dilemmas but conceptual challenges which are only now becoming apparent in virtual heritage studies.

Summary The traditional focus on technical implementation in virtual heritage studies ought to shift and settle on more fundamental issues of cultural and 49


historical perspectives engendered through digital technologies. Lowenthal (1985) neatly sums up the nature of our enterprise: “A mass of memories and records, of relics and replicas, of monuments and memorabilia, lives at the core of our being. And as we remake it, the past remakes us”.

References Addison, A. 2001. Virtual Heritage: technology in the service of culture. In Virtual Reality, Archaeology, and Cultural Heritage: Proceedings of the 2001 conference on Virtual reality, archaeology, and cultural heritage (Glyfada, Greece), New York: ACM Press, pp. 343–354. Barcelo, J. A., Forte, M., and Sanders, D. H., eds. 2000. Virtual Reality in Archaeology. Oxford: Archeopress. Bateman, J. 2000. Immediate Realities: an anthropology of computer visualisation in archaeology. Internet Archaeology, 8. Internet. Available from accessed 15 January 2006. Beacham, R., Baker, D., and Blazeby, M. 2002. Mind the gap: virtual reality and theatre history. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 27 (3), pp. 230–240. Benjamin, W. 1970. The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. In Illuminations, ed. H. Arendt. London: Jonathan Cape, pp. 219–253. Berger, J. 1972. Ways of seeing: based on the BBC television series with John Berger. London, Harmondsworth: British Broadcasting Corporation; Penguin. Dave, B. 2005. Labyrinthine digital histories. In Computer Aided Architectural Design Futures 2005, ed. B. Martens and A. Brown. Doordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, pp. 53–62. Fisher, P. and Unwin, D., eds. 2002. Virtual Reality in Geography. London and New York: Taylor and Francis. Frischer, B., Niccolucci, F., Ryan, N., and Barcelo, J. 2002. From CVR to CVRO. The past, present, and future of cultural virtual reality. In Proceedings of VAST 2000, ed. F. Niccolucci. Oxford: Archeopress, pp. 7–18. Gilkes, O. J. 2001. Wag the dog? Archaeology, reality and virtual realilty in a virtual country. Virtual Reality, Archaeology, and Cultural Heritage: Proceedings of the 2001 conference on Virtual reality, archaeology, and cultural heritage (Glyfada, Greece), New York: ACM Press, pp. 169–178. Gillings, M. 2002. Virtual archaeologies and the hyper-real. In Virtual Reality in Geography, eds P. Fisher and D. Unwin. London and New York: Taylor and Francis, pp. 17–34. Gombrich, E. H. 1968. Art and Illusion : A study in the Psychology of Pictorial Presentation, 3rd edn, London: Phaidon. Hodder, I. 1999. Archaeology and global information systems. Internet Archaeology, 6. Internet. Available from hodder_index.html accessed 15 January 2006. Huggett, J. 2003. The Past in Bits: towards an archaeology of Information Technology? Internet Archaeology, 15. Internet. Available from


M E DIATING SPACE, TIME AND P E R S P E C T I V E S accessed 15 January 2006. Internet Archive. 2006. Frequently Asked Questions. Internet. Available from accessed 15 January 2006. Ivins, W. M. 1985. Prints and Visual Communication. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Latour, B. 1986. Visualization and cognition: thinking with eyes and hands. Knowledge and Society: Studies in the Sociology of Culture Past and Present 6: 1–40. Latour, B. 1990. Drawing things together. In Representation in Scientific Practice, eds Michael Lynch and Steve Woolgar. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 50. Library of Congress. 1993. Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture. Washington: Library of Congress. Internet. Available from accessed 15 January 2006. Lowenthal, D. 1985. The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. Lyman, P. and Varian, H. R. 2003. HOW MUCH INFORMATION 2003? Berkeley: School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California at Berkeley. Internet. Available from http://www.sims. accessed 15 January 2006. Miralab. 2005. University of Geneva, Switzerland. Internet. Available from accessed 15 January 2006. Moltenbrey, K. 2001. Preserving the Past. Computer Graphics World September 24 (9): 24–30. Molyneaux, B., ed. 1997. The Cultural Life of Images: Visual Representation in Archaeology. London: Routledge. Owen, R., Buhalis, D., and Pletinckx. 2004. Identifying technologies used in Cultural Heritage. In The 5th International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage VAST 2004, eds K. Cain, Y. Chrysanthou, N. Sliberman and F. Niccolucci. Brussels: Eurographics Association, Aire-la-Ville, Switzerland, pp. 155–163. Silberman, N. 2004. Beyond Theme Parks and Digitized Data: What can Cultural Heritage Technologies Contribute to the Public Understanding of the Past? Interdisciplinarity or the Best of Both Worlds. VAST 2004: The 5th International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archeology and Cultural Heritage 2004, eds Y. C. K. Cain, F. Niccolucci, D. Pletinckx, and N. Silberman. Brussels: EPOCH Publication, pp. 9–12. Stille, A. 2002. The Future of the Past: The Loss of Knowledge in the Age of Information. London: Picador. Taisei Corporation. 2001. Ancient Civilization City-State Virtual Trip. Japan: Taisei Corporation. Internet. Available from accessed 15 January 2006. Vlahakis, V., Karigiannis, J., Almeida, L., Stricker, D., Gleue, T., Christou, I. T., Carlucci, R., and Ioannidis, N. 2001. Archeoguide: First results of an augmented reality, mobile computing system in cultural heritage sites. In Virtual Reality, Archaeology, and Cultural Heritage: Proceedings of the 2001 conference on



Virtual reality, archaeology, and cultural heritage (Glyfada, Greece), New York: ACM Press, pp. 131–140. Wishna, V. 2005. A New Look at Old Buildings. Humanities March–April 26 (2): 46–49. Woodwark, J. 1991. Reconstructing History with Computer Graphics. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications 11(1): 18–20.


4 T H R O U GH F O R M A N D C O N T EN T New media components and cultural heritage sites management, in the Jewish traditional society Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat

Abstract Traditionally oriented societies, wishing to ensure the wholesome transference of their cultural heritage to the future, must undergo technological and cultural adjustments, in an attempt to contend with the changing semiotic significance of elementary social and cultural communications through new media methods. This paper will claim that the connection between “form and content” plays a key factor in determining the effectiveness of tradition management cultural transmission in the Jewish Orthodox society. As we shall see, different cultural heritage sites negotiate their ideas, concerns and values to the new generations according to different philosophies, achieving different effects. The examples presented in the paper, will introduce the reader to a cultural “battlefield” in which the relationships between tradition and modernity are affected by the negotiating of form and content. Further on, the paper will emphasize a larger frame in which this discourse might take a part, by examining some radical transformations actually taking place in the Jewish Orthodox society – a society that wishes to preserve a long-term affinity with its tradition and attempts to do it by developing methods of adapting new media components to the social–traditional structure.

Introduction The characteristics and dynamics of the “new media” product – cinema, television, computers and their digitized mixture – function increasingly 53


as a mirror, reflecting the main features of the twenty-first century and providing a rich variety of new methods for the preservation and management of cultural heritage. These methods demand a deeper understanding of the effects of the new media digital tools on heritage maintenance and especially on the generation-to-generation transmission process (Bourdieu 1995). As the level of digitization rises allowing digital representations to become deeply involved in society’s construction of reality, its effect on the perception of cultural themes grows as well. New media methods infiltrating ever growing audiences can sometimes be experienced as overly intensive and even intrusive by societies wishing to maintain strong affinity with their traditional cultural heritage. Usually this heritage involves, almost by definition, a strong distinction between the sacred and the profane (Eliade 1959) or the ordinary and the extraordinary (Parsons 1963). That is, a conceptual and emotional distance perceived as inevitably dividing the eternal, miraculous and mysterious notions of the sacred from the mundane experience of everyday life. Traditionally oriented societies, wishing to ensure the wholesome transference of their cultural heritage to future generations, must therefore undergo processes of self clarification, in an attempt to contend with the new semiotic significance of elementary social and cultural communications through new media methods1 (Benhabib 1996). Intuitively, it seems almost an unbridgeable gap. These two worlds – the one of traditional culture that distinguishes, as a crucial part of its basic conception of reality, between values of high and low, and the other world of present new media that is preoccupied with preferentiality and equalization of all values (Bourdieu 1995) – do not seem to be able to form one integrated entity which can provide a constructive tool for cultural heritage management. Yet this paper will attempt to describe several possible points of junction mediating between these two paradigms. Having this objective in mind, the paper will analyze as a case study, methods employed by the Jewish–Orthodox community in response to the challenge of negotiating between preferences of its young members born into a new media world and the needs of the community itself to sustain its coherent existence by preserving its traditional values. We shall examine these junctions as they are actually implemented in two “heritage sites” currently being developed in Jerusalem in the context of a cultural Jewish effort to preserve identity and memory. The main characteristics of these two major heritage sites, “The Temple Institute” and the “Davidson Center” on the one hand, and “The Western Wall heritage foundation” on the other, will be succinctly described. The two former institutions deal with the Jewish conceptualization of the Temple Mount while the latter is an educational center developing digital programs teaching the cultural heritage of the Western Wall (see Figures 4.1 and 4.2). 54


Figure 4.1 Western Wall and Dome of the Rock (taken by the author).

Comparing the methods of cultural management of the Temple sites as opposed to the Western Wall site will expose an inner fundamental principle of connection between Form and Content which is relevant not only to the very concrete geographical proximity of the sites, but to other forms of cultural interaction and data transmission as well. The terms “Form” and “Content” will refer in this paper to the design or “style” in which the information is transmitted, (How do we teach?) as opposed to the meaning of this information (What do we teach?) respectively. This paper claims that the connection between form and content plays a key role in determining the effectiveness of tradition management by cultural transmission. While treating the two case-studies as “form and content prototypes,” the examples presented further on will introduce the reader to a larger cultural orientation exhibiting the relationship between tradition and modernity as primarily affected by the separation between form and content. In the section of this paper entitled “The Challenge of Tradition and New Media,” the three examples analyzed will try to indicate a larger frame of reference in which the F&C relationship takes place within the profound actual transformations occurring in the Jewish–Orthodox society. This society, which wishes to preserve a long-term affinity with its tradition (Geertz 1983) and attempts to do it by developing methods of adapting new media components to the traditional social structure, has almost intuitively chosen to do so by a continuous separation between form and content. 55


Figure 4.2 Map of Jerusalem’s old city (created by the author).

Two models of “cultural management” Understanding the memory and heritage management relevant to the Temple Mount, which is perceived by Jews as one of the most precious sites of their traditional identity, is impossible without acknowledging its constitutive position as a Muslim and Arabic holy site bearing extreme significance to hundred of millions in the world. Naturally, the issues occupying the conceptual imagination of this place cannot be detached from major political affairs. Yet there are many other more prosaic considerations involved in the question of heritage management at these sites, for instance archeological ventures, tourism or even regional employment. This paper concerns itself however with the specific endeavor to maintain and even create new affinity with perceived ancient tradition by way of “heritage sites” and new media means. It seems that the exquisitely sensitive issues connected to the political and religious status of these sites, as well as their central role in determining long-term peace possibilities between 56


Palestinians and Israelis, provide a particularly intriguing background for our analysis. If properly used, the opportunities offered by the new media to the maintenance of tradition in these sites could carry perhaps wider significance for Middle East stability and consensus. The first “Temple site,” consists actually of two parts that are not connected in any official way: the “Temple Institute” operating in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city, and the nearby archeological park called the “Davidson Center.” The main activities in these two sites focus on the attempt to reconstruct accurately, according to Jewish textual sources as well as archeological findings, the architectural, ritual, social and spatial reality of the two Hebrew Temples that existed according to Jewish tradition on the Herodian platform in ancient Jerusalem. The “First Temple” was established, according to Biblical and historical testimony, supported by archeological hypothesis (Albright 1963) in approximately the year 930 BCE, surviving until the year 586 BCE. when it was destroyed by the Babylonians. The “Second Temple,” built originally in 515 BCE and later reconstructed and renovated by Herod King of Judea in the first century BCE, was ultimately destroyed by the Romans in the year CE 70. The same large platform named after Herod served for the last 1300 years as the foundation of the “Dome of the Rock” mosque. The main concern of the Temple Institute and the Archeological park is to demonstrate to the twenty-first century visitor, in digitalized and materialized accessories, the way ancient Jews presumably walked, prayed and brought sacrifices to the ancient temple in Jerusalem. The visitor to the park can take a walk within a three dimensional Herodian site and see traditional locations originally described in Biblical or Talmudic texts brought to life on wide screens right in front of his/her eyes. In addition, the visitor to the “Temple Institute” will find craftsmen specializing in reconstructing ancient temple vessels, and graphic artists illustrating the history and culture of the temple itself through paintings and multimedia presentations. As the illustrations (Figures 4.3–4.6) show,2 the activity of these centers seems to aim directly at the human urge for mythological reconstruction of reality. A kind of constitutive collective memory structures the present cultural and social existence in the light of an age-old yearning for a traditionally conceptualized paradigmatic “golden age” (Eliade 1959). The meticulously detailed and pedantically accurate reconstruction of ritual scenes as well as the digital model of ancient Jerusalem with the temple placed at its very center illuminates vividly the historical city and temple in the unique light of a legend. Hence stressing in fact (although this may not be the actual political intentions of the enterprise) the emotional distance between ordinary visitors in jeans and the sublime vision they are expected to admire, emphasizing the irrelevancy of the site to the substantial life of the present. The impossibility of implementing now or ever 57


Figure 4.3

Figure 4.4 Figure 4.3 (Above) and Figure 4.4 (Below). Parts of the computerized model, Davidson center. (Source: Davidson center website: shtml)

in the future, an actual religious site whose sacredness derives primarily from its spatial position, however well documented it may be, seems obvious to the religious intuition of the twenty-first century. Therefore, the meticulous use of reconstructed vessels or architectural simulations seems paradoxically to intensify the distant mythical aura that pervades the perfectly designed details, rather than make them an integral part of a living consciousness. As a result, the spatial reality so accurately depicted, these vessels glittering in gold and silver, the vast paintings showing dramatic holy scenes, 58

Figure 4.5

Figure 4.6 Figure 4.5 (Above) and Figure 4.6 (Below). Simulation of the Jewish temple on temple mount and the “menorah,” one of the temple service vessels. (Source: The temple institution official website.


all contrive to elevate the illustrated heritage into a cloud of lofty notions, floating over the everyday life of the visitor who observes from a distance a glorious past which conveys very little meaning to a remote present. Through the transference of cultural memory from the site to the visitor, the represented media transmit a clear message: the visitor is not requested actually to participate or to add her/his own contribution to the creation of collective history, but rather is invited to dive into the public pool of yearning memories, creating once and for all the stable corpus of general heritage. In this type of setting, the virtual digital dimension of the memorization process has a major role in transforming the “tradition” into a mythological product that in spite of its grandeur excludes the visitor from actual participation. As opposed to the temple sites, the visitor center of the “Western Wall Heritage Foundation” produces a memory frame through a different tradition management philosophy in which the technological-virtual accessories have a clear role. The organization that administers the official heritagemanagement of the Western or Wailing Wall (which represents actually a small portion of the long supporting wall at the western boundary of the Temple Mount platform), is focused, as declared in their official website,3 on placing the visitor in the actively continuing sequence of tradition, as part of an historic chain starting somewhere in the distant past but connecting the visitor to the present. The site consists of an actual ancient street stretching near the Western Wall, as part of an urban complex that was excavated several years ago, revealing underground tunnels that spread under present day houses of the Jewish and the Muslim quarters. The visitor center of the site holds very few reconstructions or simulations of the temples era itself, declining to presume historical (or mythological) accuracy. Instead it focuses on the historical remains as they are, and their possible emotional and religious significance for the visitor. Although the site does present a large model of the temple mount and its surroundings, the model’s aim is to demonstrate the slow pace of development characterizing the site since the first century until today. The digitalized program of the site contains a website that offers an online observation simultaneously on three spots of the complex, as well as a virtual tour through the tunnels – not as they were presumably in the historical past but as they actually look today. The new visitor center computerized project includes an interactive simulation game beginning in the time of the Biblical figure of Abraham, circa 3000 BC. The player becomes a time traveller shifting through the canonic historical events of Jewish recollection such as the traumatic destruction of the Temple, the exile, the diaspora of Jewish communities over Europe, Asia and Africa, the modern age and the establishment of the State of Israel. The game ends when the travellers land in the present day and hour, rediscovering the new Jerusalem in light of the historical journey they have just completed. 60


The representative medium of the Western Wall heritage site offers the visitor the opportunity of becoming a participant in the making of tradition itself, thus becoming an active agent of inheritance rather than a passive one. The focus of the digital media on present experience through the activated journey and the act of chaining the participant to the set of historical events transforms the site and its message from a mythical universe into a down-to-earth reality which endows the present with high priority. In this orientation, the internet plays an important role compared to other accessories, as a global human up-to-date communication tool that functions as an agent connecting the cultural heritage site with the present awareness of the visitor.

Two “prototypes” of form and content in cultural heritage management The two models of cultural management presented above seem to accommodate the general structure of dichotomist connection between the two major factors of information transmission: Form and Content. The main discussion here will deal with the similarities between “what we teach” and “how we teach.” The manufacturing strategic of the “Temple” sites clearly identifies the abstract values of cultural tradition offered by the site with its specific architecture. Content here merges with Form and the visitor is expected to understand that the sensual experience of the temple, its appearance, its various vessels, its colors and fragrances are all the true embodiment of the cultural message intended by the site. In this type of heritage management, the Form itself is the Content, and the process of transmitting cultural heritage is subjected to external “indifferent” narrative deeming to be unchanged and unimpressed by the visitor’s presence. Placing the visitor in the position of a spectator observing a sort of ancient celebration taking place in the fog of a distant past serves well the ideological infrastructure of this type of heritage management. By establishing a center of significance that is wholly mythological, i.e. does not and cannot exist in reality, it complies with the actual political conditions (Malinowski 1984). This political as well as structural constraint exempts the heritage management of the sites from the complicated challenges of transferring traditional values of the past into the elusive factual infrastructure of the present, or on the other hand the absorption of new media perceptions of modernity into the traditional infrastructure of the past. Traditional as well as revolutionary components of either the ordinary or the extraordinary do not need to become entangled here in the conscientious process of mutual adaptation, the one into the sublime sphere of the sacred, the other into the mundane world of everyday life. The separation between Form and Content has vanished and the only thing 61


prevailing now at the sites is the experience of the non-differentiated ultimate unification between a mythological past and a digital material simulation. The cultural management model of the Western Wall heritage site presents on the other hand an exemplary case of distinct separation between form and content. Through the mediation of the digital accessories the site transforms into an active platform of discourse, generating an on-going dialogue with the visitors, thus enabling them to reflect upon their present situation as participants in the historic sequence and actors of historical continuation. The site provides a frame of reference to address traditional religiosity as an ongoing experience, inviting the sacred to address the mundane and be influenced by it. Like the Wailing Wall itself, which is but an abstraction of the original concept of the temple (being its only remnant), serving as a symbolic framework and containing the yearning of generations of Jewish prayers ever since the destruction of the actual place of worship, so too the tunnels underneath the wall become a framework for a renewed and vital contention between old and new, tradition and innovations, the sacred and the ordinary.

The larger scale: The challenge of tradition and new media This analysis of the structure of connection between form and content ultimately raises the following irony: when attempting to keep the two elements close together, carefully reflecting each other, cultural heritage management usually results in an emphasis on the distant, the mythological and perhaps even the alienated and irrelevant effect of tradition. On the other hand, when the separation of content and form takes place, the down-to-earth experience of mundane can appear to be immersed in elevated traditional memory, and new processes of mutual growth can enrich the collective imagination. The techniques by which digital accessories promote “cultural management,” as exemplified in the above mentioned sites, are but one aspect of a larger cultural mechanism that can be defined as a present-day arbitration system chaneling materials between the traditional way of life and the current digitized world (White 1986). This process can be described as the adoption of concepts and techniques from the new media world into the practical perception of collective experience in traditional societies wishing to cultivate traditional memory as an integral part of everyday technological life (Kymlicka 2001). As this paper suggests, although the “large scale” form and content dynamics might not exhibit themselves identically to the specific sites discussed above, the glaring “irony” mentioned before reveals itself quite clearly: the ability of tradition brokers to successfully involve new generations in the given collective consciousness depends to 62


a great extent on their ability and willingness to mediate between new media components and the traditional world. And that achievement by itself depends in many ways on their ability to separate form and content during the mediating process, rather than keeping them intact. Under this notation, we can examine a few cases in which a process of constant adaptation of new media components into the traditional world is taking place “evolutionally,” enhancing successful transmission of traditional values. The first example is the production of intra-community “talk shows” within the Jewish ultra-orthodox group, hosting communal celebrities and dealing with issues of interest and concern to the community itself. Since the instrument of television, the necessary venue for ongoing visual talk shows is regarded as taboo in this community; a system of replacements has been formed that can circumvent the prohibition and provide a different yet similar product which can still satisfy the community’s need for social visual stimulation. Entrepreneurs in the community produce CDs in private studios for use in personal computers. These CDs are distributed on a commercial basis through the group’s separate bookstores. The “problematic” medium of television that broadcasts contents perceived to defy traditional values is thus replaced by a more subservient medium that allows for strict control over screened values. In this process of conversion the various programs including news, host-shows, etc. which normally embody the very core of a dynamic medium that is characterized by its “minute to minute” tempo, reappear in a fantastically new form of designated and well controlled media portions served in the state of “deep freeze.” The popular music industry within the ultra-orthodox circles is another arena in which the new media and tradition exchange positions. The “Hassidic music” combines two revealing elements: canonic words taken from the Jewish scriptures, set to music drawn directly from the western pop and rock scene. The non-expert listener will identify a rather basic beat typical of contemporary music channels, but orthodox consumers will find the traditional content of these songs familiar and reassuring while allowing themselves enjoy the form of rhythmic disco music. In these two examples the separation between form and content enables the adaptation system to function. Obviously, the natural instinct of tradition is to retain its traditional significations, thus retaining its integrity and proclaiming tradition as an active living system of life. Alterations in the system of significations may indicate loss of crucial elements of identity. Yet by clinging to its traditional absolute prohibition on visual “entertainment” or by denouncing and rejecting any form of music except traditional religious chanting, the very task and interest of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community to communicate its traditional recognitions to future generations may be (and is in fact) frustrated. Paradoxically, it appears that the world of new media methods that generates the mentioned challenges, can also provide access to a series 63


of solutions. Adjustment of the form, namely the pattern and formation in which the visual material or the music itself are conceived, produce flexible conformity with revolutionary standards of western popular culture. Yet the content itself – the overt “messages” of the visual programs or the songs – remains strictly within the boundaries of traditional attitudes and supervision. This deliberate gap can be found again in the increasingly flourishing ultra-orthodox industry of movie-making. Not allowed to participate in any remote way in the conventional movie culture which is perceived to be a source and embodiment of countless sins, the ultra-orthodox community has developed its own internal, alternative film industry. Action movies are usually preferred, but the spectrum is widening (the first ultraorthodox horror movie has been recently released). Although in form this small industry represents a dramatic (and controversial) deviation from traditional norms, and the outlines of the movies simulate modern themes of action or drama, the content itself remains manifestly traditional and conservative and the plot reflects very cautiously matters of interest or concern typical to the orthodox world. The inner constraints defining the product are also very strict. Any reference to relationships between the sexes, for instance, is eliminated. Likewise, acts of violence, physical or verbal, will jeopardize the sanction given to the product by the elders of the community. And naturally the script itself will be strictly supervised to ensure authorized reflection of traditional community’s values. The movie industry presents a dramatic new challenge to the traditional community by revolutionizing the very element of form itself, posing new conceptual challenges to the given system of significations. Traditionally, the abstract form of the textual would represent the sacred content as the only possible signifier. The new media accessories however enable the community to visualize its perceptions, and the choice that the ultra-orthodox community makes is clearly of separation between form and content, allowing the visual to interfere in its traditional system of transference. It seems a viable choice psychologically (as well as financially). Yet it necessitates a new definition of the balance between the two elements, form and content. While the form seems to simulate everyday (albeit adventurous and perhaps even fantastic) images of mundane recognizable characters walking down the street or entering cars and elevators, representing therefore the ordinary rather than the extraordinary, the content remains preoccupied with ritual issues of purity, sacredness and spirituality. The cognitive dissonance created by this shift forces in fact upon the community a new perception of its own sacredness, making tradition management a new and surprising venture. The methods of media utilization through separation are intended to ensure a slow and safe adaptation system, designed intuitively to safeguard 64


and even enhance loyalty to traditional values by allowing a process of translation of particles from the post industrial world into the traditional framework. By this the traditional society creates in fact zones of artificial estrangement which can accomplish both; internalizing the advancement in form while distinguishing successfully between media and life on the one hand, and keeping its new enthusiastic media consumer constantly aware of the sacred and the extraordinary on the other. No doubt the separation between form and content, although possibly affecting the overall quality of the product, ensures efficient adaptation of the methods of the new media component and seems to be serving well the inter-generational cultural transference. The constant presence of deliberate distance, generated by the inner gap between form and content, correlates to the distance felt between extraordinary and mundane experiences and between traditional communications and the new media product. These examples, along with the model of cultural heritage transmission system described in the Introduction, show clearly that the ability to take a personal active part in the act of cultural heritage communication is tightly connected to the methods of data transmission. In a world of rapidly expanding digital accessories and methods of representation controlled almost entirely by new media components, it is important, more than ever, to carefully examine the relationship between “What” we encourage the next generation to experience, “How” we choose to transmit the signifiers and in what terms traditional societies could find their greatest ability to adjust to the ever-changing cultural management process.

Notes 1 See for instance many of the discussions in: Seyla Benhabib (ed.), Democracy and Difference, Princeton University Press, 1996. 2 See the museums official website 3 See the museums official website:

References Albright, W.F. 1963. The Archaeology of Palestine. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books. Benhabib, S. 1996. ed. Democracy and Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Bourdieu, P. 1984. Distinctions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bourdieu, P. 1995. Sur La Television, trans. Neri Sevenier. Tel Aviv: Babel Publishing. Eliade, M. 1959. The Sacred and the Profane. New York: Harcourt. Geertz, C. 1983. Local Knowledge. New York: Basic Books. Kymlicka, W. 2001. Politics in the Vernacular. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Malinowski, B. 1984. The Role of Myth in Life. In Sacred Narrative, ed. Alan Dundes. Berkeley, CA: University of California at Berkeley Press. Parsons, T. 1963. Introduction. In: Weber, Max, Sociology of Religion, trans. E. Fischoff. Boston: Beacon Press. White, H. 1986. Tropics of Discourse. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.


5 HISTORY IS 3D Presenting a framework for meaningful historical representations in digital media Sara Roegiers and Frederik Truyen

Abstract In this chapter we try to show where the problem with realism in digital historical publications is situated, and that this goes back to the age-old fear of the unmediated experience. In contrast with this fear stand the hopes of hypertext theorists regarding hypertext historiography. We then propose a threefold framework to contextualize historical information. The three dimensions of historical information, time, space and community, do not offer a recipe, but rather the ingredients of a historically sound representation of heritage. We propose a second threefold framework, the descriptive, the contextual and the comprehensive levels, which we use as a navigation map in e-learning settings, in order to allow learners to put historical reflection into practice and thus build the necessary mental constructs to gain a nuanced understanding of the complex historical subject matter. After sketching the structure of historical information and the path of a historical learning trajectory, we point out the importance of historical subjects to find their community of practice in the present.

We are drawn to a new medium of representation because we are pattern makers thinking beyond our old tools. (Janet H. Murray, 2003) This quote from Janet Murray’s introduction to the New Media Reader about computers as a new medium for representation illustrates how cultural practitioners should learn how to exploit the computer’s possibilities and create their own solutions based on their own expertise.



Historical new media: Nineteenth century realism revisited? Nineteenth century historian Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886) wrote in his Geschichten der romanischen und germanischen Völker (1824) that historians should stick with the facts and limit themselves to “bloss zeigen” (simply showing) what had been. Because: “die Wahrheit kann nur Eine sein” (“there can be only one truth”), he writes in his Vorrede zur Deutschen Geschichte (1839). Historiography has since then evolved towards a much more nuanced stance, later theoreticians stating that even if we would be able to identify facts “merely showing” did no longer belong to the options. Historians are now comfortable with regarding history as we know it as an approximation, a reconstruction or a representation of what was (Wineburg 2001). But in the digital era, this nuanced notion of reconstruction once again seems to lose ground in favour of showing, going even further and aiming to create immersive historical reconstructions in interactive 3D environments. Is this lack of regard for the complexity of the historical subject matter a problem embedded in digital media? Now it is our firm belief that digital media are in fact very well equipped to keep the balance between an empathic view and objective view, keeping the sensation of contact with history alongside the intellectually stimulating interplay of different interpretations, acknowledging gaps in a reconstruction and allowing different points of view. In this paper we will recapitulate some of the fears surrounding digital media, but we will focus mostly on the strengths and opportunities of digital media for historical representations. We will propose a framework based on the structure of historical information and on our method to teach critical thinking skills through historical sources. We will close with a tried and tested method conceived at the Maerlant Centre for teaching historical cognitive skills, which aims at developing sustainable historical competencies.

Re-mediation and hypertext structure One distinguishing feature of digital media is the fact that it is able to integrate many modes of communication: static and moving imagery, sound and text. The digital medium does not simply allow integrating all these modes into one presentation; it is also able to reproduce characteristics of older media like print, photography and film. Bolter and Grusin call this “re-mediation” a defining characteristic of digital media (Bolter and Grusin 1999). This opens a realm of possibilities for historical representations. Western philosophy and science of today have turned to a more pictorial model of 68


the world (Mirzoeff 1999), and historical science follows. In fact, now and in the past historians have relied not only on text to tell their stories: pictures, historical maps, diagrams and time lines are essential in history education (Staley 1998). Digital media can activate these tools, for instance by allowing users to witness animations of processes in action, by making the time line go from additional aid to entry point. With this more visual world view and the tools to represent it, the time seems to be right for a scientifically correct but highly visual historiography. Commentators on today’s visual culture see an evolution in western aesthetics since the Renaissance towards representations aiming for a sympathetic identification, based on immersion (Chaney 1994) and representations that try to satisfy a desire for immediate perception – immediacy, as Bolter and Grusin call it (1999). But the turn towards highly visual representations has its critics. This immediacy found in simulations and virtual environments incites an age-old fear of the unmediated experience, which would be an impediment for critical distance and reflection. Indeed, in his Phaedrus, Plato lets Socrates scorn the written word, because he believes it might give the student without a teacher’s guidance a vain impression of knowledge. We also find this fear in criticism of historical film (White 1988). In this criticism, going from word to image means losing a grasp on the complexity of the matter, and leaving behind the self-criticism and intersubjective dialogue of classic forms of historical reflection. Historical film has been accused of imposing the point of view of its maker, who directs the train of thought and trail of vision of his passive viewers. Apart from that, historical film has been blamed at the same time for being too detailed and not detailed enough. Too detailed, because it inevitably shows things and situations for which there exist no sources, like a dialogue between Napoleon and his Josephine, or the relationship between Rembrandt and the girl with the pearl earring. Not detailed enough, when a long process, like a family history spanning generations, is condensed into a motion picture of more or less two hours. The experience offered by a historical simulation is even more direct than that of the historical film. Even a historical hypertext enthusiast like David Bolter in Writing Space (1991) considers virtual reality a bridge too far, afraid of giving up the “distancing and abstracting quality of text” in favour of the “illusion of perceptual experience.” (It must be said that Bolter himself nuances his critique on digital media eight years later in Remediation (1999), but still it is interesting to map the road travelled in the perception of the affordances of digital media.) Besides ability to integrate the many modes of communication mentioned above, a second characteristic of digital media is its non-linear structure. Our experience of the world around us has not only taken a visual turn, it has also become much more complex. Writers, like Borges in The Garden 69


of Forking Paths and Salman Rushdie in Haroun and the Sea of Stories, have tried to capture this experience. Murray (1997) writes: Whether multiform narrative is a reflection of post-Einsteinian physics or of a secular society haunted by the chanciness of life or of a new sophistication in narrative thinking, its alternate versions of reality are now part of the way we think, part of the way we experience the world. To be alive in the twentieth century is to be aware of the alternate possible selves, of alternate possible worlds, and of the limitless intersecting stories of the actual world. Now what can this mean for historical writing or “assemblages” as Staley (1998) calls digital historical representations? Bolter (1991) writes: “Electronic writing threatens to redefine historiography in a way that reveals what Sontag has called the ‘impossibility or irrelevance of producing a continuous, systematic argument.’” The strength of digital media is that one is able to represent the complexity of a historical subject, without having to fill out the gaps, or having to choose between different interpretations, by using an architecture that places the subject in its context(s). We believe that digital representations have not only amazing immersive qualities, but are in fact perfectly capable of offering a critical perspective. We will present a framework based on the structure of historical information later; let us explore some structural characteristics of digital media first. The concept best suited to describe the structure of a digital text is hypertext. The computer-driven historical representation can juxtapose different witnesses, different time frames and spaces, allow for digressions or even “forks” from one narrative flow, and allow switching between micro and macro narratives, and long-term and short-term perspectives. For a historian, it is remarkable how often early hypertext thinkers of the literary theory persuasion refer to how hypertext could revolutionize historiography. Authors such as Bolter, Murray, Yellowlees Douglas and Landow assumed that hypertext literature would be able to capture the twentieth century world view, and that hypertext historiography would be exemplary in that effect. These authors saw the possibilities of hypertext to build text as a network of references, a non-hierarchical juxtaposition of points of view, abandoning a final judgment, making for a democratic historiography because through the web authorship could be shared and history would no longer be shaped by the dominant factors in society. “Apparently, history and hypertext are natural allies” (Bernstein c. 1996). Indeed, the very first description of a hypertext device, by electrical engineer Vannevar Bush in 1945, was called Memex, for memory extender. In what follows, we present a framework to shape the hypertext architecture of historical representations in digital media. 70


Threefold structure of historical information It is easy to see the possibilities of historical digital media. But what makes a historical digital representation historical? A historical approach situates its subject in time, space and the community of people as social, political, economical and cultural beings. These axes or dimensions of historical knowledge can be summarized as three frames of reference: chronological, spatial and social. In a way one could say that a sound historical representation is always 3D. Historical understanding means being able to place a subject in its threefold context. The learning theory constructivism sees knowledge as a mental construct, which has to be actively produced by the learner, based on his or her existing knowledge. The constructivist learning theory underpins the importance to embed a historical representation in frameworks spanning past and present; we will come back to that later. A historical representation anchored within this threefold framework, has made the move beyond the merely showing, into the realm of situated, practical knowledge. We will explore this fact later in the pedagogical application of our framework. Now, how can the three frames of reference be embedded in a digital historical representation? Following are but a few ideas of how this framework can be put to use. Time A digital representation can allow the user to navigate through different time layers within a given space. A simulation of a historical building can present different time layers, becoming polychrone (Davis 2000), as it were, and be augmented with information about the items and the architecture, accessible with one click. It is also possible to let the user zoom out to the long-term vision of geographical or societal evolutions, or focus on the micro level of the individual’s lifespan, or the even shorter timespan of the event. Space Interactive maps can show the geographical situation of a historical topic, superposed at will by additional statistical data about settlements, crops, architecture, and infrastructure. Coupled to a time frame, a historical map can show evolutions, demonstrating simultaneous processes. Community Historical actors cannot be understood in isolation from their social background: their role in society, their place on the social ladder, their 71


economical and political roles – to sum up: their role in the cultural practice of a certain group. Historical subjects should also be seen in the light of their contemporary world view: science, religion, art, traditions and laws shape historical actors and artefacts alike. All three frameworks can and should be explicitly extended into the user’s present in order to create an experience with lasting impact. One way to connect the frameworks of time, space and community to a user’s present, is to augment the authentic artefact, be it ruin, manuscript or vase, with digital means, in order to help the user understand its situation in past contexts. Another way to activate the three frameworks is demonstrated in the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative project, at the University of California at Berkeley. In ECAI, one can access cultural heritage resources using what, where, when and who questions. ECAI exploits existing descriptive metadata of digital archive material and other resources, and maps a time period directory, a place name gazetteer, library subject headings, library catalogues, wikipedia, BBC content and more. People can use the system to explore subjects through their time, place and social context. But does being able to find out “what, when, where and why” mean one has historical competency? In order to make a lasting impression, a historical representation should activate its user to make meaning out of historical information; second, it should invite users to make contact with the community involved.

Active learning for building historical competencies When we talk about the necessity of making a lasting impression with a historical representation, we are stepping into the domain of “learning”. Learning in this case is understood as a persisting change in terms of emotions, mental state and skills, acquired through experience and interaction with people or information (Driscoll 2000). Social constructivist learning theory (Spiro et al. 1992) suggests that people make meaning using their prior knowledge, and through interaction with others and their environment. Knowledge is socially (Lave and Wenger 1991) and culturally (Gredler 1997) constructed. History is a chaotic subject matter. It shows all symptoms of an ill-structured knowledge domain (Spiro et al. 1992), full of gaps and uncertainties, with a complexity bordering on the cryptic, and an across-case irregularity bordering on infinite variation. We depend on subject matter experts to point us to connections and patterns. Now, since we do not believe “simply showing” will allow learners to grasp the complexity of historical subject matter, we need to facilitate learning in a way that steers clear of conceptual oversimplification and rigid thinking, but instead allows knowledge transfer to new cases. This is the way to go within ill-structured 72


knowledge domains (Spiro et al. 1992). The aim is not to offer the learner an environment that reflects the ill-structured nature of the subject matter (Britt 1996); the aim is to provide just enough complexity and guidance to allow for the construction of dynamically situated knowledge (Lave and Wenger 1991). It is important to find the right balance, allowing for an “exploratory yet oriented approach,” as Murray (1992) calls it. At the Maerlant Centre we have constructed an e-learning model to teach transferable historical critical thinking skills to youngsters (De Keyser et al. 1998). The concept is derived from iconology and historical method, and the didactics are based on social constructivism: the idea that learning is an active and collaborative process. The aim is to help students understand how historians think and help them understand that any historical representation is a construction (Wineburg 2001). Without historical critical thinking competencies, digital artefacts about the past are in danger of remaining mere toys. “The Maerlant method aims to let students judge the historical value of problematic sources by guiding them through a critical investigation of a group of sources, constantly referring to the threefold structure of historical information” (De Keyser et al. 1998). The students can explore the interlinked sources, encyclopaedic entries, images, maps, family trees, time lines, explanations, and digests of debates among historians. Apart from the threefold structure of historical information, we use another threefold structure to map out the construction of historical cognitive skills. There are three levels a learner needs to pass through in order to reach a sound critical understanding of the source at hand: the descriptive, the contextual and the comprehensive level. Students start by judging the source at face value, using their ready knowledge to describe the surface and make guesses about its use. Next, the source is put into its context with information about the time, space and social framework in which the source or artefact was and is embedded. Finally, on the comprehensive level, the possible deeper meaning or message behind the source is unearthed. The platform provides elements needed to unravel the sense and meaning of the source, such as mental environment, world view and outlook on man and society at large. “The following describes a practical example of the Maerlant concept from a didactic CD-ROM about the life and environment of Nicholas Rockox, mayor of the city of Antwerp in the seventeenth century” (De Keyser et al. 2000). The CD can be used in several ways. It can be read as an electronic hypertextual book; it can be used as a workshop to exercise historical skills; teachers can use it as a reference work; students can use it for selfstudy. But its use in the following example is as a tool for PC-classroom history education. To reconstruct the mental and physical environment of Nicholas Rockox, there are three sources at our disposal: his house that is 73


now a museum; the inventory of his household by a notary after his death; and an art-room painting by a well-known contemporary painter, which is situated in his house. First of all the students are invited to read and learn about the historical person Nicholas Rockox and his era. Then they can stroll through the house via a virtual tour, look at the inventory and its transcription, and look at the art-room painting of the biggest room in Rockox house. Next, they are invited to solve a quiz based on an interactive time line, thus digesting and synthesizing the gathered information. They are invited to compare the room in the virtual tour and the room on the painting. Thus they learn that all those sources are constructions with different purposes, which all show different parts of the picture but also represent different points of view. The aim of this sample course, like the other digital publications of the Maerlant Centre, is to guide students in developing competencies they can use, not only to assess the historical value of sources, but assessing all kinds of information.

Communities of practice A historical subject also stands in relation to a community here and now. A successful digital historical representation invites its users to make connections between their world and this subject from the past. Knowledge is now more than ever a matter of social networks (Schiltz and Truyen (2007). A powerful concept to link the connection of an individual’s knowledge to that of a larger group of experts and learners, is the concept of the community of practice. The term Community of Practice was coined by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in 1991 in relation to situated learning, but since then it has been developed by Wenger as a more broad theory of learning starting from the assumption that “engagement in social practice is the fundamental process by which we learn and so become who we are” (Wenger 1998). University students not only learn the state of the art in their field of study, they also learn where to find the experts and their publications. The idea of communities of practice is that entering into a group of users and experts is of key importance in the learning process. A historical representation is never definitive, every generation and locality giving its own meaning to pieces of the past. The very existence of historical subjects is linked to being remembered or forgotten by a community. The Web can strengthen the social dimension of history in a way that has been previously unseen. Not only can it represent a piece of information within a meaningful context, the web also functions as a platform for virtual communities. You can now imagine a historical subject finding its community online. People are already writing history collaboratively, weaving their stories into games, digital image repositories or 74


writing wikis. A clever use of metadata and intelligent linking can turn a digitized heritage collection into a webbed interactive narrative of interrelated micro stories. At the Maerlant Centre, we have an online folklore project,, which allows visitors to join their oral heritage to the online collection. This possibility renders the collection more meaningful for the individual user who can connect his or her “nugget” of historical information to a collection compiled and analyzed by experts. On a much larger scale, but focused not so much on the past as on handling it in museums, the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) works on tools to support communities of practice of heritage professionals.

Conclusion Coming back on our introduction, it would be false to categorize Leopold von Ranke as a naive realist. After all, he was one of the founding fathers of historical method, which is a set of techniques historians use to evaluate sources of information about the past. To create a digital historical artefact is one thing, to make it a valid source of information about the past is yet another. Historians have ways to check the authenticity and provenance of sources, methods to assess the authority and capability of a witness to produce a valid account, rules that a critical edition of a manuscript has to observe (Shafer 1974). Low tech or high tech, sources of information about the past, in order for them to be valid sources, have to be explicit or open about the way they were constructed, on which grounds, by whom, their reason of existence, their target audience, and so on. In addition, our assessment of the past is always mediated through relevant communities of practice. These communities help us to validate the concepts we make of past events, and act as warrant for their current meaning. An open bond with pertinent communities, whether these be authoritative scholars or privileged witnesses and stakeholders is necessary to bring about a reconstruction both of the past experience and the reflection in hindsight. The “openness,” of both the community of practice and the architecture of the digital artefact is key to its success and sustainability. To continue on the anachronistic note after stating that history is 3D: historical representations should be “open source”.

References Bernstein, M.C. 1996. Hypertext and the Linearity of History. Internet. Available from accessed 15 December 2006. Bolter, J.D. 1991. Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext and the History of Writing. Hillsday, Hove and London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.



Bolter, J.D. and Grusin, R. 1999. Remediation – Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Britt, M.A., Rouet, J.-F. and Perfetti, C.A. 1996. Using hypertext to study and reason about historical evidence. In Hypertext and Cognition. eds. J.-F. Rouet, J.J. Levonen, A.P. Dillon and R.J. Spiro. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 43, 72. Bush, V. 1945. As we may think. Athlantic Monthly. CLXXVI 1: 106–107. Internet. Available from∼duchier/pub/vbush/vbush.shtml accessed 15 December 2006. Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). Knowledge Exchange. Internet. Available from 15 December 2006. Chaney, D. 1994. The Cultural Turn: Scene-setting Essays on Contemporary Cultural History. London and New York: Routledge. Davis, B.H. 2000. Virtual worlds as content-clocks for cultural memory. In Virtual Heritage. Information portal for technology in cultural, natural and world heritage. Internet. Available from library/doc.cfm?DOCID=52 accessed 15 December 2006. De Keyser, R., Rogiers, K. and Truyen, F. 1998. Historical skills and ICT. Informations. International Society for History Didactics. 18 (September): 107–120. De Keyser, R., Truyen, F., Van Looy, J., Rogiers, K., Cousserier, A. and Honoré, I. 2000. The Legacy of Nikolaas Rockox. Antwerp: From Economic Capital of the Netherlands to World Famous Art Centre. Leuven: Universitaire Pers. CD-ROM. Driscoll, M. 2000. Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon. Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI). International and Area Studies. Berkeley: University of California at Berkeley. Internet. Available from accessed 15 December 2006. Gredler, M.E. 1997. Learning and Instruction: Theory into Practice 3rd edn. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall. Landow, G.P. 1997. Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Lave, J. and Wenger, E. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mirzoeff, N. ed. 1999. Visual Culture Reader. New York and London: Routledge. Murray, J.H. 1992. Restructuring space, time, story and text in advanced multimedia environments. In Sociomedia: Multimedia, Hypermedia and the Social Construction of Knowledge, ed. Edward Barrett. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 319–345. Murray, J.H. 1997. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: Free Press. Murray, J.H. 2003. Inventing the medium. In The New Media Reader, eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, pp. 3–11. Schiltz, M., Truyen, T. and Coppens, H. 2007. Cutting the trees of knowledge: social software, information architecture, and their epistemic consequences. Thesis Eleven. 89: 94–114.



Shafer, R.J. 1974. A Guide to Historical Method. The Dorsey Press: Illinois. Spiro, Rand J., Feltovich, P.J., Jacobson, M.J. and Coulson, R.L. 1992. Cognitive Flexibility, Constructivism, and Hypertext: Random Access Instruction for Advanced knowledge Acquisition in ill-structured Domains. In Constructivism and the Technology of Instruction: A Conversation, ed. M.D. Thomas, and H.J. David. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 57–76. Staley, D.J. 1998. From writing to associative assemblages: “History” in an electronic culture. In Writing, Teaching and Researching History in the Electronic Age. Historians and Computers, ed. Dennis A. Trinkle. Armonk, NY and London: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 3–13. Von Ranke, L. 1824. Geschichten der Romanischen und Germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514. Leipzig/Berlin. Von Ranke, L. 1839. Vorrede zur Deutschen Geschichte. Berlin. Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. White, H. Historiography and Historiophoty. Screening the Past. Special issue: AHR revisited, 6 (1988 and 1999). Internet. – Available from, accessed 15 December 2006. Wineburg, S. 2001. Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Yellowlees, Douglas, J. 2000. The End of Books or Books without End? Reading Interactive Narratives. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


Part 2 ES S EN C E Digital representation and interpretation of cultural heritage

New media has impacted on the process and methodology of interpretation and representation of cultural heritage to the public in many ways. The normative scope of cultural heritage has widened in the last decade to include the intangible and many everyday practices, practitioners and objects, therefore insider and community values are becoming more relevant and accepted as information sources. The benefits of utilising new media in the interpretation of cultural heritage include wider access to information, the dissemination and relevance to a broader audience and in provoking new media forms for expression, understanding and collaboration with cultural heritage stakeholders. This part examines the issues surrounding heritage interpretation to the public and the “quest” to capture the essence and underlying significance of cultural heritage.

6 CH AS I N G T H E U NI C O R N ? The quest for “essence” in digital heritage Neil Silberman

Abstract This chapter examines one of the proclaimed goals of digital heritage development, namely the recording and preservation of the “essence” of both tangible and intangible heritage. It will argue that heritage is, by its nature, a social activity embedded in a changing contemporary context and that the challenge for digital heritage is to facilitate that activity, rather than establish a definitive simulacrum of the Past. New socioeconomic developments in the field of heritage will be described, with particular emphasis on the role of the digital technologies. The chapter will close with a cautionary example of problematic digital “authenticity.”

This book is assembled with a confident, if not always fully examined, assumption: namely, that the digital media – according to the announcement of the theme of the conference – have “the capacity to become a tool to capture both the tangible and intangible essence of both the cultural heritage and the society that created or used the sites” (New Heritage Conference 2006). Even the most enthusiastic promoters of the new cultural technologies admit that there are still a number of unresolved problems. The technology itself has to be developed, democratized, and made more widely accessible. Visualization alone should not be the primary goal. The profundity of the interpretation needs improving, as does the permanence of the data storage media. But since we all agree that we are at the very beginning of the process, there is faith that conferences like this one and other digital heritage initiatives will eventually overcome the existing obstacles “to capture the complexity of cultural heritage and the related social, political, and economic issues surrounding the sites or artefacts.” I would like to reflect on these collective assumptions and pose a few basic questions. Are the digital technologies essentially value-neutral 81


recording devices that can powerfully capture the unambiguous essence of ancient societies? In fact, do ancient monuments and the societies that built them even have an unambiguous essence that can be agreed upon by all researchers and that will survive into an indefinite future despite the continuing, dramatic evolution of historiography itself? To begin with, I would like to underline an enormously significant – but often unappreciated – distinction between “Heritage” and the “Past” (Lowenthal 1985, 1998). Heritage is an ever-changing array of objects and symbols, a complex mosaic of artefacts, images, monuments, and customs that demand our attention and demand that we give some meaning to them. The iconic images of famous monuments, typologically-arranged pottery shards and flint tools in glass cases, the architecture of historic urban districts, elaborate archaeological parks, and even over-grown, fenced-off ruins in remote places evoke powerful emotional associations and inspire complex mental associations about past and present, about progress and decay for everyone. The architecture of the places we live in and whiz by as we cruise on superhighways; the costumes we see in period-piece dramas or Hollywood epics; the heritage sites we visit on holiday; displays of biblical relics, antique farm tools, or twentieth century pop culture all evoke in their complex relationship to each other and to the modern social landscape a kind of materialized common wisdom about everything from ethnic identity, aesthetics, technology, to elegance and virtue. The visual, auditory, and tactile network of fragments of ancient or merely “old” is everywhere around us and our physical immersion in a variegated landscape of new and old and ancient creates a deep personal relationship with the past – that may or may not be exactly the same as what historians, archaeologists, heritage experts, or authoritative official presentations tell us that relationship should be. The Past – in contrast to Heritage – is one of the most virtual of the realities we have to contend with. It is an untouchable phantom: a oncelived reality that survives only in fragments and can be experienced only in retrospect. We can never re-create the past as it actually was, with its sense of uncompleted present-ness and uncertain expectation: not knowing whether a particular city would be conquered by its enemies, whether this year’s crops would be abundant or fail and leave the people cold and hungry, or whether a certain empire or village would weather all its social and environmental challenges to bequeath a bright future to generations still unborn. We may be able to measure precisely the dimensions of the excavated rooms of an ancient structure, count and map the artefacts found within it. We can accurately chart settlement patterns on the landscape, and perhaps even approximate the outward physical appearance of ancient communities. But we can only speculate on the human dimension and “essence” of past civilisations by piecing their surviving tangible and 82


intangible fragments together with the glue of our own emotions, ideas of logic, and cause and effect. And that glue, unlike the ancient shards that it holds together, comes from the hopes, fears, dreams and ideologies of the era in which we live. David Lowenthal (1994) put it best – and with characteristic frankness – when he wrote that “the more realistic a reconstruction of the past seems, the more it is a part of the present.” Just compare an artist’s rendering of a pharaonic temple from the massive eighteenth century Description de l’Egypte, with an early twentieth century Egyptologist’s reconstruction, with the latest computer-generated imagery. The differences are not only due to the progressive accumulation of scientific data or increasingly advanced techniques of reconstruction. Each of them also embodies the deepest cultural sensibilities of the era in which they were made (Molyneaux 1997). That cannot be avoided; we can only see the past from the perspective of the present and that inevitably time-bound perspective is what makes every generation’s vision of the past so valuable and unique.

From academic scholarship to popular entertainment This is not an expression of hyper-relativism; I do not believe that all versions of the past are equal or equally (in)accurate. I would like to suggest that the increasingly complex juxtaposition of stories, both of those accumulated over time and of those drawn from conflicting perspectives of a particular period, is the foundation of all historiographical progress. As an evolving exercise of collective memory, this process of multivocal reflection will never, and should never, end. That is why the mention of “essence” seems, on reflection, to be a chimerical goal. While we are spurred on by our unending chase for essence, it, like the fabled unicorn of medieval legend, always eludes our grasp by changing its form. We should therefore resist overstating the potential of digital heritage for creating a definitive, Objective reconstruction of the past and focus instead on its role as a tool of historical reflection within contemporary society. For the most part, digital heritage has borrowed its epistemological basis from the academic disciplines of history and archaeology. Empiricist conceptions of time as a straight-shot arrow moving relentlessly forward and (in contrast to the mythic cycles or grand apocalyptic scenarios), have produced chronological narratives in which the course of history seems almost preordained. Certain classes of artefacts and structures are deemed particularly significant for this process of narrative construction and the sites that contain them are distinguished by scholarly classification and protected by law. Increasingly rigorous methods of excavation and stratigraphic analysis have been developed. And even though the range of relevant data has continually expanded from precious artistic objects to everyday implements to 83


anthropological observation and environmental evidence – and new tools such as Carbon 14, trace-elements analysis, and remote sensing have been added – the basic information sources used by digital heritage for the most part continue to produce powerful modern narratives – or rather snapshots – of progress, environmental balance, and national identity that constitute the powerful subtext of modern heritage, in which its universities, government antiquities services, ministries of culture, and education systems play their appropriate roles. National museums are maintained as prestigious state institutions. Specially selected heritage sites are recognized as national monuments, administered and interpreted by officials of national and international heritage bureaucracies. Famous ruins and discovered artefacts serve as symbolic reminders of the authorized stories, diffused into the popular consciousness as national icons, themes for theatrical epics, motifs for postage stamps and banknotes, all referring – directly or indirectly – to the present. And the designated heritage sites themselves become places of pilgrimage and leisure-time diversion, venues for school visits, community commemorations, and potentially lucrative tourist trade. The word “lucrative” is significant, for it reveals a new contemporary outlook on the value of the past that is bringing it dangerously close to being a state-sponsored commercial enterprise. Of course, from the very beginning, there has always been money to be made from the hawkers, gapers, and holiday-makers at the iconic monuments of Europe – Stonehenge, the Roman Coliseum, the Parthenon, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to mention just a few. But with the rise of mass tourism, new amenities were needed to increase the traffic (Urry 2002). At first they were quite simple: licensed guides and informational panels. As the competition for visitors mounted, public presentations expanded to include historic reenactments, reconstructed buildings, special events, and celebrations. In the late twentieth century, theme-park techniques of promotion and marketing were added. And in our day, the Information Age “edutainment” tools of touch screen interactivity and virtual reality – a vital and significant part of New Heritage – are gradually becoming prerequisites for every major heritage site. The phenomenon is spreading. All across the world, in recent years, heritage sites by the hundreds if not thousands have been valorized, glamorized, and relentlessly merchandized by regions, municipalities, local communities, and now even private management companies seeking to attract visitors and the prospects for economic development that they bring. Governmental authorities and international development agencies have made substantial investments to convert important archaeological and historical sites into “sustainable” engines of local and regional economic development, in the hopes of creating new “heritage attractions” that will offer local employment opportunities and stimulate interregional 84


tourism and trade (Hutter and Rizzo 1997). Public funding programs like those of the European Commission’s Interreg programs and Culture 2000 (DG Education and Culture 2002) and the World Bank’s “Framework for Action in Cultural Heritage and Development in the Middle East and North Africa” (Cernea 2001) have set standards – and offer substantial economic incentives – for investment in the form, structure and even presentation design of major archaeological sites. What this usually amounts to – at least in its most successful manifestations – is the creation of venues for carefully processed leisure time entertainment, structured and marketed with the same modes of tour booking, entrance fees, restaurants, gift shops, and overnight accommodations as other packaged visits of the modern mass tourist industry. Borrowing design concepts from theme parks and interactive museums, site planners now often utilize digital heritage’s creative and energetic interpretive solutions, such as interactive applications, computer 3D reconstructions, and virtual reality experiences when the project budget permits (Seaton and Bennett 1996; Addison 2003). Great efforts have been taken to create stunning historical environments with a sufficiently wide range of vivid images and impressions to satisfy almost every visitor’s taste (Leask and Yeoman 1999). Yet in most cases, the motivation is not primarily scholarly, ideological, or didactic, but explicitly economic. And in this age of increasingly self-supported culture, attendance figures and account books are the real tyrants who subtly shape the medium, if not the message, to serve their own ends. If the main objective of heritage presentations is to attract heritage consumers, interpretation can rarely afford to offer the kinds of serious and troubling historical reflections that are likely to drive holiday visitors away. All too often, the past has indeed been presented as a theme park. While some holiday makers might choose to escape the daily grind in the mountains or the seashore, the cultural heritage tourist has learned to seek another destination: exchanging the worries and uncertainties of the present for the comfortable stability of a scientifically imagined past (Lowenthal 2002). But the value of the past is precisely to teach us new things, not only to reassure or amuse us – to offer difficult themes for public discussion and reflection, a task hardly possible when the goal is to capture a market share of recreational activities. And today our material legacy is no longer seen only in stately buildings or prehistoric settlements, but in an increasingly broad and sometimes unpleasant sampling of the achievements – and failings – of our own civilization that are a challenge to analysis and interpretation by traditional or digital means. The World Heritage List now includes the grisly remains of World War I trench warfare, concentration camps, colonial prisons, and rusting, crumbling nineteenth century factories and mines where children worked, workers died, and the idea of industrialized production was born. What can digital heritage do to recover their 85


essence or more importantly help us to understand their human complexity? Can the statistical patterning of shell holes in No Man’s Land at the Battle of Ypres, or a detailed database of the eyeglasses and shoes collected from the victims at Auschwitz, or a precise 3D reconstruction of the eighteenth-century slave terminal on the island of Gorée off the coast of Senegal, that those heritage sites symbolize help us better to understand and to productively reflect upon the unpleasant realities of the past still painfully embedded in the fabric of our society? We can no longer flee into a world of soaring columns, impressive castles, or elegant châteaux that embody an impossibly homogenized idea of national character. Formerly coherent ethnic, national, and cultural identities are in the process of being shattered. The historic districts of many of our cities have become home to struggling immigrant communities for whom the official epics presented by antiquities services and national monument administrations – and even the concept of a distinctive ethnic or national identity – have sharply different interpretations and little practical relevance in our increasingly globalized world. And what of the cases where heritage is in conflict? The legacy of narratives of promised lands and chosen peoples can make one warring party’s proudest heritage an object of resentment and target for destruction by its adversaries. In our world, heritage has in some places become the battle banner of demagogues of ethnic exclusiveness and cultural purity, seeking to erase from the landscape and from public consciousness the diversity and complexity of human culture. We have seen the destruction of the Mostar Bridge in the battle for Sarajevo, the detonation of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, and the continuing historical conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over their heritage in a twice-promised land. How can technology help to restore or preserve pasts that have become invisible or are slated for selective destruction, with or without the consent of the government heritage authorities concerned? Interoperability, I would suggest, is more than just a technological slogan. If integration of information is indeed one of the great potentials of digital technology, an information infrastructure must be established in which the recognition of the diversity and wholeness of human heritage is no less important than the perfection of scientific techniques.

Capturing the unicorn? I want to close with a cautionary success story that may have some relevance in highlighting what digital heritage can and cannot do (Preston 2005). In 1998, the world-famous Cloisters museum of medieval European art in New York City began the renovation of a gallery where one of its most priceless treasures was displayed. This is a series of seven large tapestries known as “The Hunt for the Unicorn,” woven of wool and 86


silk, and with some threads wrapped in gold and silver in a workshop in Brussels or Liège at the end of the fifteenth century. These tapestries depict the pursuit of a unicorn through a deep forest by a party of aristocratic hunters and their hounds. The last panel, known as “The Unicorn in Captivity,” presents the end of the story, with the wounded unicorn penned up within a fenced enclosure and chained to a tree. During the course of the renovations, the tapestries were taken down and brought to the laboratories of the Metropolitan Museum for conservation and cleaning – and when their brittle linen backings were removed the brilliant original colors were suddenly revealed. Because of the dramatic contrast between their faded fronts and vivid backs, the then-director of the Met, Philippe de Montebello, instructed the staff to make a detailed record of both sides of the precious artworks, since the tapestries would eventually be rehung in the renovated galleries, revealing to visitors and scholars only their faded fronts. The Metropolitan Museum had already begun an ambitious project of high resolution digitization of its collections, and although the Unicorn Tapestries posed a significant problem of scale (each panel being more than three and a half meters high and more than four meters wide). Because the details of every warp and weft thread needed to be recorded, it was decided to take high-resolution photographs of one-meter-square sections one at a time and later assemble them to create a definitive the record of these great works of art both for public interpretation and for digital preservation should they ever be damaged or destroyed. Scaffolding was constructed above the unrolled tapestries in the museum laboratory and painstaking high-resolution digital photographs of overlapping tiles were made. In two weeks, the process had been completed – capturing every thread, every visible nuance – in image files that filled more than 200 CDs. Yet the problem was that however iconic the Unicorn Tapestries might have become for art historians and medieval art lovers, the highly detailed images refused to mesh easily into a uniform photo montage. Even though great care had been taken to photograph each section from a standard distance and perspective, the disparities in the overlapping edges were enormous – far beyond the capacity of a standard Photoshop program to reconcile. Eventually, two mathematicians, Gregory and David Chudnovsky from the Institute for Mathematics and Advanced Supercomputing at Polytechnic University in New York were brought into to tackle the problem – not with expertize from medieval studies or the history of art – but through sheer number crunching in their supercomputer which they had nicknamed “It.” Setting up a vector field to analyze the inconsistencies in the images of the last and most famous of the panels, “The Unicorn in Captivity,” they recognized that they were not due to errors or flaws in recording but to the simple fact that this artifact was alive. No longer stretched 87


vertically from hanging, the tapestry’s fibers relaxed and changed position, shifting and realigning themselves with every small variation of temperature, humidity, and air currents during the two weeks of photography. Thus the Chudnovsky brothers reconceptualized the tapestry not as a twodimensional surface but as a dynamic, three-dimensional structure, and conceived the challenge as a mathematical N-problem, in which every pixel – every crossing of warp and weft in the entire tapestry – had to be calculated in relationship to all the others. And after three months of computation and billions of calculations, a seamless, highly detailed digital image of the Unicorn in Captivity was eventually produced. Every thread and warp of the 15 square meter masterpiece was recorded; the unicorn had indeed been corralled. Should the tapestry itself be destroyed by the ravages of time or by some undreamt of catastrophe, the full digital recording will, we all hope, survive. But does it truly capture the unicorn’s essence? It is a contemporary creation, a mathematical interpolation of all the specific changes and movements encountered in the two weeks of the photographic sessions and hardly touches all the infinite number of changes – even in just physical form – that have occurred to the tapestry since its original weaving in a Brussels or Liège workshop five centuries ago. Although it offers important detail in the technical aspects of its production – it provides useful data that was not previously recorded – it does not itself tell us anything about the impression it made on medieval viewers, or the impression it was designed to evoke. Those lie beyond recovery, with only the modern speculations of both scholars and art lovers available to explain them. In this case digital photography has contributed to empirical description, but in no sense is the “essence” of this artifact captured or even defined. It does not capture the impression of space and place that the visitor now experiences in the galleries of the Cloisters, much less tell us anything directly about the weavers who worked so painstakingly to produce it. And the true complexity of the tapestry’s contemporary heritage significance lies also in the fact that it was purchased in 1922 by John D. Rockefeller from a declining French aristocratic family and that it has been enshrined in a museum incorporating five distinct medieval cloisters, purchased, shipped to New York, and reassembled, to offer the American public a simulacrum of medieval life and art (Chernow 1999: 344–45). The high-resolution digitization of the tapestry is therefore only one element in an intricate constellation of possible “essences” to be grasped selectively and simultaneously in each observer’s mind. For “The Unicorn in Captivity” can offer us equally penetrating insights about the Middle Ages, the symbolism of the unicorn, the international transfer of cultural treasures, and even the character of New York City’s cultural pastiche. 88


Toward a convergence of goals As we can see in the papers presented in this conference, digital heritage has already begun to transform the process of re-creating and understanding the past as it is practice in the twenty-first century. In the interactive touch screens of national museums and local visitor centers, in the interpretive applications at archaeological sites and monuments visited by school groups and tourists in their millions, and in academic websites, analytical tools, and on-line archaeological databases, the past has become an everpresent virtual reality that is simultaneously more real and more virtual than ever before. No longer only the domain of specialized scholars trained in arcane lore of ancient languages, ceramic chronology, and architectural history, the past is now seen as a resource for the economic development of local communities and regions, a medium for cultural identity and cross cultural communication, an edifying destination for cultural tourists, and a focus for educational enrichment. At the very same time, however, the essence of Heritage as a contemporary social activity has also begun to be transformed. Both the nature of authenticity and the role of interpretation are being re-examined and redefined. The former exclusive emphasis on the conservation and presentation of architectural remains and physical artefacts is now supplemented by recognition of the value of intangible traditions and the social history they represent. The contrast between an older kind of presentation and a more inclusive concept of interpretation is increasingly recognized. For while “presentation” denotes the carefully planned arrangement of information and physical access to a cultural heritage site – a largely one-way mode of communication, usually formulated by scholars, design firms, and heritage professionals – “interpretation,” on the other hand, denotes the totality of activity, reflection, research, and creativity stimulated by a cultural heritage site. The input and involvement of visitors, local and associated community groups, and other stakeholders of various ages and educational backgrounds is essential to interpretation and the transformation of cultural heritage sites from static monuments into places and sources of learning and reflection about the past, as well as resources for sustainable community development and intercultural and intergenerational dialogue. “Heritage” can mean different things to many people in the multi-ethnic landscapes of the twenty-first century. The growing acknowledgment of the claims of non-academic, non-governmental heritage stakeholders such as community groups, religious bodies, indigenous peoples, and ethnic minorities implies an obligation not merely to homogenize their heritage perceptions into a master narrative but to offer respect and dignity to a wide variety of approaches and perspectives on past. And when we speak as technologists of increasing public access to heritage, we should not think only of creating more powerful analytical and recording applications, but also 89


create information avenues of two-way communication, in which, alongside traditional archaeological and historical investigation, alternative visions of the past in the present can make themselves heard. That is the unicorn we are pursuing – a social attempt to understand where we are in time, what brought us to this point both in tragedies and triumphs, and what parts of it we should to pass down to our children as a link in a continuing chain. In a word, it is an overall understanding of why the Past is important no less than what it is. The quest by digital technologies for every greater precision and wider data must therefore be understood in its proper perspective. If we concentrate on technological precision and remain unconnected or unaware of the past’s broader role and function in society, we will always be chasing phantom unicorns of unchanging essence, rather than trying to understand and encourage the creativity of collective memory in all of its evolving forms.

References Addison, L. 2003. Virtual Heritage: Technology in the Service of Culture. In VAST 2001: Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage, ed. N.S. Stephen. New York: Association for Computing Machinery, pp. 343–354. Cernea, M. 2001. Cultural Heritage and Development: A Framework for Action in the Middle East and North Africa. Washington: World Bank. Chernow, R. 1999. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. New York: Vintage Books. Directorate-General for Education and Culture. 2002. European Funding for the Cultural Sector. Luxembourg: European Commission. Hutter, M., and Rizzo, I. 1997. Economic Perspectives on Cultural Heritage. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Leask, A., and Yeoman, I. eds. 1999. Heritage Visitor Attractions: An Operations Management Perspective. London: Cassell. Lowenthal, D. 1985. The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lowenthal, D. 1994. Conclusion: Archaeologists and Others. In The Politics of the Past, eds P. Gathercole and D. Lowenthal. London: Routledge, pp. 302–314. Lowenthal, D. 1998. The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lowenthal, D. 2002. The past as a theme park. In Theme Park Landscapes: Antecedents and Variants, eds T. Young and R. Riley. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Press, pp. 11–23. Molyneaux, B.L. 1997. The Cultural Life of Images: Visual Representation in Archaeology. London: Routledge. New Heritage Conference. 2006. Theme: Beyond Verisimilitude; Interpretation of Cultural Heritage through New Media. Internet. Available from accessed 14 January 2006.



Preston, R. 2005. Art and Science: Capturing the Unicorn. In The New Yorker. Internet. Available from fact/050411fa_fact accessed 11 April 2005. Seaton, A.V., and Bennett, M.M. 1996. Marketing of Tourism Products: Concepts, Issues and Cases. London: Thomson Business Press. Urry, J. 2002. The Tourist Gaze. London: Sage Publications.


7 MEMO RY CAPSU LES Discursive interpretation of cultural heritage through new media Janice Affleck and Thomas Kvan

Abstract This chapter examines the implementation of a framework for heritage interpretation using new media, to encompass underlying intangible socio-cultural aspects of heritage and lead participants to engage and debate meaning in a process of discursive interpretation. Using the distinction between reconstruction and re-creation, the implementation of the framework in a case study is discussed along with emerging issues.

Introduction It can be argued that within the field of virtual heritage there is a shortage of literature focused on different methods of interpreting and communicating cultural significance to the public, other than the common pattern of descriptive interpretation; to visually describe the physical appearance of tangible heritage. Although important to the conservation of heritage and development of the field of virtual heritage, it does not constitute the only research challenge that digital technologies offer in the service of cultural heritage. The dominance of image and hyper-reality within computer visualisation of heritage can often result in a lack of flexibility in interpretation and a limited sense of place (Tringham 2005). The pursuit of technological mastery has led to the situation where the archaeological use of VR is all about the creation of pictures (Gillings 2000). The management of heritage resources is dynamic and complex and it is implicit in most charters and conventions that it is not enough to conserve cultural heritage without communicating the embodied outstanding significance warranting the protection status. This chapter suggests that an approach to the interpretation and communication of heritage that affords an engagement with underlying 92


issues relating to cultural heritage through flexible, engaging methods of interpretation to allow multiple viewpoints to be presented and debated, can contribute to a deeper understanding of underlying significance and meaning of heritage. There have been criticisms that many virtual heritage projects have developed as an offspring of technical research in computer graphics and most teams have not included historians, archaeologists or humanists, but only computer experts (Frischer et al. 2000). Champion suggests that the use of photorealism often suggests an authorative knowledge of the culture that the authors may in fact not possess (Champion 2005a). Generally, heritage sites and museums that present knowledge in a linear manner no longer hold the same authoritarian position that they traditionally had and it is now by and large accepted that they provide ‘representations’ and ‘interpretations’ of the world (Corsane 2005: 9). Linear communication models have increasingly been abandoned by museums in favour of ‘transactional models’ in which information is devised, discussed and interpreted in a circular process allowing the audience to move from passive to active roles (Hooper-Greenhill 1994: 15). The move mirrors similar developments in literary criticism, reader-reception theory, media and cultural studies and hermeneutics, which moves the role of the viewer as active and rethinks the role of the producer or author (Mason 2005). The concept of active participation has been developed in constructivist learning theories which maintain that learning and the construction of knowledge should be a social, interactive and engaging process. It is not enough to conserve heritage without communicating significance and signifiers and also to address intangible aspects of heritage. Uzzell’s (1994) distinction of a reconstruction approach to heritage interpretation provides a theoretical framework for a discursive approach to interpretation. This approach has an intellectual focus and presents different perspectives and interpretations of the past and relates it to the present. Information is presented as an interpretation, encouraging multiple viewpoints and active participants. It implies that we cannot simply impose one explanation of an object or aspect of heritage and expect a consistent response from every viewer, as each visitor will have their own perceptions based on their levels of pre-understanding. This approach is not popular at heritage sites, according to Uzzell, however, as it is difficult to implement in an informal learning environment, with casual leisure time users who expect to be entertained, not mentally challenged. It is dominated by a more popular approach that Uzzell describes as re-creation, which presents ‘a window on the past’ using interpretive techniques such as historical reproductions of sites and re-enactions of associated behaviour to invoke nostalgia. Information is communicated as ‘fact’ not as interpretation, with no interaction or input in the interpretation process from the viewer in a linear method. This way 93


of thinking about the past is questioned in its educational approach as it favours a superficial engagement and does not encourage critical thinking. Writers such as Lowenthal (1985) debate whether we can actually claim to experience the past in this manner as our outlook is prejudiced by hindsight. It is proposed that by creating a framework to lead viewers to construct and reflect their understanding of heritage in a process of discursive interpretation could encourage a deep engagement with the significance and meaning behind cultural heritage as opposed to a surface engagement afforded by many existing projects. This proposition is explored in a case study implementation that aimed to meaningfully engage participants in discursive interpretation of the heritage and recent history of Hong Kong, focusing on user involvement, engagement and understanding of the significance of cultural heritage. This case study was used as a method of inquiry to give insight into the process of discursive interpretation in a real life setting. The case study was called the Memory Capsule project, and ran over a period of six weeks as part of the Hong Kong Fringe Club’s City Festival 2006. The Fringe Club had a virtual community composed of around 3,000 members who were invited to contribute their photographic and textual interpretations of the city and to enhance these with reflection, illustrated by memories and stories in the production of an online memory capsule. The term ‘memory capsule’ was used as it is one that is widely understood, having been commonly used to describe the packaging of physical items in a robust container that is entombed for future discovery and revelation; in this instance a physical capsule was planned as the outcome of the project for the Fringe Club’s building’s 200th anniversary in 2090.

Memory capsules In order to motivate discursive interpretation as defined in this chapter, the implementation of the online system had to support a virtual community. In order to do this, the system had to allow for the creation and management of content and the ability for meaning to be negotiated and different viewpoints presented. Social software was selected for the implementation as it supports both user communication and the production of collaborative content. There has been renewed interest online in traditional methods of cultural transference, such as storytelling and collective cultural memory. Memory institutions, such as heritage sites and museums, are exploring how best to supplement ‘institutional’ knowledge by virtual communities (Geser et al. 2004). Virtual communities are computer mediated groups sharing common identities and interests, as defined by one such community, Wikipedia; these computer-mediated communities use social software to regulate activities, 94


which include publishing journals, diary entries, weblogs, games, discussions, pod-casts and collaborative stories. The term virtual community is attributed to Harold Rheingold from a book of the same name (Rheingold 2000). In the heritage context, websites have been created to collect stories and oral history, for example Moving Here (, which has focused on migration to the UK over the past 200 years, and the Hong Kong War Diary ( established to interpret the 1941 defence of Hong Kong by members of the garrison. Community interpretation enriches the experience and understanding of heritage, both by participation and the insight to others of intangible aspects by first person interpretation and narrative, which are difficult to represent using other methods and flexible enough to stimulate imagination rather than to constrain it. Methodology The primary purpose of implementing the Memory Capsule project was as a case study. Case studies are used in research when the researcher does not wish to or cannot control the behavioural events of a case, when the focus is on contemporary as opposed to historical events and when the setting is within a real-life context (Yin 2003: 1), with the aim of being non-interventive and empathic by discrete investigation (Stake 1995: 12). These characteristics best suited the qualitative approach desired in order to allow significance and insight to emerge during a real life context as opposed to the inquiry taking place in a tightly prefigured experimental context. The case study was set up in conjunction with the Hong Kong Fringe Club; this collaboration was important as it provided an ‘institute’ with which to form the context and to increase the credibility of the project to the participants. The strength of the context for the theoretical framework was the strong links with the community existing through the Fringe Club; a community based contemporary arts centre and the ability to link with their ongoing Excavation Project, which was working with a range of local groups uncovering community memories and stories relating to the previous use of the building as the old Dairy Farm headquarters and the surrounding context of Hong Kong. The case study aimed to engage the Fringe Club’s virtual community in voluntary participation in a non-captive context as to date the Excavation project participated with school and community groups in informal yet captive contexts such as workshops. The Excavation project was run by two members of Fringe Club staff who were the stakeholders for the case study. Their input, opinions, requirements and deadlines had to be met in all aspects of the set up and during the running of the project. For all intents and purposes for the duration of the six weeks of the project run time, the author represented the 95


Fringe Club and the Excavation Project in the role of facilitator, mediator and curator, so as not to disturb the normal activity of the case. In qualitative research it is important not to draw attention to the researcher or their work (Stake 1995: 44). To this end, the real intent of the project as a case study was not revealed to the participants until after the data collection was finished in order to avoid bias in the methodology and data collected. Participants were contacted after the project was finished and permission to use their contributions for academic purposes was requested; only one participant declined, so this participant and their contribution will not be directly referred to in any publication. Implementation Virtual communities have the potential to offer a context in which to engage active participants in discursive interpretation and supplement traditional institutional knowledge constructed by heritage sites and museums. However, there were practical difficulties to overcome in order to implement a system suitable for collecting the communities’ textual and photographic interpretation in the context of this project. It had to be appropriate for a range of computer skills, to allow for English/Cantonese bilingual implementation, enable content to be stored, retrieved and displayed in a logical manner, allow for moderation of content for the Fringe Club and provide communication channels for collaboration and negotiation of meaning. The primary issues to be solved for an effective implementation using social software were: to mediate the site without involving the users in a lengthy login process to identify themselves; to enable participants to upload photographs and text; to address uploading quotas imposed on most repository accounts; and to enable intercommunication between participants and the moderator. A good option for the memory capsule implementation was found at a photo repository site called 23hq (, which is described as a tool to share, annotate and archive images, and connected people through communities, blogs, commenting facilities and a mail-based sharing system. 23hq was run by a small team who were enthusiastic when contacted about the project using the site and software, did not worry about the possible traffic that it could generate and impose on their server and offered advertising on their site’s blog. The site had a simple, clear interface, good data management and unlimited upload quota for a small subscription fee. Contributions could be mediated by receiving them first by email. This saved the viewers having to log in to use the site; in addition commenting could be made freely by any viewer of the site without a login process, and identification was by the inclusion of the email address. The site had good metadata functionality such as theme related Albums, well implemented Tags which linked metadata 96


between contributions and other online communities, a Favourite option to display selected contributions and a Story function for larger or more complex contributions. In order to give instructions to the participants on how to contribute, the 23hq site at had to be personalised, which was not technically possible. This was achieved by creating a website hosted by the Fringe Club at for the duration of the six week project run time, containing the contextual information, instructions and help, and the HTML was scripted to load the 23hq pages into a ‘frame’ to allow the merging of the two sites. Figures 7.1 and 7.2 show the first screen, the home page containing the invitation and a large button indicating the next step, which is to contribute. The interface style from the 23hq site was replicated here for consistency – the background frame size and colour, fonts and button style.

Figure 7.1 English memory capsule home page.



Figure 7.2 Cantonese memory capsule home page.

From this point in, the screens are split; Figure 7.3 shows screen two in the sequence which is linked to the ‘how to contribute’ button in Figures 7.1 and 7.2. The album screen was defaulted as the second screen to be viewed as it gives an overview of the themes of the existing contributions, and the bottom frame contains the Help section. After this screen, the viewer directs the independent navigation of both sites. Figure 7.4 shows the step-by-step instructions to ‘Contribute’ in the bottom frame, and the top frame the contributions viewed in date order. The bottom frame was designed to be minimised when not in use as it could be invasive. The contribution procedure was given as step-by-step instructions, as shown partially in Figure 7.4. They emphasised that the contributions should not be a collection of photographs, but should include descriptions, stories, memories and any associated historical information. There were around 11 contributions already onsite for the project launch date, prepared by initial participants to populate the site and which viewers could 98


Figure 7.3 Albums screen top frame, the Help function bottom frame.

look to for examples. It was not possible technically, or practically, to allow users to contribute directly to the site without the content being moderated; this had to be administered by email for the Fringe Club. An email account was set up that had the facility to accept large attachments and an unanticipated amount of traffic, so that the original emails could be kept for data collection purposes and would not have to be deleted. The contributions then just had to be forwarded to a ‘secret email address’ set by the 23hq site for each account. Communication channels The discursive interpretation in this context aimed to strengthen understanding and engagement in a circular, reflexive process that was supported by the communication channels. There were two communication channels implemented to facilitate the negotiation of meaning. The first, the onsite 99


Figure 7.4 Memory capsule site top frame. Contribute instructions bottom frame.

commenting facility, was anticipated in the planning stage to be the main communication channel for the project. It was anticipated that viewers and other participants would engage in reflexivity; agree or disagree with the other participants, ask questions, negotiate meaning and debate significance. However, over the six weeks of the project there were only ten comments made in total by ‘general participants’, 37 by a school group that used the site during class one day and 16 prompt comments by the moderator. The anticipated group behaviour within the virtual community did not develop; there was little discussion of any kind between the community members. The only viewers who displayed any kind of group behaviour were the school group; however the comments were naïve and resembled SMS or online chat. For example, Figure 7.5 shows the contribution that received the most comments (all contributions are reproduced here with original spelling and grammar, no editorial discretion was exercised subsequent to submission). 100


Figure 7.5 Dim Sum (

This contribution was received from the youngest participant (aged four) on the subject of Dim Sum. It generated nine comments; one comment from a general participant, one from the moderator and seven from the school group: Comment by Prudence, February 21, 2006 at 06:24 am yea, i love it too Comment by Henry, February 21, 2006 at 06:27 am I love them! Comment by celia, February 21, 2006 at 06:31 am I love dim sum tooˆˆ Comment by stella, February 21, 2006 at 06:31 am I love dim sum, tooˆˆ Comment by waiching, February 21, 2006 at 06:33 am Dim sum is a traditional food. I must order some of it when i have chance. Comment by Sally, February 21, 2006 at 06:33 am yes,delicious food!!!!!!Can I have it now? Comment by MR.J, February 21, 2006 at 06:34 am IT IS A VERY GOOD FOOOD, Comment by hkfringe club plus, February 23, 2006 at 02:28 pm Dim sum seems very popular, what is the name of your favourite Dim Sum? Are there any names that have an extra meaning in Chinese? 101


Comment by Jennifer, March 06, 2006 at 08:04 am Ah! Dim-Sum – what pleasurable memories it evokes! My Cantonese professor had ‘his’ table in a traditional teahouse, where his friends could always join him at set hours. I think of three types of dim-sum restaurants – the paper-screened, fine, traditional ones, the great huge halls like the Gloucester Restaurant where the girls, like ancient cigarette-girls, walked between the tables the chef’s latest products on a tray supported by a strap around the back of her neck – announcing her wares in a high-pitched squeal which carried throughout the huge rooms, over the clamoring conversational DIN !!! Waiters, too, would wheel their dim sum trolleys, shouting out their contents and we would shout and wave to get his attention ... best tables were near the kitchen, where one had access to everything fresh and hot ... And then there came into mode, a few very fine restaurants which served little white dim sums like white rabbits with ears nicked out of their pastry and little black sesame seed eyes ... Despite the nature of the content of the school group comments, they were a welcome part of the project and each participant was emailed and prompted about their comments. However, there were no replies. It was hoped that this would ‘break the ice’ that had settled over the commenting facility and encourage others to begin to use it more freely. The other communication channel, the email communication between the participant and the moderator surprisingly developed into the main communication channel for the project for all the discussion or negotiation that took place. A total of 55 of the 118 contributions received required negotiation of meaning or development of content before giving sufficient information to be put onsite. This may seem deterministic but was a natural outcome of the process of receiving and moderating contributions and was not anticipated before the project began, but emerged out of the engagement with each contribution and contributor. An example of a contribution that had a positive outcome after prompting for more information is the contribution below, which was submitted with minimal information as follows in Figure 7.6: From left to right: 631.jpg – i took this picture on a tram which was going through central. 115.1.jpg – forgot where i took it but the water was clear thou. 102.1.jpg – same as 115.1 505.1.jpg – i took this picture at 23rd dec. 2005 23:30 when i was sitting on a tram going to sheung wan. 588.12.jpg – picture taken in tsing yi, where i live. from, (name withheld), 15, student 102


Figure 7.6 Example contribution.

Figure 7.7 Tram going through central ( photo/465902).

The participant was contacted and prompted for further information, stories or memories associated with the contribution. In this instance the request was responded to with an insight into the participant’s life and experience of Hong Kong, shown in Figures 7.7 and 7.8: i’ve been living in tsing yi since i was born, therefore i didnt usually ride on trams. i had never taken a tram till i was primary four. i forgot where i was going but only the picture kept in my mind throughout years: there were only few passagers on the tram. it was a hot sweltering summer day. i took a sit by the windows. gentle breezes wiped off my torrid feeings and dried my sweat. sceneries outside the windows were so new to me. the ride was rather noisy tho, it was novel and special for the little girl. time flees, now i prefer to have a ride on tram when i’m dejected. it might not be as cozy as 7 years ago. the tram sometimes can be really crowded. but it is slow enough for you to have clear visions of hong kong, the peoples, the buildings and even some trivia which is happening at the same moment in the same city. i’d feel so much 103


Figure 7.8 Tsing Yi (

better when i’ve relized that there are plenty of other affairs taking places in such tiny part of the globe. and i’m just a puny part of them. i can barely imagine hong kong without tram in the future tho it may really happen. 84 years later i probably cant get a ride on tram when i’m down. and these early memories will likely to be vanished with times. but i guess history of hong kong will not put the tram – this aggregate remembrance aside. most of my early childhood memories took place in tsing yi. i moved from a 20th floor apartment to a 3-floors house facing a police station. and my family lives in the 3rd floor. the house actually belongs to my grandfather, who has been living in tsing yi for years. most people thinks this is a desolate place surrounded by sea. but i don’t think so as there are some traditional chinese opera shows will be held in march or april every year to celetrate the birthday of some celestials. there are some hawkers selling snacks or classic chinese accessories beneath some huge floral plaques with lots of lightbulbsb glistening … and very crowded … inside the scaffold children likes to get as near to the actors as possible. they climb on the cabinets near the stage and watch the show. and of course, most of the audiences are aged. it’s february now. the working group is arranging the show. this year, i’d like to watch the show with my grandfather, as it may be the last year i can accompany him for the event. 104


i didnt search any real historial fact but only wrote all these by my personal memories of hong kong. i hope these will help :) peace, (name withheld) The photographs contributed were ambiguous and indistinct, however, with the addition of the text the contribution became meaningful and insightful. The communication with the moderator encouraged the participant to reflect and interpret the photographs, rather than simply post a one line explanation. Not all email exchanges were successful of course, the first contribution received on the 21 January took until the 11 February to upload onto the site, and even then there was no further information received, as requested, apart from the title. Every participant’s contribution was put onsite eventually; if there was no response from the email exchange then the contribution would be put on the site as it stood. The most common problem was that the contribution contained too many photographs and no interpretation, sometimes no text. If this was the case then sometimes the photographs would be grouped by the moderator, or a selection would be made. The participant was always contacted to check onsite to see if they were happy with their contribution, and any resulting requests were addressed. Contributions The resulting contributions ranged widely in content and theme. It was anticipated that there would be many repeating entries, e.g. of important landmarks and symbolic or famous sites such as Victoria Harbour. Significantly, the contributions were written mainly from importance of an individual experience as opposed to an overall Hong Kong significance and although some used the same starting point, the interpretations were never duplicated. Contributions included experience of Festivals, a tram journey, the Flower Market at Lunar New Year and Hong Kong’s democracy movement. It was also anticipated that Hong Kong’s 80 declared monuments might feature a great deal in the contributions, where in fact only one, Victoria Prison, was featured and this regarding its significance as a location in a residential area rather than the architectural or political importance of the site. There were ten themes, represented by the ‘Albums’; the themes covered as wide a range as possible; ‘Hong Kong things’ was purposefully ambiguous to allow surprising aspects of Hong Kong’s heritage to be included. Figure 7.9 shows a range of contributions, from left to right: a make-up artist at work on a Hong Kong film, a homeless person’s home, the Central Escalator, rush hour on the 105


Figure 7.9 Selected contributions.

MTR, ‘neons and taxis’, the Rugby Sevens, ‘Hong Kong buildings’, disappearing old buildings, WTO protestors, the Hong Kong democracy march, ‘making a mess of Statue Square’, Hong Kong Fringe Club, Hui Chun–Lucky Messages, Chinese Opera, watching the Opera, Dim Sum, ‘disappearing history’, Sai Kung Tin Man, ‘Under the Lion Rock’ and finally a photograph of a sunbather on his roof, showing the proximity of Victoria Prison in the background; the prisoners are preparing for cleaning duties. A total of 118 contributions were received over 47 days from 40 participants, which was much lower than had been anticipated. This was despite the maximum publicity possible for a project of such a small size with no funding; the publicity included inclusion in the City Festival 2006 publicity materials, radio interviews, newspaper interviews and a magazine interview as well as email contact with the virtual community. The ratio of participants to contributions indicates that statistically each person contributed twice. This was not actually the case, but often participants returned and offered another contribution. Some were enthusiastic and felt that Hong Kong was not adequately represented and wanted to help, for example one 106


participant sent in fifteen contributions, and then sent in a further three more as he felt that there was still so much missing. Others were pleased with their contribution and sent in one more, such as a participant who had lived in Hong Kong between the 1970s and 1990s and sent a couple of contributions in accordance with this. She was enthusiastic and one of the few to engage with the other contributions, adding thoughtful comments and questions for example, the final comment on dim sum in Figure 7.5. The majority of contributions related to the intangible aspects of everyday life, which is not surprising according to Teather and Chow (2003) as the priority of protecting built heritage is not as important to the community of Hong Kong as is maintaining social networks and memory relating to the biological and social heritage. Only thirteen buildings were submitted for inclusion in the memory capsule, perhaps a reflection on the low value placed on the built fabric. Despite receiving many exceptional contributions, overall participation was low, especially in relation to negotiation of meaning between participants. Contextual factors proposed to contribute to the low level of participation included the cultural context of post colonial Hong Kong, issues of identity, attitudes to conservation, ownership of cultural heritage and possibly a fear of technology. Contributing factors also relate to the relationship formed between the virtual community members and their relationship to the project. There has been research into the motivations for contributing to virtual communities; Kollock (1999: 227) outlines three: anticipated reciprocity, increased reputation and sense of efficacy. As discussed, most of the collaboration took place between the moderator and the participants, instead of the participants displaying behaviour typical to a virtual community. Virtual communities are usually formed organically by individuals with similar interests and depend on active participation, unlike many other informal learning environments, such as museums and heritage sites in which the audience is traditionally passive, or nominative groups in which audience members behave as collective individuals. These communities offer a different context in which to engage in interpretation and hence enable a different form of interpretation to be supported. However one of the main questions raised by this implementation is one of motivation; is it possible to motivate a response adequate to justify the setting up of ‘official’ virtual communities, linked to ‘memory institutions’, as they seem to be successful only when they are unofficial and organically formed by interested individuals. They are not usually mediated, which they have to be if hosted for an organisation, such as the Fringe Club. The authors had also encountered difficulties in motivating participation when testing a previous project, an online resource for community interpretation of a temple in Hong Kong (Affleck and Kvan 2005). 107


What did we learn? While reflecting on the outcome of the project, an initial question raised was: did the content of a significant number of the contributions actually constitute ‘discursive interpretation’? This means that each participant or viewer was given an insight into the meaning of heritage by constructing or viewing an interpretation. Although any judgement on each individual contribution could easily be viewed as subjective, in general most contributions did give insight, sometimes in relation to the individual participant rather than to their heritage object or aspect, through their choice of image, memories, stories and interpretation. It was similar in outlook to Riviere’s (1985) distinction of the Ecomuseum. ‘It is a mirror that the local population holds up to its visitors to be better understood and so that its industry, customs and identity may command respect’. The contributions demonstrated that some participants will not be interested in engagement, others need encouragement in order to engage past a surface level and others are enthusiastic and will engage to a deep level without any prompting. It is not a process or outcome that can be anticipated beforehand or that the benefits will always outweigh the drawbacks. The setting up, maintenance and running of the Memory Capsule project indicated that in order to engage active viewers it was necessary to have an active moderator to interact with the participants, as around half required encouragement and prompting. If a cultural heritage virtual community is left to its own devices it may not always form in a hierarchy conducive to high levels of engagement. This is very different in an organically formed virtual community as it is populated by members with high levels of enthusiasm and knowledge about the particular subject matter; the level of engagement sustains group behaviour and hierarchies necessary to maintain a life span for the virtual community. The effect of group dynamics on a cultural heritage virtual community is therefore a key consideration, as the outcome is difficult to predict. Other issues raised during the implementation related to the sustainability of content, and copyright and ownership issues in the creation of a collaborative resource. The use of social software has both advantages and disadvantages. The dynamic nature of open-sourced software means that the data developed and stored in a digital environment risks being limited in accessibility or even rendered inaccessible by future hardware or software developments. This is a problem shared to some degree by all digital environments and for all virtual heritage projects, the irony being that the life span of prehistoric cave paintings may be predicted to outlive many current virtual heritage projects. This has been recognised by UNESCO, who adopted the Charter on the Preservation of the Digital Heritage (UNESCO 2003) and are working on issues of collaboration and copyright (or copyleft) in digital environments. The issue of copyright was 108


raised as a result of the newspaper and magazine interviews for the Memory Capsule, as both requested images for publication. As this had not been agreed in advance with the participants, despite the common understanding that they were contributing to a collaborative, online resource, the journalists were given the email addresses to gain prior permission from the participants and add the credits to the images. The most important aim of the memory capsule project was to engage active participants in constructing knowledge and engaging with issues relating to the significance of cultural heritage in a deep as opposed to superficial manner. It is open to interpretation if any one implementation can offer the ‘best solution’ to the problems identified in descriptive or re-creation approaches to interpretation, but in the process of addressing these in the case study implementation many lessons were learned. The difficulties for heritage sites and museums to maintain a balance between engaging and educating viewers is now appreciated in greater depth. It can be easy to criticise the widely used approaches at heritage sites which cater for the majority and are deemed edutainment. They have to attempt to execute an educational approach and at the same time be economically viable. Heritage as a subject or discipline is extremely complex to communicate without presenting the range of conflicting viewpoints which are present in any contemporary society. As Howard (2003: 4) states: ‘Heritage can indeed be perceived as a dangerous concept; it is frequently nationalistic, exclusive, sexist, elitist and backward-looking. Quite often it is all too easy to see the desire for heritage as a conspiracy by the rich to acquire the property of the poor’. Linear, authoritative approaches to interpretation are outdated for the communication of the range and complexity of contemporary tangible and intangible heritage, but are still used for heritage recreations to evoke a sense of nostalgia and belonging that are popular to the majority of visitors and are enjoyed in their leisure time. Heritage sites have to maintain economic sustainability and compete in the market place for visitors with other leisure time sites. Despite this the Heritage Industry will continue to receive justified criticism from authors such as Hewison (1989: 21) who believes that Heritage is eradicating History in the replacement of ‘reality’ by the image of the past. Virtual heritage as a field has been fast to evolve, and questions have been raised regarding the content of many outcomes, such as those questioned by Economou and Tost (2006). Are the resulting outcomes educational tools or expensive toys? Can the qualities of digital media be utilised past the resulting verisimilitude of computer generated reconstructions and re-creations? Can issues such as what is culture in a virtual heritage environment (Champion 2005b) be addressed? The concept of engaging ‘active’ participants has a sound theoretical basis, but in a real life context the implementation proved to be unpredictable and time consuming, although a positive, enjoyable experience. 109


The setting up of collaborative environments using a top-down approach requires active administration for the duration of the project, unlike many online environments that will require minimal maintenance and upkeep. The more usual set up for virtual communities is from the bottom up but this is also unpredictable; even when there is a group of interested parties the unpredictable and uncontrollable group dynamics will influence the ultimate success or failure of community. Many questions and issues regarding this have arisen during our implementation including: when attempting to set up a cultural heritage virtual community, will it be possible to motivate a response from a community that is adequate to justify the setting up of an ‘official’ virtual community, linked to a ‘memory institution’? Will the resulting content be accepted as a source or regarded as populous or edutainment by heritage professionals? When using digital tools in a collectively created archive what is agreed regarding copyright and ownership? How can the resulting content be preserved past the shelf life of the software and hardware formats used to create it?

Acknowledgements Much thanks to The Hong Kong Fringe Club for their support and enthusiasm for adopting the Memory Capsule project, especially the ‘stakeholders’ Benny Chia and Michele Chui. Thanks to Steve Kuan for the Chinese Language translation and HTML assistance, to Christiane Herr for thesis proofreading and to the research group of the Department of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong for feedback and critique for the duration of the PhD and enabling testing and development of online implementations.

References Affleck, J. and Kvan, T. 2005. Reinterpreting Virtual Heritage. In CAADRIA 2005, Vol. 1. ed. A. Bhatt. New Delhi: TVB School of Habitat Studies, pp. 169–178. Champion, E. 2005a. Interactive Emergent History as a Cultural Turing Test. In VAST 2005 Symposium on Graphics and Cultural Heritage, eds M. Mudge, N. Ryan and R. Scopingo. Pisa, Italy. Champion, E. 2005b. What is culture in a virtual heritage environment? In Proceedings of The Archaeology and Computer Conference. Vienna: Corsane, G. 2005. Issues in heritage, museums and galleries. In Heritage, Museums and Galleries: An Introductory Reader, ed. G. Corsane. Oxon: Routledge, pp. 1–14. Economou, M. and Tost, L.P. 2006. Educational Tool or Expensive Toy? Evaluating VR evaluation and its relevance for virtual heritage. In New Heritage Conference: Beyond Verisimilitude; Interpretation of Cultural Heritage through New Media, eds T. Kvan and Y. Kalay. Hong Kong: Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong, pp. 82–93.



Frischer, B., Niccolucci, F., Ryan, N., and Barcelo, J. 2000. From CVR to CVRO: The Past, Present and Future of Cultural Virtual Reality. In VAST 2000: International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Intelligent Cultural Heritage, Arezzo, Italy 24–26 November 2000, ed. F. Niccolucci. Oxford: Archaeopress. Geser, G., Hazan, S., Karp, C., Kasteren, V., Spinazzé, A., Steemson, M., and Wood, H. 2004. Virtual Communities and Collaboration in the Heritage Sector. DigiCULT Thematic Issues 5. Salzburg: DigiCULT. Gillings, M. 2000. Virtual Archaeologies and the Hyper-real. In Virtual Reality in Geography, eds D. Unwin and P. Fisher. London: Taylor & Francis. Hewison, R. 1989. Heritage: an Interpretation. In Heritage Interpretation. Volume 1: The Natural and Built Environment. ed. D. Uzzell. London: Belhaven Press. Hooper-Greenhill, E. 1994. Museum Communication: An Introductory Essay. In The Educational Role of the Museum, ed. E. Hooper-Greenhill. London: Routledge, pp. 9–16. Howard, P. 2003. Heritage: Management, Interpretation, Identity. London: Continuum. Kollock, P. 1999. The Economies of Online Cooperation: Gifts and Public Goods in Cyberspace. In Communities in Cyberspace, eds M. Smith and P. Kollock. London: Routledge. Lowenthal, D. 1985. The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. Mason, R. 2005. Museums, Galleries and Heritage. Sites of Meaning-making and Communication. In G. Corsane ed. Heritage, Museums and Galleries: An Introductory Reade. Oxon: Routledge, pp. 200–214. Rheingold, H. 2000. The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. London. Internet. Available from intro.html accessed 29 September 2006. Riviere, G.H. 1985. The Ecomuseum – an Evolutive Definition. Museum, 34 (4): 182–183. Stake, R.E. 1995. The Art of Case Study Research. California: Sage Publications. Teather, E.K. and Chow, C.S. 2003. Identity and Place: the Testament of Designated Heritage in Hong Kong. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 9 (2): 93–115. Tringham, R. 2005. Putting Vision in its Place: the Interweaving of Senses to Create a Sense of Place at Çatalhöyük. In Seeing the Past: Building Knowledge of the Past and Present through Acts of Seeing. Stanford: Archaeology Center, Stanford University. UNESCO. 2003. Charter on the Preservation of the Digital Heritage. 32nd Session: The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Paris: UNESCO. Uzzell, D. 1994. Heritage Interpretation in Britain Four Decades after Tilden. In Manual of Heritage Management, ed. R. Harrison., Oxford: ButterworthHeinemann, pp. 293–302. Yin, R.K. 2003. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. California: Sage Publications.


8 C R O SS -MED IA IN T E R A C TION F O R T HE VIRT UAL M U SEU M Reconnecting to natural heritage in Boulder, Colorado Elisa Giaccardi

Abstract Silence of the Lands is a virtual museum of natural quiet in Boulder, Colorado, based on locative and tangible computing. The project promotes a model of virtuality that empowers the active and constructive role of local communities in the interpretation, preservation, and renewal of natural quiet as an important element of the natural heritage. This is accomplished by using sounds as conversation pieces of a social narrative aimed at transforming the virtual museum into an organism linking the people, perspectives, and values that pertain to the specific environmental setting of Boulder, Colorado. The project combines multiple technologies and social practices in a cross-media interaction comprising: (a) data catching (i.e. capturing sounds from the natural environment); (b) data description (i.e. mapping the soundscape on the web); and (c) data interpretation (i.e. creating a shared ideal soundscape in the public space).

Introduction Cultural meanings associated with natural heritage tend to refer to the evolutionary significance of a specific natural site. Such rhetoric situates natural heritage in contrast with contemporary human life and culture, essentially excluding humans from the authentic integrity of the site. Yet, as well demonstrated by Kumi Kato’s case study of the Shirakami-sanchi World Heritage Area, “conservation commitment is in essence a local community’s sense of connection with their surrounding nature and their commitment to maintain the integrity of a place of which they are part” (Kato 2006: 459). Supported by recent studies in anthropology and human 112


geography (Plumwood 2002; Rodman 2003; Schech and Haggis 2000), Kato’s findings suggest that a local community’s conservation commitment is critical and is formed through long connection with a place, similar to the way in which intangible cultural heritage is formed. Just as oral traditions, social practices, and traditional craftsmanship articulate intangible cultural heritage, cultural meanings and values associated with natural heritage also are “constantly recreated by communities and groups, in response to their environment, their interaction with nature, and their historical conditions of existence” (UNESCO 2005). This analysis raises many important questions for natural heritage: How can we maintain and communicate today the cultural meanings and values that connect a local community and its land? How can we sustain the knowledge and social relations underpinning such meanings and values? How can we reconcile social groups with differing, and sometimes competing, visions? From the perspective of the new media scholar and designer, a further question would be: How can we use new media to enhance sensitivity to natural surroundings, cultivate environmental culture, and build a community capable of generating shared understanding? The model proposed in this chapter responds to these challenges, as contextualized to the specific problem of open space and mountain parks management and protection in Boulder, Colorado (Figure 8.1).

Figure 8.1 An area of Boulder’s open space and mountain parks (© OSMP).



The community of Boulder, Colorado Sounds represent an intimate aspect of visitors’ perceptions and experiences of natural heritage. In 1994, the US National Park Service declared natural quiet a part of natural heritage to be preserved and enjoyed, thus acknowledging sounds as an important element of the natural places that are to be protected.1 However, as demonstrated by public debate, the concept of natural quiet is subject to change according to varying perspectives, and it often evokes contention and friction between competing social groups and the institutional offices committed to land management and preservation. In Boulder, Colorado, the Open Space and Mountain Parks Department enacted in April 2005 a Visitor Master Plan in an effort to enforce new policies for preservation and enjoyment of the city natural areas. Despite the numerous visitor studies and town meetings commissioned and organized by the City of Boulder, the Visitor Master Plan inflamed ferocious social conflicts within the local community.2 Today, a demand for more determined protection, restoration, and maintenance of natural quiet appears with greater frequency in statements of environmental groups concerned with wildlife preservation and a pristine natural experience. Opposing demands for the right to engage in more aggressive activities, such as climbing, kayaking, and horseback riding, or even motorized recreation, are raised by groups of visitors supporting such activities (Figure 8.2). This ongoing conflict demonstrates that natural quiet is not only an important matter of biophony – that is, the creature choir of undisturbed natural environments (Kraus 2002). It is also a matter of desired and unwanted sounds, an instantiated and expressed by a community’s values, practices and activities in the natural place of which they are part (Schafer 1977). However, involving potential visitors in user studies and democratic forms of land management is not enough to reconcile this dichotomy. First and foremost it is necessary to promote a “communitybased self-regulatory system” (Kato 2006) in which not only biodiversity, habitat, and ecosystem, but also people’s creativity and imagination, are important.

Reconnecting to natural heritage through sounds In collaboration with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department, we asked ourselves whether it would be possible to use new media to create and sustain, over time, a connection between the Boulder community and its land. The idea was to allow community members and stakeholders to use sounds rather than words to express and share in a more intimate way their experience of the natural heritage to be protected and managed. 114


Figure 8.2 Ways of experiencing natural heritage along the Boulder Creek (© OSMP).

Based on some initial studies and meetings with our stakeholders, and in an interdisciplinary collaboration among artists, researchers, and scientists across the United States, Great Britain, and Italy, we started the development of Silence of the Lands ( The primary objective of this project is to encourage an engaged way of listening to the natural environment and to support a situated and narrative mode of interpreting natural quiet that may foster community building and contribute to environmental culture and sustainable development. What we envision is to connect the Boulder community and its land, and to cultivate their creative relationship by enabling inhabitants and stakeholders to look at each other’s experiences, connect with each other’s perceptions, and inform their actions upon the shared narrative that is unfolding over time. To accomplish this objective Silence of the Lands is designed to engage the members of the Boulder community in recording and mapping their own experiences in the form of digital representations, and then to use these representations to express and explore their different values and perspectives. As described in detail in later sections, multiple media and social practices are put in place to support and articulate this interaction in a process comprising: (1) collecting sounds from the natural environment; 115


(2) mapping and composing the collected sounds into a personal soundscape of the natural environment; and (3) collaborating on a shared understanding of natural heritage. The hypothesis is that by extracting sounds from the local environment and composing them in personal acoustic ecologies, people will produce soundscapes that reflect their environmental knowledge, practices, and concerns.3 This will provide the community with a new sense of ownership derived from the act of naming and interpreting the land (Plumwood 2002) and with an opportunity to learn from each other in a spontaneous and informal fashion. As described later, it will also provide stakeholders with a means to monitor public trends, sustain educational programs, and facilitate participative processes of decision making.

The Silence of the Lands project Diane lives in Boulder and she likes hiking. She likes the tranquility of pristine environments, and often participates in the interpretative trails organized by the City of Boulder to explore the wetlands in the winter or observe the snowbirds, according to the topic of the trail. She is excited at the idea of participating in a soundwalk and keeping some sort of journal of her experience to share with her friends. Diane likes the way in which the sounds she collects and the comments she associates with them are shown online, and the project’s workshops are very useful in introducing her to this practice. If she collects a new sound or somebody else adds a sound to the collective soundscape and she is not happy with it, she likes to spend time working on her soundscape, adding new comments, and clustering sounds in a different way. Moreover, her friends have started to join her, and she enjoys collaborating with them to map and promote the tranquility of the Boulder open space and mountain parks. She likes going on soundwalks with them and then interacting online by listening to and commenting on each other’s soundscapes. She enjoys the public installation too: she says it is fun to see the results of sound collection and mapping in such an immersive way and to interact with other visitors. She likes bringing in her friends and sometimes participating in the educational activities organized by the Museum of Natural History around the installation. Recently, Diane made a new friend, Ben. He loves the composite quiet of the Boulder Creek Park where natural and human sounds blend in a unique composition, and is planning to collect sound in that area. She had never thought of that as a place of natural heritage. 116


The design of Silence of the Lands is based on the assumption that the development of technological support is not sufficient to engage the local community in participation and make the project successful. As demonstrated by case studies such as MUVI (Giaccardi 2006) and Southville Mediascapes (Miskelly and Fleuriot 2006), crucial elements for the success of community media projects involve designing an open process of heritage collection and interpretation, weaving it into the fabric of existing practices and activities inside the local community, identifying social and emotional support mechanisms, and collaborating with local stakeholders and social groups. Informed by this idea, and as illustrated by the scenario, Silence of the Lands represents an environment in which: (a) the role of preservation and conservation is not simply to archive natural sounds but to give voice to a broad range of interpretations; (b) display and exhibition takes on a dynamic and open interplay with education and outreach; and (c) the entire framework is transformed by the stakeholders’ capability of autonomously acting as facilitators in the context of their community by means of the technology available to them. Silence of the Lands is currently under development at the Center for LifeLong Learning & Design (L3 D), Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado at Boulder (USA), in collaboration with the Institute of Digital Art and Technology (i-DAT), University of Plymouth (UK), and the Pictorial Computing Laboratory, University of Brescia (Italy). Given the scale of the project and the complexity of the social and technical issues addressed, we have adopted an experimental research methodology meant to gradually introduce and test our prototypes in the Boulder community in collaboration with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department and the Museum of Natural History of the University of Colorado, and collaboratively assess the social and cultural impacts of Silence of the Lands over a long period of time. The following sections describe the model of virtual museum proposed by Silence of the Lands, and the technical and social infrastructures underlying the development and ongoing evaluation of such a model.

Towards a new kind of virtual museum Using ambient sounds as pieces of a social conversation on natural quiet requires bringing together not only the physical elements that represent it, but also the multiple perspectives that shed light upon how it was and is perceived and understood by others – as well demonstrated in other instances by the studies of Heath et al. (2002) and Giaccardi (2004).4 This demands a focus not just on the digital archive of sounds collected, but on the whole body of environmental knowledge and social relations responsible for the cultural meanings and values associated with the natural heritage. 117


This goal can be achieved by creating an environment in which natural quiet is understood and interpreted through an actual and situated interaction with ambient sounds. In this environment, virtuality is intended to be the method of empowering the creative interaction between the current understanding of the natural heritage, its potential interpretations, and the tangible characteristics of the sounds with which the experience of the natural heritage is associated (Benedetti 2002). The virtual museum model proposed here is not merely that of a digital archive meant to collect and preserve in time and space the representation of a specific heritage. Rather, it is a “repertoire” – meant to sustain the whole system of knowledge and social relations responsible for a heritage creation, transmission, and reproduction as a living system (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 2004). It is the model of a museum that, as advocated by Hugues de VarineBohan (1996), takes its keynotes from the dialectical relations between man and its environment, and mirrors the questions that individuals and social groups are asking themselves. In this kind of virtual museum, the intangible content of auditory perceptions, cultural meanings, and values associated with natural heritage is collaboratively generated, aggregated, and re-aggregated over time. This unfolding narrative is the result of the connection between a local community and its land, supported, both factually and imaginatively, by the social and technological infrastructures of the proposed model. Virtual museum is hence intended and proposed not in the common terms of “digitized content”, but in the philosophical sense of reality in a continuous process of actualization5 (Giaccardi 2006). As described in detail in the following sections, this model is based on a combination of multiple media and social practices often referred to as cross-media interaction (Gaia et al. 2005).6 Combined with sensitivity in sustaining and regulating a community’s social practice, cross-media applications help recover structures of conversation and social relations between humans and between human and non-human worlds that are not detached from the physicality of the heritage. According to the characteristics of the heritage that needs to be accessed and represented, we can use cross-media interaction to attribute to the physical component different functions and degrees of importance (Benedetti 2002), and make participation fit more naturally with the social practices through which people act and interact with their local environment (Dourish 2006).

Cross-media interaction design By moving away from the treatment of one medium as primary (Chalmers and Galani 2004; Dix et al. 2005), the cross-media interaction of Silence of the Lands builds upon a technological infrastructure combining locative media7 and tangible social interfaces.8 This infrastructure sustains the 118


Figure 8.3 Images from the testing of the locative application (© Politecnico di Torino).

connection between the local community and its land in the form of an interaction comprising: (a) data catching, (b) data description, and (c) data interpretation. (a) DATA CATCHING: Collecting ambient sounds from the natural environment. By means of a personal digital assistant (PDA) application (Figure 8.3), ambient sounds are collected from the natural environment, linked to the person that collected them, and associated with GPS data.9 These data will determine the location in space and time of the recorded sounds and allow them to be visualized on a GIS map.10 On the GIS map other information, such as who recorded the sounds and how the sounds have been interpreted, are made available through the following activities of data description and interpretation. (b) DATA DESCRIPTION: Mapping the soundscape on the web. After ambient sounds are collected, they are stored in an online database, visualized on the GIS map, and made available on the web to participants as well as occasional visitors in the form of an interactive soundscape (Figure 8.4). The same web interface enables participants to access their sounds, compose them together, and associate several descriptors (from color-coded attributes to keywords, images, and comments) to them. (c) DATA INTERPRETATION: Creating an ideal soundscape in the public space. In the public space, participants and occasional visitors can access the interactive soundscape produced. By manipulating and playing with physical objects on the computational table where the soundscape is displayed (Figure 8.5), participants are encouraged to interpret sounds collaboratively. Thus, together they can create the ideal soundscape they would like to be preserved and in which they would like to live. 119


Figure 8.4 Prototypes of the web interface based on MapServer (left) and Google APIs (right) (© L3D).

Figure 8.5 Prototype of the tangible social interface based on the L3D’s envisionment and discovery collaboratory technology (Arias et al. 2000) (© L3D).

Whereas the first two activities are interdependent, the third activity, interpretation, does not require visitors to have participated in the previous two. In other words, we expect those taking “snapshots” of the sounds to later describe them and compose them in soundscapes, similar to the way in which people take pictures, download them on the computer, annotate them, and then compose them in photo albums, but we do not necessarily expect the same people to interact around the table (they can be different members of the community). Likewise, exploring the soundscape on the web or in the public space does not require visitors to be active participants, if they do not want to be. The scenario presented in an earlier section illustrates the general characteristics of the architecture of interaction engendered by Silence of the Lands. This architecture of interaction is based on cross-media principles that we have developed specifically for this project. 120


The following subsections describe the main characteristics of this cross-media interaction supported by the technological infrastructure. Afterwards, the next section describes the related social infrastructures and our assessment plans. Data transfer and information flow What connects the actual experience of the natural heritage and its virtual representation is the process of data transfer that makes information flow from one interaction space to another: from the natural environment to the web and the public space, and back again. We have designed this process of data transfer so that information flow would feed and substantiate the connection between the local community and its land both at the factual and imaginative level. Ambient sounds are captured from the natural environment and collected by using a locative application that we have originally developed to transform the PDA into a light and compact “sound camera” (Figure 8.6, no. 3). Each recorded sound is linked to the person who collects it (Figure 8.6, no. 2) and associated with GPS data that determines

Figure 8.6 Overview of cross-media interaction: (1) GPS satellite tracking; (2) Participants in open space; (3) Locative interface for sound collection; (4) Wireless connection (when available); (5) Web server; (6) Web interface for collaborative mapping on the web; (7) Tangible social interface for collaborative mapping in the public space (© Alessandro Grella).



its location in space and time (Figure 8.6, no. 1). This is the activity that we have categorized as “data catching”. It encourages a way of experiencing the natural environment that is authentic, direct, and intimate, and ultimately reflective of one’s practices and values. Once recorded, sounds are transferred wirelessly (Figure 8.6, no. 4) from the PDA to the online database (Figure 8.6, no. 5) and made available on the Silence of the Lands website (Figure 8.6, no. 6) to participants as well as occasional visitors. On the web, participants can access and describe their own sounds and compose them in a personal soundscape (conceptually the equivalent of a photo album, but more immersive and interactive, and annotated with several descriptors). The outcome of these individual activities is the collaborative mapping of the Boulder open space and mountain parks’ soundscape, which is generated by the sum of everyone’s sounds and descriptors. This is the activity that we have categorized as “data description”. It allows participants to recall their experience through the filter of personal memory, and thus to superimpose their environmental knowledge and perspectives on the factual relationship with the natural heritage that is encouraged by locative computing. The resulting soundscape represents the starting point for members of the community, either regular participants or occasional visitors, to collaborate on the construction of the ideal soundscape they would like to be preserved and in which they would like to live. In the public space, by means of an interactive table around which people can socially gather and interact (Figure 8.6, no. 7), people are encouraged to collaboratively select and reinterpret existing sounds in order to create an ideal soundscape. Each public session produces a temporary representation of the ideal soundscape that reflects the shared vision of those participating in the session. Over time, these temporary representations are integrated into a historical representation, making the ideal soundscape evolve over time in a way similar to the soundscape produced by the online collaborative mapping. A comparative visualization of the ideal soundscape is constantly provided both on the web, in a distinct section of the Silence of the Lands website, and in the public space. This is the activity that we have categorized as “data interpretation”. It encourages participants to explore and connect to community members’ experiences and perceptions and to build upon them a shared understanding (Gaver 2002). Each of these activities is designed to support unique features of interaction among the members of the local community, the authentic setting provided by the natural environment, and the computational data that enable its social representation and interpretation as a natural heritage. A keystone of this cross-media interaction is that one member’s action (e.g. collecting certain sounds or describing them in a certain way) not only stimulates the acting person to reflect, but it also stimulates other members of the community to reflect and then inform their actions in response 122


(Fischer et al. 2005; Schön 1992). By eliminating some of the barriers produced by spatial distances (“voices from far away”), temporal distances (“voices from the past”), conceptual distances (“voices from people with different knowledge and values”), and technological distances (“virtual voices embedded in the artifacts”) – as suggested by Fischer (2005) – the cross-media architecture of Silence of the Lands enables information to flow through distinct and “seamfully” integrated interaction spaces and to “precipitate” over time. As a result, the community’s shared understanding is constructed little by little, according to the affordances of the space with which a member is interacting and through which information is travelling. Multiple entry points and engagement trajectories The combination of different media and interaction spaces offers to community members multiple entry points: the Boulder open space and mountain parks, the place to go with your PDA to record sounds; the private space of the online connection, the site to annotate and map your sounds, look at what others are doing, and post comments; and finally, the public space, the venue to interact face-to-face with others and collaboratively play to imagine your ideal soundscape. This combination of entry points provides the community with multiple engagement trajectories – that is, multiple ways in which to approach the project, get involved, and eventually migrate from a passive to an active role. For example, people who are usually interested in outdoor activities may find the idea of collecting sounds in the natural environment to be a motivating factor to get engaged in the project and subsequently also in the other activities of collaborative mapping. In the cross-media architecture of Silence of the Lands, the open space would represent for them the entry point into the project. Or occasional visitors may find the interaction around the table interesting enough to turn this experience into a motivating factor and get involved also in activities of sound collection and online collaborative mapping. In this case, the public space represents an entry point into the project. In other instances (e.g. for people who spend most of their time in front of a computer), the web may represent the entry point into the activities promoted by the project. Even though there is no requirement for the members of the community to be involved in all the activities or to be always active, the cross-media architecture of Silence of the Lands is designed to encourage people to migrate back and forth from the passive role of a visitor merely involved in browsing activities to the active role of a participant engaged in activities of sound collection and collaborative mapping. As illustrated by the scenario presented in the earlier section, Silence of the Lands provides the community with a technological infrastructure and participation platform that enables novel and emergent activities to fit naturally into existing social practices and the ways in which people act and interact with their land 123


and within their community. More details on the social infrastructures put in place to reach out to diverse segments of the Boulder community are provided in the following section.

Challenges of community participation Individual practices and values, combined with a sense of playfulness, have critical roles in supporting the activities of sound collection and collaborative mapping. Nevertheless, participation has limits that are contingent on the nature of each individual’s situation, as well as the processes provided for participation by the available technology (Arias et al. 2000). Finding new ways to address these challenges is key to keeping alive the heritage and the various perspectives that contribute to it. The cross-media interaction afforded by Silence of the Lands addresses these challenges by engaging the local community in listening to the natural environment and collecting ambient sounds. Once recorded and made available, sounds become the primary means of translating the various individual perspectives and enabling different people to express and share their individual knowledge by acting as the conversation pieces of a social narrative about natural quiet (Bowker and Star 1999). However, as anticipated, the development of the technological infrastructure is not sufficient to engage the local community and make the project successful. Creating the conditions for participation and collaboration is as important as creating the artifact itself (Fischer and Giaccardi 2006). The participative mechanism to be activated through cross-media interaction and the sensitivity in sustaining and regulating it over long periods of time are the critical factors (Giaccardi 2006). Social support mechanisms must be identified and shaped in collaboration with stakeholders and with the participation of local social networks in order to stimulate and encourage community participation and be able to regulate it over a sustained period of time. Social infrastructures The approach adopted in the design and evaluation of Silence of the Lands is close to the idea of the “breaching experiment” suggested in Crabtree (2004). It considers the combination of technological and social infrastructures as a social event meant to trigger change into the active relationship between the local community and its patterns of interaction with the land. Although built-in support for participation is an integral part of the technological infrastructure, social infrastructures also need to be activated in order to support engaging “user generated experiences” (Vogiazou et al. 2006) and to activate those social synergies and mechanisms that will sustain and regulate community participation (Adams and Goldbard 2001; Giaccardi 2006) over time. 124


After two years of design, early prototyping, and setting of the initial social infrastructures (Giaccardi et al. 2005; Giaccardi et al. 2006),11 the work currently focuses on the development and in situ evaluation of the tools and processes for data catching and data description. These two processes involve the sound collection enabled by the PDA application and the online collaborative mapping process by which community members can generate an interactive soundscape of Boulder open space and mountain parks. In collaboration with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) and Water Quality Department, and with the Support of the CU-Boulder Outreach Commitee, we plan to introduce the local community to the tools and processes for data catching and data description in summer 2007. We plan to seed and assess community participation by organizing some initial “soundwalks” and workshops with a heterogeneous group of local volunteers and in the context of existing practices and activities, such as the OSMP Natural Selections Hikes (Figure 8.7). Soundwalks Three soundwalks are going to be organized in July 2007 as part of the OSMP Natural Selections Hikes. During these hikes members of the local community will collect ambient sounds from the natural environment

Figure 8.7 Scenes and material from current OSMP Natural Selection Hikes (© OSMP).



by using provided experimental PDAs.12 The first trail will be along the Boulder Creek Path, which presents a quite composite soundscape and is home to many diverse social practices. OSMP interpretative naturalists will identify the other two soundwalks in order to progressively move towards quieter areas of the open space and mountain parks. The envisioned progression from less quiet to more quiet areas should help assess participants’ learning processes with regard to listening skills. Soundwalks will be individual. In this way, the volunteer participants will be able to take as much time as needed and to stop as many times as desired; furthermore, an individual hike will have less of an impact than a group hike on the acoustic ecology of quiet areas.13 Community workshop A community workshop is going to be organized to facilitate and better understand community participation. Volunteers will have one week for each indicated soundwalk, and three weeks total for any other soundwalks they would like to take. After the first soundwalk, all volunteers will be asked to take part in a workshop in which they will be instructed on how to upload sounds through the web interface and create soundscapes and will be observed while proceeding on to collaborative mapping. For the successive hikes, volunteers will be provided with the opportunity to come to the university lab and be technically assisted if they do not yet feel comfortable with using the available technology. Otherwise, volunteers will be free to manage their activities of sound collection and collaborative mapping in whatever times, places, and modes they desire. We will monitor these activities by collecting a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. This first assessment will provide us with indications for refining our tools and processes for sound collection and online collaborative mapping and allow us to move towards the next stage of development and assessment of the tangible social interface in collaboration with the Museum of Natural History of the University of Colorado.

Need for a long-term and multi-dimensional assessment Assessments of tools and processes at different stages of development and introduction in the community are to be conducted in real settings, but also need to be “structured” to some extent in order to be formative. However, the scope and complexity of Silence of the Lands call for a summative evaluation that assesses the impact of the technical and social infrastructures once they have been in place and appropriated for some time. Will it work? The combination of multiple interaction spaces, in which locative and tangible computing meet complex social activities (Crabtree 2004), makes 126


anticipating the outcome of this evaluation in a programmatic way difficult. Moreover, as argued by Miskelly and Fleuriot (2006) with regard to the Southville Mediascapes Project, community-based media projects, and in particular those entailing locative media production, bring novel creative opportunities for community participation. But they also bring constraints in that, as Miskelly and Fleuriot state: “An open, inclusive approach, allowing for gradual appropriation, different modes of engagement and development of community ownership requires time and resources” (165). For this reason, we have designed a framework for placing our formative assessments in the context of a long-term and multi-dimensional evaluation (Shneiderman et al. 2006) meant to assess several combined aspects: (a) technology and interface ease of use and appropriation; (b) quality of experience and types of engagement; (c) educational, cultural, and social impact on the local community (e.g. change in listening skills, environmental perception, and social dialogue); and finally, (d) cultural and organizational impact on stakeholders (e.g. change in working relationships and activities). This involves answering several questions. For example: What emotional responses do ambient sounds elicit, and how are they used and interpreted? Does the representation provided by collaborative mapping feed back participation and sustain a shared understanding? Do users construct an experience that helps them establish a more meaningful and committed connection to the natural heritage and the local community to which they belong? On the stakeholders’ side: Have stakeholders learned to autonomously act as facilitators in the context of their local communities by using the technology available to them? Have new community practices and activities been permanently incorporated into stakeholders’ programs as a result of their engagement in the project (e.g. new ways to monitor public trends, new educational programs, or novel participative forms of decision-making)?14

Conclusions Silence of the Lands promotes a model of a virtual museum that empowers the active and constructive role of local communities in natural heritage interpretation, conservation, and renewal. In this museum, the shared understanding of the natural heritage is an aftermath of the continuous process of interaction and interpretation connecting the local community and its land that is supported by cross-media interaction. What we envision is connecting a local community and its land, and cultivating their creative relationship by enabling inhabitants and stakeholders to look at each other’s experiences, connect with each other’s perceptions, and inform their actions upon the shared narrative that is unfolding over time. In this sense, the proposed virtual museum model is not that of the digital archive, but 127


that of the “repertoire” – meant to sustain the whole system of knowledge and social relations responsible for a heritage creation, transmission, and renewal. What this model ultimately suggests to the new media designer interested in cultural heritage is that information and communication technologies are not merely tools for representing and preserving heritage in time and space, but can be a force and stimulus for community building and sustainable development. Combined with sensitivity in sustaining and regulating a community’s social practice, cross-media applications of locative and tangible computing recover structures of conversation and social relations between humans and between human and non-human worlds that are not detached from the physicality of the heritage, and can attribute to this physical component different functions and degrees of importance according to the characteristics of what needs to be represented.

Acknowledgements For inspiring and supporting this work, the author wishes to thank: Ernesto Arias, Hal Eden, and Gerhard Fischer (University of Colorado at Boulder); Daniela Fogli (University of Brescia, Italy); Chris Speed (University of Plymouth, UK); and Jennelle Freeston and Deborah Matlock (City of Boulder). A special thanks goes to Gianluca Sabena, Francesca Pedrazzi, and Ilaria Gelsomini for their invaluable contribution to the development of the project. A first version of this paper was presented at the “New Heritage Forum” in Hong Kong, China, March 2006.

Notes 1 See the Natural Sounds Program Office: The office is part of the National Park Service, US Department of the Interior. 2 See, for example, the articles published in the Boulder, Colorado, Daily Camera, “Where the trail splits” (December 2004) and “Open space debate rages” (April 2005) on the conflict between environmentalists and open space recreationists raised by the city’s Visitor Master Plan. 3 This hypothesis on the potential of locative media is supported by the results of projects of public authoring and everyday archaeology such as Social Tapestries (, Murmur (, and ‘Scape the Hood ( But community-based uses are still rare and embryonic; see, for example, the Southville Mediascapes Project described by Miskelly and Fleuriot (2006). 4 The difference between the two studies is on how to enrich the interpretative resources of a given museum object in the context of exhibit design in order to improve the visitor experience (Heath et al. 2002; see also Bannon et al. 2005) vs. how to leverage the interpretative resources of a community in order to instantiate the production and communication of intangible heritage (Giaccardi 2006; see also Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 2004).



5 This understanding of virtuality entails a different approach to the notions of interaction space and media boundaries usually categorized in mixed-reality environments (see, for example, Benford et al. 1998). 6 Cross-media interaction recently has been used also in the field of humancomputer interaction by Charlotte Wiberg to improve the understanding of interaction design as a cross-media activity without boundaries (see the call of the Cross-Media Interaction Design Conference, A similar focus on interaction and information migrating across devices has been expressed by the call of the Workshop on Multiple and Ubiquitous Interaction organized at the University of Aarhus by Susanne Bødker and colleagues ( 7 Locative media are media focusing on technologies for geographical mapping and positioning. 8 Tangible social interfaces are interfaces based on the manipulation of physical objects and meant to support social interaction in public places. See Jennings (2005). 9 Global Positioning System (GPS) refers to the satellite-based radio positioning systems that provide position, velocity, and time information to suitably equipped users anywhere on the surface of Earth. 10 Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computer-based system for capture, storage, retrieval, analysis, and display of all forms of geographically rendered information. 11 See, for updated details,, which also presents the user interface studies and usability studies conducted for the design of our early prototypes. 12 Even though participants will be able to download the software for the PDA directly from the web and use their own devices, PDAs will be provided by the research team for this first phase of assessment. 13 Of course, nothing prevents participants from going into the open space with their friends or children, if they so desire. This flexibility allows the capture of different perspectives and social practices. 14 For example, the City of Boulder OSMP is very interested in appropriating Silence of the Lands to monitor how the community perceives different areas of the open space and mountain parks and to observe shifts in public trends. The Museum of Natural History, in contrast, is very interested in embedding Silence of the Lands into new educational programs about the biodiversity of Boulder open space and mountain parks.

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Abstract An analysis of historical narratives and four distinguished projects to reveal the city history is the starting point for an exploration of digital media contributions for the city history representation. In two of them, a foreigner’s investigation of the city history is delivered through traditional media in an unconventional and creative format. The other two present digital experiments by the same research group to convey the history of the city. A web-based system prototype embodies several ideas delivered through these discussions and precedents. The system associates historical documents related to the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to significant places within the city. Historical 3D city models locate those documents to the city and support to strengthen the city dwellers’ sense of place.

Introduction The system Rio-H originated from investigation of several authors whose works related to the city history and the way historians communicate their research. The process of unfolding Rio-H should be linked to this investigation and the resulting system should respond to the researched ideas. This chapter aims to document and discuss this process through the evaluation of those inquiries and other authors’ precedents. Rio-H is a web-based system that connects a database of historical documents to meaningful buildings or sites in specific historical moments represented through 3D models. The main purpose of the system, which is not clearly stated for the users, is to use the network of the city’s built heritage as a vehicle to strengthen the user’s attachment to the place. Rio-H aims to support tying the Cariocas (a Brazilian term that identifies those



who were born in Rio de Janeiro) to the place where they live. Therefore, the system is primarily directed to those who already know the city. They could be residents, former residents or even visitors. Each entity in that network should reveal the history of the societies responsible for its physical existence in addition to the groups connected to it while inhabiting the city in different historical moments. The strength of the built heritage inserted in an urban space is the potential to connect the historical object to its history in people’s everyday life experience and to both past and current spatial contexts. The success of this connection is actually an effective way to develop one’s sense of place. The graphic section of the system was not developed to simulate a physical experience of the places in the past, but rather to enhance the actual users’ experience of the current spaces. In addition to that, 3D images attempt to facilitate the understanding of past accounts through the users’ experiences within the actual city. Thus, the use of digital images in the system should stimulate the engagement of users’ unique experience of the urban space, instead of attempting to provide a realistic, but artificial, biased, and incomplete interpretation of that space in the past.

An alternative to the historical narrative In order to understand Rio-H’s contribution as a digital alternative to historians’ methodology to represent their research field, it is important to overview the debate on historical narrative. Although the British historian, Peter Burke, disregarded digital media in his analysis, he claimed that historians should search for alternatives to their narratives in innovative experiences developed in other areas, particularly literature and cinema. Those experiences challenged the notion of narrator or chronological sequence and responded to many historical narrative shortcomings. Peter Burke wrote that the debate should not be “concerned with the question, whether or not to write narrative, but with the problem of what kind of narrative to write” (Burke 1991). History as a science has evolved from ancient storytelling. The individuals who first shared their stories among others aimed to perpetuate their family and social group experiences. Since then, until the first half of the twentieth century, traditional narrative has been the major and almost unquestionable form of historical representation. Around the 1920s, influenced by Marx’s ideology and social science methodology, various authors raised issues that would question the scientific value of historical narrative. One of the main complaints was that the historical narrative focused on the individuals. If until then the what and how questions were the main concerns of historical narratives, the shift should be towards the why historical questions (Stone 2001).



There are significant differences between the representation of a historical event by narrative historians and their structural colleagues. The former tend to base their historical explanation on individual character and intention as opposed to the latter’s focus on the existing society’s structure such as economy, politics, demography, and so on. Narrative champions construct their version on the assumption that individual historical agents are more significant than structural aspects to explain an historical event. Therefore, a descriptive narrative is more suitable for their historical representation. Their description is usually set up in chronological order where events and personal decisions are linked together. These historians were criticized for personifying collective entities such as government and church and oversimplifying historical events, elaborating on a representation that could not be scientifically verified. Besides that and because of that, their rivals argued that from the same set of primary documents, historians could develop opposing and still valid versions. Although structural historians do not exclude narratives in their historical representation, they avoid their descriptive beginning-middle-end structure. They assert that there should be a distinction between popular and academic history. According to them, academic historians should avoid telling stories and concentrate on the analysis of problems and structures (Burke 1991). Some of the criticism towards structural historians concerns their rigid, reductionist and determinist attitudes. Diminishing the importance of historical characters, they reduce their individuality and suggest that any person in that situation would take the same decision. Burke identified three major problems of historical narratives in which literary and cinema experiments could offer alternative solutions: the representation of conflicts such as civil wars, which has very distinct versions; narrative competence in representing reality; and the dispute between narrative and structural historians. He demonstrated surprise that historian do not apply novelist techniques such as telling the story from different points of view to overcome the difficulties in representing large scale conflicts. Those conflicts are written most of the time from the winners’ point of view. Some literary experiments offer powerful devices to present to the readers both sides of the conflict and allow them the opportunity for a more thorough interpretation. He exemplifies with literary works by Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner and Lawrence Durrell. While he was finishing his essay, he noted that Richard Price published the noteworthy book “Alabi’s World” (1990) on Surinam’s eighteenth-century history. His study presented four different voices: the black slaves, the Dutch administrators, the Moravian missionaries and the author himself. Price demonstrated the differences between opposing versions by the antagonistic agents and also in time through his own voice and the historical agents (Burke 1991). 134


Regarding the competence to represent reality, according to Burke, more and more historians were realizing that they present just a “particular view of what actually happened” (Burke 1991). A major problem is that, typically, history books display that particular view as the representation of past reality. Authors do not communicate to the readers the awareness that their work is just one version of the facts. Traditional narrative is not very adequate for this task. Price’s book, again, presented a successful effort to overcome this problem with his voice, as opposed to the three other selected agents. Another alternative, presented by Burke, is fiction’s first-person narrator. With respect to the third issue, Burke considers that none of the two groups, narrative and structural historians, was able to offer an historical representation alternative without bringing about other shortcomings. Thus, he proposed a synthesis between their most valuable features. The result would be a “thick description” or “thick narrative” (Geertz 1973). A description, or narrative, is thick when it is embedded with a noteworthy analytical interpretation not only of the facts described but also of the overall structure in which they are circumscribed. The solution most adopted by historians who were exploring this direction was the micronarrative. They are stories about ordinary people and their settings used as a “means of illuminating structures” (Burke 1991). Burke presented several examples. Among them, he cited Natalie Davis’s version of a sixteenth-century’s farmer. The story was used to present the values of society in that place and time, such as the status of French rural women, and current relations between husband and wife or parents and children. He quoted the author, whose goal had been that of “embedding this story in the values and habits of sixteenth-century French village life and law, to use them to help understand central elements in the story and to use the story to comment back on them” (Davis 1983). Burke accepts that micronarratives, as powerful alternatives to historians, present some difficulties in linking microhistory to macrohistory or local details and general trends. Although most devices recognized by Burke in cinema come from literary experiments, they are clearly exhibited in some prominent films. Natalie Davis’s “The Return of Martin Guerre” was launched almost at the same time as the homonymous film in which she was a historical consultant (Vigne 1982, Davis 1983). Another remarkable film is Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” (Kurosawa 1950). In his film, Kurosawa constructed a simple story of a samurai found dead and his wife raped, within a very creative structure. The film has four different versions – like some historians’ experiments described above – presented in flashbacks: the bandit, the main suspect, assumed that he had killed the samurai after a sword dispute but affirmed he had had consensual sex with his wife; the raped woman confirmed the rape and suggested she was the murderer; the dead man’s 135


version, told through a medium, ratified the rape and declared a suicide; and the only witness presented some elements from the three other versions without any conclusion. Kurosawa did not intend to offer a definite version but rather concluded that it was impossible to know what really happened. Not even those who were the participants in the event could produce similar versions. To the film producers, who did not understand the script, Kurosawa explained that human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing. This script portrays such human beings – the kind who cannot survive with lies to make them feel they are better people than they really are. It even shows this sinful need for flattering falsehood going beyond the grave – even the character who dies cannot give up when he speaks to the living through a medium. Egoism is a sin the human being carries with him from the birth; it is the most difficult to redeem. This film is like a strange picture scroll that is unrolled and displayed by the ego. (Kurosawa 2002) As mentioned before, Burke noted that historians accept that their representation of history only presents a point of view and does not reproduce “what really happened” (Burke 1991). However, he suggested that historians should find solutions to make readers aware of this issue, which is not clear in most publications. Presenting different versions of one event was adopted by Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” as a critique of reality representation and also by a few historians such as Price and Spencer. Peter Burke did not consider electronic documents when he argued about modern narratives and literary experiments in his essay “History of events and the revival of narrative” (Burke 1991). Digital media offers a great opportunity to present and disseminate historical research but historians have seldom explored those possibilities. The usual linearity of printed documents, and even film, has a significant impact on the three problems raised by Burke. This linearity enhances the author’s command of history’s communication process. Therefore, it is a laborious task, which historians seldom seek, to try to reduce one’s authority when communicating an interpretation of historical documents. When Burke published his essay, there were already several experiences with hyperdocuments, which were disregarded by him. Digital media has provided opportunities to develop systems that are more able to answer most of Burke’s critics. Historians however, as do most researchers from the humanities and social sciences, use computers predominantly as word processors and communication tools. Until now, very few have engaged in more ambitious experimentation. Books are always regarded as the primary vehicle 136


for historical researches and images have played a secondary role even for investigations on urban or architectural history. Hyperdocuments, when compared to printed versions, allow more flexibility for the organization and connection of different pieces of information. It is a meaningful characteristic that allows the author to present different interpretations, to connect micro and macro scales or associate different pieces of information, particularly images. However, parallel to Burke’s demonstration of several successful experiences with books or films, digital media does not guarantee that they will be used with those objectives. Until now, most historical electronic documents follow traditional methods that are directly translated to new media. Rio-H’s project, as an alternative for historical representations, should demonstrate that historians need to evaluate electronic narratives as tools to overcome some of the traditional narrative difficulties. The structure of a city is composed of infinite and simultaneous “narratives”/events which often interact with each other. Each narrative can be read by itself but it cannot explain the city without the others. Therefore, a system that could simulate that network of narratives has more chances to be more effective when representing cities’ history.

Two foreign views of cities’ cultural history The representation of a city’s cultural history has some particularities compared to other historical representations. The concept of a city is directly related to a place. Therefore, historians usually try to make connections to that space. Since most cities portrayed in historical representations still exist in a modified version, historians attempt to relate to the city of today, which many readers know already. Images are a powerful vehicle for those connections. However, most historians fail to address these to create those connections, because they are seldom educated to utilize images in their work (Burke 2001). In order to explore innovative representations of city history, this investigation has focused on two noteworthy authors that presented creative approaches towards the city cultural history. Through their work, they succeeded in responding to many shortcomings raised by Burke. Although those projects were carried out with traditional printed support, their analyses bring significant insights and contributions to electronic technology research. The first publication, “Das Passagen-Werk” or “The Arcades Project,” contains the German Walter Benjamin’s manuscripts in German (1982) and English (1999) on his investigation of the commercial arcades as a way to understand the history of Paris in the nineteenth century. The second work is the Dutch Rem Koolhaas’s “Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan,” which explores the history of Manhattan through the “the symbiotic relationship between its mutant 137


metropolitan culture and the unique architecture to which it gave rise” in the regularity of the city grid (1994). Both Benjamin and Koolhaas came from different countries to dig into the two cities’ culture using architectural artifacts as departure points for their researching points. The investigation of the lives that erected and dwelt in those buildings was the means of discovering Paris’s “hidden history” (Benjamin 1999) or Manhattan’s “mutant metropolitan culture” (Koolhaas 1994). Benjamin’s and Koolhaas’s projects reveal the cultural history of the two cities in a creative and unique format. Even though Benjamin’s project was never concluded, both results were considered by the city inhabitants as meaningful views of their own history. In addition to that, both text formats are intrinsically related to their analysis of the city’s structure. Furthermore, those text formats resemble the structure of digital media’s documents. Thus, the investigation of those projects developed in traditional media can be meaningful contributions to the exploration of new media’s representation. Walter Benjamin investigation of nineteenth-century Paris through the passages Walter Benjamin spent his last 13 years in an investigation that he considered as his life’s most important project. During this period he collected from libraries and archives notes related to a specific architectural typology, the Parisian commercial arcades, or passages, ranging from a great variety of subjects. The arcades should guide the readers through the real city. That was the city that Benjamin meant as the dwelling of the collective, and the arcades synthesized that familiar interior character for the masses (Benjamin 1999). That city was often purposely neglected by most authors in order to perpetuate an ideal order of bourgeoisie. Benjamin’s aim was to recall through his work that actuality of nineteenth-century Paris. Benjamin was convinced that the arcades were the most significant architectural form in the nineteenth century and could be used as a connection to numerous meaningful issues of his previous century (Eiland and McLaughlin 1999). The arcades constituted urban systems that cut through the structure of the traditional blocks in Paris with internal alleys, creating alternative and distorted connections between the established streets in the grid with symmetrical and organized constructions. These galleries represented irrational labyrinths as opposed to the urban reasoning of the French capital. Their interiors were a world in miniature (Benjamin 1999). Several types of characters that were not much exposed in the “official history” of Paris, such as prostitutes, collectors, gamblers and the “flâneurs” shared that space with the traditional families of the city (Figure 9.1). Benjamin wanted to create a device that would allow an innovative understanding of his time and originate movements towards 138


Figure 9.1 The Passages des Princes (left) and Choiseul (right) (photos by the author).

the future transformation of society. Paris arcades were his instruments to unveil this hidden history of the city. His notes were the legacy, documented in fragments and organized in an ingenious structure. Some authors actually speculate that they represent an intuition of today’s computer technologies (Bolle 1998). Benjamin’s “ur-history” was to be discovered from the historians’ leftovers. He borrowed the term “ur” from Goethe, who had coined in his scientific research a parallel term: “urphenomenon,” “the essential pattern or process of a thing” (Seamon 1998). The “rags” and “refuse” were his primary material to erect an image of the past: a critique of the bourgeois’ culture and a method to understand the origins of the present’s utopia. For Buck-Morss, “whichever form they took, such images were the concrete, ‘small, particular moments’ in which the ‘total historical event’ was to be discovered, the ‘perceptible urphenomenon’ in which the origins of the present could be found” (Buck-Morss 1991). The method to display the material was “purely montage.” Those fragments should be displayed as they were, without any elaboration. His task was to show the smallest components that would allow the comprehension of the “total event” (Benjamin 1999). The citations were taken from a huge variety of sources from the previous century and many from his recognized contemporaneous intellectuals such as Marcel Proust, Paul Valéry, Louis Aragon, André Breton, Georg Simmel, Ernst Bloch, Siegfried Kracauer and Theodor Adorno. 139


In order to organize the already large number of collected quotations, Benjamin created a filing system based on “motifs.” The system of Konvolut assigned the quotations to those motifs or key words. To each keyword a letter was assigned and the quotations were numbered as he was collecting them. Thus, every quotation is associated to a code of letters and numbers being grouped in the Konvolutes. “These proliferating individual passages, extracted from their original context like collectibles, were eventually set up to communicate among themselves, often in a rather subterranean manner,” as in a street congested with signs and store windows (Eiland and McLaughlin 1999). Besides the idea of displacing fragments of texts in order to create the image of the past, Walter Benjamin started in the mid-thirties to collect actual images. He had access to a collection called “Topographie de Paris” of 150,000 images such as maps, drawings, press clippings, postcards, photographs, and posters, classified by arrondissements and streets. He made several copies of some selected items but his image album was never found. “If such research in iconographic documentation was ‘still rare’ among historians, it was unheard of among philosophers” (Buck-Morss 1991). Rem Koolhaas manifesto for Manhattanism Rem Koolhaas published the first edition of his “Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan” in 1978. It was the outcome of a scholarship he gained in the early 1970s to stay in Manhattan and research its culture and architecture (Illinois Institute of Technology 2001). The book is fully illustrated with outstanding historical images of the city’s buildings and their projects, and an ingenious and sharp critique of the culture of Manhattan through its architecture. Rem Koolhaas aimed to write a sort of manifesto for New York City. For Koolhaas, the manifesto for New York was never written because the city was generated in such a radical way that the intention to realize the ambitious program could never be openly stated. Therefore, he proclaimed himself as Manhattan’s “ghostwriter” (Koolhaas 1994). The accomplishment of the city grid was the first and probably the most extreme move towards Koolhaas’s argument, for “Manhattanism.” “In spite of its apparent neutrality, it implies an intellectual program for the island: in its indifference to topography, to what exists, it claims the superiority of mental construction over reality.” Blocks and streets are identical. Instead of working with urban solutions to differentiate the various areas of city, the builders had to search for extreme architectural features. Therefore, Koolhaas concludes, the two-dimensional rigidity was set against a three-dimensional anarchy. Besides that, the limitation of the 2,028 blocks of the grid, limited by the river Hudson, created one major direction for the city’s growth: vertically. Koolhaas declares that his book is 140


“a simulacrum of Manhattan’s Grid: a collection of blocks whose proximity and juxtaposition reinforces their separate meanings.” The chapters are divided in short text blocks with one-word section headings organizing the structure of the material, which allows the text to be often as flamboyant and spectacular as some of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. The text is read in a way similar to that of reading electronic documents. The text blocks follow firm rules similar to Manhattan’s grid while the text is free for radical flights. The limitation of the space in the grid meant that “one form of human occupancy can only be established at the expense of another. The city becomes a mosaic of episodes, each with its own particular life span, that contest each other through the medium of the Grid.” The exploration of those episodes was a powerful tool to expose “Manhattanism.” The episodes were not connected to families or personalities but to sites. Koolhaas’ process is very similar to Benjamin’s investigation of Paris’ commercial passages to bring to light the city’s “ur-history.” The skyscraper is a reduced and synthesized version of the whole Manhattan and Coney Island, its subconscious origin. Their study is an effective method to understand the city and also to reveal its hidden history, which is not documented in most historians’ work. If Benjamin had political objectives to reveal Paris’ hidden history, Koolhaas attempt to unveil the buried history of New York’s buildings aimed to show up the culture that originated them or, in his own words, his book “argues that it often appears that the architecture generated the culture” (Koolhaas 1994). Buildings can be exceptional vehicles for cultural changes and investigating them illuminates society’s transformation. The organization of the sections within the book and his writing style facilitated and augmented the communication of his thesis. Koolhaas’ original representation was very appropriate for his objective and exposed his architectural background. Architects are educated to adopt a representation method in their projects not only to communicate the technical aspects of the construction but the very representation method should convey the project’s concept. Koolhaas ends his book by designing several architectural artifacts, which demonstrate his thesis, located in an “Appendix.” The projects, illustrated through great colour plates, aim to display the radical realization of his “Manhattanism.” They also demonstrate how powerful architectural projects can be to convey a discourse, sometimes more effectively than texts.

Digital experiments in Glasgow The creative literary structures used by Benjamin and Koolhaas to analyse Paris’ and New York’s history seem thoroughly suited to present their interpretation of the cities’ vitality. It is interesting to notice that although 141


they apply different methodologies, in both cases, the act of reading is similar to the process of experiencing the city: a patchwork of juxtaposed layers of information, which are combined by the readers as they progress in their “experience.” We could even suggest that Benjamin’s filling system has several connections to the inventive MEMEX, envisaged by Vannevar Bush (1945). His enormous collection of fragments, associated to nineteenth-century Parisian meaningful topics, would be perfectly suited to a web-based system. Rio-H intentionally borrowed some characteristics of Benjamin’s and Koolhaas’ investigations. Two other projects, developed at the University of Strathclyde by the ABACUS research group also are derived from a patchwork of juxtaposed layers of information. Together with Benjamin’s and Koolhaas’s, they were particularly important for the construction of Rio-H’s idea. The CD-ROM Glasgow2000 The CD-ROM Glasgow2000: the history of the city (ABACUS 2001) is probably the project that is closest to Rio-H. Although Glasgow’s digital model cannot be perceived in the CD-ROM, it was actually used as a base for artists to traditionally portray perspectives of the city in different periods. They prepared their historical interpretations from large printouts of the model’s perspective view. For that project, the possibility to manually elaborate the representations was much more feasible due to the limited time and budget allocated to it. Thus, each period of the city was illustrated by watercolours and in “the most recent period of the city’s development, actual aerial photographs were ‘draped’ over the computer generated topography” (Maver and Ennis 2001). The fact that 3D models were not used to portray historical images for the final product, demonstrates that, even if the research group had a quite complete 3D model of the existing city configuration, the transformation of that model into historical ones from previous periods would be a laborious task. Glasgow2000 introduces the city in six different historical periods. Each one is presented with an aerial view of the city, displayed in the larger window on the screen interface. A cursor that moves through this window selects the areas of the city that will be zoomed into on a separate smaller window. Therefore, the users can always evaluate a closer view of a specific area in the city while they locate this area in the overall image of the city. When an historical period is chosen, the navigation is done through two columns of items that the users can select. The column on the left is named “Landscape” and displays elements that are connected to locations in the city while the right column with the title “Concepts” is constituted by elements which are not related to places such as “Government,” “People,” “Taxes,” so on. 142


It is important to acknowledge the authors’ aim through the CD, to “give a sense of ‘place’ and to link all of the information to geographical locations.” (Maver and Ennis 2001) The authors make use of a great number of historical documents from several file types, such as sound or video clips, photographs and written documents, connected to city locations. Traditionally, those files, when displayed in historical works, are only accessible in limited numbers and are connected to some texts on specific topics. Seeing, hearing or reading many of them in a chosen order and linked to known areas of the cities is a powerful move. One has a comprehensible feeling of the city’s environment through those pieces of information and the comparison of the present city’s urban spaces. Although the 3D model was just a support to generate the city’s historical representations, this project suggests significant use for it. From the digital base the artists could freely present what the city looked like in previous times following the correct location of rivers, streets, and other elements that relate to current roads and other physical features of the city. The advantage of the watercolours over the digital models is that the formers are less precise. The images are often blurred, suggesting some configuration for the city without exactly asserting how it was physically constituted. From a distance, the lack of precision was not a problem and, actually, was probably more efficient than a complete model of the city in the past. Those images successfully achieved their goal. Anyone who is familiar with the city will recognize its spaces and will relate the events displayed to the known places in the city. The watercolours exhibit distant views of the city. Thus, they are often similar to maps but, since they are perspective views, it is possible to identify the hills and rivers and how they directed the city growth. The watercolours facilitate the recognition of the places from the past and locate the events described by the files included in Glasgow2000. The files exhibit the main events and, particularly, how people lived in the different parts of the city. Therefore, the most valuable issue of this project is to link those files that present the human interactions within the urban spaces to the aerial views. They exhibit a city we cannot grasp with our senses when we are walking through its streets. Both of them are meaningful representations of the city. One presents what is missing in the other. However, they are seldom seen together in usual representations of the city. Although this CD-ROM presents a limited amount of information and the texts presented are relatively short, it is an invaluable contribution to those who research creative forms of presenting the history of the city. TheGlasgowStory TheGlasgowStory (ABACUS 2003) is one of the results of UK support through government funding of significant initiatives that provide learning 143


and research material available online. The project TheGlasgowStory is being carried out by a large consortium including two universities and every public library that carries archives related to the city; it aims to digitize archives of different institutions about the city of Glasgow, bringing together the material and providing online access to the public, particularly educators, students and researchers. The authors of the project aimed to digitize about 15,000 images located in several recognized institutions such as universities, museums, libraries, art galleries and other archives. The digitalization process was carefully planned and for each digitized image, a caption was created. These captions explain the images and the online survey from the database. Additionally, several writers were hired to develop around 500 essays of 250 to 1,500 words, on topics of the city history in which they specialize. The digitized images are associated with the essays and captions directly through the database. The most remarkable characteristics exhibited by TheGlasgowStory are its scale and the importance of the digitized material distributed via the world wide web. The material owned by libraries, museums and archives is always seen for the economic value associated to its historical value and uniqueness. In this case the institutions that participated in the consortium were the most prominent in the city. They all agreed to give away medium size resolution copies of their collections to anyone who would freely access the database through TheGlasgowStory. That is a remarkable outcome, particularly to researchers and students, whose access will be extremely facilitated. It is most probable that the number of people who have access to those historical archives will increase exponentially. Historical books always present a small selection of images due to the typical limitations of printed material. Thus, students, and sometimes researchers, are exposed to a restricted number of all the images available concerning the history of the city. Similar initiatives will start to change the way history is communicated and apprehended. Therefore, the pioneer projects that organize and distribute the material should be carefully analysed. As “revolutionary” vehicles, they will influence the way users choose the distributed material and consequently, how they learn from those instruments. One of the main drawbacks of this system is the lack of spatial references. If the CD-ROM Glasgow2000 is always connecting the historical information to places in the city, that does not happen in TheGlasgowStory, at least not with images. Names of neighbourhoods were always mentioned, similarly streets and rivers. However, the users do not have a device to facilitate their spatial location within the city. Even maps are seldom displayed when a neighbourhood analysis is done. When users who are not too familiar with the city visit TheGlasgowStory, they have difficulty in locating the places mentioned with those they know. In a project that aims to present the city history, it is important to verify spatial relationships among events even for the Glasgow dwellers. 144


Rio-H and 3D historical city models Burke’s concerns about historical narratives, such as different versions of the same event and narrative competence in representing reality were some of the guiding principles for the construction of Rio-H’s project. Hyperdocuments have some inherent characteristics that are particularly useful for those narrative shortcomings. We intended to explore those characteristics, combining Benjamin’s, Koolhaas’s and ABACUS’ precedents. We identified that both Koolhaas and Benjamin were quite successful in revealing the city history – a history that was not evident and that were not addressed by previous historians – through meaningful buildings. The buildings were not just testimonies of past events. They embodied some noteworthy ideas that arose during their construction process. In addition to that, they acted as stages for several events. Therefore, we could say they both materialized and influenced historical moments. The ABACUS research group directed our attention to the way historical information could be communicated through digital media. Rio-H materialized our interpretation of those projects and also Burke and few other historians’ analyses about historical narratives. Rio-H is an online system that depends on a database of historical documents connected to buildings or spaces within the city of Rio de Janeiro, in various periods of its history. Those spaces within the city are represented in still images of historical 3D models (Figure 9.2). Rio-H embodies two

Figure 9.2 Part of Rio de Janeiro historical model (courtesy: LAURD/PROURB/UFRJ).



main characteristics which differentiate it from usual historical documents: the user does not follow it sequentially or if there is any sequence it is rather a spatial sequence since the documents are organized according to places in the city; the users can explore a diverse group of documents concerning one subject – many of them can present contradictory versions. The database entries consist of text, image or even sound and movie files. These files are digital versions of historical documents taken from a great variety of sources. Each database entry is linked to different places in the city model, historical periods and keywords for searching the information. Every search starts from places represented in the city models. Thus, the information is organized according to the space in the city and the users are always aware of the city’s spatial organization and relationships. The database entries are classified in various categories such as photographs, newspaper articles, paintings, fiction books, official documents or users’ contributions. Therefore, the users can search documents which present different versions or aspects of a specific place’s history. Through the searched files, they should be able to develop their own historical narrative related to the spaces within a city. Rio-H is currently a prototype system and, when fully developed, it should be a large-scale project carried out by a multidisciplinary team. Rio-H could be synthesized as a web-based 3D historical GIS. However, it should not be considered a GIS because information is linked to mapped areas in 2D views and not to objects or entities. Available GIS was not applied because, when the system was planned, GIS had limitations in simultaneously connecting databases to different historical periods, or maps; to allow searchers over the web without special plug-ins, although Macromedia Flash is required to navigate through Rio-H; and to connect some information to 3D models. Some GIS systems had solved some of the previous issues, although none could overcome all of the three usual GIS limitations. The 3D views of the city included in Rio-H are not intended to provide an exact illustration of a specific moment in history. These views should be regarded as simple representations of complex environments, which cannot be fully illustrated. Therefore, the main purpose of the 3D views is to locate the events in a place the users can recognize. They should generate their own image of that space from the information provided by Rio-H and from the space they already know through their experience of the city. The image exchanging the 3D past scene for a 3D view of the current city from the same point of view on screen, which is always offered to users, aims to facilitate the recognition of the space within the city in the past (Figure 9.3). It should just provide a setting for the users’ construction of their image of that past space and never deliver a ready-made image of that space. One could argue that a 2D view of that space, like a map, would be enough for that task. However, it is much easier to convey the 146


Figure 9.3 Two screen images of Rio-H displaying an image of the city in 1928 and today (developed by the author).

magnitude of a building or hill and its relationship to its settings through 3D views than by traditional 2D maps. It is easier for most people to identify a space within the city through perspective views of important buildings than from bi-dimensional maps. Moreover, 3D views of buildings that still exist, located on their original sites, connect most users more efficiently to the space they know than the 2D plans of city blocks. Each model should be accessed as a reduction of a physical fragment of the city in the past. Therefore, its role as a spatial representation is mainly to locate the “historical image” – or “dialectic images,” as Benjamin states (Benjamin 1999) – refined by the users in the space of the city they already know. The simplicity of the model is actually critical to bring about the great complexity of city history. The organization of historical urban 3D models poses additional important issues. It is much easier to represent an existing situation than past moments of the city, which are never completely documented. Latin American cities, for example, suffered radical changes, particularly from the end of the eighteenth century. Most buildings in the city centre were demolished and few records remained. Even within a relatively short time, those cities are very difficult to represent with historical 3D models because few buildings remain from the previous centuries. Therefore, modeling an “incomplete” and more abstract version of the city can overcome problems caused by a lack of information. The only model that has every building represented is the one of today’s city (Figure 9.3). The historical models exhibit just the significant buildings within the street network and the natural environment configuration from that period. Displaying this “incomplete” version of the city actually facilitates the construction of the users’ own images of that period. 3D models have an important role to locate within the city past events and associated present and past spaces. It is more important to place those events in the city space than trying to realistically reproduce an environment from the past. 147


Historians always seek to relate past events to current culture through their narrative, as a method to “familiarize the unfamiliar.” Hayden White identifies historiography’s data as “immediately strange, not to say exotic, simply by virtue of their distance from us in time and their origin in a way of life different from our own” (White 1978). Thus, narratives are usually used to relate cultural aspects of the past to our culture in order to reduce the strangeness of those past events. Rio-H does not present history through a traditional narrative form. It actually presents countless narratives, which are created by each reader’s navigation. Rio-H displays several documents from the past. Many of them sound strange for the users. The system does not provide a narrative that would “translate” those documents to the users’ culture. However, it does create links between past events and the present in order to familiarize those events. This link is primarily spatial. Users are always aware, through their navigation, of relationships between past spaces and current ones. They recognize in various degrees those spaces in the current configuration. Their experience is very powerful in generating those links with the past and to facilitate their creation of an image of that past. The remaining physical characteristics of a different period are important to locate the stage settings of past events and also to recognize the people who shaped those spaces by their decisions and actions. Therefore, space is very powerful in locating historical events and in establishing familiar links with them. Furthermore, it is very important for the inhabitants of a city to recognize their spaces and the past that shaped them. Spaces are experienced differently when the agents are aware of their history. Recognizing their ancestors’ role in shaping the space they use in their everyday life is critical for the creation of a close relationship with that place. Current civilizations consciously conserve their built heritage in order to support that awareness. Although mystery and “what is left unsaid” in those spaces are important for bringing forth a sense of place (Stefanovic 1998), historical information related to them is valuable in expanding people’s knowledge about cultural heritage. Therefore, if people have more information about the roots of an area within the city, they will have a broader view of that area. Hence, the possibilities of identifying the mysteries and “what is left unsaid” in those locations will increase when historical knowledge is strengthened. Clarity and complexity, which seem to be opposed, are complementary and essential to convey that sense of place. Rio-H aims to facilitate the creation of a sense of place by sharing knowledge related to different spaces in the past. Therefore, it also aims to increase both the clarity and complexity of city spaces. Most studies of urban history have similar objectives. However, many historical publications try to hide the complexity of a past moment in order to make it clearer for the readers. Oversimplification of historical events creates a false idea of how society behaved and how spaces were constructed. Rio-H attempts to display the complexity of past events in 148


a comprehensible manner and their importance in creating the city, the 3D model images are essential for the organization methodology. A critical issue to be addressed by historians who study cities is the connection between the historical information and the actual space. If that connection is not achieved, the information becomes abstract and depends on the readers’ effort to relate it to the city they know. Several techniques are applied for this task: most often images like photographs, drawings, maps and paintings. Historians usually disregard the richness of images not only to establish that link with the past, but also to convey content. When they make use of images, the latter are just “complements” for the verbal discourse (White 1988, Burke 2001). Since historians were not educated to deal with digitally created images, the possibilities of modeling visual interpretations from the past still fascinate most historians, who seldom view that tool critically. The creation of realistic – and superficial, because of content’s absence – representation of historical sites is the usual result of the partnership between computer technicians and historians (Affleck and Kvan 2005). The first 3D city models were mostly developed “manually.” It was a labour-intensive task, and usually required very expensive projects. The development of aerial and satellite photogrammetry, 3D laser scanners, and various systems associated with those tools supported new possibilities for automatically generated 3D city models. Therefore, the gap between the construction of current 3D city models and historical ones increased significantly. The latter continued to be constructed with the previous methodology, although the current model development – usually the first stage of modeling past cities – was simplified by technology evolution. Attempts to automate the historical modeling processes usually result in standardization of buildings such as housing units, contributing to loss of character of the represented place. Thus, thorough historical models still depend much on manual labour and, particularly, on creative initiatives. Researchers should depart from technology-driven studies in order to overview the available tools. A simple system is often obscured by complex computational solutions that demand huge grants and effort. The exploration of state-of-the-art technology is usually able to earn significant grants, but also often moves against the essence or the intangible aspects of the object which is represented. That is one of the main reasons to justify an analysis of creative solutions of traditional media, such as Kurosawa’s, Benjamin’s or Koolhaas,’ which already accomplished similar objectives.

Conclusions White (1988) stated that historians address visual resources in the same way as they use verbal narratives, without considering their own features 149


to convey content. Few historians research new media potential to produce meaningful contributions to the history representation. Benjamin and Koolhaas, a philosopher and an architect, brought fresh contributions to the city cultural history. Images played an important role in their investigation, both in their research process and in the way they conveyed their message. Likewise, modeling cities makes similar use of images. 3D models provide powerful possibilities to demonstrate spatial relationships and, more than that, to associate textual and visual information to space. Those are some of the new media’s valuable resources to connect the users’ memories and experiences to cultural heritage information. Unfortunately, those simple resources are often also disregarded by experienced technology researchers as they delve into the technical aspects of the modeling process. The objective of modeling historical cities should be to strengthen the links between historical data and the city spaces. The inhabitants should be able to relate the pieces of information from the past to the current spaces in which they live, making it easier to understand information of a strange culture from the past. In addition to that, the association of cultural heritage information to the city space should facilitate the development of a sense of place, of being part of that city and its culture. Each city dweller has an individual experience of the city’s space. That experience is essential for this person’s connection to the place. Understanding the cultural heritage associated to the city spaces enriches the feelings of being part of the place. Instead of replacing a visit to the actual space, navigating through those 3D images, should be an invitation to experience the actual city streets while recognizing the historical connections into present constructions. Presentations from 3D models of historical environments should not attempt to convey the complexity of the reality of that time, because they could never reproduce it. When the 3D depictions support the location of the historical information in the city, they contextualise it and help to clarify a puzzling set of relationships from past society. Therefore, space facilitates the organization of historical information, taking for granted its complexity but trying to display it in an organized form. Rob Shields (1996) reminds us that “the pedestrian and the idiosyncratic city of personal tastes vanishes or is at least thrown out of focus in representations such as plans.” Therefore, one of the aims of this study is to emphasize the human interactions that take place in the studied areas and that architecture is not only important in providing a character for the spaces where these interactions occur but also as a product of the culture originated by this interplay. The search for photorealism in electronic 3D models tends to emphasize the perfection of the actual representation, but at the same time, exhibits its alienation from human interactions. The challenge for researchers who work with digital models is to facilitate links between the spatial representations and the experience which takes place in it. 150


Acknowledgements This research is developed within the PROURB – the Graduate Program of Urban Design, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro – and financed by the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology – CNPq. A grant by the Brazilian Ministry of Education – CAPES – supported my PhD research at The University of Strathclyde. I acknowledge with thanks the discussions with Prof. Tom Maver and all the researchers of the Laboratory of Urban Analysis and Digital Representation – PROURB, who took part in this investigation.

References ABACUS, 2001. Glasgow2000. The Story of the City. Glasgow: Scran (CD-ROM). ABACUS. 2003. TheGlasgowStory. Internet. Available from: http:// (the website was reviewed before it was officially launched, at in September 2003). Affleck, J. and Thomas, K. 2005. Reinterpreting Virtual Heritage. In CAADRIA 2005 Conference Proceedings. ed. A. Bhatt. New Delhi, pp. 169–178. Benjamin, W. 1982. Das Passagen-Werk. ed. R. Tiedemann. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. Benjamin, W. 1978. Briefe. 2 vols. eds G. Scholem, and T.W. Adorno. Fernktfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1970. Quoted in Susan Buck-Morss. 1991. The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. Boston: MIT Press. Benjamin, W. 1999. The Arcades Project. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Benjamin, W. and Passagen-Werk, D. 1982. ed. R. Tiedemann, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. Bolle, W. 1998. A Metrópole como médium-de-reflexão. Semear, Number 3, Rio de Janeiro. Internet. Available from Cátedra Padre António Vieira database. Available from 3Sem_13.html accessed May 2002. Buck-Morss, S. 1991. The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project. Boston: MIT Press. Burke, P. 1991. History of Events and the Revival of Narrative. In New Perspectives on Historical Writing. ed. Peter Burke. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University, pp. 233–248. Burke, P. 2001. Eyewitnessing: the Uses of Images as Historical Evidence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Bush, V. 1945. As We May Think. The Atlantic Monthly. July. Davis, N. 1983. The Return of Martin Guerre. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Quoted in Peter Burke. 1991. History of Events and the Revival of Narrative. In New Perspectives on Historical Writing, ed. P. Burke. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University, pp. 233–248. Eiland, H. and McLaughlin, K. 1999. Translators’ Foreword. The Arcades Project. Walter Benjamin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, pp. xix–xiv. Ennis, G. and Thomas, M. 2001. Visit VR Glasgow – Welcoming multiple visitors to the Virtual City in Architectural Information Management: 19th eCAADe Conference Proceedings, ed. Hannu Pentilä: Helsinki.



Geertz, C. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books. Koolhaas, R. 1994. Delirious New York: a Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. New York: The Monacelli Press. Kurosawa, A. 1950. Rashomon. Film produced by Daiei Co. (2002 DVD version, The Criterion Collection). Kurosawa, A. 2002. Akira Kurosawa on Rashomon: from Something like an Autobiography. In Rashomon DVD booklet. The Criterion Collection. Price, R. 1990. Alabi’s World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Seamon, D. 1998. Goethe, nature and phenomenology: an introduction. In Goethe’s Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature, eds D. Seamon and A. Zajonc. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 1–14. Shields, R. 1996. A Guide to Urban Representation and what to do about it: Alternative Traditions of Urban Theory. In Re-presenting the City: Ethnicity, Capital and Culture in the 21st-century Metropolis, ed. A. King. New York: New York University Press, pp. 227–252. Stefanovic, I. 1998. Phenomenological encounters with place: Cavtat to Square One. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 18(1): 31–44. Stone, L. 2001. The revival of narrative: Reflections on a new old history. In The History and Narrative Reader, ed. G. Roberts. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 281–298. Vigne, D. 1982. Le Retour de Martin Guerre. Film produced by Société Francaise de Production Cinematographique, Paris (The Return of Martin Guerre, 1997 DVD version, Fox Lorber Video). White, H. 1966, The Burden of History, History and Theory, 5. Reprinted in Tropics of Discourse, ed. H. White, 1983. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 27–50. White, H. 1978. The Historical Text as Literary Artifact. In Topics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism, ed. H. White. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 81–87. White, H. 1988. Historiography and Historiophoty. American Historical Review 93. 1193–1199. Internet. Available from screeningthepast/reruns/rr0499/hwrr6c.htm accessed December 2005.


Part 3 D I SC O U R S E The marriage of new media and cultural heritage

The nature of cultural heritage is at times contradictory; there is limited funding available for conservation but the commodification of heritage resources often adds to conflicts between aspects such as accessibility and stewardship, and between governments and indigenous communities. Heritage resources have a unique set of characteristics, so management has to take this into consideration. The application of technology in this area is therefore complex, but in addition there are inherent considerations and existing discourses regarding virtuality and new media that come as part of digital representation of cultural heritage. This part examines some of the discourses arising subsequent to the marriage of new media and cultural heritage, such as the ongoing debate regarding the status of the original and the copy.

10 CO N S U M I N G H ER I T A G E O R THE END OF TRADITION The new challenges of globalization Nezar Alsayyad

Abstract This chapter argues that processes of globalization and the emergence of new forms of information and communication have created a new imperative for the conservation and the preservation community. In this new climate, authencity can no longer be used as the principal frame of reference, the harbinger of tradition, and the bearer of valuable historic knowledge. The chapter argues that in this new climate, where the relationship between the original and the copy has been unsettled, there is a need to reconceptualize heritage and the role that the new media may play in its representation.

The twentieth century may have been the first century to ever witness the rise of environments that are wholly devoted to the “other”. In it, many nations and communities have resorted to heritage preservation, the invention of tradition, and the rewriting of history as forms of self-definition. In this paper, and in an attempt to understand the impact of globalization on the built environment, I expand upon my earlier typology of manufactured heritage environments elaborated on in my earlier book Consuming Tradition/Manufacturing Heritage (AlSayyad 2000), which was concerned with understanding the changing role of tradition under contemporary conditions of increasing global consumption and intensifying global flows. In that book, I employed the lens of tourism in this new global order to problematize many of the assumptions regarding heritage and tradition, in an attempt to understand how built environments are often packaged and sold in an increasingly global economy of image consumption. In this paper, I drew upon new theoretical developments regarding the notion of endings. I argued that as human beings, we have always been fascinated by endings; the end of the world, the end of our lives, the end of our youth, 155


and so on. I will argue that we have reached the end of tradition too. By this I do not mean the death of tradition, but instead I imply the end of our conception of tradition in the disciplines of architecture and urban history as a repository of authentic and hence valuable ideas that have been handed down from one generation to another. The July 2002 issue of Time magazine with the title “The Bible and the Apocalypse”, featured a cross engulfed in flames. According to Time, 59% of Americans believed that the events depicted in Revelations are coming true (Gibbs 2002). One may, in fact, suggest that many Americans, if not awaiting the End, are at least curious about it. Indeed, this popular and often evangelical anxiety about endings gained new import in a post-9/11 world. The study of “ends” is, paradoxically, not without precedents. The first scholarly discussion about endings in recent history was Daniel Bell’s (1960) The End of Ideology. Written in the late 1950s, The End of Ideology chronicled the great catastrophes of the twentieth century and concluded with the inevitability of accepting the failure of the intellectual left through its “social engineering” projects to bring about an era of social harmony. But Bell was actually excited about the prospect of an end to ideology, as he considered ideology to be a kind of dogma. The next major proposition about endings was Francis Fukuyama’s (1992) The End of History and the Last Man written in the 1980s, where he identified a similar “end” and heralds the international consensus on liberal democracy as the “endpoint of mankind’s ideological evolution”. The book became very important in the late 1990s but 9/11 of course made abundantly clear that there remain serious challenges to liberal democracy. In the 1990s, with The End of the Nation State, Kenichi Ohmae (1995) picked up where the others left off. Curiously, Ohmae was proposing an end to the very institution Fukuyama claims had reached ubiquity. In his book, he described the dissolution of this political unit in the new global economy. In terms of architecture and heritage, the end of the nation state, arguably a contested concept, holds the most relevant spatial implications. The nation-building apparatus has always been responsible for a large segment of what constitutes the deployment of national tradition in the making of cities and buildings. So a radical reconceptualization of what constitutes a state or a nation would have serious implications on national and regional traditions often typologized in architectural forms. Russell Jacoby’s (1999) The End of Utopia takes these arguments a little further. Jacoby makes the claim that the notion of a future that can transcend the present is dead. He engages in a calculated assault on the “left” and he sees “Cultural Studies” as a contributor to this condition because for him it was founded on the utopian notion of the preservation of difference. He believes that “It is the rootless, not the rooted who fetishize their roots”. This concern with heritage can be seen as a preoccupation with defining and redefining one’s position in an ever-changing world. 156


The concern with heritage and tradition may also be seen as a product of the unequal relationship between the so-called first and third worlds. To understand this, one must frame the heritage discourse within its proper historical context. I have argued elsewhere that we can distinguish three relevant phases of attitudes towards heritage and tradition in the last two centuries (AlSayyad 2004). First, a colonial period, where there was initial interest in local indigenous people and practices but a distant association with it. During the second phase, and following the success of independence struggles, invocations of nationalism caused nations to resort to heritage preservation as a form of resistance against the homogenizing forces of modernity. Finally in this third phase we call globalization, nations have had to compete in an ever-tightening global economy, as they find themselves needing to exploit their natural resources and vernacular built heritage to attract international investors. Tourism development has consequently intensified, producing entire communities that cater almost wholly to, or are even inhabited year round by, the “other”. The new norm appears to be the outright manufacture of heritage coupled with the active consumption of tradition in the built environment. Kenichi Ohmae (1995) speaks of a current world where the choice is between Sony and soil: “If given the choice, people will not choose nationalism or soil, but satellites and Sony”. Recent events may have shown him wrong. But while cultural heritage attractions offer income-producing opportunities to some of the poorest – as well as the richest – communities in the world, the mass tourism that follows has often resulted in the irreversible destruction of traditional places and historic sites. This in turn has inflamed local and international passions and caused anxieties about “the end”. Understanding the connection between heritage preservation and tourism development requires a grounding in both history and political economy. Studies of colonial urbanism have provided valuable insight into the politics of heritage and the related preservation discourses. It is important to try to understand how global consumers today seek “difference” and “hospitality” as economic goods, and how producers or suppliers make their living catering to this demand. In looking at the heritage discourse in the first and third worlds, one may notice that, while both possibly possess equal desire to explore the heritage and culture of the “other”, they have fundamentally different motivations for wanting to do so.1 These differences may be attributed to or explained by earlier relationships of colonialism, political nationalism, and economic dependency. Today, as a result of such historical and economic forces, third world countries often wish to emulate the “progress” of the first world and adopt its developmental practices – but only without risking the destabilization of their local cultures. This is clearly a situation of wanting to have one’s cake and to eat it too. 157


Thus, as Benjamin Barber (1995) points out in his appropriately titled book Jihad vs. McWorld, such nations want the veil, but they also want the world wide web and Coca Cola. Timothy Mitchell (2002), on the other hand, argues that Jihad is not antithetical to the development of McWorld, and that McWorld is really McJihad, a necessary combination of a variety of social logics and forces. Thus, third world countries evolve their own local appropriations of many first world practices. Meanwhile, for its part, the first world appears more interested in consuming the cultures and environments of third world societies. First world nations are often the main advocates for and financial patrons of the preservation of third world built environments as part of what they define as “universal” heritage – even when those countries’ “natives” do not recognize its historic value. The case of the two Buddhas in Bamian, Afghanistan under the Taliban and the outcry about their destruction is a good example. The indifference of much of the Afghan people to these historical monuments allowed the repressive Taliban regime to destroy these two major monuments without any local opposition despite much international condemnation. As a wealthy bloc, which often feels a sense of guilt and responsibility toward its former colonies, the first world has also tried at times to maintain or assist in preserving the dying or disappearing lifestyles and traditions of undeveloped peoples and places. Yet it is also often the case that first world organizations, foundations and governments have engaged in such efforts while at the same time condemning or rejecting much of the social and political practices of the societies whose traditions they claim to want to preserve – especially when it diverges from western standards of human rights, gender equality, and environmental sustainability. For example, the practice of maintaining groups of women in traditional dress, to perform traditional functions that are meant to sustain the desire of visiting tourists to see them illustrates these conflicting sentiments and desires, and highlights this development paradox. One may distinguish three types of physical environments produced today under conditions of globalization with the planned intent of making them places for the representation of the cultural tradition of the other: dream landscapes which replicate historical settings, heritage sites that use history beyond their legitimate claim to an authentic past, and nostalgic places which exploit cultural heritage and normalize it for everyday life (Judd and Fainstein 1999).2 The first type, dream landscapes that replicate historical settings, is based on the notion of using history to create “Wizard of Oz” like places where all conflicts within a given culture are resolved, and where all cultural aspects are reduced to their basic representations. In such a vision, all icons of a culture, such as architectural styles, building typologies, and spatial configurations, simply become the cultures that they are meant to represent. Authenticity here is desired, and is achieved 158


through the manipulation of images and experiences. The ultimate example is, of course, Disneyland. One must remember here that Disney was not the first to pioneer the idea of replicating places of the “other” for people to experience. The “World’s Fairs” did the same during the nineteenth century. Disney, however, was the first to recognize the permanent, continuing commercial potential of such installations. This process of the manufacture of global cultural products has been developing for a long enough time for a certain convergence of consumer preferences and behavior to have already taken place, as evident in the worldwide appeal of many places like Disneyland (Gupta and Ferguson 1992). Obviously, such places prove that even if the heritage is hyped, history sells. There is, however, another type of environment within this same category that seeks to exploit cultural heritage, but here the claim to history is non-existent. It is in such places that the loosening of ties between the signs of a culture and their referents may be most apparent. Quite simply, to optimize the desire of the producers to manufacture cultural heritage and the tourists to consume it, it becomes common for both groups to simply agree to dispense with any pretension to reality altogether. The best case here, of course, is the city of Las Vegas, where the sophisticated, themed casino complexes do not pretend to authenticity. Thus, while the real Doge’s Palace does not sit directly on the Piazza San Marco, such an adjustment can easily be made in its desert sister, where the replica of this historic seat of government is the Venetian, a 120,000 sq.ft. gambling casino. Likewise, the Rialto Bridge, which was once the only crossing over the Grand Canal, is found in Las Vegas to connect two powerful gambling institutions. And while the real Bridge of Sighs earned its name by serving prisoners en route to their execution, the only “sighs” at the Las Vegas version are likely to be those of gamblers in the process of losing their money. Thus, unlike real cities, which often resort to the manufacture of heritage for political purposes, or nations which have willfully allowed the consumption of their traditions by others out of economic necessity, Las Vegas is the ultimate site for the consumption of the heritage of the “other”. Yet before rushing to dismiss such a project as kitsch, one must consider that in Las Vegas there is no hidden agenda. Las Vegas presents an utterly manufactured heritage, based on the concept of copying the traditional forms of everywhere for the consumption of everyone. In Las Vegas, “the local and ‘exotic’ are torn out of place and time to be repackaged for the world bazaar. Time and distance no longer mediate the encounter with ‘other’ cultures” (Gupta and Ferguson 1992). Heritage sites that use history, but which have a legitimate claim to an authentic past, is the second category of environments that partake in these processes of cultural objectification. The difference here is that these places 159


were once sites of important historic events but which over time became marginalized. The attempt to resuscitate such environments – which may often be entire cities – by remaking them in their former image may serve one or both of two primary motives: to attract tourists for financial gain; and/or to serve as “banks” of national memory and pride to ward off the subversive effects of historical change. Colonial Williamsburg is a good example of such an environment. A replica of the capital of revolutionary era Virginia, it is arguably America’s premier public history site. Yet, like other history museums, its legitimacy depends on its claim to “real” history, as embodied in actual buildings and artifacts. But Colonial Williamsburg itself has long been criticized by historians for many of the same reasons as theme parks. Some critics have called it little more than “an airbrushed, consumer-oriented, patriotic shrine celebrating an upscale idyll loosely based on the life style of Virginia’s Colonial elite” (Gable and Handler 1998). Such criticisms have not gone unnoticed. As cultural administrators have sought to keep Colonial Williamsburg at the cutting edge of historical knowledge, a new group of historians, hired in the late 1970s, attempted to refashion the site by (among other things) bringing greater prominence to African Americans both in the ranks of its employees and in its narrative of nationhood. Yet the influence of these historians has ultimately remained limited – not because historians are poor contributors to the project of manufacturing an imaginable history, nor because they are reluctant to contribute to the parallel project of facilitating the consumption of heritage. Instead, this happened because management was concerned that visitors would not come, or return, unless their visits were pleasant and enjoyable (Gable and Handler 1998). Thus, depicting the harshness of slavery or any of early America’s other shortcomings would create a level of discomfort that might ultimately cut into Colonial Williamsburg’s popularity or profit. There is a deep irony here. Although tourists generally long to visit “authentic” places, the authenticity they seek is primarily visual. Thus, their encounter with “real” history remains marked by distance. And while they may wish to meet the world of the “other”, they also take great pains to limit its influence on them (AlSayyad 2000). Santa Fe provides a slightly different case study in this second category. Here, while the built heritage may be real, its meaning has long since been diluted. Thus, although the town’s distinctive indigenous adobe forms may be historically inspired, they have been long dissociated from their original cultural and historic context, so that now their consumption operates on an almost purely commercial level. It is well known that much of Santa Fe’s authentic-looking “adobe” structures are in fact cement-plastered woodframe buildings that give the appearance of adobe. This architecture of Santa Fe has accordingly caused one group of critics to label the town’s particular style “Santa fake”. In this regard, one might contrast the “fake” 160


authenticity of Santa Fe to the “authentic” fakery of Las Vegas. One might even say that places such as Santa Fe represent consumed tradition but not manufactured heritage. The island of Bali provides another example. Here, however, the first world has come to play the role of the guardian of many third world traditions. But this is only so to allow would-be first world visitors to appreciate and consume them. In this environment, the behavior of the local people becomes fundamentally conditioned by tourist expectations, and even as the locals are allowed to “be themselves”, they perform their supposedly still-genuine culture in a manner that blurs the line between the stage and the setting in a performance theater (Geertz 1966). The third type of environment, produced by globalization, are nostalgic places that exploit cultural heritage in an attempt to normalize it for everyday life. This is what the architects and planners who, self-proclaimed as New Urbanists and originally known as neo-traditionalists, have been producing in the US. The towns of Seaside and Celebration, Florida are perhaps the most well known icons of this movement. Developed according to a strict zoning/design code known as Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND), Seaside has been a great success in real estate terms. But like much of New Urbanism’s output, it has also been dismissed as a fake, involving little more than the selling of nostalgia (Hall 1998). Both Seaside and Celebration have also been criticized for their exclusionary aesthetics and lack of social diversity. But perhaps their most severe criticism has been directed at their particular form of physical determinism, best represented by the belief that “community” can be created by simply copying historical urban forms. Perhaps the most serious critique of Seaside was its use as the set for the film “The Truman Show”, which captured the voyeurism of a society of fakery, where the main character, sarcastically named “Truman”, is the unknown performer in a reality television show about his ordinary life in a totally fake studio set that resembles a traditional American small town. Another example in this category comes from Britain. The town of Poundbury originated with Prince Charles’s fight with the British architecture establishment. A traditional English village designed by Leon Krier and built on land owned by the prince, it has attempted to create the feeling of community that has grown up over time. Of course, the desired effect also includes a long stopover in the golden age of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries before the advent of architectural modernism. Thus, all services – telephone, electricity, gas and drainage – are buried in channels behind the housing, and the one large satellite dish that serves the entire community is hidden behind a high masonry wall. All that is visible protruding from the roof of a Poundbury house is a stately brick chimney or a polished weather vane. Like Seaside, when plans for it first emerged in 1989, Poundbury was derided as the product of a kitschy time warp. Yet despite its sentimental 161


pastiche of outmoded styles and small-town concepts, it has increasingly gained favor with its residents, as well as with writers and back-packers. As one commentator pointed out, “the effect is polite, elegant and as English as a vicar’s tea party” (Hoge 1998). The village of New Gurna near Luxor, Egypt, provides a counterpoint to Poundbury’s story of grudging critical acclaim. The work of Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, New Gurna was planned in the 1950s as the new home for residents of a settlement whom the Egyptian government wanted to evict from their houses among the archaeological sites of the ancient Theban necropolis. Fathy designed the village using elaborate mud-brick structures that he imagined represented indigenous traditions. However, in his search for an ideal vernacular, he turned to the geometries and proportions of Islamic styles that had flourished in Cairo several centuries earlier. Among other things, this resulted in the use of unfamiliar forms – domes and vaults – for the project; forms which the local people associated with the tombs and shrines of the dead. New Gurna was an elegant depiction of an idea, but when the villagers who were meant to live there refused to settle in it, the attempt to create a new community with no real economic or social justification was revealed as a costly mistake. It also became clear from his own writings about the project that Fathy’s true concern was with his reputation among his first world architectural peers (AlSayyad 1995), and not his poor subjects or his third world colleagues. Nevertheless, on account of the publicity of his effort to adapt indigenous architectural forms, Fathy came to be considered something of a guru among third world architects. Today, examples of Fathy-like architecture are widespread in the Egyptian landscape, often feeding the myth of an Egyptian vernacular architecture that they supposedly emulate. It is clear from this typology that the manufacture of heritage and the consumption of tradition are two activities that cannot be separated from each other. The consumption of tradition as a form of cultural demand and the manufacture of heritage as a field of commercial supply are two sides of the same coin. This explains why many countries are now actively inventing or re-creating their own heritage, and using tourist revenues to achieve this objective. Their design agenda thus has two components: one politically self-serving; the other economically sustaining. Here lies the dilemma of globalization. Because of the importance of the heritage tourism industry in the economy of nations, preserving heritage has become important not only for economic sustenance but also so that nations, regions and cities may position themselves to compete globally. The paradox is that investment in heritage may stir up further nationalist sentiment that often leads only to invocations of superiority and isolationist tendencies. The destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, India, by Hindu fundamentalists and the ensuing riots is a good example of 162


how conflict over heritage sites is redefining the political agendas of many countries in this global era. As Kevin Robins (1997) has remarked, “Globalization pulls cultures in different, contradictory, and often conflictual, ways. It is about the ‘de-territorialization’ of culture, but it also involves cultural ‘reterritorialization’. It is about the increasing mobility of culture, but also about new cultural fixities”, So while there is here a sense that cultural encounters across frontiers can create new and productive kinds of cultural fusion and hybridity, and global citizens, there must also be the recognition that restoring or rebuilding will enflame further social unrest and division. Indeed, the great danger lurking in this new global citizenship, of course, is the erosion of the public sphere. I would now like to return to Disneyland and its Main Street, the street that has captured the imagination of visitors to that park as the most quintessentially “American” of all places. Newspaper reports have indicated that its story may have come full circle. Marceline, Missouri, and Fort Collins, Colorado, were the two towns that originally inspired the design of Disneyland’s Main Street. Marceline was the hometown of Walt Disney, where as a boy he first sketched barnyard animals and fell in love with trains. Fort Collins was the birthplace of Harper Goff, Disneyland’s first director in the 1950s. However, as The New York Times reported in “A Tale of Two Main Streets” (Levine 1998), a reverse flow of cultural capital is now taking place from the copy to the models from which it was derived. According to the article, when Marceline and Fort Collins began to experience economic difficulties, both seized upon the expression of their ties to Disneyland’s Main Street as a strategy for survival. In particular, the citizens of Marceline renamed its downtown Kansas Avenue “Main Street USA” to cement the connection to Disneyland. The town tour now attracts several thousand visitors each year, and the train depot has been transformed into a Walt Disney–Santa Fe Railroad Museum. Meanwhile, in Fort Collins, the article reported that the preservation of its downtown had begun to look “suspiciously like Disneyfiction”. These examples clearly show how in today’s globalized era, where the communication, tourism and heritage industries reign supreme, the notion of authenticity has sometimes been cut completely loose from its moorings. The image of the thing has now actually replaced the thing itself. And we are not all equal in this authenticity equation. Indeed, at times the confused nature of authenticity may border on the absurd. Thus, at Disney World’s EPCOT Center in Florida, the Moroccan pavilion was actually subsidized by the government of Morocco, and Moroccan craftsmen were sent by the king to secure the country’s place in the new global order. One must ask what kind of authenticity or legitimacy the Moroccan government thought it was buying by investing in such an enterprise, especially when none of the wealthier nations represented at the exhibit, such as France or 163


Italy, provided any such funding for their pavilions. Morocco did not want to be left out of the copy, lest it be left out also of the real. In this regard one might also comment on the Cairo street that was built in the Paris Exposition of 1889. As part of that exhibit, curators felt compelled to import actual dirt, donkeys and caretakers. The concern for authenticity was so grave that several details of an actual historic structure – a Quranic school for children and a water fountain – were disassembled, shipped to Paris, and installed in the copy (Bierman 2005). In perhaps a supreme irony, 100 years later, when a foreign preservation team working for the Egyptian government wanted to restore this structure, the only surviving clear and detailed representations of it were those recorded in exhibition publications. Here the copy of the thing became the means by which the thing could continue to exist, and the relationship between the two became mutually sustaining if not constitutive. Perhaps this also explains why the Vegas Venetian casino established a special fund for the preservation of the city of Venice that it replicated. However, the events of 9/11 necessitate a different reading of the scholarship on endings and fate of tradition in the global era. It also begs the question of the “end of tradition” in the built environment! The articulation of this dilemma is complex and depends to a great extent on what one really means by tradition. I argued some fifteen years ago in the first conference of IASTE (International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments) that tradition must not be interpreted simply as the static legacy of the past but rather as a model for the dynamic interpretation of the present. I still believe that this view is sound, and it complemented Yi-Fu Tuan’s position that tradition was always about constraint or absence of choice (AlSayyad and Bourdier 1989). Hence, our work in IASTE was challenging the very concept of tradition itself and the parallel belief that the landscape has some authentic connection to a discrete population. Other colleagues in this debate have suggested that we turn our attention away from a search for the “authentic, the characteristic, the enduring and the pure, and immerse ourselves in the active and the impure, seeking settings that are ambiguous, multiple, often contested”, and examining points of contact and transformation (Upton 1993). I also suggested in the mid 1990s that in the current climate of globalization, while settlements are likely to become homogenized, their inhabitants are showing greater awareness of their ethnic, religious, and racial differences (AlSayyad 1996). I concluded that “identity” and tradition, in the era of globalization, are likely to become less place-rooted and more informationally based. So is this the end of tradition then, particularly in built form? The scholarly emphasis on the re-evaluation of tradition, its role in the production of environments, its relative efficacy of transmission, its demise in the face of globalization, and so on, suggest its possible “end”. Indeed, if 164


tradition is merely the dialectical fabrication of modernity then does not the end of tradition as a meaningful object of inquiry suggest the end of tradition as an objective reality? By the end of tradition, I imply not the death of tradition itself, but only an end to our valuation and conception of it as a reservoir for a meaningful “authentic” past. Many of the commonly received assumptions regarding tradition have been revised or jettisoned completely. The notion that tradition must be associated with place and is specific to a certain group of people has been significantly modified by the scholarship on globalization from fields such as anthropology, geography and cultural studies. The implication of isolation and rootedness fostered by earlier work on tradition has also been significantly overturned. Jane M. Jacobs (2004) has argued that tradition has indeed been brought into being by modernity’s own imaginary. She notes that under globalization, tradition has been reshaped and enlivened in a range of unexpected ways in the same place. So, rather than doing away with tradition, she asks us to think about tradition and modernity as being in an everchanging vibrating couplet within which the terms are both codependent and mutually exclusive, or, in her formula, “tradition is (not) modern”. The emergence of the idea of a global culture supermarket adds another challenge to the legitimacy of tradition as a stable frame of reference. Gordon Mathews (2000) argues that the earlier idea of culture as “the way of life of a people” should be combined with the more contemporary concept of culture as “the information and identities available from the global cultural supermarket”. This is to say that in a global era it is necessary to adopt a view of culture that is shaped equally by both the state and the market. Tradition, like culture, has at least for some, become a matter of choice, because both information and alternative identities are now available in this global supermarket. Tradition should also be viewed today as the arena of mediation between the hegemony of national or local culture in a given society and the exercise of choice by some members of that society. According to a Hong Kong newspaper article, for instance, when the reporter asked members of a motorcycle gang in China why they were obsessed by Harley Davidsons and the American dream of freedom, he was told, “Cultures … are like the dishes on a table. You just pick up what you like”. People everywhere increasingly identify with more than one tradition and one culture, as they develop multiple, flexible and simultaneous identities. With the rising power of civil, local and military groups, tradition is no longer mediated mainly or only by the state. And in our current media-crazed world, tradition is further manipulated by the cultural and material global supermarket. However, this position cannot be applied universally. For the traditions that shape the cultural landscapes of ethnic and minority groups will continue to be molded by practical resistance 165


against the dominant culture; and their stronger allegiance to a community identity. So it would seem that what has ended in the end, is not tradition itself, but the idea of tradition as a harbinger of authenticity, and as a container of specific cultural meaning. What has ended is not tradition but tradition as a place-based, temporally-situated concept, as a static authoritative legacy, and as a heritage owned by certain groups of people. We must recognize that what lasts in tradition today is the “transient, the fleeting, the contingent” (Gaonkar 1999). Tradition, like “fashion is not innocent of history … [and in fact] it continually scavenges the past for props, masks, and costumes”. Ultimately not only does the distinction between the fake and real become meaningless but the fake and the simulated become the real in and of themselves. In other words, the “real” and the “reel” have become mutually constitutive codependent entities where one cannot exist without the other. Tradition is not dead and in this case has not ended. What should end is tradition revered as authenticity. Tradition is no longer found only in “real” places. It lives even in the most fake of all places, where it is being reborn everyday in the social practices of those who inhabit what used to be the space of fakery. A good story to conclude with has to do with New York, the quintessential American city, and its Times Square. In the 1990s, Rudolf Giuliani took over the mayorship of New York City, vowing to clean up Times Square of all its prostitution, drugs, and informal street hawkers. The campaign to achieve this end included appropriating several establishments, selling property, re-zoning, and a package of benefits to encourage major corporations to take over this public space (Bressi 1996 and Reichl 1999). By the end of the 1990s, Times Square was totally remade, with Disney occupying a major part of it. The Square has now been made safe for tourists and citizens alike, but at the expense of making it more like a Disneyland or a Las Vegas. No longer are the homeless there, no longer can we see prostitutes and pimps. The hawkers, prostitutes and pimps still exist in New York, although not in its most important public space anymore. In Las Vegas, Nevada, a place no-one even called a city a few years ago, a new hotel Casino named New York/New York was built in the mid1990s. The casino with a skyline that emulates New York with a scaled Brooklyn Bridge in front of it has become a popular place among tourists who have never been to the “real” New York but feel that New York/New York is as much as they can or want to experience. But as New York/New York continues inside as a private casino, its public space on the strip is being taken over. After September 11, informal street vendors selling all forms of New York souvenirs from fire-fighter T-shirts to police officers memorabilia took over the sidewalk in front of the casino. Hispanic men and women may be seen distributing cards with pictures of prostitutes who can arrive at your door in 30 minutes. The cards promise 166


prompt service, credit card confidentiality, and that the server will at least match the advertised image. The cards go on to identify rates ranging from $50 for half-an-hour for a “brunette” to $80 for the same period for an “Asian beauty”. And in front of the hotel, mounted riot police may be seen on weekends controlling young teenage crowds – sons and daughters of the casino employees – mainly minorities and predominately Hispanic. None of these forms of behaviors exists in the real Times Square as they are no longer tolerated today. Yet, in Las Vegas the ultimate fake city, these traditions are alive and well. Has Las Vegas become the real city that New York City used to be? The paradox is that Vegas, designed as a utopia and streamlined for unfettered consumption now exhibits the “messiness” of a real city. This should remind us that the end of tradition does not come when a highly circumscribed utopia ceases to exist. Rather, it arrives when we realize that tradition is what we make and sustain everyday and everywhere through the occasionally contemptuous act of living. I would like to end this paper with a personal anecdote. At a field trip that was part of a recent conference I attended in Cairo in 1998, I met an American academic on the Giza plateau at the foot of the Pyramids. He was looking down toward the Sphinx, “Oh, but it is so small”, he was saying. He was really disappointed. His comment puzzled me, and it took me a couple of months to figure out what he meant. It turned out that the man was a teacher at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His city housed the famous Luxor Hotel and Gambling Casino, built as a glass pyramid with a three-times-enlarged Sphinx as its entrance. The professor was used to parking his car in a lot that faced the giant Las Vegas Sphinx. When he was in Giza, he became disappointed, not because the reality did not live up to its image, but because along the way, the reality ceased to be relevant when the image became the principal frame of reference. This is reminiscent of a tale of mimesis once told by Jean Baudrillard (1988). The cartographer of an empire draws a map that is perfect in every detail and eventually becomes a substitute for “the real” it represents. The map is slowly rotting just in the parts where the territory in real life becomes desert or occupied by other nations. “[S]imulation is no longer … a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality”.

Notes Much of the material included in this paper is based on various arguments presented in my two recent books Consuming Tradition, Manufacturing Heritage: Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism and The End of Tradition?



1 Of course, the first and third worlds are not homogeneous entities. The exercise of polarizing them into dualistic categories helps only in fleshing out fundamental differences between the attitudes of the former colonizers and the formerly colonized. 2 There are, of course, many other classifications produced by others that may be helpful in this regard. See, for example, Judd and Fainstein 1999.

References AlSayyad, N. 1995. From Vernacularism to Globalism: The Temporal Reality of Traditional Settlements. Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, 7 (1): 13–24. AlSayyad, N. 1996. Culture, Identity, and Urbanism in a Changing World. In Preparing for the Urban Future, eds M. Cohen, B. Ruble and J. Tulchin. Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center Press. AlSayyad, N. 2000. Consuming Tradition, Manufacturing Heritage: Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism. London and New York: Routledge. AlSayyad, N. ed. 2004. The End of Tradition? New York: Routledge. AlSayyad, N. and Bourdier, J. eds. 1989. Dwellings, Settlements, and Tradition Review. Lanham: University Press of America. Barber, B. 1995. Jihad vs. McWord. New York: Ballantine Books. Baudrillard, J. 1988. Selected Writings. ed. Mark Post. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Bell, D. 1960. The End of Ideology. New York: The Free Press. Bierman, I. 2005. Disciplining the Eye: Perceiving Medieval Cairo. In Making Cairo Medieval, eds. N. AlSayyad, I. Bierman and N. Rabat. Lanham: Lexington Books. Bressi, T. 1996. Reveille for Times Square: It’s a New Day for Manhattan’s Traditional Entertainment District. In Planning, 62 (9): 4–8. Fukuyama, F. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: The Free Press. Gable, E. and Handler, R. 1998. In Colonial Williamsburg, the New History Meets the Old. The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 30, 1998, B10–B12. Gaonkar, D. 1999. On Alternative Modernities. Public Culture, 11 (1): 1–18. Geertz, C. 1966. Person, Time, and Conduct in Bali: An Essay of Cultural Analysis. New Haven: Yale University Press Southeast Asia Studies. Gibbs, N. 2002. Apocalypse Now. Time Magazine, July 1, 2002. Gupta, A. and Ferguson, J. 1992. Beyond “Culture”: Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference. Cultural Anthropology, 7 (1): 6–22. Hall, D.D. 1998. Community in the new urbanism: Design Vision and Symbolic Crusade. Traditional Dwellings and Settlement Review, 9 (2): 23–26. Hoge, W. 1998. In Stone, a Prince’s Vision of Britain. The New York Times, 11 June, B1–B6. Levine, J.V. 1998. A Tale of Main Streets. The New York Times, 15 October, F1. Jacobs, J.M. 2004. Tradition is (not) modern: Deterritorializing globalization. In The End of Tradition? ed. N. AlSayyad. London and New York: Routledge. Jacoby, R. 1999. The End of Utopia. New York: Basic Books.



Judd, D. and Fainstein, S. 1999. Cities as places to play. In The Tourist City. eds D. Judd and S. Fainstein. New Haven: Yale University Press. Mathews, G. 2000. Global Culture/Individual Identity: Searching for Home in the Cultural Supermarket. London and New York: Routledge. Mitchell, T. 2002. McJihad: Islam in the US global order. Social Text, 20 (4): 1–18. Ohmae, K. 1995. The End of the Nation-State. New York: The Free Press. Reichl, A. 1999. Reconstructing Times Square: Politics and Culture in Urban Development. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. Robin, K. 1997. What in the World’s Going on? In Production of Culture: Cultures of Production, ed. Paul de Gay. London: SAGE Publications. Upton, D. 1993. The Tradition of Change. Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, 5 (1): 5–18.


11 T H E P O LIT ICS O F HER ITA GE AUT HO RS H IP The case of digital heritage collections Fiona Cameron

Abstract Digital heritage, as with heritage until recently, has been seen largely untouched by a critical discourse. What is deemed to be digital heritage is seen as unproblematic. To this end, I develop a critical discourse, and argue that digital heritage is a deeply political concept and practice. The ascription of heritage metaphors to cultural materials in a digital format means that digital media has become embedded in the cycle of heritage value and consumption, and in the broader heritage complex, an institutionalised culture of practices and ideas. These legacies, I argue, are shaping the way cultural materials in a digital format are defined and known, how they are produced and consumed and what gets to count as being significant within institutional frameworks. First, I seek to define digital heritage as a subgroup of heritage products and unsettle some of the assumptions embedded in the concept by critiquing the philosophies, discourses and political assumptions that have been at the heart of debates about the meaning of heritage. I then critically analyze systems of value and significance and their technologies of production such as the idea of materiality, authenticity and aura. By drawing on Foucault’s technologies of domination (1977) and technologies of self (1988), I examine the tensions between institutionalised forms of heritage ascription and ways communities are defining the meaning, value and significance of these objects on their own terms. I conclude by suggesting new ways that institutions might think about and engage cultural objects in a digital format.



Digital heritage as culturally produced Surprisingly, digital heritage like heritage until recently has been largely untouched by a critical discourse. Discussions have centred on the standing of digital media as heritage and around discourses of the original, authentic (Benjamin 1968; Baudrillard 1994, 2000) digital preservation and intellectual property rights. The idea of heritage as a cultural and political process of marking off the past and future in the present is well known as argued by cultural theorist Tony Bennett (1995: 130): “the past, as embodied in historic sites and museums, while existing in a frame which separates it from the present, is entirely the product of the present practices which organize and maintain that frame”. Current debates within the heritage sector challenge essentialist, modernist assumptions of heritage value and significance. Heritage is deemed to signify the politisation of culture and the mobilization of cultural forms for ideological ends. Scholars such as Stuart Hall (2005: 23–24) argue for heritage-making as a western hegemonic and institutionalized culture of practices and ideas that are inherently political, socially and culturally circumscribed and marked by class, gender, race and ethnicity. Heritage has come to be known as the consolidation of a largely fictitious glorious past in a material form for the purposes of nation building through the production of a collective memory and shared identity to bind citizens into a national story (Davison 2000; Peckham 2003). Emblematic heritage sites in the UK such as stately homes and castles, for example, define the past according to male, white, upper and middle class values. These discourses about ‘Britishness’ have become a material embodiment of the spirit of the nation, a collective representation of British tradition and a concept pivotal to the lexicon of English virtues (ibid). Clearly, heritage ascription involves a selective memory elevating one groups’ heritage and disinheriting others ( Hall 2005; Littler and Naidoo 2005). For these reasons, heritage as defined is increasingly contested within a new cosmopolitan arena (Hall 2005; Littler and Naidoo 2005). Despite this, the selection of cultural materials produced in a digital format and their attribution as a new type of heritage is seen in many circles as unproblematic. The struggle has been for acceptance as a heritage product. The ascription of heritage metaphors to produce digital heritage means that digital media has become embedded in the cycle of heritage value and consumption, and in the broader heritage complex. The UNESCO charter shows how digital cultural materials have been inducted uncritically into the wider and accelerated global process of heritagization. By drawing on museum/heritage metaphors of significance and value, heritage professionals and organisations such as UNESCO through its Charter on the



Preservation of Digital Heritage have created digital heritage as a new type of heritage legacy. … the disappearance of heritage constitutes an impoverishment of the heritage of all nations … the Organization will maintain, increase and diffuse knowledge, by assuring the conservation and protection of the world’s inheritance of books, works of art and monuments of history and science … its “Memory of the World” Programme aims to ensure the preservation and universal accessibility of the world’s documentary heritage, … resources of information and creative expression are increasingly produced, distributed, accessed and maintained in digital form, creating a new legacy – the digital heritage. (UNESCO 2003: 1) The UNESCO Charter lets what is regarded as important from the past for the future in the present, and the systems of classification that heritage and now digital heritage items are placed within, stand as self evident and natural. That is, by efforts to create a monolithic, encompassing and shared universal documentary heritage through its “memory of the world” program. This self-evidential cloak worn by heritage and now digital heritage is one of the ways objects and sites deemed worthy of heritage status accumulate power. Consequently, there has been little critical reflexivity of what digital heritage means within current heritage debates, nor how heritage professionals might move beyond their reliance on this analogy to engage complexity – other social and cultural dimensions.

Digital cultural heritage – definitions Digital heritage can be defined as a selected pool of materials in a digital format deemed worthy of preservation for posterity. Eurocentric concepts of heritage and time, and systems of significance and authenticity are the defining factors. It is a specific Eurocentric regime for producing identity and a taxonomic instrument to constitute knowable relations between individuals, society and heritage institutions; and more importantly is a cognitive tool used to relate to, deal with change, enter, experience, articulate the past and future in the present and to create and affirm identity and belonging. Cultural theorist Stuart Hall (2005: 23) argues “What is curious in the British usage [of heritage] is the emphasis given to preservation and conservation: to keeping what already exists – as opposed to the production and circulation of new work in different media, which takes a very definite second place”. 172


Interestingly, current definitions of digital heritage in the UNESCO charter admit new work in different media as heritage and give them equal standing thus challenging Hall’s argument. But significantly these new products are tethered to systems of significance and discourses of preservation and conservation. Digital materials include texts, databases, still and moving images, audio, graphics, software and web pages, among a wide and growing range of formats. … Many of these resources have lasting value and significance, and therefore constitute a heritage that should be protected and preserved for current and future generations. (UNESCO 2003: 1) The Collections Council of Australia Summit on Digital Collections Working Papers (2006: 5) also articulates this heritage paradox by defining digital materials as heritage according to a list of criteria that includes historical and contemporary materials. Digital heritage according to the UNESCO charter is made on the premise of something to save and preserve rather than something that is created or built. It represents a shift in value – new works so conserved only have value in relation to the past. Nothing is deemed more valuable than that which is inherited from the past. In this sense the idea of digital heritage is a paradox, one which refers to newly created objects or media and also to discourses of loss.

Digital media and heritage status The status of digital media as heritage is most clearly articulated by the translocation of systems of value and procedures from heritage. Meaning is circumscribed within heritage contexts of worth. This is clearly articulated in the National Library of Australia’s Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage (2003: 69): what to keep is based on the same criteria as non-digital materials and where selection is based on criteria in collection policies, knowledge of materials and their context and most importantly defining the elements of the materials which give the objects their value. To be validated, digital heritage must take its place alongside what has ‘been authorized as “valuable”. Moreover, selection criteria in relation to nation building and the unfolding of a “national” story are predetermined. The UNESCO charter, Article 7 – Selecting what should be kept (2003: 3) for example, articulated the collective memory of the 173


nation through selected milestones in a nations’ history and examples of innovation. As with all documentary heritage, selection principles may vary between countries, although the main criteria for deciding what digital materials to keep would be their significance and lasting cultural, scientific, evidential or other value. (ibid) Collecting and verifying significance is less a question of establishing an obvious identity but rather a question of an uneasy one that risks disappearing. Historian François Hartog (2005: 10), articulates this as “an identity in search of itself, to be exhumed, assembled and even invented through this process. In this way it comes to define less that which one possesses, what one has, than circumscribing what one is without having known or capable of knowing”. In referring to Australian digital heritage, the National Library of Australia’s Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage (2003: 74) state that “Preservation programs act as agents for ‘the nation’ or the ‘general community”’. Here digital heritage is central to building a national identity and those that select what is deemed significant and the procedures this involves are presented as an immutable entity – as natural and objective. In essence digital heritage like heritage before it is imposed on all, protected and marketed as a birthright. And it presents the past as homogeneous and stable through reified systems of worth and significance, a past knowable through selected material objects. The maintenance of the integrity of the digital fabric through preservation ensures its existence as a heritage resource. Historian Graeme Davison (2000: 111) argues that heritage can only offer a veneer of the past. Indeed the same is true for “new” heritage.

Past–present–future alignments Digital heritage, like established concepts of heritage, represents the commodification of the past. It is backward looking and attempts to salvage a future from the ruins of the past. A rhetoric of loss and saving for posterity defines digital heritage rather than the intrinsic values of these objects. The UNESCO Charter (2003: 1) states that “digital heritage is at risk of being lost and that its preservation is for the benefit of present and future generations”. Here, the framework for digital heritage is the future – the generations yet unborn who will inherit – as much as the past. Likewise, the National Library of Australia’s Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage (2003: 29) refer to this role as a present– future–past interlocutor, stating that “Anything considered important to 174


be passed onto future generations is considered to be heritage including digital”.

Discourses of loss The prospect of loss haunts digital heritage in the same way as other heritages. References to born heritage items in the UNESCO charter (2003: 2) refer to this threat of loss. Guarding against Loss of Heritage, Article 3 The world’s digital heritage is at risk of being lost to posterity. Contributing factors include the rapid obsolescence of the hardware and software which brings it to life, uncertainties about resources, responsibility and methods for maintenance and preservation, and the lack of supportive legislation. (ibid) In this sense digital heritage is valued if threatened or has gone. It is born disappearing due to a threat of extinction. Saving digital heritage is deemed to guard against loss and resonates with the idea that there is nothing that we can make or hope to make that is more valuable than the past. Discourses of loss as recorded in the National Library of Australia guidelines and the UNESCO charter are intimately tied to the idea of the preservation of the authentic. Loss and the authentic have a psychological resonance as a spiritual mooring. They gesture towards a different afterlife for an object, a lofty obligation to ones ancestors and descendants and secures a high-ground principle against development. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1995: 60–83) refers to this dominant impulse “preserving the decaying or obsolete for posterity”, as derived from a piety towards the past. Heritage value can also be read as a state of consciousness, a manifest anxiety about the past and future. If considered in the present without an anxiety centred on loss and salvage, digital objects would have no heritage value.

Assembling tomorrow’s archives There is a tension between an acceptance of loss, a desire for retrieval and decisions over what to keep. By assembling tomorrow’s archives, heritage professionals are caught between defining what to keep and what is significant in the national story involving a collective amnesia as well as a collective memory, and the desire to forget nothing. The National Library of Australia’s Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage (2003: 8) articulates this by stating “For cultural institutions traditionally 175


entrusted with collecting and preserving cultural heritage, the question has become extremely pressing as to which of these materials should be kept for future generations and how to go about selecting and preserving them”. The digital surrogate has a different role to perform than the born digital object, the latter deemed akin to the non-digital original. Surrogates, according to the Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage, have a specific role to guard against loss through digital preservation (ibid). Historian David Lowenthal (1985: 399) suggests we “cling to vestiges of the past in the face of uncertainty and compensate for what is gone by an interest in its history”. To this end, the surrogate is treated as a tangible link with past time, as confirmation of enduring identity in a volatile present. It is mobilized to mourn and validate discourses of a lost past through an interest in the original’s history while validating the idea of material authenticity. As part of this mourning and historical recovery process, the replicant is sealed off conceptually. It has no explicit messages of its own but rather carries those of the original. In this sense the replicant brings the heritage object and the signs of its making into the presence of the viewer while suppressing its own craft that made that presence possible; that is, by carrying information about the “original” object’s details, its form, fabric, shape, aesthetics and history through interpretation rather than referencing its own characteristics. In creating a surrogate, the gestures, memories, customs, intentions, and scars of their life histories are faithfully replicated in virtual space taking on the solidity, surfaces, edges, and texture of the real. It is made to bear witness to the past through these renderings as a kind of visual autopsy to ensure a more certain recovery of history, time, or aesthetic experience (Sontag 1983: 63; Leyton 1992). For example, an infantry officer’s red jacket or “coatee” worn by Lieutenant Henry Anderson at the Battle of Waterloo, now in the collection of the National Army Museum, London, bears evidence of a blood stain, the trace of a wound inflicted by a musket ball (Pearce 1996: 19). In a similar way, the stain inscribed into the coding of the digital form becomes one of its message bearing qualities, the langue or memory for the observer. The historical circumstances of time, place and action, that the “coatee” and stain as an authenticated factual trace and its digital reproduction represents opens a space for imagination, reworked through the creative powers of memory. Because the jacket survives physically it retains its metonymic relationship to the battle (ibid: 25).

Systems of value – selections and silences Preserving “digital” heritage “fragments” as with those of heritage, involves their relocation, reconstruction and re-presentation within a different 176


landscape of the present through processes of de-territorialization and reterritorialization. Objects are uprooted from their concrete social relations and incorporated through processes of selection and appraisal back onto new systems of meaning through classification like any other heritage item. Here an object is recorded, but in practice it is gathered up and absorbed into a selective tradition. For example, digital heritage, according to the National Library of Australia’s Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage (2003: 69) is subject to the same systems of classification as other heritage items, where objects are deemed heritage, worthy of preservation according to a series of criteria and where significant elements are defined. It is … necessary to decide what digital materials are worth keeping, as … with non-digital materials. Many of the same approaches – selection based on criteria in collection policies, … materials and their context – are fundamental for digital heritage selection. Preservation programmes also need to define the elements or characteristics of the materials they select that give them value so the elements can be maintained. Selection … should encompass concepts like appraisal … Every choice to preserve is at the expense of something else …. Selection is conceptually the same as nondigital materials-procedures for assessing and selecting material for preservation. (ibid) The essentialized meaning or making of digital heritage emerges at the very moment of origin, as a heritage item through the selection and appraisal process, and is captured and embodied through documentation by giving value to the elements deemed significant. It develops within representation, rather than some objective essence that sits outside. Selection criteria determine what counts and what does not, and what is to be valued. It highlights the concept of heritage as made rather than found. For example, a digital item incorporated into the National Library of Australia’s collection is attributed essentialized meanings on the basis of: evidence of and connection with original context; artistic or aesthetic factors; indicators of significant innovation; historic or cultural association; what the user can do with the material (user behavior) and culturally significant characteristics in that order (ibid: 74–83). Choices as to what to keep and criteria in which to define objects are made at the expense of others and as Hall (2005) suggests is one of the ways a nation slowly constructs a collective memory of itself. Clearly the same is true for digital heritage items. The value of the past for the future and the nation hinges on these essentialized meanings. 177


Technologies of heritage production – historical materialism, authenticity and aura Discourses of heritage, of loss and the disappearing world phenomenon are reliant on the concept of historical materiality to uphold value and significance, and are formative values in concepts of authenticity and aura. Historian Graeme Davison (2000) argues that heritage is a distinctly western epistemology. According to Davison, heritage represents a preoccupation with material remains, elevates materiality along with the unique and handmade as more valuable, and articulates a distaste for mass production. In its preoccupation with the material remains of the past – “the things you ‘keep’ – it endorses our own materialism; yet in its reverence for what is durable, handmade or unique it also reinforces our underlying distaste for a culture of mass production and planned obsolescence. (Davison 2000: 115) Likewise, museologist Peter Cannon-Brookes (1992) refers to western societies as “object-centered” where notions of heritage place the accumulation of objects of critical importance in the transmission of cultural traditions. Theorist Jonathan Crary (2001) also connects this focus on materiality with the western use of vision as an objective source of knowledge and rational thought in the nineteenth century. Historian Dipesh Chakrabathy (2002) points out that this preoccupation with materiality has served as a tool to support so called objective and rational, analytic systems of knowledge while suppressing more experiential forms of knowledge production. Clearly, born digital objects resonate with this preoccupation with materialism and accumulation by the recognition that “digital objects as heritage items survive in a material form” and the idea of collecting for posterity (National Library of Australia 2003: 35). Criteria based on material form also delimit possible criteria, values, meanings and cultural experiences to which objects might resonate. In contrast, the majority of societies are concept-centred where collecting and preserving objects is limited to items which perform an ongoing functional role, and where cultural transmission is oral (Kreps 2003). This emphasis is increasingly recognised by another new heritage product, “intangible heritage”. Concepts of historical materialism, the original, aura and authenticity that are central to the construction of heritage in the West are not attributed the same value in Japan for example (Hartog 2005: 11). Although the past and heritage is important, a different representation of permanence 178


and relationships to traces of the past are derived from time that was not linear in the way westerners define historical time or by a past-future – loss-salvage paradigm. For example, many temples derive value from their intangible religious background and are periodically reconstructed (ibid). Aura as a discourse is co-dependent on the notion of materiality and authenticity, and central to upholding heritage value. Walter Benjamin’s (1968) concept of aura, one widely embraced as a means of ascribing heritage significance, refers to the capacity of an artwork or heritage item to offer a direct, unmediated link to an original maker, event or person in time. Aura, like classification, authoritatively connects with a narrative, in this instance origin. Lieutenant Henry Anderson’s jacket held in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection, for example, has a welldocumented provenance, a connection with the Battle of Waterloo and acts as a souvenir of the event by a known owner. If this object is dislocated from its systems of meaning, its aura is diminished and it becomes merely a stained jacket. Likewise with born digital objects, authenticity and aura are concepts of origin and act as locational devices in place and time that determine their essential value. 21. Authenticity is a critical issue where digital objects are used as evidence … All files should be identified and their provenance and history documented to provide continuous evidence of authenticity. (National Library of Australia 2003: 22) Within the heritage sector, strong distinctions are made between copies and originals (Fyfe 2005: 47–67), also evident by the definition between born digital heritage items and copies from non-digital sources. Its purpose through devices such as established canons of materiality, aura and authenticity, is to ensure that the established order of heritage value is not subverted and remains bounded within certain frames. To this end, heritage values of loss, the way significant cultural value is assessed, institutional claims of authority based on the integrity of material/object authenticity and aura act as these distancing mechanisms and are evident in the UNESCO charter where born digital materials are given priority (UNESCO 2003: 3). These processes resonate with Foucault’s technologies of domination where the power of the state submits individuals to strong ideological manipulation (Bennett 1995, 1998). In reading this, institutions such as UNESCO and the National Library of Australia play a pivotal role in the heritagization process as technologies of domination; that is, by producing, transforming, manipulating and using signification to create a digital cultural heritage. And it refers to theorist Antonio Gramsci’s hegemony of the ruling classes, where UNESCO exercises cultural authority and leadership over the processes of meaning 179


making given to selected digital media by producing and maintaining an ascendant and authoritative set of values. Here, the production of consent in Gramscian terms involves the popular identification with the cultural meanings generated by UNESCO through a series of consultations with communities in Asia and the Pacific, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe (Webb 2003). Heritagization is particularly potent, persuasive and effective. The ascription of cultural materials in a digital form as heritage represents an ongoing struggle within the heritage and museum industry to manifest the desire to understand the world through historical materiality. Clearly, institutional practices and relations uphold these values within the heritage sector and are particularly steadfast and entrenched. All this makes it very difficult to articulate new positions.

Technologies of domination and technologies of self – the digital heritage sector and community users Not surprisingly, differently constituted groups use their own cultural competencies and agendas to craft their own identities and cultural materials in a digital format within a broader heritage schema. These processes are likened to Foucault’s technologies of self (1988: 18). Technologies of self acknowledge an individuals ability to transform themselves, their conduct and way of being through their own means or with the help of others (ibid). This process is accelerating with innovations in social media. Therefore, it is useful to embrace Foucault’s later definition of “governmentality” to understand the link between the strategic deployment of the power of the heritage industry and how this interacts with and is used within communities to become self-determining agents and in creating their own autobiographies. That is, to tell their own truths about culture, to embrace and challenge and also resist prevailing heritage regimes of classification. Maori communities, for example, are using digital technologies such as augmented and virtual reality to create their own cultural materials in digital format and for copying cultural objects held in museum collections. Maori academic Deidre Brown (2006) suggests that the shaping of new electronic waka (vessels) to suit specific cultural purposes is part of a long history of cultural appropriation and offers a way of subverting technologies of domination by cultural institutions. The desire to record and preserve digital cultural objects such as this patu refers both to a need for institutions to record, salvage and preserve according to a past – future paradigm but also to Maori ambitions to document and have access to their whakapapa the genealogy of ancestors who made, used and are represented by that object. Here heritage values, institutional forms and community concepts of value and significance interact representing the 180


interplay between technologies of domination and technologies of self in the authorship of value and significance. According to Brown (2006), the inherent spiritual and emotional qualities that give their cultural treasures or taonga meaning and significance have the potential to be transferred to the digital copy like photographs and moving images beforehand. This includes qualities of mana (power and prestige); tapu (protected, sacred, prohibited); korero (oratory, narratives); karakia (recitation); whakapapa (genealogy, systematic framework); wairua (everlasting spirit); ihi (spiritual power); wehi (to incite fear and awe); and wana (authority, integrity) except perhaps mauri (life essence) (ibid). The replicant is regarded as having its own life force separate from the ancestor. Here no distinction is made between born and copy and where heritage and museological canons of materiality, aura and authenticity are of less relevance. This has the potential to challenge and subvert established hierarchies of digital heritage selection, value and significance. The induction of museum collections within new cyber social spaces also invites their creative and recombinant use (Trant 2006b); and recent advances in social media enable users to re-constitute their own cultural codes, to name the world in their own terms, disrupt power relationships, exercise their own agency and re-constitute their own lives, futures and cultures (Rodriguez 2004). This opens avenues for extending and indeed perhaps subverting institutional practices of heritage value, meaning and significance production. The impact of Web 2.0 and social media on collections access, and shifts in significance and value beyond rigid heritage regimes, is demonstrated with the Powerhouse Museum launch of OPAC 2 in June 2006. Around 70% of the Powerhouse Museum collections for example have been made fully google-enabled making open searching and amazon-like recommendations possible (Chan 2007). Around 25,000 object records are now viewed daily. Inspired by FlickR, an expertimental art-cataloguing project Steve, and the Powerhouse Museum employ social tagging (user supplied access points) to invite community users to add descriptive terms or folksonomies to online museum collections (Trant 2006a; Chan 2007). Here users act as agents in defining search terms and the resultant significance and value of digital heritage collections according to a broader range of social criteria. Significantly the notion of a museum-authored collective memory of the nation through digital objects takes a new turn where strict heritage regimes of materiality, aura are supplemented by community values. As communities respond to collections, objects accrue greater value in the present as items of personal interest and social identity and where users supply new significance values. Delta Goodrem’s dress, for example, now one of the most popular items in the Powerhouse Museum collection according to user searches suggests that past–present–future heritage paradigms are 181


not the primary sources of value. This item is valued in the context of the present as representative of contemporary cultural consumption – Delta as a contemporary musician and her celebrity status. This highlights heritage significance as contingent, as shifting, and most importantly intimately embedded in contemporary and popular social practices. As communities respond to collections, perhaps heritage status can no longer be regarded as static, as a lofty and noble idea, as set apart from contemporary society within the context of museums (Cameron and Robinson 2007). Museum records and heritage selections are now being used in unexpected ways, as tools for users to contribute to a richer web of context and value and as a means to create their own autobiographies.

Citation – spaces where different notions of the digital cultural object can interact Clearly the induction of collections in digital formats into new social spaces creates tensions between the heritage values and collective memories that the museum creates and the values that are created by users external to the museum in an individually or socially defined context. How can these tensions be acknowledged and how can other cultural values be inducted into the hegemonic digital heritage regime and in ways that are not merely tacked on to established criteria? A new way of looking at cultural materials in a digital format and as a model for organizing complex information online is to engage Andre Malraux’s idea of the museal, the museum characteristic of citation (quoted in Bournia 2006). Citation rejects the notion of a permanent pattern of human experience around the idea of art, or indeed heritage. In dissociating cultural materials in digital format from a sense of permanence as heritage, as an expression of their enduring essence, and instead reading objects as citation, opens selection and significance to other values and to the creative interaction between different social and cultural systems as complexity. Clearly relationships between heritage sector and the authorship of digital heritage and indeed collective memory require a new account of self as a symbolic project that is self-acting, more open-ended and reflexive. And as Alexandria Bournia (2006) argues, there is a need to move from the idea of materiality as an anchorstone for significance to a field where different components of the notion of the cultural artefact interact. That is not to give up on the idea of heritage as a cultural product, but to acknowledge cultural materials in a digital form as having their own life force, significance and social value in addition to heritage characteristics. This raises important questions around the admittance, authorship and authority of disparate value conventions within heritage institutions and the possible technical solutions that might bridge the semantic gap between heritage values and contemporary social ones. There also needs to be a greater 182


consideration of the selection of digital objects beyond the pragmatics of salvage, preservation and collections management, as resources for building social and cultural capital within cyber social spaces.

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with Michel Foucault, eds L.H. Martin, H. Gutman and P.H. Hutton. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Fyfe, G. 2005. Reproduction, cultural capital and museums: aspects of the culture of Copies. Museum and Society, 2 (1) (March): 47–67. Gramsci, A. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks (selected and translated by Q. Hoare and G. Lovell-Smith). London: Lawrence and Wishart. Hall, S. 2005. Whose Heritage? Un-Settling “The Heritage”, Reimagining the PostNation.In The Politics of Heritage: The Legacies of “Race”, eds Jo Littler and Roshi Naidoo. London: Routledge, pp 23–35. Hartog, F. 2005. Time and Heritage. Museum 227, 57 (3): 7–18. Kreps, C. 2003. Liberating Culture: cross-cultural perspectives on museums, curation and heritage preservation. London: New York: Routledge. Leyton, M. 1992. Symmetry, Causality, Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Littler, J. and Roshi, N. eds 2005. The Politics of Heritage: The Legacies of “Race”. London: Routledge. Lowenthal, D. 1985. The Past is a Foreign Country. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Malraux, A. 1948. Imaginary Museum. The Burlington Magazine, 90 (542) (May 1948): 127–128. National Library of Australia. 2003. Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage. Internet. Available from accessed 1 November 2005. Nietzsche, F. 1995. The Use and Abuse of History. New York: Macmillan. Pearce, S.M. 1996. Objects as meaning: or narrating the past. In Interpreting Objects and Collections: A Cultural Study, ed. Susan Pearce. London: Routledge, pp. 113–135. Peckham, R.S. ed. 2003. Rethinking Heritage: Cultures and Politics in Europe. London: I.B. Taurus. Rodriguez, C. 2004. The Renaissance of Citizens’ Media. In Media Development 2004/2 Citizenship, Identity, Media. London: WACC. publications/media_development/2004_2 accessed 13.4.07. Sontag, S. 1982. Barthes: Selected Writings. Oxford: The University Press & Fontana/Collins. Trant, J. 2006a. Exploring the potential for social tagging and folksonomy in art museums: proof of concept. New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 12 (1 June 2006): 83–105. Trant, J. 2006b. Curating Collections Knowledge: Museums in Cyberstructure. In Museum Infomatics: People, Information and Technology in Museums, ed. P.F. Marty and K. Jones. New York: Taylor and Francis. UNESCO. 2003. UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage Internet. Available from TOPIC& URL_ SECTION=201.html accessed 1 November 2005. Webb, C. 2003. UNESCO Guidelines for the Preservation of Digital Heritage: UNESCO. Williams, R. 1963. The Long Revolution. Harmondsworth: Pelican.


12 E X P L O R AT I V E S H A D O W RE A L M S O F U N C E R T A I N H I S T O R I ES Erik M. Champion

Abstract This chapter defines and distinguishes between virtual heritage and new media. It suggests five defining features of new heritage as a composite interstitial field, and explains why certain issues cloud its development, and how they can be potentially resolved.

Introduction My primary focus in this chapter is to explore how new media, as we do and do not understand it, may help the development of meaningful content. In order to do so, I first wish to summarize what I see as key issues in virtual heritage. I will then explain what has been done and what could be done, to address these concerns. My suggestions derive from the premise that heritage does not just consist in portraying intangible viewpoints of tangible objects. Intangible heritage may appear non-traditional to modern western society, it is often situated rather than transferable, or it is so familiar it startles when placed in isolation and examined from an exterior perspective. Such strangeness in some ways needs to be captured, not for novelty’s sake, or to promote new technology, but for the very reason that intangible heritage is amorphous and easily lost.



Some key terms What is cultural heritage? I will follow UNESCO’s (1972) definition of cultural heritage. They define it to be: Monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science; Groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science; Sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view. However, UNESCO (2003) also define intangible heritage to be: The practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills, that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. It is sometimes called living cultural heritage, and is manifested inter alia in the following domains: oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; traditional craftsmanship. There is an interesting distinction between the definition of cultural heritage, which seems to cover artefacts, and the definition of intangible heritage, which is considered to also be part of cultural heritage, but covers beliefs, art forms, rituals, and other social practices. Is it not revealing that cultural heritage was initially defined as the material, and as being of “universal value”? By contrast, the more recent definition of intangible heritage is not material, is conflated with the living, and is valued by the users themselves. I do not personally believe cultural heritage is of such great value if the intangible heritage that inhabits it is not also protected and studied. Nor are we likely to deeply appreciate the complex situated nature of intangible heritage without understanding 186


the many ways in which it shapes and is shaped by cultural artefacts. To make more sense of these definitions, we might rather say that cultural heritage consists of both the tangible and the intangible, and they may be considered as valuable either for the use and meaning they give to their creators, or to those who are unfamiliar with the particular culture. What is virtual heritage? Visualization has been defined as forming “a mental image of something incapable of being viewed or not at that moment visible” (Collins Dictionary), “a tool or method for interpreting image data fed into a computer and for generating images from complex multi-dimensional data sets”. Following McCormick et al. (1987), the point of virtual heritage might be to visualize a culture through its artefacts. Virtual heritage is thus a visualization or recreation of culture. In virtual heritage projects, the aim is typically to “recreate” or “reconstruct” the past through threedimensional modelling, animation, and panorama photographs. In some advanced cases, objects are laser-scanned, and accurate textures of what used to be there are applied to the resulting digital models. Why would we do that? For many reasons – for when a culture is no longer with us, when a culture is so ingrained that we do not normally notice or appreciate it, or when the remains of a society or civilization are currently inaccessible or scattered. It may now seem to us that virtual heritage is simply the recreation of what used to be there. Yet what used to be “there” was more than a collection of objects. Those objects had specific meaning to the cultural perceptions of the land’s traditional inhabitants. We may only realize these other viewpoints and practices if we ourselves are displaced as the final arbiters of meaning and use. Communities include differences, debates, and age-long remembered differences. How do we layer interpretations so communities can understand each other’s cultural (material) background? If we created multi-user environments with digital recreation of past cultures would that help create a sense of community or a sense of cultural presence (the feeling of being in the presence of a similar or distinctly different cultural belief system)? If culture as according to Tuan (1998) is a form of escapism, adding people to a virtual environment may actually create something else. Sartre (1947) once wrote that Hell is other people. With apologies to Sartre, we have not fully resolved how virtual environments should be populated, peopled, or inhabited. And it is through and due to a notion of other people that culture is transmitted. This aspect of human culture is exemplified in Hegel’s explanation of medals; we are the only species that creates and shares icons of the recognition of others. 187


Culture expresses shared beliefs and ritualized habits of social agents towards each other and their environment via artefacts and language. Merely experiencing social presence (the feeling that other people are in the same virtual environment) is ephemeral and fleeting, and does not layer the environment with a felt history. For this reason I believe that Talbot (1995) is right to argue accidental history and placeless electronically distributed minds work against community, not for it. And this leads me to suggest that virtual heritage is the attempt to convey not just the appearance but also the meaning and significance of cultural artefacts and the associated social agency that designed and used them, through the use of interactive and immersive digital media. Why is social agency important to cultural heritage? Culture is a projection of a shared idea of reality, through meaning, ritualization, celebration, and idealization. A communal fascination with a specific idea of agency can be coded graphically and expressed in order to enhance engagement, to reveal, and to explain differences. The next question would be, how can technology help enable this? What is new media? The most new media way I can think of to define new media, is to quote the Wikipedia (2006). New media usually refers to a group of relatively recent mass media based on new information technology. It is based on computing technology and not reducible to communication in a traditional sense. Most frequently the label would be understood to include the Internet and World Wide Web, video games and interactive media, CD-ROM and other forms of multimedia popular from the 1990s on. The phrase came to prominence in the 1990s, and is often used by technology writers like those at Wired magazine and by scholars in media studies. One problem with new media theory (as with many aesthetic definitions) is that it often uses individual and unique cases, or tries to create a complete theory from the entanglement of complicated literary criticism rather than consider typical publicly available examples that we might find in the wider world. Another problem with definitions of new media is that there are definitions of new media. For example, postmodernism ended itself by ending modernism; nothing can come after “post”. In new media, this issue appears again; how can such hybrid practices, definitions, and media hope to have essentialist criteria that focus and provoke rather than constrain? The phrase confuses as much as it clarifies. 188


Given there are books entitled New Media, 1740–1915 by Gitelman and Pingree (2003), the essence of new media as being new media is debatable. It is possible to define new media as the continual search for new forms, for new technologies, for new media. If so, will it end, and how do we know when we have fully explored the old media and can go on to the new, or, to paraphrase Foster (1996: 91) does the Old become the new again? We could argue that new media is multimedia, genres or products that provide interactive digital entertainment, or the distribution of digital content, however, digital media is fast becoming a conventional and pervasive medium. On the other hand, Lev Manovich (2001) attempted to define new media as having five principles: numerical presentation, modularity, automation, variability and transcoding. While Looy (2003) notes these may be seen as a form of cinema taking over new media, Manovich (2001) also suggests that new media involves the new concept of navigable space. Navigable space is more than just a cinematic term. However, I will suggest that explorative realms are even more useful to us than navigable space, and of special importance to virtual heritage. Users navigate through space, but they explore worlds. Their exploration is thematic, cognitive, and motivated; their interaction directly shapes their experience. So for the sake of simplicity, here I define new media as the act of reshaping the user experience through the innovative use of digital media. Following this line of thought, I suggest that one overriding of new media is the development of user-centred, personalizable data, not constrained by one type of hardware device. Game modding, FlickR, blogs, Podcasting, and other forms of RSS syndication allow the user to tailor multimedia information in a way not possible just a few years ago. Nor do I believe that realism is the driving force of entertainment media. For example, Serviss (2005: 5) argues that sixty frames per second was achievable by the game console Playstation 2, and that the real advances in the near future will be player customization and the ability to experience emotions via these environments. Maybe, as technological resources continue to increase, the key is using that technology via new and innovative methods instead of the staid pursuit of recreating the real world. Immersion in games is a fantastic thing; perhaps the next step in the evolutionary cycle is to explore new ways to incite emotions, capture feelings, and involve the player in brand new capacities. The domain of sound, previously ignored and underused, is slowly moving to the forefront of the game experience as additional processing power becomes available. Moving past the benchmark of in-game 5.1-multichannel Dolby surround sound, developer Team Tarsier 189


is poised to break new ground with their next-generation title Metronome, in which players can record in-game sounds and play them back to be used as weapons or items. This approach to handling the next wave of hardware’s capabilities offers the most promise. By shattering the mold of preconception and exploring dimensions other than the aesthetic, the potential to transform game experiences into transcendental, engaging events is made all the more clear. After all, gaming at its core is a practice designed to escape the limitations of the real world. Once those are broken, developers will have a whole new set of obstacles in creating memorable, involving games – their imaginations. A related trend in new media is portability, improved ergonomics, and serious peripherals to entertainment devices A recent Reuters article by Wakabayashi (2006) quoted the Chief Executive of Sony, Howard Stringer, as saying that content delivery has become user-driven; the consumer dictates what sort of information media they require, when they want it, and where they want it. From a blood glucose meter that attaches to portable game player consoles for diabetic children, to heart beat monitors and speech recognition systems for PDAs, personal data driven applications are being seen by corporations as the next major consumer market. What is new heritage? If we were to take on board the oft-heard claim that virtual environments, and in particular, virtual heritage environments, lack meaningful content, I think it is fair to ask, what should this meaningful content be? I will not argue for more realism; authors such as Gillings (2002) have already warned us that increased realism does not necessarily lead to a more meaningful or useful user experience. Perhaps the problem is due to the conceptual understanding of what it is that we could, or should, try to recreate. It may also be due to the unwieldy and complex tools available to virtual heritage designers, or to past concerns with accuracy and realism over other criteria. I could also argue that evaluation of these environments is too often swept under the carpet. Given my definition of virtual heritage and new media, I suggest a way forward for virtual heritage is to re-examine the user experience that digital media can provide for the understanding and experiencing of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. I suggest five features of new heritage that may help increase engagement, memory recall, and more appropriate learning. These five features are explorative space, shadow embodiment, social realms, the depiction of uncertainty, and verifiably meaningful historical learning (Table 12.1). 190


Table 12.1 How new media can help new heritage. Feature

New media trends

New heritage

INTERACTION: (1) Explorative space (2) Shadow embodiment

Persistent sharable and customizable online “Worlds”, tangible computing, augmented or mixed reality (AR or MR)

CONTENT: (3) Social realms (4) Uncertainty

Social computing, online communities, dynamic data, Wikis, tagging, new graphical metaphors

OUTPUT: (5) Meaningful historical and heritage-based learning

Innate evaluation, status feedback, commercial success, recruiting, logging of popularity

Can novice and experienced users explore, change, and augment according to attitude, experience, or learning style? Can real artefacts or tangible devices be used? Are users aware of local social constraints? Are different levels of certainty experienced by users? Is user participation meaningfully incorporated? Can changes in the user experience, transferable skills, cultural awareness, and factual knowledge, be verified? Can the relevant data be easily ported independently of the mediating technology?

Explorative space Earlier virtual environments evaluated the task performance of people, and how well components of the technology enabled them to do preset tasks. From their research, Darken and Sibert (1996) concluded that navigation is difficult in large virtual environments and typically requires navigational aids. Such research has been critical to developing more usable virtual environments for task performance. However, such evaluation does not address what people actually would do, and want to do, and experience, outside of laboratory conditions. If navigation is both wayfinding and orientation, navigation is the process of getting somewhere once one knows what one wants to do. Evaluating user navigation is thus not evaluating how a user explores but how they can travel inside the virtual environment in order to perform a task. Yet they may not want to perform, remember, or locate that specific task, and they may even wander off somewhere else. Games and virtual environments are navigable spaces but they do not just challenge our navigational abilities. Research suggests that the more we actively navigate space, the more engaged and the better our recall. Unlike the picture space of films, the three-dimensional space of virtual environments, and especially computer games, is far closer to “place”. 191


For three-dimensional adventure/shooter games rely on evoking not just engaging our perception, but also our sense of embodiment and embeddedness. For a summary of the literature I suggest reading Billinghurst and Weghorst (1995), or Champion (2004, 2005a). Inside a game, as embodied avatars, we become aware of what we can fit inside of and move between. We are also more “vulnerable” to unseen dangers. For example, in order to attack and scare us, the film-bound monster has to be within the visual “frame”, unlike a game monster, which can sneak up on us. In a game we may need to select the right outpost in order to see out, that is easily defensible (stands out from the surrounds), that hides us from prying eyes, and protects our “back”. In terms of embeddedness, a game often allows us to interact with and personalize the environment. We have to actively make sense of our “surrounds”, and engage our wayfinding abilities. We thus have more cognitive overloading in a game than when watching a film, as we are actively wayfinding, rather than passively experiencing the cinematic display of space. A report by Floyd (2005) on a related research project suggests that gamers perform better than non-gamers at combining multiple tasks: Psychologists who study multi-tasking have argued for years about whether these “information bottlenecks” occur because people are inherently lazy, or because they have a fundamental inability to switch from one task to another. New studies by Lien and her colleagues at the NASA Ames Research Center in California suggest it is the latter … In her lab studies, she has yet to test any volunteers who are immune to delays in multi-tasking, though she says some students do much better than others. “I have to say that the best ones are those who play a lot of video games”, she pointed out. It is thus possible, although not yet proven, that playing games can improve some cognitive processes. For example, Johnson (2005a) argues that games improve the ability to develop and refer to multiple hierarchies of priorities and tasks, a skill he calls telescoping. He also argues, as an extension of Gee’s (2003) theory, that games emphasize the development of probing, a form of exploratory searching necessary to learn the rules, goals, and possibilities of a game environment. Recent games that cross over into large-scale multiplayer worlds have shown us that successful interactive spaces typically afford and encourage active exploration rather than mere navigation and visualization. In an article for the Guardian, Johnson (2005b) wrote: Banal narratives and one-dimensional characters sounds like a critique, but only if you are starting with the criteria we use for novels or films. But if you think about games as closer to architecture or 192


environmental art, then it doesn’t seem like such a failing. We don’t look down on buildings because they don’t have strong narrative threads or well-developed characters. The same should be true of games. They are – first and foremost – environments and systems, not stories. The art of making a great game lies in making spaces that are interesting to explore, and systems that are interesting to tinker with – like those teeming villagers in Black & White, with their multiple, interconnected needs. When people play games, and even when they visit virtual environments, they do not just find their way, they explore, they learn by play, by trial and error. This means that evaluating task performance will not necessarily reveal the usefulness or commercial viability or even the range of user experiences people may have when encountering the virtual environment. Johnson (2005a, 2005b) and Steinkuehler (2006) have argued that current massive multiplayer game environments are typically a mixture of vague and clear objectives, and I agree with them that people immerse themselves not merely by spatially navigating from point A to point B, but also by exploring the environment as a world of possibility. So, unlike traditional VR researchers, such as Bowman et al. (2001: 98) who wrote “Exploration is navigation with no explicit target: the user is simply investigating the environment”, I view navigation as a subset of exploration, not the other way around. We do not just wander aimlessly when in a virtual environment, we actively search for something of interest, in order to be engaged and challenged. I suggest that even though it is hard to evaluate, the explorative affordances of online multiplayer virtual environments is a key part of their success as experiential domains. Worlds or realms? In earlier work (2005b), I have written that the term “world” is often hastily applied to virtual heritage environments, without clearly detailing what “world” actually means. The term has been used as if it is self apparent, without any clear definition, in many recent papers and publications, examples include Darken and Sibert (1996), Okada et al. (2001), Celentano et al. (2004). Even in his book, Designing Virtual Worlds, Bartle (2003) avoids a detailed definition of what is a “virtual world”. Klastrup (2003) also points out the difficulty in clearly defining the phrase. In passing, Ondrejka (2006) appears to see a virtual world as being a persistent virtual environment, that is, elements affected by a user are remembered and kept, even when the user exits the world; however, that also describes an online database. I am still working out a full-scale definition of what “world” means both as a noun and as a verb, but for simplicity’s sake I return to my earlier 193


definition of “world” as it may apply to a virtual environment. In his masters thesis, Weckström (2004: 21) argued that in order to achieve “worldliness”, a virtual environment must allow for various ways of doing things. The worldliness of “the Roman world” is in the multitude of different characters involved in making it a world. For this Roman world to be rendered virtually, it should offer the user the possibility to choose from a multitude of things to do, and lives to lead. Weckström appears to have been arguing both that a world should be specific, and it should allow you to do different things in different ways. In reflecting on this apparent confusion, I now think he may have meant that worldliness consists of three components: The virtual environment offers more than one way of interacting with the world (you can invade countries, build roads, or deliver speeches to the senate). Second, there is at least one thematically cultural way of looking at things (for example, being a Roman). In the real world these two components are of course related. How you interact with the virtual environment may depend on your selection of a certain social role (although you can select different actions the decision and outcome is in turn affected by whether you are a Roman centurion, engineer, slave or senator). Third, Weckström’s idea of worldliness may imply that there should actually be at least two thematic cultural ways available in the world, i.e. a Roman way, and a barbarian way. In other words, the social and cultural framework is defined not just by how it allows people to communicate, but also by the existence of a distinguishing framework. However, a notion of world may also indicate a notion of physical or geographical vastness. So there are many notions of world. A world suggests a stage of spontaneous possibilities; a gradual identity-forming network of professional destinies; a meeting ground or battleground of cultures and individual perceptions continually oscillating between curiosity in and fear of each other’s uniqueness; or a varying geophysical environment of which the end is beyond one person’s ability to travel. Virtually creating infinitely varying physical terrains may be a technical marvel, but it would pale against exploring social settings of infinite variety and depth. Thus for the sake of simplicity I would like to suggest that when a virtual environment creates an interactive and immersive experience, and affords the expectation of more distinct and salient experiences that are thematically related, it then begins to appear like a world. However, we are not so directly interested in creating a world for the visitor; we are more interested in creating a sense of a past or distant world inhabited by different beliefs and practices that makes itself known to the visitor. A group of unified beliefs and practices is a community, but the notion of a virtual community is still open to many differing definitions, 194


as evidenced by the twenty varying definitions of “virtual community” found in The Encyclopedia of Virtual Communities and Technologies, edited by Dasgupta (2005). Further, communal learning and identity take a great deal of time and effective and thematic immersion, as well as dynamic contributions by individuals. Hence, I suggest that a realm is a better term for conveying intangible heritage of the past. A realm suggests a specific and thematic social agency, through which local beliefs regarding social status and power hold sway. A world does not suggest this place-focus of social constraints; it may suggest exploration but it does not suggest social embeddedness, while a community suggests artefacts and social beliefs generated directly from the intentions and experience of its own members. In order to understand intangible heritage, new heritage could use the constraints of virtual environment technology, to shape the user experience through metaphorical constraints. After all, games use contextual constraints and affordances to shape the user experience (Malone 1982; Fencott and Isdale 2001), and if the game is believable, challenging, and engaging, people willingly enter the magic circle that Salen and Zimmerman (2003) declare an essential element of games. Shadow embodiment and tangible interfaces Virtual environments may involve a range of devices, large touch-sensitive screens, head-mounted displays, joysticks, or haptic devices. Yet as Dourish (2001) has pointed out, the interaction tends to be a crude binary operation that either affects or does not affect an area or element of the virtual environment. In the real world, if we blow a thistle, someone else can blow in the opposite direction or even tangentially. The interaction that moves the thistle is a matrix of various forces, and this subtle array of interaction that is place-dependent is not often captured by virtual environments. New media, and physiological sensors, can bypass binary interaction metaphors, and as different cultures have different perceptions of embodiment, this may further shape and define unique user experiences. Creating an experience that only lives inside a computer, or where things just happen without any multimodal explanation, can actually distract from the experience. For example, Ciolfi (2004: 228) noted museum and installation examples where members of the public spent more time trying to work out how things worked, rather than actually experiencing the content. On the user-experience results of her own “place” prototype, Ciolfi concluded (2004: 232): The attention towards the aesthetic qualities of the space appeared of great relevance in shaping people’s reactions and activities. 195


It also showed how crucial the physical/structural dimension is in affecting all the other aspects of place experience. Another example, an installation inspired by Shadow Puppets, by Westvang (2004), transforms the user’s shadow in the virtual environment into a kind of interface boundary that moves objects when they collide with its silhouette. Jacobson et al. (2001) note the importance of a user’s body posture (and how it may trigger nausea), and how their degree of balance can be monitored and rehabilitated using virtual reality technology. Jang et al. (2005) also report that virtual reality and games have helped the motor skills of stroke victims. Hämäläinen et al. (2005: 781) describe their project, a martial arts game installation where the player: fights virtual enemies with kicks and punches as well as acrobatic moves such as cartwheels. Using real-time image processing and computer vision, the video image of the user is embedded inside 3D graphics..[They] also explore exaggerated motion and dynamic slow-motion effects to transform the aesthetic of kung-fu movies into an interactive, embodied experience. These new forms of kinaesthetic and sensory perception do not even need to be human in origin. For example, Singer (2003) reports bat echoes can be compressed and used as intuitive navigation devices for humans, “because bat calls are particularly good for making auditory maps of space”. Uncertainty Having suggested that meaningful interaction is still to be explored contextually and thematically, I also believe that there is so far not enough debate on exactly what we want to achieve with virtual heritage content. By content I mean presenting not just the uncertainty of the authenticity of data acquired, but also the debates in the professions that acquired that data. For example, archaeologists may use both intangible heritage and tangible heritage to gather evidence, even if the evidence conflicts, creating tension between material archaeologists and epigraphers as reported by Skidmore (2003) in the case of the Classical Mayan King Pakal of Palenqué. Johnson (2005a) has pointed out that multiple threading and split narratives have become a feature both of technology and social information. In a similar vein I suggest that new media combined with virtual heritage can help us better resolve the issues involved in conveying intangible heritage because there is more technology available to add user personalization 196


and differences of opinion as to the interpretation of data. For instance, Zuk et al. (2005) have outlined new forms of graphic rendering to convey different levels of archaeological certainty. Research into games by Malone (1982: 67–68), and by Johnson (2005a), suggests that uncertainty can actually increase user engagement, since people seem to be drawn to solving puzzles and filling in gaps in their “knowledge structures”. Uncertainty may also aid the user experience through tempting sensory curiosity. A clear separation between history and heritage If we are not designing heritage environments, are we designing historical environments? No, we are designing environments to communicate historical events, and social processes and cultural beliefs. How do we add interpretation to virtual environments? Social scientists envisage past sites through detective work and imaginative reconstructions. There are few if any conventional multimodal ways that capture and accurately portray this process, let alone academic conflicts, new schools of thought, and paradigm shifts. Hence new heritage has to determine if it is communicating the process of historical discovery or the significance of heritage conservation or preservation. This separation is crucial, for traditional historical learning has been through instruction by books, and by listening to others. And it may well be tempting to think this is how virtual heritage should be experienced. However, much of the success of new media has been in procedural learning, in constructivist and constructionist situations, and in the ability to learn by doing. Online virtual environments have been used as online communities, whereby people learn about cultural knowledge, such as languages, through cultural transactions and social communication. For example, Immersion Studios (2005) created Virtual Canada, using online game technology. An article by Stewart (2005) describes how online 3D technology of Second Life was used by Duuya Herbst, a Native American Indian, to create a virtual meeting room for people to learn and conserve the Deeni language through virtual world-based dialogue. The language, currently spoken fluently by only ten to fifteen people, will change through use, but if it survives, it survives through being used.

Conceptual problems with new heritage There are at least four major questions new heritage designers should ask themselves. First, what is the project’s relation to historical learning? Should we augment, or replace, or challenge conventional historical means of learning? Unfortunately, educationalists themselves do not seem to see the 197


innate features of spatially based interaction and inhabitation. For example, QuickTime panoramas and database-driven web pages may be a form of distance learning, of new media perhaps, but they do not deserve to be called virtual reality or virtual environments. And while years of text-based chat interaction can be considered a history, it is not an embodied history; it does not affect the “world”. New heritage projects must instead be able to evaluate and demonstrate how three-dimensional interactive digital environments aid the understanding of new cultures and languages rather than appropriate learning terms from static prescriptive media such as books. One striking feature of new media, especially games, is that the learning is procedural rather than prescriptive; Roussou (2004) has suggested that players learn through trial and error, and the development of various strategies. Unfortunately the significance of this point has been lost in the battle between narratologists and Ludologists over whether games include stories and are thus covered by media studies, or whether games are essentially forms of play. Articles by Frasca (2003), Jenkins (2004), and Champion (2005a) have pointed out that a strict essentialist separation between games as play and games as stories is difficult in practice, and does not directly answer the question as to why games are so compelling. An anthropologist, Boellstorff (2006: 33), argues that games may become the dominant metaphor of interactive media, “As it gains in significance, gaming increasingly affects the whole panoply of interactive media, from television to movies to cell phones to the Internet in all its incarnations”. However, the cognitive skills that can be meaningfully transferred have not yet been fully evaluated. The proponents of games as learning platforms, and here I include Prensky (2001), Gee (2003), and Johnson (2005a), have not conclusively shown that games are the best form of learning, or even that time spent playing games does not impede skill based learning in other activities. This last point is more serious than many non-gamers realize. Yee (2006) has stated online gamers play on average twenty hours a week, and many gamers come to see this time as a tedious duty that they cannot break free of. Second, what is cultural information and how will it be disseminated via this project? For example, are we transferring a telling of history, or creating a clearing in which people can see a historical or social point of view? To paraphrase Skeates (2000), who is the audience and who are the facilitators and owners? Are they scientists, inhabitants, visitors, guides, children, or descendants? Third, when we design a new heritage project, what changes and what remains the same? In other words, what is interactive and what is not? For example, games are highly interactive but a dangerous beast when used for virtual heritage: content is fraggable, destroyed rather than created, and 198


the social position of the participants is continually threatened rather than established. One is physically embodied as a killing machine, one learns to bend the rules rather than extend and create them. Fourth, in what way will the technology or related genre of new media help or hinder us? We are often constrained by the novelty of new forms of media that do not quite fit what we should be trying to achieve. New media interfaces would be accessible to young audiences, and they may prove easier to navigate and appreciate. However, it is easy to be tempted by the newness of the interface, by novelty, rather than by appropriateness. It would be wonderful if we could learn from engagement in new media, and directly apply their principles, genres, and tricks. Interactive entertainment, via the computer game, is particularly appealing. In order to be engaging, virtual heritage needs to study how interactive entertainment media is engaging through interaction, setting of mood, and contextual embodiment, but in such a way that the content is meaningfully understood rather than used as merely an atmospheric backdrop that showcases new technology. However, certain types of game-style interaction may alienate users, confuse them as to what is real or imagined, or may persuade them the content is only there to improve the game play.

Evaluating new heritage user experiences Bowman et al. (2005: 360–67) have argued that extrapolating guidelines from the 2D world of Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) heuristics to virtual environments may obscure the distinctive characteristics of 3D virtual environments. They wrote (2005: 363–65): 3D UIs are still often a “solution looking for a problem”. Because of this, the target user population or interaction technique to be evaluated may not be known or well understood … Presence is another example of a measure often required in VE evaluations that has no analogue in traditional UI evaluation. Gabbard et al. (1999: 7–9) have also written of the problems that bedevil the evaluation of virtual environments. They have noted that it is difficult to discern the target audience, find an actual problem that the virtual environment is trying to solve, or separate expert knowledge from novice knowledge. In evaluations of virtual environments they also commented that it is difficult to decide on using within-subjects testing (which means the subjects need to experience many different conditions) or use between-subjects testing (which requires a great many more subjects to sit the tests). The novelty of virtual environments to most users 199


further exacerbates the problem. This is a warning to proponents of new heritage: technology for the sake of technology may actually impede a meaningful user experience that caters for members of the general public.

Some suggestions The strengths and weaknesses of new media across and inside of media boundaries as technical constraints require resolution; yet audience expectations and interactive genre conventions, have seldom been addressed. The ability to transfer content across traditional divides has been emphasized, but the issues and opportunities of using new technology to address information gaps in traditional media have not been fully addressed. In order to shape new user experiences, I suggest new heritage could look at communication-poor mediums that require a certain interpretative ambiguity. For example, in my teaching programme (2005b), students use commercial game engines to create interactive virtual archaeology projects. We are building prototypes where the goal is for the visitor to attempt to fit into the realm rather than explore or destroy a world. Their ability to traverse or modify the environment depends on their ability to change strategies to suit social roles; they have to learn symbols in order to orientate themselves, and they must mimic local behaviour in order to avoid being uncovered as an impostor. The following illustration (Figure 12.1) is a screenshot of one such scenario using the Unreal Tournament game engine. Visitors must explore an archaeological version of a Mayan temple city, and navigate via the Mayan calendar icon, to find artefacts that will transport them to more interpretative versions of Mayan mythical realms.

Conclusion I have called this paper Explorative Shadow Realms of Uncertain Histories for five reasons. First, new media has blossomed, at least in part, due to its appearance of affording exploration by the audience. I suggest quite strongly that new heritage, if seen as the cutting-edge field of trends in virtual heritage informed by evolving features of digital technology, will expand on this defining aspect of new media but in terms of how these virtual worlds (or realms) afford exploration rather than fixed or totally random task-based navigation. Second, virtual environments inspired by the potential of new media do not need to be opaque or set data that are viewed by the audience through a computer screen, and left as is for the next visitor. Via the theme of shadow embodiment, I suggest that interfaces can 200


Figure 12.1 Project unreality (courtesy: Andrew Dekker, Mark Hurst and Erik Champion).

and should better reach out to people as a social group and audience, and integrate real artefacts and tools with virtual ones. The development of personalizable data that can move and alter itself between different types of hardware platforms is of particular importance to virtual heritage, where the presentation space and type of audience may greatly vary. Third, the environments that best capture the imagination and responses of the audience, in my opinion, are more than worlds, worlds being defined here as thematically linked combinations of past and present. Rather, they are realms, worlds that to some extent express a notion of place-related social status and control. Realms provide social context, and parameters to that context, which in turn help people shape their own identities and responsibilities in terms of or contra to that localized social agency. Fourth, these realms may portray uncertainties of transferred information. In order to be true to their subject, these realms must not give an aura of either certainty or total fictionalization. Ideally, the audience would come away with a better understanding of the spectrum of archaeological and anthropological certainty that went into creating 201


these realms. I suggest that this area is still relatively unexplored, but in this context, of utmost importance. We have to research how to provide content for different audiences, and how we can layer, unify and yet also individually articulate this knowledge as strata of imagination, authenticity, scientific process, documentation, and experiential learning. Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, the very title virtual heritage is a problematic and confusing beast. We do not wish to virtually preserve or conserve. The term really instead means communicating heritage values and historical knowledge via digital media. Unfortunately, the term can lead to the belief that the most valuable feature of digital media is photo-realism and the depiction of a fixed and unchanging view either of the past, or of others. Academic research has not always clearly explained the problem, the solution, and the results or criteria for success or failure, because the funding and conference systems typically reward and promote completed projects and not the failures along the way, or issues raised, even if they are informative. Hence, publications have tended to describe projects that appeared to be complete and realistic in the gathering and visualizing of data, rather than critically examining the issues of virtual heritage as a learning experience. I am cautious about new media, and about new heritage. I see some advantages to lessons learnt from games, from computer games, from tangible computing, from social computing, and from public uses of virtual reality. However, the content of heritage projects is so specific, and so variable in authenticity, completeness, and local cultural perspectives, that a catchphrase of the promises of new technology is guaranteed not to work without modification, appropriation, and judicious evaluation. I suggest that we should aim to transfer understanding of what is attempting to be understood, how that knowledge can be understood and appreciated, and how to test, verify or challenge rather than assimilate that knowledge. One way in which this discursive view of knowledge can be furthered is via the interactive, navigable, extensible and personalizationfriendly potential of new media. To that end, I have suggested the above definition of new heritage not as a mantra, but as a point of departure for further discussion and debate.

Acknowledgements I would like to thank the students of the above mentioned projects at the University of Queensland, especially Andrew Dekker and Mark Hurst for the illustration, and the reviewers of the original conference paper for their comments. 202


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13 M A KI N G A L I V A BLE “ P L A C E ” Content design in virtual environment Xiaolei Chen and Yehuda E. Kalay

Abstract This chapter argues that Virtual Environment (VE) designers must not only design the context, but also assume at least partial responsibility for designing the content. Thus the design of a VE is a unique task, which combines the traits of both architects and filmmakers, a fact that has often been overlooked by designers of VEs. Only by taking responsibility for both context and content, and being cognizant of the affordances and limitations of the medium used, can VE designers create a sense of place, which will be comparable, if different, to the sense of place engendered by Phyisical Environments (PEs).

Rethinking the design of VE: Taking responsibility for the design of both context and content The concept of virtual environment represents a revolution in cyberspace design transforming it from a means of communication to an environment that affords a variety of on-line activities. The essential function of any environment is to offer both content (activity) and context (physical & socio-cultural setting) for the embodiment of individuals who engage in the activity. The embodiment, interacting with both context and content, creates a sense of place. Therefore any environmental design – both physical and virtual – is a combination of both context/setting design, and content/activity design. Content, in particular, plays a key role in making a place, because “Places are settings for complex and rich events: they provide a reason and



a purpose for being there” (Kalay and Marx 2001). A variety of events such as shopping, entertainment, learning, conferencing, occur in both physical and virtual environments, which activate otherwise “dead” spaces and turn lifeless settings into inviting places. The role of content/activity in place making involves: •

Motivating and enforcing the individual’s engagement with the environment, serving as the reason and purpose for individual’s being in the place and returning to the place later. The falling down of the golden apple in Times Square on New-Year’s Eve, the Castro parade of each November in San Francisco, are such examples. Through activities, especially some symbolic activities, people are involved in intimate interactions with the world not only physically, but also socially and culturally. These interactions ground the achievement of a profound place experience. Helping to establish the context by enforcing inherent context and arousing transactional context, thus playing key role in “activating” and “nurturing” a sense of place. If the events (e.g. worship) conform to the inherent context of the environment (e.g. a church), they will resonate with individuals who perceive this inherent context, thus will significantly enforce the sense of place (e.g. a sacred, ritualistic environment). On the other hand, if the event contradicts the inherent context (e.g. playing a game of cards in the church sanctuary), the clash between the inherent and the perceived contexts will cause a dissonance between the occupants and the place. Likewise, the mood, or atmosphere, associated with the activity (e.g. dynamically changing lighting, music, applause) generates a transient, transactional context that closely ties an individual to the environment in real time.

Therefore, activity is a significant component of an environment and is essential to the achievement of a live environment. Architects generally do not design content directly. Instead, they design a physical setting (space) within given contexts (physical, cultural, social, legal, economic, and so on). The settings they design imply certain contents (activities), through spatial clues that have certain physical affordances, sequences of traversal, and aesthetic moods. For example, a corridor can be designed to afford transition from space to space, or to encourage serendipitous encounters between the people who travel through it; an open space can be designed to attract passers-by and promote social gatherings, or to be formal and forbidding, to be used only on special, official occasions; the color theme in a clinic can be designed to calm the patients, or to elicit activity. Architects are also experienced in designing assemblies of spaces that encourage certain sequences of the events. 208


For example, the spatial sequence of galleries in a museum plays a key role in structuring the experience of visiting the exhibits. Furthermore, the shape, size, color, lighting and texture of a space have strong impacts on the cultivation of certain moods for the activity. Therefore, content, in physical environments, is achieved through the design of the physical space, within a larger context that is typically taken to be outside the architect’s responsibility. Content is implied or suggested, rather than defined explicitly. Much like the larger context of the environment, the content is often pre-defined (such as by the client, the society, the legal code, etc.). In cinema and video games, on the other hand, the situation is reversed. Filmmakers and game designers control not only the context, but more importantly the events and scenarios (plots). The settings (the “stage”) are designed as corresponding backdrops that support the occurrence and development of those events. Thus in cinema, activities play a dominant and active role, while settings are viewed only as a passive background, serving the activity and changing dynamically with it. Therefore, unlike architects who focus on the design of settings and spaces, filmmakers start from and concentrate on storyboard: the direct creator of various activities and events. The case of designing VEs, however, is different from both physical architecture and film making. Unlike PEs, there is no pre-defined “larger” context into which the designed spaces must fit, nor does the designer have full control over the activities of the inhabitants. The design of VEs resembles, metaphorically, landing on a vast, new, unoccupied continent. The newcomers have no pre-defined socio-cultural practices to follow, and do not know what to do there or how to behave. They have much freedom to do as they please. To achieve some sense of coherence (i.e. make a place that can support social activities), VE designers must not only design the context, but also assume at least partial responsibility for designing the content. Designing VEs is, in this respect, closer to the activity of filmmakers than to the activity of architects. Yet, unlike passive movie audiences, the users of VEs are active participants in the action, much like the users of physical environments. Hence, the design of a VE is a unique task, which combines the traits of both architects and filmmakers, a fact that has often been overlooked by designers of VEs. Many of the VE designers tend to spend much time on “environmental design”, working as digital architects on the creation of virtual bricks and mortar settings, while ignoring the fact that in architecture there is predefined content whereas in VE there is none or very little. Therefore, their efforts often result in many “dead”containers, devoid of live content. That has been the case in many deserted digital worlds. Guided by this working philosophy, a virtual heritage site may have no significant difference from a lifeless physical model. 209


Where does the content come from? Since in VE there are no pre-defined socio-cultural practices to follow, the content (i.e. the activity) must be invented, or artificially imported from other, known socio-cultural contexts. That has been the case in Alpha World ( and in SecondLife (, virtual environments that resemble everday physical contexts in most respects: they are filled with buildings, trees, and people (or rather their avatars), who are expected to behave as they would in similar physical settings. But when such importation is used, it is necessary to ask whether the imports really do match the new socio-cultural context and the new activities. Alpha World’s and SecondLife’s virtual environments clearly do not represent such combinations, because the activities they afford are vastly different from those afforded by the borrowed environments. Even VEs where the activities are more abstract, such as e-banking and e-learning, are sufficiently dissimilar from their physical-world counterparts to require re-thinking the context/content relationships. Compared with those in PE, the contents of VE must differentiate themselves from their physical counterpart in several ways. First, the content in VE must take the affordance and limitation of this new medium into account. Although most of the content in VE can be contextualized to its physical counterparts, such as e-transaction versus physical transaction; on-line forum versus physical community; they are not exactly mirrored images of physical contents. In many cases, powered or constrained by the new medium, people conduct the same activities in a different way in VE than in PE. Examples include immediate conversation between strangers in a chat room or virtual worlds; argumentation in a direct, harsh style without euphemistic periphrasis in on-line forums; online dating across geographic boundaries; and navigation in a historical site along both spatial and temporal paths. These variances, caused by the variance between the new and old medium people inhabit, cause the emergence of many new social situations and cultural phenomena, which necessarily give birth to new behavioural patterns and rules to guide embodiment in the new environment. Thus content composition in VE is not the process of copying physical behaviours into a virtual environment, a process that has been seen in the design of many virtual worlds, but rather the invention of new forms of behaviour. Second, the imports or composition of content for VE must conform to the larger social and cultural context within which its users actually reside, and from which they derive their metaphors, social and cultural conventions. A good example is the sequential characteristic of activities. In the physical world, activities and events are generally ordered by an inherent, chronological sequence, which dates back to different origins. 210


In some cases, an activity has an inherent or default sequence due to socio-cultural customs. For example, a wedding is made of a set of sequential events: initiating music, parade, testimony, ring-exchange, and feast. This sequence is inherent to many western-style weddings, because it is “approved” and “maintained” by long-established social and cultural customs, hence becomes a cultural default order in such activities. Whereas in the case of a museum visit, the sequence is determined more by functional factors, such as the spatial configuration of the building, the arrangement of collections, etc. Rather than being cultivated through long-term social and cultural interactions and being inherently rooted in the navigation activities, these sequences are more arbitrarily defined. As a result, when constraints are taken away, this type of sequence can be shuffled and re-arranged. In VE, due to the shared author rights of an activity scenario, users gain partial control of the scenario and hence gain partial control of the development of the activity: the new medium allows the scenario to be ordered according to user needs, resulting in a customized sequence. Thus, in VE, the order of activities is no longer a fixed, pre-defined constant as in PE: it has become a variable in the formula that people can play with. However, the “shuffling” or re-arrangement of activities is more often seen in cases where the inherent sequence is arbitrarily imposed due to functional, practical reasons, such as in the case of a museum visit, in which it is very common for visitors to customize the navigation sequence according to their preference. In contrast, in the case of an on-line wedding, many of the original sequences are faithfully preserved, although this preservation might be metaphorical, e.g. the new couple parade might be replaced by an animated parade walked by two roses or two cute puppies along a red path. This fidelity shows that the socio-culturally inherent sequences are deeply rooted in people’s mind and play such an important role in facilitating perception and actions, that even when it is technically feasible to eliminate them, it is not psychologically appropriate to eliminate them. Therefore, as it was argued earlier, the sequential development of an activity is powered by two kinds of factors, physical, functional factors, and socio-cultural factors. VE, as a powerful digital medium, in many cases can release its users from the constraints of the first kind, but it stays conservative in modifying the constraints of the second kind, because of the profound association they formed through long-standing interactions between people and the social, cultural environment within which they grow and live. As a result, the imports or composition of content for the virtual world must take the affordance and limitation of the medium used, at the same time conform to the large social and cultural context within which its users live, and from which they borrow the social and cultural conventions. 211


Content design – learning from filmmakers and architects Although many activities are initiated by the users of virtual environments, VE designers have to take partial responsibility for content composition, e.g. offer a framework for the occurrence of the activities, indicating paths or tracks for the development of the activities. In contrast to the design of context (the space and the objects that populate it), the content is often intentionally designed to form a scenario or narrative: the arrangement of a sequence of activities. Because an activity always occurs in a certain context, the scenario also defines the relationship between the content and the context. For instance, a cinematic screenplay usually defines actor and event as well as the setting, including both the larger socio-cultural context (e.g. a house scene) and the immediate physical setting, such as the room in which the event occurs. Among all the traditional media designers (architecture, cinema, literature, etc.), filmmakers are most advanced in content design; their primary task is to design “content” for a cinematic place. Thus they start from a storyboard and concentrate on how a series of activities unfolds. Unlike architects, for whom the design of the physical context is the primary concern, for filmmakers the activity has a dominant role in their place-making. Physical context, what they call backdrop or stage setting, is viewed as only a passive shell of the activity. The absence of pre-defined content, as discussed earlier, makes the design of VE, in many cases, resemble more closely the activity of filmmakers than the activity of architects. A game designer usually starts from a storyboard rather than from a 3D model of the virtual world, and a web designer usually starts with a user’s activity scenario rather than with the design of the interface. However, VE designers differ from filmmakers and game/web designers in that they take on only partially the duty of content design: instead of dictating a scenario for activities with a linear, detailed storyboard, VE generally offers a framework for the story to unfold and leaves plenty of room for its users to explore. The scenario of VE turns out to be a scripted yet editable scenario that allows for more interactivity than does a cinematic scenario. On the other hand, unlike movie audiences who are usually involved in the cinematic place only passively, the users of VEs are active participants in the action, like the users of physical environments. They navigate among sites, watch scenes, participate in activities, talk to others, and so on. They take active roles in the performance, and their perception changes along with their active movement in the space, an experience that is very similar to architectural experience. Therefore, a VE scenario might exhibit similarities to an architectural scenario, to some degree. Hence, the design of a VE is a unique task, which combines the traits of both filmmakers and architects. In the following part we will pursue 212


a detailed discussion about what could be learned from the two media indicated above. Learning from the filmmaker – narrative model and presentation In cinema, narrative plays a dominant role in place making. It integrates a series of settings and events into a framework in which a “place” is born and nurtured. It dominates the audience’s emotional interaction with the “place”: How is narrative made in cinema? (The information below is cited from 2005.) First, there is a story for each film. A typical cinematic story usually has a few key elements, such as: High concept: The essence of a successful story is called a “hook” or a “high concept”, something in the story that catches the audience’s attention, arouses tremendous public appeal and keeps the audience interested during the flow of the story. Theme: The theme reveals what the narrative/story is really telling about, such as the philosophical idea behind the story. Backstory: In many cases, a story is not an orphan; there could be backstories within the story. For instance, a backstory might be the experiences of a character occurring prior to the main action, which contributes to the character’s motivations, reactions, etc. Backstories may serve as a contextual framework for the core story and make the core story stronger and more complete. Second, the story unfolds. The process is called narrative making. There are a few strategies in narrative making, such as: Story structure: After long cinematic practice, filmmakers have worked out some structures as formula to ensure an audience’s emotional involvement in a film. The most typical story structure is the three-act plot structure, which is made of: Exposition – The first act of a narrative structure: the main conflict and characters are exposed, and any information about the characters, conflict or world of the play is supplied. Complication – The second act of a three-act narrative structure: the plot thickens, peaking at its end. Resolution – The third act of a narrative structure: the conflict arrives at a certain conclusion: the protagonist either succeeds or fails. There are also other story structures. For instance, monomyth, also called hero’s journey, is a specific story pattern that appears in many cultures, whose development is typically made of exposition, call, refusal, information, departure, testing, reward, ordeal, resurrection, and return (Novak 2005). 213


Conflict: During story development, there are always obstacles: someone wants to get something yet a variety of obstacles keep getting in the way of achieving that goal. Conflict is the heart of a drama and it can be physical or emotional. Shifting focus: During story development, the narrative shifts its focus from one point to another, e.g. from treasure finding to life-saving. Shifting focus is one of the key strategies in story-telling. Foreshadowing events: Future events are foreshadowed with certain hints so that the plot is more smooth and reasonable. Suspension of disbelief: Suspension of disbelief is one of the frequently used strategies to make the development more dramatic and the story more engaging to the audience. Third, the story is told to the audience via the screenplay. Besides the scenario that unfolds the plot of a story, there is also a scenario for visualizing the plot, which regulates what the audience actually sees on screen. The settings and events are displayed through backdrop design, shooting skills (establishing shots, wide shots, etc.), and shot transitions (jump-cut, fade, dissolve, etc.). In addition to visual storytelling, the film also incorporates a set of audio storytelling traditions, such as dialogue, voice-over narration, music, sound effects, etc. These storytelling methods have been demonstrated to be as important as the story itself: they can significantly change the audience’s perception of the cinematic story. Therefore, in cinema, narrative is not built through a singular framework. Rather, the narrative model and the screenplay together achieve a narrative and present it to audience. Learning from the architect – spatial narrative: Integrating space with activity Many people believe there are no active narrative-making and storytelling in architectural design, because architects do not design content and story. Indeed, architects generally take over a pre-defined content scenario from clients, legal codes, established customs, etc. For example, the story of a school may be: students come to school, learn, exercise, play, etc. Teachers come to school, prepare for teaching, lecture, meet, grade student work, etc. The architect designs a set of associated spaces to support these functions and the workflow. But architecture does include narratives within itself. The configuration of a series of spaces indicates certain narrative. A small atrium between the classrooms and the teacher’s lounge may create opportunities for interactions between students and teachers. A long corridor varying in its directions and width may cause changing behavioural patterns in walking through activities. Moreover, different types of architecture may differ 214


in the strength of the narrative they offer. A museum usually has a stronger narrative than a regular office building. Therefore, there exist latent stories in architecture. If we compare an architectural story with a cinematic story, we find the latter is more dramatic, full of “high concept/hook, conflicts”. An architectural story is more about a sequence of activities. Moreover, architects do perform storytelling activities: their storytelling (screenplay) is done through what they call design – the configuration of the forms and spaces. There are generally two attitudes to architectural storytelling. One is very passive: designers make settings according to the original script. For instance, they design an office building according to functional requirements, work flows, etc. Some architects try to be more active by superimposing their own scenarios on the original scenario, or even rewriting the original scenario, thereby making a more dramatic spatial narrative. For instance, by adding a huge atrium to the hotel, Portman made a significant change to the traditional hotel scenario: instead of staying in guest rooms, people now spend much more time in the indoor open space for viewing and for social interactions. In Villa Savoye (1928), Le Corbusier composed “a true architectural promenade” made up of views that are constantly changing, unexpected, at times surprising (ibid.). In Parc De La Villette (1982), Bernard Tshumi constructed a “cinematic promenade” by shaping architectural spaces into a montage of spectacular movements (Bruno 2002). In these two examples, the architectural spaces are shaped into a particular “housescape” or “parkscape”, a scenarized space, and the individual, as both a navigator and a viewer of the space, experiences a particular spatial narrative composed by the architect. Therefore, the architectural narrative is achieved through the creation of narrative of spaces. First, space becomes the main actor or theme in the architectural narrative, through which certain activities are implied or suggested, and through which certain emotions are aroused/suppressed. If we compare cinema to architecture, we may find that in cinema people “consume a story”, and in architecture people “consume a space”. Second, space often works as clues for the evolvement of the narrative. An architect may use certain configurations of spatial features (transition, lighting, shape, color, size, contrast, view arrangement, etc.) to foreshadow the events, to shift the focus of attention, to suspend disbelief, or to create surprise at certain moments during the users’ navigation process. Adding narrative models into space configuration brings along different environmental experiences. A strong architectural narrative, such as that in Portman’s Hyatt hotels and Tshumi’s Parc De La Villette, has much more intensive impact on users’ activity and may stamp their environmental experience with an outstanding narrative feature. A weak architectural narrative, on the other hand, generally leaves users more freedom in their 215


Figure 13.1 Spatial navigation with (left) and without narrative model (right).

navigation: they do not strongly adhere to a narrative, hence may interact with the setting in a more flexible way. Therefore, the role of narrative models in spatial navigation, which is often thought to be a self-initialized or self-organized activity, is to impose a force to the flow of navigation, guiding both the navigation action and the perception and emotion along a designed path, and finally reach a destination where a “sense of place” that is expected by the designer is achieved (Figure 13.1). Narrative making in VE Narratives differ significantly in different types of VE. For instance, similar to cinema, many games and entertainment VEs have a strong narrative, which unfolds along with users’ activities. However, many other VEs, such as some virtual reality environments, 3D on-line worlds, and most of the frequently seen commercial and personal sites, do not bear a strong, linearly unfolding narrative. Users of these VEs are more like architectural users, spending most of their time exploring the environment. It is not necessary to impose a dramatic narrative on all VEs, just as an office building does not have to be designed as the Louvre museum, which bears a very strong narrative in its spatial configuration. However, a narrative can play roles in shaping users’ experience of place; it offers attraction, intensifies engagement, and significantly colors the place experience. A trip to a place with unexpected, dramatic events may cause a place to be memorable, in contrast to a smooth yet boring trip. If VE designers could apply narrative features in their designs to a certain degree (depending on needs), their products might become more attractive, more engaging to the users. Use of narrative mode – from sequence to narrative Architects have been using cinematic narrative models in their works. Both Tshumi and Le Corbusier, in the examples cited above, turned people’s usual spatial experiences into narrated sequences, generating memorable 216


place experiences. Similarly, intentionally applying a narrative model into a VE may significantly enhance a user’s engagement and help create an impressive “place” in his or her mind. Below we propose a few examples of how to apply a narrative model in VE. We believe the application of these features will help to enhance the virtual user-environment interaction and benefit the place-making in VE. Hook/high concept: Hook is the core of a narrative and it is hook that keeps users/audiences interested in the story flow. All successful games have hooks, from treasure finding, monster fighting, to dating. Many VEs, such as Alpha world and SecondLife, fail in that they offer an environment with an arid narrative – no attractive hook/high concept at all. Without a hook as a strong motivation for exploration, users quickly lose their interest in the environment. Such hooks could be applied to VEs. Examples might involve inserting a myth-discovery story in a virtual heritage site for tourists, offering a dating story in a virtual club for youngsters, introducing an atom-world adventure in an e-chemistry classroom for students. Plot/story development: Cinema has provided many strategies that we can borrow for developing a story in VEs. For example, a virtual scientific adventure story might be designed with the 3-step narrative structure: exposition, complication and resolution. A myth-discovery in a virtual heritage site might be designed in a structure resembling monomyth which bears a specific story pattern. Furthermore, we can use conflicts, suspension of disbelief, event-foreshadowing, etc. as “seasoning” to the story and make it more attractive and engaging. Multi-thread narrative: A key variance between VE and cinema is that the narrative in VE is non-linear: users share the authoring rights of the narrative with its designers. Indeed, their participation in narrative making has caused a special product, multi-thread narrative, which may present difficulties in applying a linear narrative model (as it used to be in cinema) to VE. However, we could solve this problem by disseminating the scenario into a number of threads and then applying narrative model to each of the threads (if there are a limited number of them), or to several main threads (if there are too many). Furthermore, even if there are multiple possible narratives, a few of them could be highlighted and emphasized, such as a guided tour, designed with a most impressive narrative model (such as with impressive hooks, strong suspension of disbeliefs, etc.), hence attracting more attendances to these threads. Presenting/visualizing narrative: As we discussed earlier, when referring to narrative making in media, there is more than one track; narrative model (story, plot) and visualization/presentation together achieve a narrative and present it to the audience. Therefore when talking about narrative making in VE, we will also need to consider development on these tracks in parallel. As in cinema in which there is a particular script for screenplay of the story (backdrop/stage set definition, lighting, shooting strategies, etc.), it is 217


necessary to have a scenario for visualizing the story in VE, because what the users actually see on screen significantly impacts on their perception of the story. Imagine if the lighting could change between different scenes and with different events (lighting up suddenly when reaching a new site, dimming when failures occur); if the camera’s shooting angle and distance could automatically vary with events (an overall picture or a birds eye view is displayed when a user wonders where to go, an immediate close-up pops up when a user finds his target). These designed features would significantly impact on the users’ perception and their following actions hence impact on the flow of the story. Unfortunately, most of the current VEs, even games that have strong narrative models, do not have a “visualization script” that is as exquisite as those in cinema. Certainly, cinema choreographs the viewpoint of its audience with a variety of meaningful vocabulary in camera movement, editing, etc. Slow fading has a different value from a straight cut; a panning shot and zooming shot reveal their target in different ways. The velocity of mobile framing is motivated by different narrative needs (Bordwell and Thompson 2001). In VE we can also expect many kinds of perceived and cognitive movements, and it is possible to facilitate them with these narration techniques. The following are some examples. We can use transitions between shots and sequences to organize or categorize events in VE, or to adjust storytelling pace, speed, etc. We can use an animated sequence of “see an object, wide shot (establishing shot) – capture the object’s detail, mentally zoom in to a closeup – capture its context from another perspective, mentally zoom out to medium/wide shot and pan to get a holistic view…” to narrate an encounter. Since the design is in harmony with the users’ perceptional process, it easily ties the users in to the narrative. We can learn from the mutual interaction between screen space and offscreen space in cinema. For instance, when an avatar on the screen looks toward its left at an object that is outside of the screen space, curious at what attracts him, a user may “move” leftwards into the “off-screen space” and find the target in his gaze. This scenario matches the perceptual process of spectators, thus binding the screen reality with the mental development into an ongoing, explorative narrative. By designing such plots, we allow content to unfold in a more “narratized” style. Many VEs use a first-person view: a view through the user’s own eyes that changes in real time with the user’s kinetic movement. This view makes it hard to pre-define a screen script for the whole story flow in VE. However, we can provide a partial definition, i.e. by inserting certain pre-defined scripts into the flow while still leaving much room for users. For instance, when a user logs into a VE, the first view that pops up can be an establishing shot (a frequently adopted cinematic shot, which typically occurs at the beginning or resolution of the story); a wide panning shot might be supplied 218


before s/he takes some critical action, so that s/he gets an overall picture of the site; when s/he walks through a dark corridor that is full of danger, a few trembling, dolly shots may be inserted into a series of real-time firstperson snapshots, along with intensive audio effect; a close-up shot may pop up when s/he stands and looks at an object for a long time; a straightcut can be used between immediate action or scene changes for rhythmtightening, and a dissolve, cross-cut can be used when focus shifts. Smart use of these screen presentation techniques may significantly impact on the flow of the story and help narrate the story. However, a particularly important rule is that, the scenario definition should not interrupt the story flow. We certainly do not want the import of these imposed features to damage the interactive narrative making, which is finally completed by the user rather than the designer. Therefore, the degree of interference/design is both an opportunity and a challenge. Furthermore, in VE, a variety of storytelling traditions are folded into the medium. It incorporates not only the visual storytelling tradition (which is utilized in many visual media of today – including film, TV, etc.), but also other storytelling traditions, such as music, sound effects, voice-over narration, dialogue, player-to-player chat, and on-screen text dialogue. Therefore, we have a rich vocabulary for displaying and presenting the story. Integrating space with activity In cinema, spatial settings are viewed as passive backdrops for stories. In contrast, space has a major role in architectural narrative making: the story is formed, developed, and received step-by-step, along with the unfolding of the space. VE resembles architecture in that many of the virtual worlds are spatial, and exploration of the spaces is sometimes one of the intentions of the users. Therefore, in these VEs the narrative making cannot be separated from the major element – space. Unlike cinema, in which space might be downgraded or even ignored in narrative-making, space in VE has to be seriously incorporated into the narrative, as one of the major players. This fact has been recognized by most VE designers. Unfortunately, many of them go too far: they spend so much time on the creation of the digital setting, working exactly as an architect, but ignoring the fact that in architecture there is a pre-defined content while in VE there is little of it. As a result, their designs cause the emergence of many deserted containers without live content. Another reason for the prevalence of simulation in VE is the literal understanding of the context-content/spacebehaviour relationship. There are many behaviour patterns associated with a space, which have been part of our lives for a long time, hence cannot be easily forgotten. Therefore, if a space (e.g. a classroom) is re-created (even metaphorically) in VE, it is possible that the associated content and 219


behaviour patterns (lecture/discussion/keeping silence) are recalled so that similar spatial patterns or spatial narrative can be replayed in the VE. If this occurs, designers can easily predict the use of their product and further use the prediction to guide the design, just as an architect does. However, applying spatial patterns in VE may be somewhat risky, as we argued earlier; the social and cultural conventions may change according to the affordances and limitations of the new medium used. Therefore, such imports should be carefully justified. The rule here is to design the space into the narrative rather than view it either as a backdrop for a narrative as in cinema, or as the only dominant factor, as in architecture. Thus, in contrast to a cinematic narrative and an architectural narrative, a VE narrative stands in between the two – it is indeed an integration of space and activity. And VE designers may relate context design to content design much more closely than architects and filmmakers. As a result, the context and content may respond to, or be interactive with each other more actively in VE than in either of the two other media. The following are some examples. Space may be used as a theme in the narrative: for many VEs, spatial exploration is one of the themes in their narrative. Adding a spatial adventure to the activities in a heritage site may promote space to a key status in the narrative. In that case, the space becomes both an actor and a carrier of the narrative; context and content become part of each other. Space could be used as a clue for the evolvement of the narrative: to foreshadow future events, to nurture a variety of emotions (surprise, pleasure, oppression) through the configuration of a series of spaces. For example, the openings on the wall of a corridor allow the corridor walkers to view events occurring in the yard to which the corridor leads, hence foreshadowing the story/event that the user may soon encounter. The shape, color and size of a space might serve as hints for the emotions aroused by the events occurring within it. Create responsive space: in VE, given the power of the digital medium, context could be more interactive with the content than in the physical world. The space might respond actively to different activities, e.g. changing colors with the mood, changing sizes with number of occupants, changing shapes or textures with the themes, changing lighting as cues to following events, etc. Therefore, space, rather than an exquisite backdrop as it is seen in many of current spatialized VEs, could play a much more active role in the new medium.

Conclusion To summarize, VE designers must take responsibility for both content and context. By learning from cinema and architecture in content design, and 220


being cognizant of the affordances and limitations of the medium used, VE designers can create a more “live” virtual world, hence turning a lifeless digital model into a true environment or a meaningful “place”, which will be comparable, if different, to the ones users have experienced in other media, such as in architecture and in cinema.

Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the Digital Design Group of University of California at Berkeley for giving enlightenment and critique during the working process of this paper.

References Bordwell, D and Thompson, K. 2001. Film art: An Introduction. New York, NY: McGraw Hill. Bruno, G. 2002. Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film. London: Verso Press. Kalay, Y. and Marx, J. 2001. Architecture and the Internet: Designing Places in Cyberspace. In Reinventing the Discourse, ed. W. Jabi. ACADIA 2001: 230–240. Novak, J. 2005. Game Development Essentials: An Introduction. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson Delmar Learning. Moreno, M. 2005. Screenwriting Basics. Internet. Available from http://www. accessed 15 September 2005.


Part 4 N EW H ER I TA GE IN PR A C TI C E Virtual environments

The field of new heritage employs a range of digital tools and communication technologies to interpret and reconstruct cultural heritage. It has become apparent that digitally depicting heritage does not represent the only research challenge and questions are being raised regarding what are the future research challenges. This part examines some of the challenges, such as engagement and evaluation, that have been addressed in creating cultural heritage virtual environments.

14 T H E C O M P O N EN T S O F E N GAG EM EN T I N V I R T U A L HE RI T AG E E N V I R ON M E N T S Maria Roussou

Abstract Virtual Reality (VR), as popularised through films and the media at large, has been greatly preceded by its reputation of spectacular promises. VR has had the ability to engender fascination far beyond its commercial prospects and practical limitations, even before it had the opportunity to undergo, as every new technology, a process of maturation. In reality, it is for a variety of practical limitations, including high cost, development complexity, high maintenance, and thus restricted ability to serve the needs of a commercially produced mass entertainment industry that VR has not taken off as the promised technological platform of work, education, and leisure in the beginning of the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, the development of virtual worlds has not subsided; on the contrary it is involving more and more the crossing of disciplinary boundaries, particularly in the case of heritage environments experienced by the broad public. In the following sections we will examine the components that attract visitors to virtual cultural experiences and explore how these may affect the educational, scholarly or recreational goals set out by their designers.

Virtual heritage: a cross-fertilization of disciplines The intersection of Virtual Reality (VR) and cultural heritage, also coined as Virtual Heritage (VH), is an example of a “cross-fertilization” of disciplines. Virtual heritage involves a number of functions to facilitate the synthesis, conservation, reproduction, representation, digital reprocessing, and display of cultural evidence with the use of advanced VR imaging technologies (Roussou 2002). The representation of landscapes, objects, or sites of the past and the overall process of visualisation of archaeological 225


data with the use of VR technology forms a sub-domain known as Virtual Archaeology (Barcelo 2000), while extended forms of VR that blend the virtual with the real, such as Mixed Reality (MR) and Augmented Reality (AR), have found ideal application areas in archaeology and heritage. These applications are frequently identified with the reconstruction of ancient sites in the form of 3D models. Virtual heritage, as it forms into a distinctive domain, provides the opportunity to increase the impact of VR and expand it. Because the context within which virtual heritage is situated is inherently interdisciplinary and intercultural, while the content and material it works with can fulfill the requirements of a society of mass image consumption, in other words it can be colorful, impressive, spectacular, and deal with “great things” (Niccolucci 2002), virtual heritage productions may be ideal in responding to a need for a fashionable synergy between scientific enquiry, technology, art, and everyday life, and, consequently, influence more serious cultural demand (ibid.). Indeed, VH productions are in a position to pave the way for a widespread acceptance of the technology and, provided they are designed carefully, to serve as indisputable means to disseminate knowledge and raise public awareness. Pioneering examples of virtual reality applications in heritage serve as a showcase for best practice when it comes to embedding technological advancement within a practical outcome. However, as public presentation and exhibition opportunities broaden and as the field attracts an even greater mixture of disciplines – from technologists, archaeologists and cultural heritage specialists to interaction designers, artists, psychologists, entertainment and marketing specialists – the challenges presented in the creation of virtual heritage productions coalesce in enabling a rich mixture of representation (to accurately visualise or visually “reconstruct” the data); experience (to present and enhance the virtual environment with elements that incorporate knowledge providing and spectacle); and interaction (to provide the ability to gain insights by actively engaging in and even modifying the experience). Most virtual heritage projects would ideally strive to include all three of these characteristics in their implementations, yet few examples exist where successful blending of the three is achieved. The reasons for which VH productions have not yet exploited their promised potential can be many, both practical and conceptual. As far as archaeological research is concerned, even basic computer-based tools have not achieved the penetration one would expect. Even though archaeologists have to cope with huge amounts of data, traditional pre-computer tools still play a major (if not exclusive) role in supporting inquiry and analysis (Niccolucci 1999). Furthermore, archaeologists and similar field scholars do not easily recognise the validity of sources other than the primary sources they work with (i.e. the artifacts or associated written texts recovered from 226


the period they study) and regard technological innovations suspiciously, as exhibits of high cost and questionable content. In terms of presenting the results of their research, the dominant carrier of information is the written form – textual culture provides the cognitive infrastructure of the discipline of history, while visual information is subordinate to the “real” and “serious” information conveyed through written prose (Staley 2003). In this sense, the visual representation of the past using digital means is accused of lacking accuracy, as a result of the abstractions and dramatic assumptions that a visual representation of multivariate information must adopt in order to adhere to the visual culture of our times. The design of a virtual “experience” further complicates matters due to the difficulty entailed in its production and the particularities of the medium, while the addition of immersive and interaction features can challenge the border that divides an educational experience of the past from an entertainment endeavor. In this paper we will engage in an exploration of the dialogical relationship between representation, experience design, and interaction, which we consider to be the three main components of virtual heritage environments. We will draw examples from the research, education, and entertainment fields where such projects are developed and presented. At the same time, we hope to raise new fundamental questions, practical and conceptual, concerning the issues involved in using state-of-the-art interactive virtual environments for cultural heritage and archaeology, for learning, historic research, and recreation.

Representation One of the most fascinating dimensions of virtual heritage is its preoccupation with representation; with the complications that the representation of historical sites and artifacts entails but also with the perspectives that it opens up to the study and dissemination of knowledge concerning the past. This preoccupation with representation is connected both to the historical evolution of the VR medium but also to the practice of representation, which is endemic to archaeology as a discipline. Since the goal of archaeology as a discipline is first to understand the past and then to preserve it by studying it and delivering this acquired knowledge to future generations (Sideris and Roussou 2002), the representation of the past through visualisation of its landscapes, sites, and artifacts forms an important vehicle for conveying information and meeting these objectives. Accuracy and photorealism Representation in the case of a cultural artifact, site or event refers to the creation of visual matter (or language or a story) that truthfully corresponds 227


to the real world object, site or situation. This precision is a quality that archaeologists and scholars strive to achieve in heritage representation and that the general public comes to expect from museums as cultural authorities. On the other hand, technologists dealing with the virtual representation of heritage content are, naturally, less concerned with accuracy of the content itself and more involved with the form of the visualised content. This causes diffusion in the distinction between accuracy of representation and photorealistic depiction – if it looks realistic it must be more accurate. As Naimark points out, the degree of perceived realness is usually correlated with quality of content (Naimark 1990). No other discipline relates realness, or sensory realness, or photorealism to representation more than the field of Computer Graphics (CG). Since its emergence as a distinct discipline, CG has concentrated on its representational power of making images that are indistinguishable from reality. As a natural extension to computer graphics, virtual reality has based its developmental existence on this premise of visually – and perceptually – immersing its viewers in an ultimate simulation of the real world where representation is so faithful that it cannot be distinguished from reality. It is thus of no surprise that the area of virtual heritage, as an amalgam of archaeology and VR imaging technologies, has primarily focused on generating digital reconstructions of historical or archaeological artifacts and sites with enough fidelity to be truly accurate representations of their real-world counterparts. Achieving this immersive ideal in the visual representation of sites is identified with a fixation with the perfection of simulated photorealism (Darley 2000). In virtual heritage representation, architectural walkthroughs and picture-perfect simulations of objects have defined a practice where photorealism is considered as perhaps the most important measure of a successful representation. As Gillings puts it, virtual archaeology is identified with the “relentless questing for the elusive grail of photorealism and ever more faithful simulation” (Gillings 2000). This is also evidenced by the rapid advancement of techniques with obvious applications in virtual heritage, such as 3D scanning (Callieri et al. 2004), the plethora of research projects that attempt to capture real-world properties such as shading, lighting, textures and reflections, and apply these to synthetic worlds that represent the past, and the “reproduction” of spaces using real-world panoramic photographs1 .(Kenderdine and Hart) or modelling-from-images techniques with spectacular photographic-quality results (see Figure 14.1). A review of the history of old media such as film, and even older mechanical media, such as the panoramic and stereoscopic devices of the eighteenth century (Kenderdine and Hart), indicates that the ideal of photorealistic representation is certainly not a new concept. One can even argue that photorealistic representation, as an ideal, is similar to the quest of early Impressionists who sought visual realism by extraordinary stylistic means. 228


Figure 14.1 Photorealistic rendering of heritage sites: here the virtual reconstruction of Place Garibaldi in Nice, France using modelling-from-images techniques. The CREATE project (

The Impressionists observed nature closely, with a scientific interest in visual phenomena. It is not difficult to draw parallels with the field of computer graphics, which, as noted, has long been defined as a quest to achieve photorealism (Durand 2002) in the same way that the Impressionists sought to impress reality on a canvas. As the mastery and “language” of painting evolved, however, the representation of reality became “distorted” to communicate an inner vision. The post-Impressionists sought to transform nature on canvas rather than 229


imitate it. Similarly, as the tools and techniques in computer graphics evolve, the development of different imaging techniques that transform the impression and perception of reality evolves as well. An evolution from craftsmanship to the maturation of an artistic language has been taking place throughout the history of media and is now also leading to the liberation of the creative potential within three-dimensional digital representations (Roussou and Drettakis 2003). Gwilt notes that digitally referenced images encompass a conflict between realistic representation on the one hand, and artistic expression and abstraction on the other, concluding that perhaps the arrival of ubiquitous digital technologies and postmodern concepts have “released the need for digital image makers to reference the real” (Gwilt 2004). Hence, as the field matures and the VR medium itself starts to develop a “language”, more experimental and expressive explorations take place and alternatives to previous ideals are considered. There is a greater realisation that, in many cases, what may interest users is not so much about achieving realistic representation as it is about abstracting away from reality and creating believable and convincing environments, regardless of whether the imagery emulates the physical properties of the real world or not. This relates to the Wonderland, Ivan Sutherland’s vision of the ultimate display, where the believability of the virtual world is not necessarily linked to perfect visual realism (Sutherland 1965). In computer graphics, the newly defined field of Non-Photorealistic Rendering (NPR) reflects this evolution to a different impression in the representation of space, where the idea is to convey a sense of an image as an “artistic impression” rather than a reflection of a future reality (Gooch and Gooch 2001). The choice between using photorealistic or non-photorealistic rendering may be just a matter of stylistic preference or, more importantly, it may reflect a decision that depends on the context. In specific contexts one does not wish to make a firm commitment, an artistic depiction may be appropriate; in other cases, the need for realism may be more appropriate (Roussou and Drettakis 2003). The paradox of authenticity Accuracy or the exact conformity to truth, in the representation of heritage information, is in many ways related to authenticity, the quality of being genuine, of established authority, or not corrupted from the original. In cultural heritage simulations both these attributes have been considered important, meaning that the simulations must reflect as truly as possible the familiar-to-the-user object or surrounding environment (Roussou 2002). Situating the user in an authentic environment presupposes the creation of a high-quality simulation that is as close to the real-world context as possible. 230


Paradoxically, the virtual rather than simply being a mimetic mirror of reality, redefines it. Walter Benjamin, one of the first to argue that technology has raised issues of authenticity, noted that reproduction is no longer just imitation or a mere translation of data into images or worlds that mimic reality but goes beyond it. According to Benjamin, the presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity (Watson et al. 2004). The reproduction refers the viewer to the original; thanks to its virtual replicas, the aura of the authentic is amplified, while the fake may appear more authentic. The original becomes more familiar and so our emotions and ideas in relation to it are strengthened or weakened as we share them with the world (Bonami 2005). Moreover, if we accept that history is a subjective construct, then which (whose) authenticity should we choose to recreate? In this sense it is not the authentic, but the authentication that needs to be interrogated (Diller and Scofidio, in (Bonami 2005)) and the concept of authenticity in synthetic environments is questioned altogether. Subjectiveness and multiple interpretations Archaeology is a discipline based on interpretation and hypotheses. Archaeologists work with more than one possible interpretation of the same set of data and construct theories around the data that they can collect and synthesize. According to Huizinga, historical knowledge is essentially aesthetic, intuitive, and subjective (Huizinga 1971). Virtual archaeology involves recreating a concrete or an abstract entity, captures its quantitative and qualitative parameters, allows the study of its structure and behavior, incorporates the higher degree of interpretation, and still leaves space for a subjective way of “seeing” it (Sideris and Roussou 2002). Due to this subjectivity, the purpose for which a virtual heritage reconstruction is made is important and a distinction must be made between VR worlds intended for use by archaeologists, and environments created as a means to bring the past alive and educate about it. A single model may not be sufficient to serve the needs of both scholars and non-experts (Levy 2001). Virtual environments developed for research purposes can help illustrate, detect, and resolve archaeological controversies, in other words to assist the process of interpretation of a site or case by specialists (Frischer et al. 2000). In such a case, the final digital environment contains virtually no assumptions, or it forms the final stage of a process where several varying assumptions have been subsequently tried and failed (Sideris and Roussou 2002). On the other hand, heritage simulations made to facilitate visualisation of the past for educational purposes incorporate the interpretations made by the specialists in order to provide the general public with a consistent and comprehensible virtual representation (Sideris and Roussou 2002). We believe that purpose must remain the primary criterion that guides the development of a virtual heritage environment and that 231


it is not possible to make the past available to wide audiences in an understandable form while at the same time visualise accurately the multitude of information required by experts for the study of a complex situation.

Constructing experience: storytelling, multimodality, human presence As themed exhibitions proliferate and cultural institutions become more involved with immersive and interactive technologies, their conception of creating “experiences” is greeted with less suspicion by their communities and welcomed by their visitors. Nevertheless, museums still rely on the aura of their collections to create experience, letting visitors conjure their own meaning via their exploration of exhibition spaces. On a parallel level, the most common mode for VR experiences is one of architectural or world exploration (Hertz 2005) where visually stimulating representation dominates. However, as the practitioners of theme-based entertainment have demonstrated, designing experience is more about creating a psychological space. In this respect, the field of entertainment, with its spectacular success in creating the kind of narrative-based multisensorial experiences that fire audience’s imaginations, can inform the designers of digital heritage experiences. Interest, empathy, and imagination via storytelling Schell defines a successful entertainment experience as such when the right combination of a visitor’s levels of interest (the desire and will which enables us to focus attention), empathy (the ability to put one’s self in the place of another), and imagination (the ability to fantasise alternate realities), is triggered and maintained throughout the experience (Schell 2003). Storytelling is undoubtedly the best vehicle to trigger these abilities in the visitor experiencing a virtual environment of cultural content. Cultural institutions create narrative experiences through the collection, informed selection, and meaningful display of artifacts, and the use of explanatory visual and narrative motifs in their exhibits and in the spaces between exhibits. Whereas in the entertainment world the lines between fact and fiction become irrelevant, in the cultural heritage domain the stories expected and inferred through the exhibits form part of an interpretative process that provides cohesion for the exhibited content.2 This interpretative process is at the core of the cultural institution’s credibility as the ultimate keeper of knowledge, a crucial context that museums wish to preserve while providing memorable experiences that can, ideally, suspend disbelief. Suspending disbelief is one of the key aspects of narrative engagement and perhaps the most central goal of an immersive virtual environment. 232


Figure 14.2 Preparing the visitor for the experience is an integral part of the “story”: (left) visitors queuing to enter the pre-show at the British Museum’s “Mummy: The Inside Story” exhibition; (right) the visitor information video at the entrance of the Foundation of the Hellenic World’s VR exhibits informs visitors while, at the same time, raising expectations.

Recent virtual archaeology productions, such as “Mummy: The Inside Story” by the British Museum, have adopted many of the tricks used by the theme park industry to engage the audience into the cultural narrative. In this particular example, the central story of Nesperennub, the mummy of an Egyptian priest that was never unwrapped, began to unfold in the form of a pre-show before visitors entered the main virtual reality experience (Figure 14.2). Characters and the presence of life An important element in the unfolding of every narrative and the enhancement of a virtual experience is the development of characters, preferably in a human or other life-like form. However, at the same time, visualising characters that are of aesthetic quality, historical accuracy and conceptual soundness is one of the most difficult topics for archaeologists and designers alike. Thus it is not surprising that the majority of virtual heritage projects only deal with the reconstruction of the architecture, resulting, in the words of Margaret Morse, in a kind of “Nature Morte” (Morse 1996)3 . On the contrary, Hollywood film reconstructions of ancient cities are usually there to support the characters, thus de-emphasising the reconstruction. Similarly, interactive entertainment has explored representing 233


the visitor as a character in the experience (Hercules or Aladdin at DisneyQuest), thus emphasising the issue of personalisation. Virtual environments, on the other hand, have been limited in the ways characters are depicted, and usually follow an anthropomorphic model. However, many research efforts exist “to build synthetic characters that are not only believable but also as remarkable and unforgettable, as humans are”.4 Triggering multiple senses Peter Greenaway’s idea of an “expanded metacinema”, whilst referring to cinema, transfers well to the ideal of the virtual experience designers should be striving for. Greenaway suggests to integrate all manner of sophisticated cultural languages into a three-dimensional form with “stimulus for all five senses where the viewer is not passively seated, can create his or her own time-frame of attention and can (as good as) touch the objects he is viewing and certainly have a more physical / virtual relationship with them” (Pascoe 1997). Visitors to today’s virtual heritage environments may not expect the productions to have reached the level of sensorial richness illustrated by Greenaway’s vision or Heilig’s Sensorama (Heilig 1992), but when it comes to experience, it is not only what appeals to the eyes but also to all other senses. McLuhan many years ago predicted that we are moving out of the age of the visual into the age of the aural and tactile (McLuhan 1964). Preliminary studies with 15 adult and children museum visitors that used a high-end haptic interface for reconstructing an ancient temple indicated that the sense of touch, despite the rather intrusive robotic gear required to acquire it in the virtual environment, added a tangible element to their experience and was perceived to enhance their understanding of the material attributes, weight, and volume of the architectural members (see Figure 14.3). Further research is required to study precisely how the lack or existence of tangibility affects our relation to virtual space and whether the virtual replica can substitute the real thing in all aspects of its physicality.

Interaction: first-person control or guided tour? Interactivity has emerged as a catch-all term, ascribed to digital media as its most defining component. So far, interactivity in VH environments has been identified with spatial navigation, the dominant form of experience being the guided tour. The passive aspect of watching a screen is replaced by a less passive act of traveling into a world in the same way as a camera pans through the space of a film set. Tzortzaki argues that this genre of experiencing a virtual world creates a space of kinesthetic illusion, which is both visual-spatial (the tradition of reconstruction) and 234


Figure 14.3 Museum visitors use a haptic interface, built by PERCRO, to reconstruct, piece-by-piece, a section of the Doric temple of Ancient Messene in Greece as part of the CREATE project ( create).

textual-spatial (the guided tour), as facilitated by a human or surrogate tour guide (Tzortzaki 2001). The seduction of navigating through the virtual space has been strong enough to maintain this model of interaction (Carlsson 1995). Furthermore, the difficulty, both on a technical and a conceptual design level, of incorporating other forms of interaction, has prevented designers from exploring more exciting and innovative models of communication with the virtual world. Interactivity is largely restricted and difficult to apply in a public space, especially when the practical difficulties of visitor throughput and other complications must be overcome or when more than one user must share the same screen (Robinett 1992). If true interactivity is what takes place in the human brain, which carries the unique ability of finding a nearly infinite range of responses to any situation, as well as the ability to imagine completely new, unanticipated possibilities, then applying this to any digital environment seems next to impossible and is certainly dependent on the achievements of artificial intelligence. In other words, meaningful interactivity implies something more 235


than the binary state of a light switch; it involves having multiple opportunities to decide upon in a continuous seduction of choices; it also resides in the user’s ability to change the environment (Ryan 2001), in other words to apply the last two forms of interaction in Pares and Pares’ three-tiered spectrum of explorative, manipulative, and contributive interaction (Pares and Pares, 2001). The difficulty of incorporating interactivity in VR productions explains why, in the most successful examples of highly interactive virtual environments targeted to the public, the creators have engaged in a sophisticated engineering of the illusion of interaction (Roussou 2004). The choices that the user makes and the attempts to modify the world or cause a response are directed by a set of predefined options that are determined by the creator. In the location-based entertainment world, examples that demonstrate mastery of what Schell refers to as “indirect control” (Schell 2003) include the DisneyQuest virtual reality attractions of Aladdin and Hercules, and the more recent adventure of the Pirates of the Caribbean (Schell and Shochet 2001). In all these cases, visitors assume the roles of central characters in the story and, for the duration of their experience, believe they control the progress of the story, which is rapidly building to a climax, when in fact every aspect of the experience has been carefully and intelligently planned in advance. Interactivity is not only promoted widely in entertainment venues in order to attract and motivate visitors but also in the informal education world, where an exhibition or learning environment is considered more effective if it is interactive. A study with children in a constructivist interactive virtual environment, examining the effect of interactivity on conceptual learning, has provided an unexpected result, which may well be considered in the design of VH environments: the guided experimental condition, where a virtual agent performed all actions in constructing a playground in VR, showed to be more effective in encouraging deeper reflection of the underlying conceptual learning problems than the interactive experimental condition, where children perform the activity themselves, having full decisional and kinesthetic control over the environment (Figure 14.4). In this case, it is believed that Kolb’s experiential learning cycle5 is in effect what is triggered when the learner or museum visitor observes, rather than directly participates in, an interactive experience, indicating that the combination of contructivist techniques and guided exploration may be the recipe for an effective virtual experience (Roussou et al. 2006). Human mediation or agency As VR technologies become available to the public in an increasing number of informal education venues and attractions worldwide, interaction designers struggle with the problems of providing meaningful interactive experiences. Very few, if any, reasonable solutions have been found. 236


Figure 14.4 A robot character called “Spike” guides children through the construction of a virtual playground by enacting a pre-recorded sequence of actions. The Virtual Playground project ( staff/M.Roussou/research/).

Adding a human guide is a solution that some museums and attractions have chosen in order to circumvent an, up to now, difficult issue. In the few places where immersive projection-based VR installations and productions are experienced by the general public on a daily basis, namely the Ars Electronica Center in Austria and the Foundation of the Hellenic World in Greece, a human guide (called info-trainer in the first case and museum educator in the latter) is employed to act as mediator for every visitor group (Alexaki 2006). However, in cases where the installations are of a larger scale, the use of a human acting as a tour guide, especially with passive walkthroughs, does not guarantee interaction between the audience and the given content. In fact there is rarely any meaningful interaction between the audience and the “presenter” in the case of a VR theatre show, apart from the audience responding to questions prompted by the human actor. Virtual tour guides, on the other hand, despite adding novelty and a sense of playfulness to the presentation, have a limited capacity for interactivity. Programming them requires extensive knowledge on the part of the programmer in order to make them do anything much more sophisticated than choice-driven interaction.

Conclusion Despite their complexity, virtual heritage environments are inherently fascinating and possess essential properties to have a positive effect on supporting research and educating the broad public. Heritage institutions such as museums and cultural centres are in a better position to lead the design of the necessary VR productions, ensure the appropriate implementation 237


that will meet their needs, make use of the advanced systems required for VH simulations, define their potential benefit, and evaluate the effects for different audiences. Best practice for advancing the field, we believe, lies in the convergence of presentation (and representation), experience design, and interaction, particularly if we, as practitioners and scholars, are willing to dispose of our old ideas and challenge our preconceptions concerning the use of these elements in our productions. Specifically, in the case of representation, the answer to the question of whether we must create accurate and authentically situated representations or subjective yet convincing environments depends on our target audience and purpose. The challenge for designers of virtual heritage simulations lies in the way the relationship between realism of form and quality of content is handled; i.e. if photorealism is deployed or if an alternative visual language is discovered to convey a world of the past, facilitate researchers to preserve information and test different hypotheses, and to enrich a wider audience’s understanding and appreciation. In the case of experience design, experience can “become a formula”, where characters and life forms tie into story structures that trigger more than just our visual sense, to produce chemistry that successfully fires the visitor’s imagination. The best virtual heritage worlds, similarly to the best museums, must “seek to promote different modes and levels of ‘interpretation’ by subtle juxtapositions of ‘experience’” (Serota 1996). Additionally, the underlying principles of human-virtual system interaction design practised and applied by the entertainment industry can also serve as models in the design of interactive virtual heritage experiences. Nevertheless, the medium has its own “language” and we should be exploiting its own expressive powers rather than merely depending on the language that has been shaped by earlier media (Murray 1997). In the case of interaction, a key challenge is to incorporate interactivity that is meaningful, whether we are dealing with individuals or groups. In both cases, it is upon the institution to decide if a human (educator, guide, content expert) will assume a mediating role between visitor and virtual environment or if other, possibly less costly, more practical or more novel digital surrogates suffice to add value to the experience. In any case, if novel interfaces are deployed, these must be naturally incorporated, transparent, flexible, and responsive to the needs of contemporary visitors.

Acknowledgements The author wishes to thank all colleagues, past and present, who have contributed their creative talent and technological expertise to the development of virtual heritage environments mentioned as examples throughout this paper. 238


Notes 1 Real Virtual – Representing Architectural Time and Space. (2005). Last accessed December 14 2006, from 2 A cultural institution that challenges the boundaries between fact and fiction is the Museum of Jurassic Technology, best described in Weschler (1995) as a place that imbues its visitors with the means to look at mundane ordinariness with a new sense of wonder. 3 Morse uses this term to refer to the ambiguous relationship between the virtual and the real. 4 Vision statement of Accessed December 14 2006. 5 Kolb argues that learning by experience is essentially a cycle that begins with concrete experience, goes on to observation and reflection, then to abstract conceptualization and finally to active experimentation in new situations (Kolb, D. A. 1984. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.)

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Abstract The chapter discusses the potential of Virtual Reality (VR) and the issues related with its application in the cultural sector, particularly its support of learning and social interaction. It examines the lessons learned from the evaluation of VR (and other ICT) applications in formal and informal learning environments and discusses their methodological limitations. It advocates the need for more evaluation research about the effect of Virtual Heritage (VH) on visitors and the development of appropriate methodological strategies.

Introduction The use of virtual reality is spreading in museums and cultural heritage settings, offering new opportunities both for archaeological, art-historical and other related scholarship, but also for public education and interpretation activities, which can be impressive and entertaining. Yet, this much advertised potential has in most cases not been fulfilled to its full extent (Stone 2005), due to a variety of practical problems, such as high development and maintenance costs, but also due to conceptual limitations, such as the use of a new medium in traditional and restricting ways, replicating old paradigms, or resistance and suspicion from archaeologists and related experts in the field who still prefer to use the written form for presenting their work (Niccolucci 2002; Staley 2003), as this offers tested ways of checking for validity and is more closely associated with professional credibility and recognition. However, despite these difficulties,



the newly developed field of Virtual Heritage (VH), which is formed by the intersection of Virtual Reality (VR) with cultural heritage, continues to develop, borrowing from various disciplines (Roussou 2002). In most cases, the use of VR applications in cultural heritage settings is either a leisure activity or part of the organized visit of a school or other educational organization. Although the latter experiences are not directly related to a formal educational context, there is nevertheless always the expectation that these applications will have – at least to some extent – educational content and goals, and at the same time will be entertaining. This is the idea behind the concept of “edutaintment”, which balances and combines the two aspects, thus synthesing the elements presented as opposing options in the chapter’s title. Although several studies have been undertaken about the educational effectiveness of VR in formal educational environments, little is known about informal settings, such as museums and exhibition centers. In the latter case, learning needs to be defined in a broader and more multifaceted way, moving away from the behaviourist model of pre-established cognitive outcomes and encompassing often difficulties to measure effects that are close to the constructivist paradigm, which also stresses interactivity as an important methodology for education and communication (Hein 1998). Interactivity is often considered as an essential part of VH applications and is a concept that has defied a generally accepted definition in the field, despite the many attempts by authors from various fields (e.g. Adams and Moussouri 2002; Lévy 1995; Roussou 2004; Sims 1997; Steuer 1995; Pujol Tost 2005) to describe it more specifically. The level of interactivity of the various types of VH applications varies and has so far often been limited. In many cases, even when the program is interactive, navigation and choice of action is controlled by a guide, a member of staff of the organization who acts as a mediator. In this model of interaction, the role he/she plays is very important and affects the type of experience the visitors will have; yet surprisingly, very little is known about the ways that the complex relationship between visitors, mediator and VR application is constructed. It is ironic in a sense, that despite being very demanding in terms of resources, design of the virtual content, and maintenance of the hardware, one of the most crucial factors in terms of educational benefit, entertainment and construction of meaning for visitors remains the human factor of the guide as presenter and mediator. Whether visitors come to use VH applications as part of organized education groups or in their leisure time, an important parameter affecting their experience, including possible learning outcomes, is the social context of the visit. Although the importance of the social aspect of visiting a cultural heritage setting has been shown by several studies (e.g. Falk and Dierking 1992: 41–54; and the classic early papers by McManus 1987; McManus 243


1988) and is today generally recognized, new technology applications in this area continue to cater primarily for single users, often isolating them from their group and hindering communication. Unlike other types of ICT applications, such as multimedia kiosks or handheld devices, VR programs are in most cases addressed to groups, yet are rarely designed to actively support or even promote social interaction. These types of interactions (verbal, tactile, non-vocal) have an impact on how the technology is encountered, explored and understood. Augmented (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), with their closer link to the physical environment and their less obtrusive character are supposed to offer the advantages of VR without disrupting social interaction. However, systematic evaluation studies are required to investigate this in practice, as some initial evaluation findings seem to contradict these claims (vom Lehn and Heath 2003). As such studies are extremely limited in number, in our investigations of lessons learned from the evaluation of VR applications for presenting the past and their effects on visitors, we had to broaden our perspective to include also evaluations from different, even though related, fields, such as instructional technology and pedagogical studies investigating the effect of VR applications in formal educational settings, or museum visitor studies of new technology (but not exclusively VR) applications. In the analysis of the findings, we took into account the differences and similarities of each context, as well as the methodological limitations.

Evaluation studies from formal and informal learning environments Evaluation studies overview The body of work from formal learning environments is considerably large, as these have a longer tradition of using computers for learning. Their interest is usually directed at investigating how the traditional instructional strategies need to be modified with the inclusion of ICT tools and what is their particular contribution compared to traditional methods. Museum visitor studies (where similar initiatives are considerably fewer in number) do not focus to the same extent on specific cognitive gains or learning outcomes, so if we want to investigate how ICT, and VR in particular, can contribute to the learning process and its key elements (person, task, environment), we have to examine and extrapolate from the findings of mainly formal learning environments. After a first phase in museum evaluation where the influence from behavioral psychology led to a preoccupation about specific and quantifiable learning outcomes from museum exhibits and applications (particularly in the USA), over the last twenty years there has been a ‘shift of focus from what exhibits do to what visitors make out of exhibits’ (Miles 1993: 28) 244


and how they construct meaning (Hein 1995; Hein 1998). Evaluation in museums and cultural heritage institutions is now focusing more on how ICT applications affect the whole experience of the exhibition: visitors’ behaviour, social dimension of the visit and integration with other exhibits (the effect of high-tech media for the apprehension of exhibition discourses through text, images and hands on). The studies we investigated in this paper cover a wide range of interfaces and types of applications, from multimedia to immersive virtual reality (IVR), through to desktop simulations. In formal learning evaluations, the most popular applications are multimedia (often called Computer Assisted Learning Environments (CALE) or Virtual Learning Environments (VLE)), as they are the natural development of older systems, transferring to the digital environment the materials traditionally used at school text and images adding now hypertextual interactivity. Methodological limitations Evaluation studies of formal and informal environments also differ in their methodological approach. The former use a more traditional experimental approach, where the conditions are more controlled and the studies are almost always comparative; the latter often use observation, focus group discussions and in-depth interviews (to gather qualitative information), individual questionnaires (for more quantitative data), and often involve the evaluator in the setting as both an observer and a participant. Also, due to the relatively recent introduction of ICT in museums and exhibitions, the lack of resources and suitably trained staff to carry out evaluation research, and the political nature of evaluation (with its often sensitive findings), these kind of studies in the cultural sector are limited. Even when they do exist, they tend to be informally managed, produce data of varying quality and depth, do not form part of an overall plan or strategy, and are actually often not even made public (Economou 2004). In many cases, evaluation is planned more as an afterthought, without being integrated in the development process. Furthermore, the lack of generally accepted methodological frameworks affects the comparability of the data and the ability to generalize the results (Economou 2004). In general, the results from both environments are very difficult to universalize because of the methodological characteristics of the studies. These include either statistical limitations, such as insufficient number of users included or non-comparable groups, or the experimental conditions, such as the influence of the test design or lab-based evaluations which ignore the complexity of studying visitors in the natural environment of the exhibition. Despite these shortcomings, it is useful to examine the evaluation findings in the broader field as they still bear great relevance for VH and can guide future developments. 245


Evaluation Findings User motivation and control ICT’s and particularly VR’s power of motivation and popularity over other instruction and communication media is reported by numerous studies of different age groups in both formal and informal contexts (e.g. Hilke et al. 1988; Pimentel and Teixeira 1995; Johnson et al. 1998; Harper et al. 2000; Jackson and Fagan 2000; Wheeler et al. 2002; Chou and Liu 2005; Lee et al. 2005). As Chou and Liu (2005) reported in a study of a web-based multimedia CALE for secondary students (with a control group using traditional learning methods), the environment allowed better control of the students’ own learning, which they themselves reported as making them more efficient. This augmented their satisfaction and generated a better learning environment than the traditional techniques. Similar findings were reported at a study of secondary students’ collaborative creation of a web site (Wheeler et al. 2002), where the fact that the students and not the teacher or the curriculum were driving the task, provided them with a feeling of control that motivated them to continue working. A few years earlier, Schroeder (1996) also stressed the importance of users’ control in the virtual environments, as this significantly augments their levels of attention, retention, production and motivation and consequently leads them to obtain better scores when learning results are tested. This was also confirmed with young users. A study of children between six and ten using a CAVE in groups of four, where one acted as task coordinator through an avatar, showed that comprehension of the content and the task at hand was a direct function of the level of involvement and engagement: the more engaged in the task (mainly the leaders), the better answers they gave in the post-activity questionnaires (Johnson et al. 1998). Early evaluation studies of museum interactive applications also recorded visitors’ satisfaction with being able to control their navigation and make their own choices through the system (Morrissey 1991; Economou 1998). For virtual heritage environments, these findings indicate that the attraction of direct control of the application (and not through a guide or other mediator) should not be underestimated. Other studies that also reported users’ increased motivation to use the computer-based system related this more to the competitive way in which they approached the task in hand, as they associated it with games (another lesson which can be incorporated into the design of VH applications). This was the case, for example, with students with learning difficulties (Neuman 1989), senior high-school management students (Yu et al. 2002) or the numerous secondary students at the collaborative VLEs tudied by the team at the HOC Laboratory of the Politecnico di Milano (di Blas et al. 2005b). The researchers in the latter case found 246


that the presence of a clear goal stimulated motivation (di Blas et al. 2005a). On the other hand, when students are over-motivated, this can adversely affect their understanding of the subject. An observational study of secondary education students using a multimedia application with VR as a navigation metaphor showed that too much fascination with the system can lead students to explore the environment too quickly and randomly to allow an acceptable understanding of information (Biosca et al. 2002). Similar findings were recorded in the evaluation of a museum multimedia application, which attracted visitors with no prior interest in the subject to the specific exhibition, but did not necessarily lead to increased understanding of the subject, as a proportion of these users seem to have initially focused on the process of using the technology, rather than on the content (Economou 1998). This has considerable implications for applications in museum and cultural heritage environments, where the average time spent with the system is usually very limited. Social interaction Studies of formal learning environments show that educational effectiveness is closely related to the interaction with other users (di Blas et al. 2005a). The team at the HOC lab stress that what is relevant is not the technology but the possibility to establish a link with the other users in the virtual environment (what they call ‘virtual or conceptual presence’). However, they also stress that what cannot fail is this link: their studies of students using the collaborative VR environment in various European secondary schools show that if there are problems with the connection, the whole process of communication and learning will be negatively affected (Di Blas et al. 2005b). Studies with younger children working in collaborative environments also confirm that the most important aspect is not the presence of technology but the equality of conditions when interacting with the material (Scott et al. 2003). Interestingly, collaborative formal learning studies show that the presence of virtual environments did not prevent (Bricken and Byrne 1993), and in some cases, actively encouraged collaboration and social exchange (Di Blas et al. 2005b). Examples with young children showed the importance of social interaction with classmates in the virtual environment, which was linked with better results at the post-activity tests (Johnson et al. 1998). Social interaction not only with the peer group but also with an outside helper or expert advisor is also important, assisting for example in the interpretation of the empirical evidence encountered in the simulation (Reid et al. 2003). However, the picture is different in the cultural setting, where as we have mentioned above, ICT applications are rarely designed to effectively 247


support social interaction. One exception is the evaluation of an experimental system designed from the beginning to support social interaction of local and remote companions in a mixed reality museum and historic house experience that was tested at an exhibition at the Lighthouse Center for Architecture, Design and the City in Glasgow (Galani and Chalmers 2003). However, this explicit design, which supported the co-visiting experience and proved that ‘the museum’s remote presence was treated not strictly as an information space, used in isolation, but also as a social place to visit, enjoy and relate to others’ (Galani and Chalmers 2003, 15) is very rare in ICT applications in cultural heritage settings. We already know from early studies that in most cases visitors use museum computer interactives in groups (Doering et al. 1989; Menninger 1991; Morrissey 1991; McManus 1993b; Giusti 1994b). Yet the study of the use of computer interactives at [email protected] and the Science Museum, London, showed that it was very difficult for groups to carry out a collaborative exploration (Heath and vom Lehn 2002). The researchers observed that ICT applications have problems in fitting into the social dimension of the exhibit because their interface is designed for a single user that interacts with the machine through a linear input–output dialog without allowing more sophisticated types of interaction. The study that the same team carried out on the use of mobile computing at a big art gallery in London yielded similar results, showing that these devices monopolize the visitors’ attention, instead of fermenting an egalitarian communication between the different elements involved: user, mobile device, environment, objects and other visitors (vom Lehn and Heath 2003). Similar findings were reported in the evaluation of the use of mobile computing at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, which recorded that users experienced a feeling of isolation either with regard to other visitors or with regard to the rest of the exhibition (Hsi 2003). The researchers also discovered that visitors had problems in establishing transferences between the real and the virtual world when there were no reference points to allow the superimposition of the two kinds of explanation (Hsi 2003). Along the same lines, Jovet (2003) refers to the difficulty of successfully integrating new media in exhibitions, when she writes that depending on the location of VR in the exhibition, it can break the traditional linearity of the visit by creating a surrounding activity area (parallel to the observation of objects) which, because of its interactivity, generates emotional and physical responses that can still today be perceived as inappropriate inside the exhibition. The VR application can interfere with the contemplation of originals and in some cases become the protagonist, to the detriment of the message or the objects. On the other hand, research of early multimedia systems in the galleries suggests that, when thoughtfully designed and carefully positioned, 248


interactive systems can actually complement and increase the enjoyment of the exhibits by acting as supplements and enhancements, rather than replacing them (Hilke et al. 1988; Worts 1990; Allison and Gwaltney 1991; Menninger 1991; Morrissey 1991; Wanning 1991a; Mellor 1993; Economou 1998). In any case, the presence of computer applications in the gallery affects the way visitors behave in the exhibition, even those who do not use the application (Hilke et al. 1988; Worts 1990; Morrissey 1991). Museum evaluations suggest that visitors spend considerable time using the computer applications, however, this seems to be add-on time, not reducing the normal amount of time they would have spent in the gallery if the interactives were not present (Allison and Gwaltney 1991; Economou 1998). These studies indicate that the use and presence of the computers often encourage visitors to pay closer attention to the objects and exhibition themes. Similarly, the mixed reality prototype tested at the Lighthouse in Glasgow showed that allowing different members of the group to share their interests and view the same content contributed to a shared exploration of the display which led to greater engagement with the exhibition (Galani and Chalmers 2003). Moving back to the formal learning environment (where social interaction and individual learning are perceived differently), it is interesting to examine the contrasting results from a study of collaborative learning with secondary science students, suggesting that group interaction is not always the most effective learning strategy and that the linear bidirectional exchange between an individual student and the PC can also obtain very positive results (Chiu 2002). This study suggests that face-to-face collaboration is better for creative exploration of problems and generation of ideas, while cooperation in Cyberspace obtains better results with linking, interpreting and integrating ideas. Another study from a formal learning environment that tested biology students’ perception of virtual versus real field trips showed that they did not consider that virtual learning environments are or have to be a substitute for real field trips, but they believed that they were motivating and useful as learning tools, for example to prepare field trips in advance and therefore take more advantage of them (Spicer and Stratford 2001). This might have similarities to attitudes towards organized museum and heritage site visits, since the traditional fear of curators and heritage custodians that virtual museums and exhibits will replace the real ones has not been confirmed by evidence so far. The evaluation of mobile computing at the Exploratorium showed that the presence of a virtual guide was a source of motivation and inspiration for users to try new ways of interaction with the exhibition and to pay more attention to the exhibition discourse (Hsi 2003). This brings up a wider issue for VH applications: how can the loss of direct human contact be compensated in the digital environment? Can avatars, digital guides, links with context experts, artists or other visitors 249


in the virtual space provide the answer? We need more imaginative and thoughtful work in this direction. Age In terms of the influence of the users’ ages, some IVR studies report that young people are more active than adults in the construction of virtual worlds (Bricken and Byrne 1993). More specifically, they also report that 10 to 12-year-olds appear more comfortable with the construction of objects, while 13 to 15-year-olds work without problems in the context design (ibid. 1993), findings which are consistent with evolutionary psychology predictions. VR’s power of attraction seems to appeal to several age groups, from primary education through to university students, but we are missing data from older adults, and again, particularly how they interact in cultural settings. Within this relatively young user base, some formal learning studies suggest that there is no relationship between age and use of the system and that in fact, this was less a matter of age than of accumulated experience with computers (Vance Wilson 2000). With few exceptions (Economou 1998), early studies of museum multimedia interactives suggest that users were often young (Sharpe 1983; Doering et al. 1989; Allison and Gwaltney 1991; Menninger 1991; Morrissey 1991; McManus 1993b; Giusti 1994a), but with the continuing use of ICT this is likely to change. Gender Most studies report no significant differences between genders in the results or abilities of using ICT applications (Shaw and Marlow 1999; Panagiotakopoulos and Ioannidis 2002), only differences in the goals and approaches. For example, an early study of 13–15 year-old students using an IVR system showed that boys defined first their objectives and then designed the contents following the plan, while girls were more processoriented (decided a concept, built several objects and chose what would be included) (Bricken and Byrne 1993). In some cases, female users use the system more frequently than male ones, particularly when its main function is communication (Vance Wilson 2000); get more engaged in collaboration than boys who prefer to work in individual environments (Jackson and Fagan 2000); and obtain better learning results when assistants in the system are represented through human faces (Huff 1996). These indicate that gender biases are not due to cognitive but to social reasons. The early study of the program ‘The Caribou connection’ at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, included both direct and indirect users of the application and recorded a phenomenon which is still often observed in cultural exhibitions: while over 60 percent of the direct 250


users of the computer system were male, the indirect users were divided equally between the sexes. Although we need to be careful to take into account the special characteristics of every case when interpreting these data, it would seem that visitors who voluntarily approach a computer or compete for its use in a busy gallery, are generally those who are already comfortable and familiar with using the technology (McNamara 1986). Until recently, these were more likely to be young and male, but this is changing rapidly. For example, the evaluation of the use of a multimedia interactive at the Museum of Oxford in the mid 1990s showed that female and male visitors were equally likely to use it, while female users were more likely to spend longer with the program (Economou 1998). Previous knowledge of the subject, computer familiarity and attitudes towards technology Most formal education studies confirm that there is a positive correlation between previous ICT experience and good perception of such tools (Shaw and Marlow 1999; Ronen and Eliahu 1999), although there are a few exceptions that indicate that previous experience with or attitude towards computers did not affect the results (Baxter and Preece 1999). In most cases, as users get more experienced in automating the interface manipulation, they are freer to concentrate on the content. Prior knowledge of the subject appears to be a significant influence in procedural as well as factual contents learning, as it is easier for experts to automatically decipher the meaning in the different computer presentation formats (e.g. still graphics, animation, text) and therefore concentrate on more advanced cognitive tasks; on the contrary, subject novices have to make a bigger effort to decode the meaning of the various representations (Ronen and Eliahu 1999) and, as one study showed, they obtained better results with static graphics because these helped them to construct their mental representations, while animation did not improve their learning, as it led to quicker saturation of visual memory (which has to process both visual and sequential components) (Chan Lin 2001). In general, the comparisons between experts’ and novices’ results support the idea that the former manipulate and choose more easily different kinds of representation depending on the task because they have a wider and deeper conception of the knowledge domain, while the latter have a more fragmented and factual vision and can only act upon the more superficial aspects (Wood 1999). Learning styles and types of learning One of the advantages of well designed CALEs is that they are respectful of different individual learning styles and rhythms (Wheeler et al. 2002), 251


although there is a suggestion that there might be a negative relationship between certain learning styles and interactivity: one study reported that the more theoretical the students are, the less they like using ICT as a learning tool because they consider it impersonal and prefer more traditional instructional systems (Shaw and Marlow 1999). On the other hand, a small study of 10–11-year-olds with strong visual learning style and difficulties with linguistic lessons showed that use of a visually rich computer environment led to notable improvement of global skills and especially of the capacity to revise text and detect mistakes (Vincent 2001). This indicated that, thanks to their flexibility, virtual environments can compensate for the shortcomings of traditional instructional strategies and satisfy the needs of different cognitive styles, especially of the visuo-spatial one. This has direct implications for the design of VH applications which can complement formal education in dynamic and rich ways in this direction. Most researchers agree that one of VR’s greatest advantages is that it can contribute to the understanding of abstract ideas by making them visually concrete (Scanlon et al. 1998). As VR is a visual communication tool, it favors that information is stored, recalled and represented in a visual way (Osberg 1997). In an interesting qualitative study that compared university students’ responses to the examination of the reproduction of a painting with being immersed in a virtual reconstruction of it, the group that had worked with VR showed more interest in pictorial techniques; were more likely to spontaneously think about why it was like that instead of what it was (meta-perspective); were able to conceptualize the experience at a more abstract level; and provided more answers based upon their own experience or associative links (suggesting that VR stimulated a more imaginative association of materials). On the other hand, the other group tended to underline the cultural or inferential aspects and adopted a more speculative approach, in which they referred to the author’s work inside its historical context (Antonietti and Cantoia 2000). This has some analogies with the findings of a study of younger users (eight–nine year-olds) that compared their recall of a story read traditionally and experienced as an interactive storybook (Trushell et al. 2003). The group who had read the story remembered its structure more accurately, while those who had played the game remembered the details more accurately. A study of even younger users (between four and ten years old) that compared the acquisition of temporal concepts using real objects and working with their virtual reconstructions, indicated that VR was better for showing movement or change in the environment and for improving precision by avoiding irrelevant details that might confuse children, and was more effective when it underlined or emphasized concrete aspects through sounds, graphics and movements (Panagiotakopoulos and Ioannidis 2002). Several studies of IVR systems or VR simulations refer to the effective learning of 252


spatial concepts (Bricken and Byrne 1993), where for example, students obtained better results when using a VR simulation rather than verbal descriptions to understand geometric concepts (Song and Lee 2002). Interactive virtual systems that encourage the creation and use of icons and symbols inside an experimental context lead the students to reason abductively and, through the formulation and verification of hypotheses, to learn from their ‘errors’ without the fear of failure featured in traditional formal learning (Osberg 1997) or cultural heritage contexts which use faceto-face contact with museum staff, guides and educators. Similarly, another study reported on the ability of computer simulation games (through their anonymity and the distance they impose) to reduce the negative emotional feelings which can arise from competitive learning situations where there is direct physical contact (Yu et al. 2002). Although most studies suggest that ICT applications, and VR in particular, can be useful tools for learning, they appear to encourage certain types of learning (sometimes, to the disadvantage of others), and are not necessarily more effective than traditional strategies. For cultural institutions, this is a reminder that they should not invest all their efforts in VR applications, but examine them as only one of various possible interpretation media. On the other hand, early studies of multimedia applications in museums suggest that they were influential in stimulating qualitative learning, in some cases raising new issues and encouraging visitors to challenge their perceptions (McManus 1993b; Peirson Jones 1995) and providing contextual information about the objects (Economou 1998). They also indicate that the interaction with computer applications had clearly been a memorable experience for the visitors (McManus 1993a; Economou 1998). Design and interface issues Despite the general claims about the intuitiveness of VR and mobile computing interfaces, several studies of both formal and informal environments report that users often need help because they do not know what to do inside the virtual environment (Bricken and Byrne 1993; Jackson and Fagan 2000; Heath and vom Lehn 2002; Scott et al. 2003; Hsi 2003). More work is needed in the design of appropriate help, which usually needs to be quickly and easily used for a short period of time in cultural heritage environments, by users from very different backgrounds and with varying computer experience. With regard to immersion, Youngbult (1998) reported in a study which summarized the findings from several evaluations of VR in educational settings, that immersion did not seem to produce any specific intellectual effect but without exception it contributed considerably in increasing motivation, which can indirectly reinforce cognitive achievement. Belaën (2003) examined the use of immersion in science museums, but also confirmed the findings from formal learning studies. She reported 253


that immersive devices did not guarantee any immediate positive attitude or acquisition of knowledge; users needed to have the representation codes of the original knowledge domain, otherwise the immersive application would become another source of problems, added to those which arise while trying to understand the content. These are interesting findings, especially when we take into account the considerable resources that cultural institutions usually need to spend to create immersive environments. Another important issue in VR applications for the cultural heritage field is realism. Several studies suggest that simplified or abstract representations can be more effective and better understood than highly realistic ones (Osberg 1997). Realism is not necessarily positive from a strictly cognitive point of view, as it may distract the user and prevent him/her from focusing on the content (Lee et al. 2005), which is very important in both formal learning and cultural heritage settings. An early paper by Alessi (1988) confirms the same point: maximal realism can be counterproductive for students with little knowledge, in which case it is more effective to work with simplified representations of objects and phenomena. Interestingly, the same point has also been made about users who become experts in the subject, in which case Hedberg and Alexander (1994) believe that the representation needs to be less realistic because such users can work with increased levels of abstraction. Realism in the virtual environment is crucial only in specific cases, for example when it is used for therapeutic purposes to eliminate phobias by placing the user in ambiguous situations, closely simulating the natural environment, but without any risk (Tarr and Warren 2002). In VH, however, apart from realistically visualizing sites and architectural details, it is also important to interpret, tell stories, contextualize the objects found, allow artistic means of expression (Roussou and Drettakis 2003), and create an emotional response to users.

Conclusions The data from both formal and informal environments clearly show the great motivational power of ICT applications, and particularly of VR; however, the data about its effect on learning are inconclusive, although they suggest that VR encourages specific types of learning. Collaborative applications in classrooms confirm the importance of the social aspect of the experience and the communication with others in the group (whether onsite or online); but in museum and public exhibition settings the successful integration of the social context of the visit in virtual applications remains problematic. Studies show that age and gender profiles of users are changing with the increased penetration of technology into society and where these biases remain, they are related to social, rather than cognitive, reasons. 254


Despite the large and increasing body of evaluation work in formal learning environments, the data we can extrapolate for virtual heritage environments remain limited, as learning in informal settings is not the only preoccupation, and when it is, it takes a wider and more indirect form (encompassing, for example, the change of attitudes, the understanding of other cultures, the emotional response to artistic work, to mention just a few parameters). It is in this area, and particularly in the investigation of the complex and fascinating interrelationships between visitors, virtual applications, mediators, and real objects and sites, we need more systematic and thorough evaluation work. This will allow us to properly answer the provocative question of this paper’s title. Because although the findings from several studies that we have summarized here clearly indicate that VR applications have educational potential and motivational power, we need more research in this direction in order to fully understand how this works in cultural heritage settings (for example, the specific conditions that affect VR’s educational potential; how this is related to the social conditions of the use of these applications; the relationship between interface choices and type of content; the role of user characteristics such as gender, age, culture, and computer experience, to mention just a few). In order for evaluation research to succeed in illuminating the multifaceted social phenomenon of heritage use with the application of technology, it is necessary to develop new and appropriate methodological frameworks, balancing qualitative with quantitative approaches and borrowing, where appropriate, from a range of disciplines.

Acknowledgements We would like to thank Maria Roussou for providing access to material and for useful input to some early ideas which are discussed in this chapter, and Maro Alexaki for discussions on the role of the museum educator in virtual heritage experiences. This work is part of the wider research network CHIRON: Cultural Heritage Informatics Research Oriented Network, 2005–2008, which is supported by the European Community’s Sixth Framework Programme under contract number MEST-CT-2004-514539. It has also been funded by the Catalan Government’s former Department for Universities, Research and the Information Society (FI, III Pla de Recerca de Catalunya 2001/2004).

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Abstract Visualising the Architecture of Federation is a ‘virtual museum’ created as an interactive CD-ROM that celebrates and educates about the heritage of Western Australian architecture. This virtual museum had the aim of fulfilling similar intentions for the original nineteenth century Western Australian museum in representing local historical and architectural artefacts and stories; many of which have now been significantly altered or lost. In critically examining the CD-ROM, which was published in 2001 and widely distributed across Australia, this account reflects generally on the differences between traditional museums and heritage sites, and their virtual counterparts, and how these hyperinstitutions are precipitating a re-examination of visual and pedagogical experiences.

Introduction In 1891, the first stage of a substantial museum, art gallery and library complex was opened in Perth, Western Australia. The collection gathered together and displayed geological material, indigenous artefacts, local and imported flora and fauna, and reproductions of European artworks. Curatorial and governmental aims of the institution were exemplified as creating a broad network of relationships between wealth, imperial culture and the instruction of its population. Such civic institutions were thereby crucial to the invention of local and imperial identities of peoples and places. The Western Australian museum is an exemplar of the nineteenth century museum institution that became an all pervasive force in representing the very visibility of culture through the ordering and exhibition of ‘real things’



(Sherman 1994: 123). Through these classificatory functions, and the exploitation of new modes of optical technologies of representation and reproduction, many commentators have interpreted that museums inscribed a ‘new way of seeing’ (Alpers 1991: 27). In this sense they have been considered as an important interventionist cultural apparatus, or ‘exhibitionary technique’, that afforded the appreciation of anthropological, historical and natural subjects in a newly structured way. By framing such techniques of seeing and ordering as crucial, one can argue generally for the centrality of visual technologies to the formation of knowledge, both past and present. For example, Stafford (1997: 39) persuasively suggests: ‘We must frame a unified theory of imaging from the intersections of the old historical arts with the new optical technologies … perception is a significant form of knowledge, perhaps even the constituitive form’. In this light, connections and comparisons between museum techniques dating from the nineteenth century and CD-ROM/internet based virtual museums can be fruitfully made. For digital museums and heritage sites continue the legacy of traditional museums as agents of viewing and educating via new optical, digital and reproduction techniques. In this account these connections, similarities and divergences will be considered through the case of the Visualising the Architecture of Federation virtual museum in reference to the Western Australian museum some hundred years previously. From this comparison a number of questions are addressed including the changing status and interpretation of ‘real’ things and displays in virtual museums, and the possible loss of the social, political and civic potential of the museum institution via its digital incarnation.

A virtual museum of federation architecture In celebration of Australia’s Centenary of Federation in 2001, a project to create a virtual museum about the heritage of Western Australian architecture gained national funding. Specifically, the project documented the boom in architectural and urban development in Western Australia, spanning the decades 1890–1910. This was a period of phenomenal change – fuelled by the gold rushes and collapse of eastern Australian economies – which has been previously interpreted as a minor chapter, or stylistic footnote, in Australian histories. The agenda of the funding body was to increase public awareness of the histories, stories, political and cultural identities of Australian places and people around the time of political unification, or Federation, in 1901. These governmental aims of the enculturation of the general populace, and nation building via cultural awareness, have strong parallels with those of a century previous. The project authors decided that rather than write a conventional textbased history, or create a static museum exhibit, the aims of accessible education would be best fulfilled through the digital medium. The virtual 262


museum aimed to collect together and interpret architectural ideas, artefacts and representations of Australian buildings and places; many of which have been significantly altered or demolished. We felt it justified to attach the now somewhat over-ascribed term of ‘virtual museum’ to the project because its design aims accorded with Karp’s (2004) definition of the virtual museum as an extension of museology; a creative interpretation and ordering of cultural information for public dissemination. The virtual museum is not an ad hoc or personal collection, and is attentive to historical accuracy and authenticity of information and interpretation. The aims of the CD-ROM also correspond with ICOM definitions of an alternative medium that ‘facilitate[s] the continuation and management of tangible or heritage resources (living heritage and digital activity)’ (Karp 2004: 46). In creating a museum, we quite literally built on the metaphorical construct of an architecture that has long been applied to the structuring of digital information systems. The museum is constructed from the layering together of images, surfaces and architectural elements, many of which were adapted from the existing nineteenth century Western Australian museum. The museum metaphor also structured the organisational and conceptual strategies of the CD-ROM. Thus the model of the museum operates as both an instructional metaphor for showing what late nineteenth century museums might have been like, and a navigational device that orders experience and comprehension, without which there would be ‘just one damn thing after another’ (Dewdney and Boyd 1995: 149). More fundamentally for the authors, who are all architects and architectural educators, the project allowed the testing of first, how we might approach the designing of a virtual building, and second, how we might exploit a highly image-based medium to promote a more visually rich mode of learning about architecture and places. Use of the virtual medium aimed to tell historical narratives, but also to illuminate architectural history as a storehouse of precedents and ideas. The virtual museum contains a series of foyers, galleries and exhibits entered through a collaged façade composed of layers of building elements typical of the period. Foyers The main foyers are rooms where the visitor explores for information and signs that access other parts of the museum. These rooms are dense with images, information, cabinets and statuary in the manner that nineteenth century museums were arranged. They are simulated spaces created from the manipulation of photographs of Federation period interiors, surfaces and materials. The upper gallery of the entrance foyer is constructed, for example, from photographs of the interior of the library within the Western Australian museum complex (Figure 16.2). 263

Figure 16.1 CD-ROM façade and cover.

Figure 16.2 Main foyer.


Catalogue room This foyer contains a series of drawers, cabinets, specimen boxes and books all derived from photographs of these items, as housed in the Western Australian museum specimen collections. They are filled with information on particular themes comprising Style, Place, Material, Type and Federation by which the visitor can navigate through the museum. The catalogues aim to depict actual modes of traditional collection and display, as emphasised by the simple digital manipulation of ‘found objects’ through Photoshop. For example, Type is viewed through simulated slides on a light table, Material through fragments in specimen drawers, Place and the history of Federation through images and panoramas pinned in scrapbooks. These thematic catalogues also organise possible interpretations through navigational buttons that allow hyperlinks to other parts of the museum, and through extensive texts elaborating the themes of the catalogues as ways of classifying architectural histories. Therefore, as in the traditional museum, explicit demonstrations of cataloguing and representing artefacts fundamentally affect the understanding of types, chronologies and variations (Pearce 1999).

Figure 16.3 Catalogue room foyer.



Figure 16.4 Modes of display in the catalogues.

Figure 16.5 Architects foyer and example ‘gallery wall’ display.

The architects’ hall of fame This space is crowded with portraits of key local architects of the period and is accompanied by an audio list of all architects who moved to Western Australia at the time as part of the general migration fuelled by the gold rushes. The foyer accesses other galleries displaying selected architectural works hung in frames on the walls. Users may ‘walk’ down the galleries and view images, read text boards, and listen to audio speeches in much the same way as in a conventional museum. Galleries contain small dado cabinets of detailed information about particular architects and buildings. The map room This is a space seen in elevated plan view where archival maps can be selected and laid out upon a decorative tiled floor typical of the general period. 266


Figure 16.6 Map room.

The techniques involved in these ways of ordering and displaying images and information are borrowed from established exhibitionary techniques displaying ‘real artefacts.’ They make the work of collection organisation and curation evident. Thus they allow, as do collection cabinets or taxonomical displays in the traditional museum, for interrelationships and orders between things to be made apparent, and hopefully recreate some sense of discovery akin to a conventional museum through interactivity.

Navigating limits Navigation around the museum and between rooms and galleries is controlled by: access to the main foyers; standard back and next commands; and hyperlinks indicating relevant thematic relationships via Place, Type, Material, Federation and Style. There is also a conventional alphabetical index that performs rather like a museum map. The intent of these systems is to allow users to navigate in loose sequences. The potentials of hypertext and multimedia as non-linear environments have been much discussed. As Keene (1998) qualifies, non-linearity itself does not hold magical properties for revealing meaning. If not reliant on conventional linear sequencing, alternative modes of navigation must be carefully considered in order to 267


potentially enhance meaning and comprehension. In the design and programming phase of the project this issue of the degree of linearity was wrestled with. At first the educational possibilities of open-endedness and non-linear networks appeared seductive. However, it was soon realised that a totally non-linear environment was unrealistic, as the degree to which multiple virtual journeys could be easily made via hyperlinks proved problematic. Difficulties were encountered in planning the way information could be structured and comprehended by a general audience. On the one hand too much freedom left the user lost, and dissipated the thematic relationships accessed by the Place, Type, Material and Style buttons, yet on the other hand, too many restrictions defeated the hopes of an alternative mode of representation to the conventional history text. In the case of the Federation CD-ROM, it is the museum metaphor that structures navigational networks and thereby enhances meaning, while hyperlinks make for a less linear sequence of representation and spatial experience than a physical exhibition. The museum metaphor therefore translated a conventional text-based linear history narrative into preplanned spatial connections via the foyers, galleries, drawers and so on. Limits on non-linearity were further created through the thematic catalogues which are ideally viewed and read in a sequence. This sequencing attempted to lay the foundations of coherent themes by which the user could then understand the rest of the museum. Ultimately, it was therefore concluded that the seemingly limitless and free virtual medium can be as potentially impenetrable as the lumbering collections of large public museums, and requires selective filtering and ordering through navigational sequences, interpretation and display techniques if pedagogical aims are to be fulfilled (Cameron 2001; Karlholm 2001). Other basic limitations came with the degree of ease by which large amounts of text could be read; more difficult on a screen than hard copy. This was partly overcome by scrolling and animation, but has still proved to be disappointing in the sense that extensive scholarly research that may not be read has gone into the texts.

Dense surfaces Many questions remain to be tested about the practice and value of creating multimedia visual histories and museums. Are the demands of negotiating an interactive and partially-linear CD-ROM too complex? Do the contemporary graphics and dense graphical interface overshadow or distract users from the content of the history and images? Ultimately, is the medium too glaringly anachronistic to the character of late nineteenth century architecture? In answer, one might argue that new histories, no matter their medium, constantly serve to reinterpret the past and thus anachronism is inevitable in re-writing the past from the perspective of the present. 268


As Preziosi suggests: ‘Museums do not simply refer to the past; rather, they are places within the present that establish an ambivalent figuration of the past and the future ... Museums, in other words, perform the basic historiographic gesture of separating out of the present a past so as to compose the relics of that past into a geneaology for the present’ (Preziosi 1995: 13). As stated in the introduction, the virtual medium also lent opportunities to heighten the representation of visual information. First, and quite obviously, in terms of the capacities of the digital medium there exists the possibility to collect, digitise, and represent a great mass of visual material including maps, architectural drawings, contemporary and archival photographs of buildings, materials, ornamental details, and streetscapes. With its immense storage capabilities, the CD-ROM also serves as a resource and database for future work. And perhaps in this sense it functions more akin to a traditional archive, with the capacity to gather and compile visual material from diverse and inaccessible sources. Second, the digital medium allows for a more visually rich and engaging evocation of historical architecture. Many commentators, curators and architects may have justifiably voiced their criticism of the ‘glut’ of current visual media, with its profusion and confusion of images, colours and fonts. Yet scholarly historical texts that depict buildings as isolated, monotone objects floating within the space of the printed page do not very adequately represent this architectural period of surfaces, of eclectic mixing of materials, of shades and textures, of ornamental patterning and detailing. It was therefore consciously decided that the museum spaces and surfaces would be composed from scans and photographs to create dense collaged screens and wallpapers. And we considered this design appropriate, both to the historical subject, and to the capabilities of the contemporary medium (Mitchell 1998: 207). For as Allen (1998: 249) has elaborated, the digital medium inherently entails the even distribution of information across the entire frame of a screen: ‘In the digital image “background” information must be as densely coded as foreground information. Blank space is not empty space.’ No longer is there a clear demarcation between an image/text and its background, rather a visual density of information is applied to both. The design strategy did not therefore follow the advice of one authoring manual that suggested: ‘Go for clarity: it is often better to resist ornamentation … If [users] have to take in icons and illustrations, or surplus words or text, and then discount half of this information, it is a waste of their time’ (Keene 1998: 69).

Displaying the virtual versus the real Within museum studies much has been written about the evolution from the cabinet of curiosities to the ordered modern museum as an educational 269


Figure 16.7 Index page and navigation buttons.

institution (Lavine and Karp 1991; Greenhill 1992). No longer were museums only for effecting sensationalism and wonderment of the strange and the curious. As in the case of the Western Australian museum, from the later nineteenth century onwards, museums came to represent a new kind of visual and spatial pedagogical experience in which narratives of normative culture, history and nature were rendered visible and vivid. For example, a newspaper reported in 1884, of the then proposed museum: ‘The miner and the mechanic come seeking, each in his own line, an ocular demonstration teaching them more in an hour, than they could have learned in a life time, or through the perusal of a thousand books’ (The West Australian 1884: 4). Advocates were keen to differentiate museums from their frivolous counterparts such as fairs and fun-parks, and instead aligned museums with libraries in fulfilling the agenda to become influential educational institutions. Meaning and knowledge were conveyed through the participatory role of the visitor. In the Western Australian museum, as in most others, visitors were expected to experience displays in a structured sequential order that furnished the real objects on display with a spatial story and diegetic interpretation and labelling (Bennett 1995: 179). The pedagogical agenda of museums has waxed and waned since the later nineteenth century; being at first uppermost, then declining with the rise 270


of mass education and the belief that museums should engage in research, and in the last few decades returning to eclipse research and collection. This drive for contemporary museums to be educational and interpretation centres of information, and not necessarily repositories of objects, is very evident in a number of new institutions. This is certainly the case in the National Museum of Australia, Canberra, of which Sudjic (2002: 111) writes that it ‘testifies to the neurotic transformation of the museum into the interpretation centre’. At the beginning of the twenty-first century conventional museums continue to hold an extremely important place in shaping cultural identities, but have also been challenged by other forms of visual media as innovative learning environments. They now seek to differentiate themselves from these other digital media rather than the fun-park. For example, Paroissien again cites the National Museum of Australia: ‘The Museum certainly presents rich examples of the unique experiences that a museum can give its audiences – in contrast to what a classroom, book, CD-ROM, video or the internet can provide’ (2002: 174). This need for differentiation is fuelled by the convergence of new modes of museum display and interpretation with digital media. Just as digital design is borrowing from conventional design metaphors, such as building architectures, so too is visitor experience often being discussed in similar terms to the way users navigate through digital media (for example ‘way-finding’), and interactivity is now routinely facilitated and supplemented in the conventional museum by multimedia displays. In the face of the interpretive role of new museums, in some cases real artefacts are taking on a subservient role in the face of their own interpretation. This ‘loss of the real’ echoes a recurring analysis of contemporary culture (Barthes 1968; Butler 1999). Take the fading of the real to its full conclusion and we arrive at the virtual museum as an alternative to the conventional museum, for here there is no need for real things and experiences, and the techniques of interactive interpretation can be fully exploited. Thus within the virtual museum, artefacts and displays are no longer precious in themselves – ‘Whereas real collections operate to a greater or lesser extent on the visceral thrill in the presence of the original, with the digital world the information potential of objects predominate’ (Cameron 2001: 2). This ‘loss of the real’ is mourned by those who take a realist position that museum objects, or indeed photographic images of objects, can somehow be regarded as ‘stencils off the real;’ traces or records that are directly indexical of the wider world. The loss of the real is alternatively appreciated by others who take a constructivist position that museum objects and reproductions have always been highly manipulated and crafted simulations that prospered on the cultural capital of the copy (Fyfe 2004: 50). This questioning of the status of the original artefact is particularly interesting in respect to architectural exhibitions. For architectural artefacts 271


have unique properties that make their physical display in museums often impossible or inadequate. These include obviously their size and scale, and their connectedness to site and locale. Architectural exhibits must therefore inevitably deal in the dismembered fragment or the copy – whether one-to-one caste, drawing, photograph or model. So although digital technologies may liberate designers into reproduction via manipulations and simulations, some form of mediation is inherent in any architectural exhibition. As Benjamin predicted, ‘technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach of the original itself’ (1973: 220). What then of the relationship of virtual architectural exhibits to the disappearing world that they attempt to represent? Many have promoted the power of the virtual in drawing people to the real, and assisting to develop new observational skills through which local environments can be reinterpreted (Gielen 2004: 150). This aim of fostering a genuine connectivity to place, engendered in both virtual museums and heritage sites, is complex and site specific. In the case of the Federation CD-ROM, while it has made viewers aware of lost buildings and changed places, there is no evidence that this awareness has been translated into more tangible conservation practice, or sense of local embeddedness with historic places.

The status of the institution? In conclusion, the original Western Australian museum promised a strong institutional presence in the young colony. This presence has been confirmed for over a hundred years through the building’s architectural monumentality, its social status as a public space, and as an institution for research and public education. If this institution were to be totally eclipsed by a virtual alternative some of the visual and pedagogical functions would be retained, but obviously many other physical, social and experiential functions would be lost or greatly transformed. As Paroissien suggests, a sustaining and important role for contemporary museums is their places for ‘social gatherings, discussions, debates and unplanned encounters’ (2002: 173). There is at present no apparent danger of a virtual takeover. More museums, of many and varied types, are being built than at any other moment in history. And while the virtual museum cannot legitimate cultural information by turning it into an institution like the nineteenth-century museum could, it can provide complementary experiences at the core of the exhibitionary technologies of collection, reproduction, narrativisation, composition, interpretation and display. In the case of the Federation CD-ROM, it was hoped that it would sit alongside the actual museum as part of the institutional displays and as an adjunct tool for schools. 272


While it was distributed widely to schools and libraries across Australia, through lack of further funding to generate an internet version that would have more longevity than a CD-ROM, and through lack of experience in coordinating with multiple governmental organisations, it seems that the impact of the publication did not fulfil the public potential envisaged. The project did however serve as an important research vehicle in terms of both architectural and multimedia knowledge.

Acknowledgements Thank you to the co-authors of the CD-ROM Philip Goldswain and Emma Williamson, and Kieran Wong and DUIT multimedia for producing the original technical work upon which this chapter reflects.

References Allen, S. 1998. Terminal Velocities: The Computer in the Design Studio. In The Virtual Dimension: Architecture, Representation, and Crash Culture, ed. J. Beckmann. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Alpers, S. 1991. The Museum as a Way of Seeing. In Exhibiting Cultures: the Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, eds S. Lavine, and T. Karp, Washington: Smithsonian Institute Press. Barthes, R. 1968. The Reality Effect. In The Rustle of Language. New York: Hill and Wang. Benjamin, W. 1973. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. In Illuminations. New York: Schocken Books. Bennett, T. 1995. The Birth of the Museum. London: Routledge. Butler, R. 1999. Jean Baudrillard: The Defence of the Real, London: Sage. Cameron, F. 2001. Wired Collections – the Next Generation. International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, 19 (3): 309–15. Dewdney, A. and Frank B. 1995. Television, Computers, Technology and Cultural Form. In The Photographic Image in Digital Culture, ed. M. Lister, New York: Routledge. Fyfe, G. 2004. Reproductions, Cultural Capital and Museums: Aspects of the culture of copies. Museum and Society, 2 (March): 47–67. Gielen, P. 2004. Museumchronotopics: on the Representation of the Past in Museums. Museum and Society, 2 (November): 147–60. Greenhill, E.H. 1992. Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge. New York: Routledge. Karlholm, D. 2001. Reading the Virtual Museum of General Art History, Art History, 24 (September): 552–77. Karp, C. 2004. Digital Heritage in Digital Museums. Museum International, 56 (1–2): 45–51. Keene, S. 1998. Digital Collections: Museums and the Information Age. Oxford, Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.



Lavine, S. and Karp, I. 1991. eds. Exhibiting Cultures: the Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington: Smithsonian Institute Press. Mitchell, W.J. 1998. Antitectonics: The Poetics of Virtuality. In The Virtual Dimension: Architecture, Representation, and Crash Culture, ed. J. Beckmann. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Paroissien, L. 2002. Modelling a Museum for the 21st Century. In Tangled Destinies, ed. D. Reed. Canberra: National Museum of Australia. Pearce, S. 1999. A New Way of Looking at Old Things. Museum International, 51 (2): 12–17. Preziosi, D. 1995. Museology and Museography. The Art Bulletin, New York, 77 (March): 13–16. Sherman, D. 1994. Quatremere/Benjamin/Marx: Art Museums, Aura, and Commodity Fetishism. In Museum Culture: Histories, Discourses and Spectacles, eds I. Rogoff and D. Sherman. New York: Routledge. Stafford, B. 1997. Good Looking: Essays on Virtual Images. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Sudjic, D. 2002. A nuanced response. In Tangled Destinies, ed. D. Reed. Canberra: National Museum of Australia. The West Australian. 1884. 30 October: 4.


17 P L AC E - H AMP I Co-evolutionary narrative and augmented stereographic panoramas, Vijayanagara, India Sarah Kenderdine, Jeffrey Shaw, Dennis Del Favero and Neil Brown

Abstract This chapter describes the theoretical and technical framework for two immersive virtual heritage demonstrators developed at iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research in conjunction with Museum Victoria, Australia. The research is realized as Place-Hampi (Demonstrators 1 and 2) and results in a set of tools for the application of co-evolutionary narrative that extends the concept of interactivity to include autonomy in the transactions between machine agents and humans. Demonstrator 1 is developed for the stereographic version of the Place platform while Demonstrator 2 is currently being implemented in the Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment comprised of a 360 degrees stereoscopic cylindrical screen, spatialized sound, camera tracking and symbolic language, enabling agents to represent emotional and other desires emergent in the data.

Introduction Within the context of a renegotiation of virtual heritage Place-Hampi engages co-evolutionary narrative as a mechanism of interpretation – digitally modelled inside multiple stereoscopic panoramas of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Vijayanagara (Hampi), the ruined medieval Hindu imperial capital in Karnataka, southern India (Figure 17.1). PlaceHampi builds upon Jeffrey Shaw’s proprietary Place platform technologies (Demonstrator 1) and iCinema’s Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment (AVIE) technologies (Demonstrator 2) to give visitors the kinaesthetic impression that they are physically present at Vijayanagara 275


Figure 17.1 Virupaksha temple, Hampi 2005.

by creating a fully immersive perceptual continuity between the real and virtual spaces. The project ultimately uses symbolic logic and high level cognitive programming of computer graphic characters in conjunction with intelligent immersive virtual reality to enable dialogs between participant and place. Place-Hampi will ultimately demonstrate that when machine agents are provided with a modest ability to sense and interpret symbolically the actions of real participants sharing a mixed reality environment, their interactive responses will co-evolve with their human participants (Figure 17.2). Interpretive virtual heritage has emerged from a period of increasingly sophisticated digital model making and creation of navigable landscapes 276


Figure 17.2 Augmented photographic scene, Hindu gods at Hampi.

of pictorially rendered objects, to beginning critical examination into the meaning of representations of space and place, in its endeavours to facilitate dynamic inter-actor participation and cultural learning. A complex mix of HCI issues compete with the drive to generate for participants the hermeneutic, symbolic and epistemological meanings found in readings of real archaeological or historic landscapes, and found in the narratives embedded in any portrayal of past cultures. Following the successful implementation and rendering of core photographic, computer graphic, animation and ambisonic data in Demonstrator 11 this research goes on to further activate the sacred terrain and its ritual life in both its traditional and contemporary uses through mapping the paths of participants inside the AVIE, (Figure 17.3) in relation to co-evolving narratives. Future iterations of the work will extend this paradigm of interpretation and narrative to the political and economic dimensions of the city in historical times. The research resulting in a representational language for autonomous agents and the capture, analysis and display of stereographic panoramas and sonic data, will form the basis of a series of tools for the interpretation of large-scale archaeological and temple complexes throughout Asia. The research offers a robust alternative to the constraints of the task-based game engine paradigm (while simultaneously acknowledging its affordances) that some virtual heritage applications are reinforcing, and thus offer a valuable set of tools for thinking about immersion and heritage. The research builds upon experimental materials of the research partners, including Museum Victoria’s seminal Sacred Angkor: stereographic panoramas of the temple complex developed for The Virtual Room (Kenderdine 2004 and 2005),2 and the host of research and technical innovations at iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research.3 This chapter concentrates discussion in two areas: the theoretical premise for co-evolutionary narrative, and a brief introduction to technologies of data capture and display for Demonstrators 1 and 2. Reference is made below to Hampi cultural landscape and 277


Figure 17.3 Panoramic scene projected into the AVIE, stereographic display at scale.

Indian imagery however the large body of archaeological, art historical, historical linguistic and ethno-musicological data that informs the work is not explored and will appear in upcoming reports.

Aims of research Presence, co-presence, cultural presence Place-Hampi aims to investigate the creation of presence and cultural presence (e.g. Dave and Champion 2006) in virtual heritage settings by the application of co-evolving systems of interaction in immersive environments. Co-evolutionary systems enable virtual agents to adapt their behaviour autonomously in response to the interests and desires of viewers (Del Favero et al. 2004). These systems enable virtual characters to independently assign meaning to viewers’ actions and to respond decisively in recognizably meaningful ways. The field of virtual heritage is valued by museums world wide for its cultural enrichment, and its protection of environmentally sensitive world heritage sites (Barcelo 2005). Virtual heritage seeks to enable visitors at remote locations to experience the feeling of co-presence, the sense of being 278


fully immersed in another time and place. Cultural presence, an extension of co-presence, is the feeling of being actively engaged with persons from a culture different from one’s own (Gerhard et al. 2005). Currently the creation of presence (in general) in virtual heritage projects fails, due to limitations in their interactive design (Milekic 2002). The quality of viewer interaction is usually confined to the acquisition of pre-cast information that is technically constrained by conventional screen based interfaces, didactic voice-overs, and use of pre-programmed avatars in stiffly rendered environments (Bearman and Garzotto 2001; Witcomb 2003). Cultural presence can only flourish satisfactorily within a fully immersive environment in which the transactions between viewers and virtual “others” are able to evolve or “co-evolve” reflexively in real time, ensuring a tangible level of viewer self-reflectivity corroborated by the presence of virtual “others”. (Gerhard et al. 2004). Virtual heritage promises opportunities for the exchange and enhancement of cultural understanding that have recently emerged as a world priority among end users including government programs and the industries they sponsor. Research environment and application The iCinema Centre has prototyped and is currently integrating an innovative ensemble of systems for the design and evaluation of co-evolutionary interaction: •

• •

360 degrees interactive environments furnishing viewers with integrated visualization and acoustics, providing a sense of being present at a unique remotely located heritage site; Tracking and modelling the posture, gestures and position of the viewers in real time for processing by intelligent agents rendered in virtual contexts; Symbolic language enabling agents to represent the actions of museum viewers according to a variety of emotions and desires; Intelligent interactive cinema engine that enables autonomous agents to match symbolic representations of museum viewers’ activity with an unpredictable but nonetheless coherent narrative ensemble of behavioural responses at speeds close to real time.

Place-Hampi applies co-evolutionary systems to the creation of cultural presence within the stereoscopic rendering of a virtual Hampi landscape. The design of the application addresses key concerns in virtual heritage (Cameron and Kenderdine 2005). For example it overcomes limitations in the capacity of the field to culturally engage the viewer interactively (e.g. Barcelo 2005). It also provides empirical grounds for testing the legitimacy of virtual heritage in the museum (Phillips 1997: pp. 29–41). 279


Place-Hampi also anticipates theoretical shifts in cinema from a static uni-modal (or one dimensional) to a dynamic multi-modal (or multidimensional) process and the corresponding impact on the nature of cinematic experience (Deleuze 1995; De Landa 1998). Narrative potential While digitization is playing an increasingly significant role in the exhibition of cultural heritage data, the terms of its application are hampered by theoretical and experimental constraints. Concepts of digital narrative applied in new media remain predominantly uni-modal while virtual heritage researchers continue to understand virtual heritage narrative as a derivative of conventional notions of virtual reality and cultural memory, lacking an understanding of the complex multi-dimensional quality of digital and cultural processes. Modelled on mimetic theory, they theorize narrative in spatial terms as simulation (Baudrillard 2001) and recovery (Sturken 1999). These uni-modal formulations flatten narrative into a one dimensional ready-made object ignoring the multi-dimensional dynamics involved in a narrative generated through the interchange between ontologically divergent human and machine entities. The multi-modal framework we are advancing addresses a need articulated by virtual heritage scholars to treat the heritage object as a complex problem-solving process involving different entities (Milekic 2002; Deutsch 2005). Based on the research of Deleuze and De Landa it theorizes narrative in temporal terms as a mutually reciprocal process of interaction between autonomous entities across time, that is, as eventful. This eventfulness is multi-modal for three reasons. First, it comprises the meaning of these events for two separate entities, human and machine. Second, this meaning folds together the past and present for both entities. Third, it involves perceptive, affective and conceptual processes for both entities. So where for Baudrillard narrative is a self-reflective perpetual present and for Sturken memory is a pre-existing past recoverable through narrative, De Landa and Deleuze propose narrative as a process interweaving the past and present, producing new multi-layered events. Here narrative is no longer a cognitive window on to a preexisting world but an experiential stage on which unprecedented scenarios addressing specific dramaturgical problems are co-produced, interweaving the past motivations and present actions of human and machine agents. The conceptual limitation of the uni-modal framework in virtual heritage expresses itself in the formulation of virtual environments in terms of their capacity to act as unproblematic “windows onto the past”. This involves a methodology of cognitive enhancement using narrowly defined photorealist, acoustic and immersive procedures, where the complex nature 280


of memory, as recollection, revision and forgetting, is disavowed (Gordon 1997). Photorealism is used to interpret sites using visualization techniques to provide a more coherent simulation (Roussou and Drettakis 2003). Acoustic spatialization is used to embed the observer through symmetry between sonic and visual elements (Doornbusch and Kenderdine 2004). Immersivity is used to underscore the quality of “being in the place” depicted (Gerhard et al. 2005). This methodology is typified by works such as BeNoGo (Weikop et al. 2005), which develops photorealistic 3D realtime visualization of actual locations with a high degree of immersiveness to create a feeling of pictorial reality. The Immersive visualization of Cappella degli Scrovegni, Rome, Italy (Borra et al. 2006) aims to enhance a visit to the Scrovegni Chapel by alphabetizing the visitors with immersive visual grammars to enhance their interpretative presence. The Miralab project in Virtual Heritage (Papagiannakis et al. 2004) aims to bring the past of Ancient Pompeii to life using machine agents to simulate scripted historical conventions. Overarching the studies above is the exclusive focus on extending human participation through the simulation of the past. The apparent free will of virtual characters in these scenarios represents an autonomy that is returned to them either virtually through technical illusion, or metaphorically by their audiences. While there is no limit to the meanings humans can invest in the motives of machine agents, machine agents are dependent upon these human investments for their autonomy. Restoring symmetry to the autonomy of interactions within virtual heritage allows machine and human entities to independently make narrative sense of each other’s actions.

The site: Vijayanagara The city is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen a place like it, and ear of intelligence has never been informed that existed anything to equal it in the World. (Abdul Razaak, 1443) Founded in the middle of the fourteenth century in the wake of the invasion of South India by the armies of the Delhi sultans, Vijayanagara became the seat of a line of powerful Hindu emperors. The site is located in Hospet Taluk, Bellary District, in central Karnataka state. The ruins occupy a dramatic physical landscape that is infused with historic and sacred meanings. The Tungabhadra River flows in a north-easterly direction through rugged ridges formed by ancient granite outcrops piled with boulders. Many of the great temple complexes comprising the Sacred Centre of the city overlook this holy stream. Here, traditions about divinities of local, regional and pan-Indian significance that are linked to the site create a mythological landscape. For pilgrims to Vijayanagara the most important aspect of the 281


site is the association with various myths and legends. Many of the granite hills, caves and boulders of the Tungabhadra valley are linked with these stories, which are still very much alive and attract a steady procession of devotees (Fritz 2005). The devotional eye Place-Hampi is highly significant for promoting dialogs of engagement embedded in the imagery of a cultural landscape and activating the knowledge contained there. Hampi today continues to be an active pilgrim site, not simply an historic place. Pilgrims believe that the physical objects, visually or symbolically representing particular deities and their events, come to be infused with the presence or life force or power of those deities (Davis 1999). Each day its landscape and temples are activated through various rituals and tapas specific to time and place, and to discrete locations in the complex. As part of a living tradition, the interpretation of the site by pilgrims is in a constant state of re-definition within the broad tenants of (south Indian, Karnataka tradition) Hinduism. A conversation takes place between mythological characters and the sacred objects/sites/natural features permeated with the contemporary “folkloric imagination” of the pilgrims (Adajania 2002: 47). Hindu priests and pilgrims are not the only ones to enliven these Hindu images and temples. Bringing with them different religious assumptions, political agendas and economic motivations, others may animate the same objects or sovereignty as polytheistic “idols”, as “devils”, as potentially lucrative commodities, as objects of sculptural art, as archaeological and historical relics, or attribute to them meanings and associations never foreseen by the image maker or voltary. Hampi also constitutes the object of a veracious tourist gaze (Urry 2001). As Davis (1999) points out “the location of an object plays a constitutive role in the act of looking.” and “appropriation, relocation and redisplay of an object will dramatically alter its significance for new audiences. The frame of reference or dispensation designates the historically grounded and socially shared understandings of systems”, and they are manifest in (equally valid) “communities of interpretation”. Place-Hampi reconstitutes the landscape for these interpretations of mythological narratives in the form of co-presence, enabling a new mode of interpretation accessible for diverse cultural audiences.

The recording procedures Photographic A principal feature of Place-Hampi is its high fidelity three-dimensional (3D) recording and representation of the heritage sites and buildings. 282




Figure 17.4 Figures 17.4a (Above) and 17.4b (Below) Roundshot VR panoramic camera and ambisonic microphone in situ.

Gigapixel stereoscopic 360 degrees panoramic photography (Figures 17.4a and 17.4b) affords a highly sensitive rendering of the site as a virtual landscape. Place-Hampi will demonstrate that these techniques for the capture of stereoscopic panoramas and the consequent image-based modelling constitute core tools for the re-presentation of real cultural landscapes. 283


Audio capture and composition Ambisonic field recordings will form the foundation of the audio based on the powerful effect that real-world location specific sound has for creation of presence in virtual heritage worlds (Doorbusch and Kenderdine 2004). The Soundfield microphone used captures an extraordinarily realistic and immersive sound, and ambisonic equalization and phase algorithms are applied in playback and the listener is transported back to the source of the sound. Key to the success of the Place-Hampi project will be the creation of a sonic experience which matches the visual experience in such a way that the observer feels that the environment has a genuine presence, that the continuity of the experience is maintained while navigating the space, and that the interactive narrative is maintained and engaged with, encouraging an internal dialog. Motion capture The stereoscopic panoramas are populated by machine agents who embody mythological and historical protagonists appropriate to these sacred and secular locations. In Demonstrator 1 motion capture was used to define the precise movements of each animation, resulting in a correct interpretation of dance sequences for example (Figures 17.5a and 17.b).

The display environments Demonstrator 1 The PLACE system, Demonstrator 1 (Figures 17.6 and 17.7) consists of a cylindrical silver screen three metres high and nine metres in diameter. The imagery is projected from a stereo pair of In Focus F2 SX+ projectors 2,500 ANSI (4 Seg 400 White), Wide 1:1 positioned on a motorized platform in the centre of the cylinder. To explore the 360 degrees surround scenery, this three-metre high and five-metre wide projection window can be rotated around the screen by the viewer, who stands on the platform using its navigation interface. The panoramic cylinders (17) are positioned on an abstract image (Hanuman). The user interface screen shows a bird’s-eye view of this virtual environment, centred on the viewer’s changing location there. The visual landscape is contained within a spatial aural field (the third space) made from the decoded ambisonic 360 degrees recordings enlivened by classical Carnatic compositions and played back in real time with the audience’s activities. This dynamic interactive rendering and delivery system uses sophisticated mapping and transformation strategies, as the user controls and navigates the space, to deliver 284



Figure 17.5 Figures 17.5a (Above) and 17.5b (Below). Motion capture and the god Shiva dancing as Nataraja, Place-Hampi 2006.

Figure 17.6 Demonstrator 1. PLACE-HAMPI, installation premier Lille3000 October 2006–January 2007.

Figure 17.7 Navigating the virtual landscape of stereo cylinders, Place-Hampi 2006.


a synergic sonic experience which is intimately connected with the visually panoramic and augmented space. This articulates an unprecedented level of viewer co-presence in the narrative exploration of a virtual cultural landscape. Place-Hampi provides a framework for a new approach to the rendering of the cultural experience, whose aesthetic and representational features give the general public a dramatic new appreciation of the many layered significations of such historical, archaeological, and architectural spaces. While Place-Hampi embodies a single user interaction model, the autonomous narrative scenarios that populate each of the panoramic scenes with mythological significance become endowed with the emergent narrative relations that are generated by each viewer’s interactive exploration of this virtual environment, also available to the total audience simultaneously present (maximum 30 people). The work, as defined above, is considered at the forefront of international developments of virtual environments and the complex arrangement of technical and aesthetic parameters that are required to develop them. Demonstrator 2 The AVIE system (Figure 17.8) consists of a cylindrical silver screen four metres high and twelve metres in diameter on whose entire surface stereographic panoramic movies are projected at 30fps. Six pairs of SXGA+DLP projectors (manufacture Projection Design) are fitted with

Figure 17.8 Demonstrator 2, AVIE, detail, showing stereo projection setup.



polarization filters for stereoscopic separation. A cluster of six highperformance PCs equipped with nVidia Quadro graphics cards provides the image generation whose total panoramic resolution is 1000 × 8000 pixels. In Demonstrator 2 the augmentation of these panoramic scenes with autonomous and semi-autonomous machine/video agents together with a cognitive mapping of these landscapes enables embodied navigation through real space. A persuasive immersive experience is further articulated by means of a participant-aware virtual environment where the visitors’ actions within the actual space are detected by the AVIE vision tracking system and so affect the unfolding of the narrative events in the virtual space (Figure 17.9). Interaction procedures AVIE’s unique interaction architecture enables tracking of single and multiple visitors to the installation, detecting their movements in space and

Figure 17.9 Visitor participation and interaction captured by the vision system in AVIE.



time as well as their bodily comportment and their gestures (licensed from Andre Bernhardt, Germany). The intelligent vision-based interaction and motion tracking system provides a multi-purpose sensory environment for unencumbered tracking of viewer movement and gesture, offering a large range of motion capture and interaction design functions. Covering the entire AVIE area, the system is able to accurately track the spatial position and movements of up to 30 people. When applied to smaller groups of up to five people, it generates high-resolution 3D voxel models of their body movements and gestures, enabling real-time motion tracking and some gesture recognition (Figure 17.10). Using a co-evolutionary methodology it also stimulates that audience to certain behaviours that are empathetic with the narrative propositions embedded in the landscape. For example when pilgrims visit these temple sites, they circumambulate through the environment in a behaviour pattern that kinaesthetically and psychosomatically conjoins them with the dramaturgy of the mythological narratives that are embodied there. Directly complementing the unique visualization and interaction features of the AVIE is its spatialized panoramic audio system. This is a multichannel system with custom surround audio application software. This system enables fully immersive 360 degrees placement of sounds anywhere around the viewers. As with visual projection, the 32-channel audio system can be coupled with the intelligent vision-based interaction and motion tracking systems described above to allow voices to “follow” projected characters, or to be activated only when viewers move within “earshot” of the virtual audio sources, or correctly perform some task.

Figure 17.10 Vision system creates voxel models visualization.



The narrative experiments The authors are aware that the research described is a preliminary and modest experiment in creating co-evolutionary narrative experiences in virtual heritage environments. As noted above, the installations will utilize transactional performance schemas based on the types of narratives that are commonplace in Indian mythology and pilgrimage. For example, the ambulatory, circumambulation and clustering patterns of the participants within the settings are interpreted as meaningful behaviours by the machine agent deities. Using interpretations of these behaviours the agents define their own autonomous response to the participants’ actions. In doing so they assemble a range of spatial interrelationships with the participants. In this way agent characters and participants mutually define each other by means of their reciprocal territorial manoeuvres as they transact the terrain of the virtual environment. As the agents and participants learn to stimulate these scenarios through their actions, they co-evolve unique narrative experiences. It is possible to describe some simple hypothetical scenarios to give the reader examples of what form these interactions may take. For example, in one sample scenario, participants, intrigued by intense agent activity inside one of the small shrines within the environment, may cluster around it. In turn, one of the agents flying above the shrine, the perpetually airborne Garuda, may land once the visitors are still, only to take flight in frightened response as a participant attempts to approach him/her. In another sample scenario, participants, witnessing the chaotic ceremonial pulling of two chariots along the bazaar street of Hampi as part of the marriage of two deities, may be awestruck by the scattered nature of the agent proceedings and disperse in response. Unexpectedly, as the rowdy agent assembly turns processional, the participants may in turn create a pathway for the ceremony, only to discover that the agents have transformed the procession into a dance they are attempting to lure the participants to join. The definite sets of interaction that will be enabled between participant and agent for the final production will be decided in the coming months.

Conclusion Place-Hampi aims to demonstrate in a robust virtual heritage environment how groups of agents acquire and interpret gestural information, and translate this into intentional behaviour through their interaction with human participants. These machine agents are driven by algorithms that enable them to autonomously act out their narrative identities, as well as adapt and reshape their narratives in response to specific cues generated by the audience behaviour/interaction. These autonomous agents have software identities and behavioural proclivities that are identifiable within the 290


located cosmology of Vijayanagara’s sacred narratives. They spontaneously embody these identities while entering into co-evolutionary relations with the audience. In this way the audience becomes a proactive constituent of these narrative situations, provoking, sharing and enacting the mythological significance that is the deeper reality of this sacred heritage landscape and its contemporary living traditions. The discussion above concentrates primarily on the theoretical framework, and a general description of the demonstrator. Upcoming papers focus more closely on the multitude of research and investigation that informs the work. This includes a full definition of the allocation of attributes given to characters, and the modalities of visitor interaction. Demonstrator 1 was premiered at Lille3000 (France) Oct 2006–Jan 2007. The next confirmed installations are From Flash to Pixel, Martin Gropius Bau (Berlin) from September–November 2007; ZKM Centre for Art and Media (Germany) early 2008. Demonstrator 2 is due for completion at the end of 2008 for installation at Museum Victoria.

Acknowledgements Co-produced by: Lille3000 (Demonstrator 1 only), EPIDEMIC (Demonstrator 1 only), UNSW iCinema Centre, Museum Victoria, Australian Research Council ZKM, Karlsruhe, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Gollings Photography, Music and Effects. Authors: Sarah Kenderdine, Jeffrey Shaw with John Gollings, Paul Doornbusch, Paprikaas Animation Studio and Dr L Subramaniam. Written and produced by: Sarah Kenderdine, Jeffrey Shaw Photography: John Gollings, Sarah Kenderdine, Jeffrey Shaw Ambisonic recordings: Paul Doornbusch, Doron Kipen Compositional materials and audio integration: Paul Doornbusch Computer graphic design and animation: Paprikaas Animation Studio Pty Ltd, Bangalore Video: Surendra Kumar, Save Hampi Trust Stereoscopy consultant: Paul Bourke PLACE concept: Jeffrey Shaw PLACE application software: Adolf Mathias PLACE engineering: Huib Nelissen Archaeological advisors and facilitators: George Michell, John Fritz Archaeological Survey of India Permits and fieldwork facilitation: Archaeological Survey of India, Indian Archaeological Department Inspector (Karnataka Circle) S V P Halakatti Fieldwork logistics: Sarah Kenderdine MOCAP studio: Sina Azad MOCAP dance sequence (Shiva as Nataraja): Lingalayam Dance Company, Artistic Director Anandavalli; Dancer Saipriya Balasubramaniam 291


Notes 1 Place-Hampi in the Place platform premiered at Lille3000, France October 2006–January 2007. 2 Refer also to The Virtual Room website at Museum Victoria http://www.vroom. 3 Refer also to the iCinema website

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18 D IG IT AL S O N GLINES Digitising the arts, culture and heritage landscape of aboriginal Australia Brett Leavy, Theodor G. Wyeld, James Hills, Chris Barker and Stephan Gard

Abstract Digital Songlines is an Australasian CRC for Interaction Design (ACID) project that is developing protocols, methodologies and toolkits to facilitate the collection, education and sharing of indigenous cultural heritage knowledge. This research will illustrate significant Australian Indigenous spaces such as the Mt Moffatt area at Carnarvon Gorge in southwest Queensland and areas around the Pilbara in Western Australia. The project explores the areas of effective recording, content management and virtual reality delivery capabilities that are culturally sensitive and involve the indigenous custodians, leaders and communities in those areas as well as how players in a serious gaming sense can experience indigenous virtual heritage in a high fidelity fashion with culturally appropriate interface tools.

Introduction to digital songlines The Australasian CRC for Interaction Design (ACID) is a collaborative research organisation formed with a number of universities and industry partners. Within the Virtual Heritage program the Digital Songlines project is developing protocols, methodologies and toolkits to facilitate the collection, education and sharing of indigenous cultural heritage knowledge across Australian communities, cultural institutions and commercial businesses. The Australian Aboriginal peoples and their culture are known to be some of the oldest in the world. Aboriginal occupation in Australia has



been dated at over sixty thousand years, with recent advances and scientific discoveries continuing to change this time frame. Before 1788 when English settlement commenced in Australia there were approximately 600 languages spoken throughout Australia, with an estimated indigenous population of 750,000 people (Henderson 1997). Today, indigenous people make up two per cent of the entire Australian population (about 410,000 people). Most of our knowledge of Aboriginal culture is derived from the diverse cultures recorded of relatively modern Aboriginals, particularly those who survived the impact of European colonisation. Hence, the culture of much earlier Australian inhabitants remains problematic (Bickford 1987; Byrne 2003; Cook 1986; Elkin 1953; Memmott 1991; Ridgeway 1984). The project objectives are to protect, preserve and promote Australian indigenous culture, its practices, myths and legends, expanding and revitalising a culture through the visualisation of its most prized asset – the land. The project has developed a virtual landscape of oral histories and mythological stories based upon the eternal sense of land and spirituality understood by the Aboriginal people, where feeling, knowing and touching the country, kin and spirit can be experienced. Research to date has been focused on investigating how the design of virtual worlds can capture the spirituality, significance, cultural importance and heritage values of indigenous people and impart these in an empathic way so that non-indigenous people throughout the world can understand the significance and cultural heritage of these areas. This paper includes a brief background on indigenous virtual heritage, how the virtual world was made, what indigenous design aesthetics were sought, what journeys a player can have and the ethical considerations of such a design, and ultimately, what form commercial production will take.

Background: Indigenous cultural heritage Traditional Aboriginal culture was passed on to others through oral traditions, art, dance and rituals. Aboriginal legends have served an important purpose in the teaching and learning for Aboriginal people, adding to their understanding, connection to and interpretation of the world in which they live. The stories were the means by which knowledge and understanding were passed from generation to generation for over forty thousand years. These ‘yarns’ are vivid, dramatic and informative stories that served the purpose of educating the receiver about all the social, environmental and cultural facts that ensured the ongoing survival and prosperity of the clan.



Because they lived with such close connection to the country and seasons and knew them so intimately, the stories, songs and culture are inextricably linked to the land. For example, Rose (1996) says: There is no place without a history; there is no place that has not been imaginatively grasped through song, dance and design, no place where traditional owners cannot see the imprint of sacred creation … People talk about country in the same way that they would talk about a person: they speak to country, sing to country, visit country, worry about country, feel sorry for country, and long for country. People say that country knows, hears, smells, takes notice, takes care, is sorry or happy … country is a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow, with a consciousness, and a will toward life. Because of this richness, country is home, and peace; nourishment for body, mind, and spirit; heart’s ease. Aboriginal culture is still alive today, with older people from the country still able to tell their stories. However, many are passing on and the younger people are becoming lost in the struggle between white and traditional cultures. Some want to know and understand their cultural roots, others want to embrace western values and deny their heritage. Yet others are simply lost in cultural ambiguity. In the Digital Songlines project we aim to communicate the culture, history, rituals and stories, and association with the country through 3D virtual worlds, by presenting these in the context of the originating country. The importance of this work is in the way it demonstrates an appreciation of the natural environment and the Aboriginal affinity to this land. The virtual world seeks to explore the spiritual, mythic, magic and superstitions of the landscape as a traditional hunting ground and hallowed place of worship.

Places of cultural significance To date, the Digital Songlines project has been used to illustrate significant Aboriginal spaces within Australia such as the Mt Moffatt and Carnarvon Gorge National Park areas in south-west Queensland The landscape and surrounding country in these regions is largely undisturbed by modern activities. As such it is a pristine land of gum trees, eucalypts, ironbarks, mulga, caves, granite and sandstone rock formations and fertile, grassy plains. There are innumerable significant places that are marked by a vast array of distinct and special rock art paintings and other cultural artefacts. They contain major meeting places where many different clans descended each year for many months to trade, meet, discuss and follow 296


many practices vital to the survival of the group and the maintenance of their cultural traditions.

The digital songlines toolkit A core component of the Digital Songlines project is the ongoing development of a digital toolkit. The aim of the toolkit is to be able to effectively communicate meaningful cultural information through a 3D landscape format so that information can be conveyed in context within country. As well as being used for indigenous heritage, this toolkit can also be used to communicate issues of sustainability, land use, water use, explain development issues and contested narrative issues for a number of different uses. The toolkit facilitates asset management over a large geographical area. This is done preserving high quality local detail. To date the toolkit features include: • • • • • • •

3D landscapes based on satellite imagery (with GPS level accuracy at the macro scale); the ability to set weather, time of day, or progressive time, etc; user level tools to manipulate the landscape and add finer detail at a micro level; the ability to create scenarios and stories and control these through scripts and control of camera position; the ability to create journey paths through the landscape and control the speed and direction along a path; the ability to add flora and fauna related to the area from a database or catalogue of objects; the ability to add ambient audio (wind in trees, bird calls, etc), voice over for significant locations (explaining the significance of a place to a viewer, explaining our presence to the spirits, etc), and oral history (automated or selected avatars); using the ability to link to data attributes for presentation of educational material. For example, select information about: flora with botanical data; medicinal; bush tucker; and artefact information, such as the making of implements for food gathering, or use as weapons; the ability to participate in massive multi-user serious gaming strategies.

While the primary use of the tool has been in the area of cultural history, a wide range of potential installations have been identified including: museums, science centres, cultural centres, interpretive centres, community consultation, local councils, forestry, water resources, development organisations, schools, mining, safety training, media and data fusion capabilities. 297


Implementation experiences A highly resolved proof-of-concept prototype has been developed that includes arrays of 3D objects used to recreate a landscape populated by indigenous flora and fauna. These assets have been imported into the game style application based on the Torque Game Engine. The active features include sound, animations, weather and daylight simulation. An established mechanism to import digital terrain models existed and it was modified for importing satellite based geo-spatial data, or data that is prepared for use in GIS software, for accurately mapping the cultural heritage landscape (see Figure 18.1). The terrain data in vector or raster based formats is layered with spatial attributes that identify where the features are located in geographic space as relevant to indigenous cultural heritage. The geo-spatial data includes various files that make up a cultural metafile set with vector data representing trade routes (Songlines), a table containing the artefacts belonging to significant places and their location, and data including the indigenous names for sites, watercourses, hunting grounds, ‘scar trees’ and other significant places. These are positioned correctly in the 3D world using GPS. In addition, native vegetation specific to the area is included in the 3D world. Flora and fauna are surveyed and photographed on-site and modelled for inclusion in the environment. A prototype of a significant area around the Carnarvon Gorge–Mt Moffatt region (a 400 square kilometre zone) has been developed to demonstrate capabilities and determine the limitations of the software. Some areas of interest include sandstone cliff faces with numerous Aboriginal stencil art paintings that are well preserved (Flood 1997; Meehan 1995). Photogrammetry techniques were used to develop a realistic virtual model of the irregular cliff face (see Figure 18.2).

Figure 18.1 Screen images of the Digital Songlines interface.



Figure 18.2 Mt Moffatt cave paintings ‘The Tombs.’ Archaeological excavations have shown that Aboriginal people inhabited these sandstone rock shelters for some 19,500 years.

Figure 18.3 Screen image of animated fish with representative contemporary indigenous art work.

The standard landscape creation tool in the software cannot create overhanging cliff faces, so these are created as 3D models and inserted into the landscape. Other areas where the tool capabilities need to be enhanced are in the integration of avatars and animated sequences. These include animated sequences from an Aboriginal dreamtime story. Developing the art works for the animations and 3D objects with cultural significance required consultation with indigenous artists and representatives from the country to ensure they were portrayed correctly. For example, the art work on the fish in Figure 18.3 is not correct and should be replaced by more accurate art work from a local indigenous artist. 299


Many issues arise from the creation of virtual spaces of some 400 square km and its reliance on the computational capacity of real-time hardware and visualization technologies. Some are difficult to resolve in a suitable way to communicate the presence required within the virtual space. For example, how to convey immersive narratologies such as, while in place, indigenous knowing pauses at each rock, knowing the cycles of the winds, can track underground water, find food and medicine, and uses of the land to speak its stories and keep its history. The kind of knowledge represented and the ‘field’ in which it is held by local indigenous peoples is often deep, subtle and most intimate (Langloh-Parker 1953). A ‘tiered’ model has been developed where ‘layers’ of content are created, accessed, and linked back to the virtual model of the physical place. With such a model, we are able to conceive of the (virtual) land as an interface through which the more traditional dynamics of software creation can be accessed. This layered model allows us to participate in indigenous knowing and being with, at the most basic level, as the tool is used. The content can be layered to support virtual heritage applications and narratives (such as land ownership issues, spiritual knowledge, historical and oral stories) and as a community content development and archiving tool (re-populate the virtual spaces with indigenous content). These can be used in entertainment, display, community consultation and education, such as museums, cultural centre displays, as an indigenous language walk, or bush tucker walk, or oral history lesson. These are all developed with the notion of land-as-interface where the (virtual) land is layered with information and practices that arise from that very landscape. The Digital Songlines toolkit can be conceptually defined in use as comprising three separate and interconnected sources of knowledge presentation – Stories, Education and Maps. These categories loosely capture the scope of the project, including the different categories of users.

Implementation of the toolkit The implementation in Digital Songlines of a networked structure of community-based content creation is a powerful paradigm model for research in interaction design, ambient, or serious gaming. The sociologist Manuel Castells (2000) describes such networks as consisting of knowledge-based information technologies that enhance and accelerate the production of knowledge and information, in a self-expanding, virtuous circle. The network represents the divergence of production, access, and display of nodes of knowledge. While traditional models of production in the field of display-based technologies tend to concentrate on either the product (the game), or the hardware (display), Digital Songlines sees workflows and methodologies that incorporate and evolve the two in a constant communication for the life of the product. For Digital Songlines, this 300


communication begins with the recognition that the landscape is the ideal and essential metaphor for addressing indigenous cultural heritage issues, and provides a rich base for branching development and production. The networked toolkit, as represented by Digital Songlines, becomes an empowering model of research and production – at once a site for capturing, archiving, developing culturally-appropriate virtual environments, and a site for sharing, collaboration and community content development. In the networked environment, knowledge becomes more powerful as it is shared and deployed (Gutierrez and Seron 2004; Ibanez and Ruiz-Rodarte 2003; Kim and Kesavadas 2001; Lutz and Weintke 1999; Marini and Rossi 1997; Sanders 2001). Digital Songlines has grown through this network model. The umbrella of digital content and database development has provided a rich sandbox of opportunities for researchers, communities, educators, archivists, government and non-government organisations alike. How we see, store, integrate and serve knowledge across the network is vital. Rather than merely seeking to refine and consolidate existing forms of knowledge – film, 3D animation, or game technologies – Digital Songlines has sought to provide methods of access and creation across combined knowledge bases, as it concentrates not only on the tool, but shapes itself to support and enable the voices that are carried upon and create the tool.

Protocols It is important to develop a set of protocols for dealing with the intellectual property and copyright issues regarding Aboriginal cultural knowledge. This is intended to ensure that respect and recognition of such knowledge occurs and that protection from abuse of such information is ensured. The following protocols were developed after original research and review of existing protocol documentation (such as that contained in: ATSILS 1999; AIATSIS & ATSIC 2002; Bell 1997; Bostock 1997; Cooper et al 2000; DATSIP 1998; Mellor & Janke 2001; Museums Australia 1998; and NAVA 1998): 1. That the stories of Traditional Owners be recognised as a ‘body of knowledge’ that may be tens of thousands of years old. 2. That the stories are sourced from the Traditional Owner who represents the country from which that story might originate. 3. That the communities make their own decision on what stories they want to have represented in any Virtual Heritage project. 4. That an approval process be implemented and approved by communities. 5. That the story represents the community and clan, and is specifically placed geographically. 301


6. That ownership and copyright of the story is always held by the nominated traditional owner group or community council. 7. That the content of the Virtual Heritage application including artist styles is approved by the community at all key production stages. 8. That the story provided by the community is not modified unless approved and endorsed by the Traditional Owner representative of that community. 9. That the community be paid industry standard rates and receive royalties from revenue earned from any capitalisation and commercialisation. 10. That indigenous people design and participate in the creation of the Virtual Heritage application development at all stages of planning, design and production.

Acknowledgements This work is supported by ACID (the Australasian CRC for Interaction Design) established and supported under the Cooperative Research Centres Program through the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Science and Training.

References Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library Services (ATSILS). 1999. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services. Australia: Australian Government. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and Terri Janke. 2002. Our Culture, Our Future: Report on Australian Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property. Australia: Australian Government. Bickford, A. 1987. Aborigines in New South Wales after 1788. Australia: Australian Government. Bostock, L. 1997. Greater Perspectives – Protocols for Production of Film, and Television on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Australia: Australian Government. Byrne, D. 2003. The Ethos of Return: Erasure and Reinstatement of Aboriginal Visibility in the Australian Historical Landscape. Australia: Australian Government. Castells, M. 2000. Materials for an Exploratory Theory of the Network Society. British Journal of Sociology, 51(1) (January/March 2000): 5. Cook, W. 1986. Aboriginal Involvement in Archaeology. Australia: Australian Government. Cooper, J., Helen, M., Christine, M., and Mark, C. 2000. To Tell My Story: A Study of Practicing Professional Indigenous Writers of Australia. Australia: Australian Government.



Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy (DATSIP). 1998. Protocols for Consultation with Aboriginal People. Australia: Australian Government. Elkin, A.P. 1953. The Australian Aborigines. Australia: Australian Government. Flood, J. 1997. Rock Art of the Dreamtime: Images of Ancient Australia. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. Gutierrez, D., and Francisco, S. 2004. Archaeological and Cultural Heritage: Bringing Life to an Unearthed Muslim Suburb in an Immersive Environment. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 5 (1): 63–74. Henderson, J. 1997. Culture and Heritage: Indigenous Languages. Australia: Australian Government. Ibanez, J., and Rocio, R.-R. 2003. Storytelling in Virtual Environments from a Virtual Guide Perspective. Virtual Reality – Research Development and Applications 7 (1): 30. Kim, Y., and Thenkurussi, K. 2001. Real-time Animation of King Ashur-nasir-pal II (883–859 BC) in the Virtual Recreated Northwest Palace. In Virtual Systems and Multimedia, pp. 128–32. Langloh-Parker, C. 1953. Australian Legendary Tales. Australia: Angus and Robertson. Lutz, B., and Michael, W. 1999. Virtual Dunhuang Art Cave: A Cave within a CAVE. Internet. Available from Issue3/cgf346.html accessed December 2004. Marini, D., and Maurizio, R. 1997. Virtual Reality and Web Tools to Convey the Visual Information of Ancient Monuments. Internet. Available from accessed December 2004. Meehan, B. 1995. Aboriginal Views on the Management of Rock Arts Sites in Australia. Australia: Australian Government. Mellor, D., and Terri, J. 2001. Valuing Art, Respecting Culture: Protocols for Working with the Australian Indigenous Visual Arts and Craft Sector. Australia: Australian Government. Memmott, P. 1991. Humpy, House and Tin Shed: Aboriginal Settlement History on the Darling River. Australia: Australian Government. Museums Australia. 1998. Taking the Time: Museums, Galleries, Cultural Protocols and Communities. Australia: Australian Government. National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA). 1998. Valuing Art, Respect Culture – Protocols for Working with the Australian Indigenous Visual Arts and Craft Sector. Australia: Australian Government. Ridgeway, A. 1984. Aboriginal Sites and Involvement of Aborigines in Management and Interpretation. Australia: Australian Government. Rose, D.B. 1996. Nourishing Terrains: Australian Aboriginal Views of Landscape and Wilderness. Canberra, Australian Heritage Commission. Sanders, D. 2001. Persuade or Perish: Moving Virtual Heritage beyond Pretty Pictures of The Past. In Virtual Systems and Multimedia, pp. 236–40.


CO N CLUS ION A future for the past Thomas Kvan

Abstract Reviewing the chapters of this volume we can identify themes examining the potentials and challenges that arise from the application of new media to cultural heritage.

An emergence for heritage As this book was being assembled and contributions arriving, the US magazine Business Week wrote of a watershed in modern commerce, the emergence of the first US dollar millionaire who created the wealth from trading in virtual real estate. Ailin Graef, whose online persona Anshe Chung is a virtual land baroness, apparently became the first millionaire in Second Life, this claim deriving from an estimate of her in-world land holdings, cash in “Linden dollars”, as well as virtual shopping malls, store chains, and even virtual stock-market investments in Second Life businesses (Hof 2006). Users of Second Life can, at least for the present, convert the value of their “Linden dollars” to real world dollars, making it possible for these virtual millions to be rendered tangible. Giving further reinforcement to this connection between virtual economies and the real, the US Congress initiated an enquiry into virtual economies for the purposes of exploring ways in which that most real world of actions, taxation, could be applied to virtual wealth (Reuters 2006). If the tax man is after the money, clearly it must be real. From this, we must assume that the property from which the wealth is generated is real, that is real estate. The shopping malls and stores are also real; after all, major consumer goods manufacturers opened stores in Second Life and



claim success in building commercial transactions through these portals (The Economist 2006). Designers offer services to design houses and the goods that make for a comfortable life, avatars covet these enough to buy them and commerce is vigorously engaged. Soon enough, landmarks are created; real estate close to landmarks increases in value and, before long, will we have legislation to control the demolition of the landmarks, since they are part of the fabric of these Second Life experiences? Cultural heritage, articulated in meaning developed through engagement and repetition in many exposures, can not only be represented in new media but emerge from it. While the chapters of this book have engaged the difficult issue of the representation of tangible heritage by the techniques of new media, life in these new media is threatening to challenge our understanding of heritage itself. As the authors of the chapters in this book have explored, the opportunities of new media pose substantial challenges to our conception of heritage. The authors can be said to have identified three dimensions in which these challenges arise, namely technological, operational and engagement. The positions put forth are cogent yet not coherent, reflecting the recent advent of the technology in these applications.

The technological embrace The rapid advancement of technological capacity and interaction design in digital systems has done much to bring heritage together with new media. While it was the technologies of photographs and films that provoked Benjamin’s (1973) reflections on the disconnection of unique presence, experience and place, the more recent technological imperative of modern society has extended the opportunities for representation and interaction substantially beyond that afforded by visiting the physical location or artefact itself, or passively viewing planar representations. With the pace of progress in these technologies, both as representational environments and tools of interaction, a substantial proportion of the work emerging explores ways in which to maximize these advances. Opportunities for higher resolutions of rendering or different modes of interaction offer new potential for bringing heritage experiences to audiences both locally at the sites or remotely in places removed by time or distance. Kalay (2007) suggests that the opportunities for heritage representation in new media build in significant part upon the potential of transcoding. As much as the experience of heritage interaction depends upon using technologies to represent and deliver the artefact, the underlying power of the media is best found in the capacity for a representation to be translated from one mode to another. Senses can be stimulated by encoding in particular instantiations; datasets can be recast as photorealistic images or proffered for haptic interaction. As technology has developed, additional 305


possibilities for transcoding will emerge and substantial development will need to take place to realize these new potentials. Technology is in itself not neutral, but is accompanied by and immersed in social assumptions and latitudes, with the medium in which we present the content being itself an influence on its interpretation (McLuhan and Fiore 1967; Winner 1986). Postman (1993) articulates this by further distinguishing the biases embodied in technologies, namely that the symbolic forms in which information is encoded lead intellectual and emotional biases; that political biases arise from accessibility and speed of their information; sensory biases are inherent in different technologies; social biases are inescapable as we attend to technologies differently; and content bias arises from the technical and economic frameworks inherent in technologies. Dave (2007) extends these arguments to his review of technologies in heritage representation but then identifies a further bias, that which arises from the problems of proliferation. As the volume of heritage data grows exponentially and the modes of its encoding vary, visitors to official and unofficial virtual heritage sites are exposed to ever increasing representations of the past. Often created for particular purposes, these data come to establish their own versions of the past. As they expire and the data disappear, incremental versions of the past appear and are reinterpreted. Technology asserts itself into the definition of our heritage (Cameron 2007). If the technology is ephemeral in itself (Addison 2007), such a position is profoundly unsettling.

Putting it in place Using the cautionary tale of the “Unicorn in Captivity”, Silberman (2007) illustrates the difficulty in identifying the way in which digital tools provide an environment for cultural heritage in which we might consider an artefact as being either an object or a temporal or experiential occasion. Throughout the chapters here, distinctions are drawn between using a digital tool as a technological tool in which to represent the artefact itself or as a mode of interaction to extend the engagement of the viewer’s experience of the artefact. Commonly, virtual heritage implementations start from an understanding of a bricks and mortar museum, replete with the social and political assumptions of such civic institutions. As Lewi (2007) identifies, digital packaging of museum collections offers more ready dissemination and access to the collections but does not replace the physical experiences. Museums not only collect and display materials but offer locations for civic interaction. Simply constructed digital versions of the collections themselves fail to engage users with the material and fall short of the pedagogical or cultural potential of their tangible origins. 306


Obviously, the technologies of new media present opportunities for presentation and navigation beyond that enabled by the laws of physical world. Kos (2007) reviews a number of implementations offering experience of large scale heritage, cities, by linking representations of the physical, such as city models, with ancillary information at other scales, such as deeds, yet with an organizational framework that reinforces the experience of the city itself. A systematic review of virtual reality technologies and potential to support rich learning (Economou and Tost 2007) suggests that there is much yet to be understood of the technology and modes of implementation. As particular technologies are applied, choices need then to be made to exploit the distinct potentials of the media. As Roussou (2007) notes, each medium offers its own opportunities. While we can learn from other fields of endeavor, such as cinema or computer games, there are considerations essential to the design of heritage environments that need to be considered discretely. Similarly, each technological medium is to be explored for the potential of its “language” without carrying assumptions from other media or applications. Indeed, the opportunities to develop the potential of different media allow for crossover not only in a technical sense but also in social interpretation, as Greenfield-Gilat (2007) identifies in the way that cultural heritage delivered by CD-ROM succeeds where other technologies, such as television, fail. Designing delivery of the content is not in itself adequate. Designers of heritage experiences in new media typically focus on the representation of the artefacts and descriptions of the space within which they are presented. As Chen and Kalay identify, the challenge is larger, color line and surface are only part of the question at hand (Chen and Kalay 2007). Of particular concern to Roussou is the social context in which such encounters are experienced, specifically, is the encounter singular and isolated or is it part of a group and, if part of a group, is the group directed in its experience, such as by a guide? The technological requirements of presentation and interaction are particularly influenced by this decision. Kenderdine et al. (2007) take the position that presence, defined as being actively engaged with others from different cultural origins, is essential in providing an adequate experience of unfamiliar cultural heritage. Using a narrative approach implemented in a full immersive screen, interacting with avatars on screen, the authors suggest that the audience becomes a proactive constituent in narrative situations, through which their understanding of the cultural heritage is enhanced.

What does it mean? Lying behind or woven through all of these discussions is the fundamental question of how we understand and interpret the past. Can we experience it 307


most effectively by means of viewing re-creations, engaging in re-enactment or by producing visually realistic models that, through their convincing details, suggest a presence of tangible reality? Arguments put forward by Lowenthal (1985) and Hewison (1989), for example, dispute the possibility of our ability to experience the past as it was at the time, as the writing of history is subjective and incomplete and our perception of it is colored by hindsight. A linear approach to the interpretation and packaging of heritage and the past is popular, however, and proves to be economically viable, hence the most commonly encountered. As Dave (2007) has noted, the benefits offered by heritage and the past include an ability to render the present familiar, reaffirmation and validation of the present, sense of identity, guidance for the present, enrichment of and connection to the world, and escape from the present. Heritage and the past have therefore become a popular leisure time activity and history a consumer entertainment. Corsane (2005) argues that heritage museums and galleries that present knowledge in a linear manner no longer hold the same authoritarian position that they traditionally had, and that it is now generally accepted that they provide representations and interpretations of the world. The evolving institutional status of museums is discussed by Lewi (2007) in the context of the relatively young colony of Australia. She argues that, although transformation or loss of physical, social and experiential functions of the institutional museum may be the result of the transcoding or remediation of the museum into the virtual museum, it can also afford complementary interpretive experiences. Giaccardi (2007) presents a different virtual museum model to that of the digital archive, which is described as one of “repertoire”, with a goal to sustain the whole system of knowledge and social relations responsible for a heritage creation, transmission, and reproduction. Using this model, the authors intend to promote an active and constructive role for local communities in the interpretation, preservation, and renewal of natural heritage. The project is administered in conjunction with local partners, which, as stressed by Lewi, is beneficial in addressing issues of legitimacy of information and the as yet unresolved status of the virtual museum. The issues involved with linking and supplementing “accepted” institutions’ activities are also discussed by Affleck and Kvan (2007). We addressed similar issues in a case study that was managed in conjunction with a local institute: to utilize virtual community-led interpretation of the heritage of Hong Kong. The aim of the case study, the Memory Capsule project, was in actively engaging participants in the process of discursive interpretation to help them to engage in a deep as opposed to superficial manner with the significance and meaning of heritage. The material gathered by the case study supplemented and extended accepted methods of heritage interpretation with insider viewpoints, multiple interpretations and insight into the everyday aspects of heritage as well as at 308


an institutional level. Kos emphasizes the potential of new media to connect the users’ memories and experiences to location and cultural heritage information. He describes a case study in Rio that aimed to strengthen the city dwellers’ sense of place by conveying the history of the city in an unconventional and creative format. There are many arguments to suggest that more common linear, authoritative approaches to interpretation are inappropriate for the communication of the range and complexity of contemporary heritage. These are the most common approaches in practice, and are employed by heritage sites and museums to create re-creations of heritage to evoke a sense of nostalgia and belonging, and to be popular with visitors in search of holiday or weekend engagement. Underlying this, of course, is economic viability; heritage sites have to maintain economic sustainability and compete for visitors with other leisure-time sites. These authoritative presentations are necessarily conjectural; as Silberman states, we can only speculate on the human dimension and “essence” of the past. Echoing the arguments posed by Lowenthal and Hewison, he observes then that interpretation can hardly afford to offer solemn, and sometimes disturbing, reflections likely to drive visitors away if the main objective of heritage presentations is to attract heritage consumers. As a consequence, he believes that all too often, the past is indeed presented as a theme park and an integral part of this today are the “edutainment” tools of touch-screen interactivity and Virtual Reality. Embedded in the cycle of heritage value and consumption, endowed and with a gloss and seduction of novelty, digital heritage easily falls into this trap. With a perspective that digital heritage is a deeply political concept and practice, Cameron believes that legacies shape the way that cultural materials in a digital format are defined, produced and consumed. Taking a more positive position, Champion suggests that new heritage has the potential to expand on the defining aspects of new media in terms of how these virtual worlds afford exploration rather than fixed or random task-based navigation. He believes that this discursive view of knowledge can be furthered via the interactive, navigable, extensible and personalization-friendly potential of new media. Stating that we have to fully research how to provide content for different audiences, he suggests we have yet to understand how we can layer and unify, yet also individually articulate, this knowledge, engaging meanwhile with considerations of imagination, authenticity and experiential learning. Questions of authenticity are not resolved by potential for interaction or participation in interpretation. The technology itself introduces a new frame in which authenticity and context demand to be revisited. Alsayyad (2007) argues that the processes of globalization and the emergence of new forms of information and communication have not only created a new imperative for the conservation and the preservation community, but that authenticity can no longer be used as the principal frame of reference, which 309


in the past was the institutional norm. He argues that there is a need to reconceptualize heritage and the role that the new media may play in its representation. Malpas (2007) believes that we can find ways in which to deploy new media that maintain, not obscure or dissolve, a sense of place, essential if we are not to obscure a sense of heritage.

Where to from here? In the evolving contexts of these debates, we can observe that many policies, practices and normative standards for the conservation of cultural heritage have outgrown their relevance, or that their social foundations have shifted. The elasticity of scope and the recognition of diversity in cultures and physical conditions have required a reassessment through which the meaning of cultural heritage itself, and the policies for its safeguard, have required reassessment. Where, for example, will the community landmarks of Second Life mentioned earlier find a heritage classification, should it pass that they make their way into cultural discourse? Although artefacts developed in the media now have the potential to become cultural heritage themselves, and as “born digital” resources are now offered protection status as heritage by UNESCO (2003a) the significance of the protection status remains in relation to what the object inherited from the past rather than the digital object created. The normative definition of that which constitutes heritage has expanded in recent decades from the “monumental” of the Venice Charter to include a wider range, not only of intangible heritage but also of significant buildings, people and objects, industrial buildings and sites, and cultural landscapes and natural heritage (Bouchenaki 2004). The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO 2003b) heralded this intent to protect processes and practices integral to intangible heritage, previously referred to as Folklore (UNESCO 1989). This significant change is predicated on an acknowledgement of the parity of material and immaterial heritage, taking heritage practices beyond those of the eighteenth-century European foundations of collecting and preserving material culture and artefacts (Jokilehto 2002; Corsane 2005). Following from this, normative distinctions such as significance and authenticity are increasingly difficult to use as singular frames of reference and the legitimacy of authoritative interpretations questioned. As the function of heritage sites and museums change, the role of technology in heritage interaction is also evolving. This collection of essays demonstrates that the interaction of the public with cultural heritage need not be passive and that digital technologies can offer opportunities for developing new forms for expressing and understanding cultural heritage and for collaborating on issues pertaining to it. The presentation of cultural heritage for popular access has been extensively considered and 310


the challenges articulated both by practice and in theoretical reflections. In making cultural heritage accessible by means of technologies of new media, these considerations for practice are compounded by the particularities and opportunities of the media and challenged by our current understanding of heritage presentation and management. As highlighted in this volume, digital media can be utilized for much more than re-creation and re-presentation of physical entities. It has the capacity to become a tool to capture both the tangible and intangible essence of both the cultural heritage and the society that created or used the sites. The field of new heritage employs a range of digital tools, communication technologies and interaction techniques to interpret and reconstruct cultural heritage. The challenge implicit in this book is to move beyond verisimilitude.

Acknowledgements The funding that brought the conference and this book to fruition was provided in large part by the Lord Wilson Trust, established in Hong Kong. Established in December 1992, the Trust aims to preserve and conserve the human heritage of Hong Kong by organizing activities and providing funding support to assist community organizations and individuals to undertake heritage-related activities and research projects. In pursuit of this goal, the Trust generously underwrote this exploration of the role of new media in cultural heritage.

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360-degrees see Panoramic 3D, 28–9, 68, 71, 196–7, 199, 295, 297, 298 3D city models, 132–3, 142–3, 145–7, 149, 150 3D scanner(s) see Scanner ABACUS research group, 142–3, 145 abductive reasoning, 253 aboriginal culture, 295–6 abstraction, 5 accidental history, 188 accuracy, 32–3, 35, 227–38 ACM, 29 acoustics, 279, 280–1 active participation, 93, 107 activity, 207–8, 209, 211 adaptation (of cultural values), 61, 63–5 affordance, 1–3, 8–9 Age, 250, 255 Albright, W. F., 57 Alpha World, 210 Amibisonics, 277, 283, 284 Angkor: Sacred Angkor, 29–31, 277 animation, 44 archaeology, 44, 50–2 archeoguide, 45 architect(s), 208–9, 214 architectural story, 215 Architecture Web, 45 archive, 39, 175; digital, 117–8 artefact, 72, 186–8, 191, 195, 200–1, 296–8 artwork, 14, 16, 20, 22 attention, 246, 248 attitude towards technology, 251, 254 attraction power, 250 Audubon, 30 augmented, augmentation, 275, 277, 287 Augmented Reality (AR), 226, 244; see also mobile computing aura, 14, 20–1

authenticity, 6–7, 75, 155, 158–61, 163–4, 166, 230–1 authoritarian, 92 authoritative, 109 authorship, 181–2 automation, 8 avatars, 305 Ayodhya, India, 162 Bali, Indonesia, 161 Bamian, Afghanistan, 158 Banteay Kdei, 31 Barber, Benjamin, 158 Barbri Mosque, 162 Baudrillard, Jean 167 Bell, Daniel, 156 belonging, 109 Benhabib, S., 54, 65 Benjamin, Walter, 13–14, 16–17, 19, 20–2, 25, 137–42, 145, 147, 149–50, 305 Bernard Tshumi, 215–16 Bernstein, C., 70 biases, 306 bilingual, 96 blog(s), 96 Bolter, J., 68–70 Borges, J.L., 19, 69 Boulder: Creek Path, 115, 126; city of, 114, 116; community of, 112, 114; Natural Selection Hikes, 125; Open Space and Mountain parks, 114, 117, 125–6; Visitor Master Plan, 114 Bourdieu, P., 54 Bridge of Sighs, 159 Brooklyn Bridge, 166 built environments, 155, 157–8, 164 built heritage, 160 Burke, Peter, 133–7, 145, 149 Bush, V., 70 C14, 28 CAD, 28


INDEX Cairo, 162, 164, 167 CALE, 245–6, 252 Carnarvon Gorge National Park, 296, 298 Carnatic, 284 case study, 92, 94–5, 109 CAVE, 246 Celebration, Florida, 161 Chaney, D., 69 characters, 233–8 charters, 92 CHIN, 75 Chudnovsky Brothers (David and Gregory), 87–8 CIDOC, 35 cinema, 133–5, 137 cinematic story, 215 citation, 182–3 Cloisters, The (museum), 86–8 closeness, 22–3 co-evolutionary narrative, 275, 280–1 cognitive: gender bias, 250, 255; need for realism, 254; outcomes, 243–4, 254; styles, 252; skills, 68; tasks, 251 collaboration, 95, 96, 107–8 collaborative: mapping, 122; VR environments, 246–7, 249, 255 colonial urbanism, 157 communication, 2, 9, 93–4, 96, 102, 105, 109, 300–1; channels, 96, 99–100, 102; in exhibitions, 244, 248; in formal educational environment, 247, 250, 255; in the constructivist paradigm, 243; models, 93 community, 67, 71, 155, 161, 187–8, 194–5; of practice, 74–5; as self-regulatory system, 114; local, 112, 122, 127; media projects, 118, 122, 124, 127; narrative, 118; participation, 124; workshop, 126 comprehensive level, 73 computer: familiarity, 250–1; game, 23; graphics, 44, 52, 93, 228; reconstructions, 27; visualisation, 92 conceptual presence, 247 conservation, 92–3, 107 constructivism, 71 constructivist, 93 consumer, 308 consumption of heritage, 160 content, 1–2, 207–10, 212, 214, 219–20; creation, 4 context, contextuality, contextualization, 6, 82, 207, 209, 219–20 contextual: information, 253; level, 73 copyleft, 37, 39, 108 copyright, 35–7, 108, 110 co-visit, 248 credibility, 95

criteria, 173, 177–8, 181–2 cross-media interaction, 112, 118, 129; characteristics, 121–4; design, 118–21; entry point(s), 123–4; infrastructures, 124–5 crossover, 307 cultural: heritage, 13–17, 19–20, 22–3, 25–6, 43, 48, 50–2, 157–9, 161, 186–8, 190; landscapes, 282; significance, 92; sites, 51; transference, 94 culture, 15–16, 157–8, 163, 165–6 cultures, material, 41 Darwin, 30 data: catching, 119, 122; description, 119, 122; interpretation, 119, 122; transfer, 121–3 database(s), 144–6 Davis, B., 71 Davis, Nathalie, 135 De Keyser, R., 73 Delphi, 29 description de l’Egypte, 83 descriptive: level, 73; narrative, 134 Desktop Virtual Reality, 245 detachment, 6, 7 difference, 22–3 DigiCult, 37 digital, 298–9, 302; heritage, 171–7, 180–2; interactivity, 40–1; media, 2–3, 5, 40, 44, 47–9, 68, 71, 133, 136–8, 145, 150, 171, 173, 180; early, 44; generations, 40, 44; objects, 175, 178–9, 181, 183; reconstruction 2, 5, 7–8; tools and accessories, 54, 57, 60–2, 65 Dim Sum, 100–2, 106–7 disbelief, 6 disconnection, 305 discursive, 92–4, 96, 99, 108, 308–9 Disneyland/Disneyfication, 21, 23, 159, 163, 166 dissemination, 1, 4, 6, 8, 306 distance, 22–3 documentation, 27–8, 37 Driscoll, M., 72 Dublin Core, 35 ECAI, 72 ecology (ecologies), acoustic, 116 economic sustainability, 109 EDM, 28 education, 295, 297, 300 edutainment, 110, 243, 309 e-learning, 67 Eliade, M., 54, 57 email, 96, 99, 102, 106, 109 emotional response, 248, 253–5 empathy, 232


I ND E X end, the of, 155–6, 164, 166; nation state, 156; tradition, 156, 164–7 engage, engagement, 6, 20, 92–5, 99–100, 102, 107–9, 123–4, 226–38, 246, 248, 305–6 entertainment, 232–38, 308 environment, 155, 158–61 Epcot Center, 163 EPOCH, 37 evaluation: long-term, 126–7; multi-dimensional, 126–7; studies, 244–5, 255 experience: designing, 226–32; virtual, 226; visitor, 226, 236 experience with computers, 250; see also computer familiarity experiential learning, 236 experimental context, 253 experts, 251, 254 explorative realm, 189 Exploratorium of San Francisco, 248–9 extraordinary, the, 54, 61, 64–5

Grant, Ulysses S., 30 graphic reconstructions, 43 Gredler, M., 72 Grusin, R., 68–9 guidance, 6 guided tour, 234–5

fact(s), 68 Fathy, Hassan, 162 federation, 262 film, 17–19, 68–9 filmmaker, 209, 212 first world vs. third world, 157–8, 161 folklore, 310 foreshadowing event(s), 214, 220 form and content: connection of, 53, 55, 62; general, 53, 55, 61–2; separation of, 55, 61–5 formal educational environments: evaluation studies, 244–5; extrapolation of results, 244–5, 255; methodological approach(es), 245; social interaction, 249, 255 Fort Collins, Colorado, 163 fragility, 6 Fringe Club, The, 94–7, 99, 101, 106–7 Fukuyama, Francis, 156 Galápagos, 38 games, 246, 253 gatekeeping, 6 Geertz, C., 55 gender (in relation to use of computers), 250, 255 GIS, 28, 119, 129, 146 Giza Pyramids, 167 Glasgow, 141–4 global consumption, 155 globalization, 21, 155, 157–8, 161–2, 164–5 Goff, Harper, 163 GoogleEarth, 36 GPS, 28, 119, 121, 129, 297–8 Grand Canal, 159

Hampi see Vijanayangara, India haptic, 305 HCI, 199 help (using computer programs), 253–4 heritage, 1, 4, 7, 27–8, 30, 35–7, 41–2, 155, 157–9, 162; ambitious virtual projects, 40; ascription, 170–1; cultural, 92, 97, 107–10, 113, 128; intangible, 113, 118, 128; natural (see natural heritage); definition of, 82, 89–90; discourse, 157; hyperlinked virtual projects, 44; in conflict, 86; industry, 109; living, 2; preservation, 155–6; projects, 49; sites, 158–9, 162; studies, 41; tourism, 84–5, 162; virtual, 92–3, 108–9 hermeneutics, 23, 93 high concept, 213, 215, 217 high tech, 75 high-school students, 246 Hinduism (Hindu, mythology), 276, 278, 282–3 historian(s), 68 historical, 173, 176, 178–80; method, 73, 75; representation, 67–8, 71, 73–4; source, 73 historicality, 22 historiography, 67–70 Hong Kong, 94, 95, 103–7, 110 hook, 213, 215, 217 horseless carriage 1, 8–9 human, 14–15, 19 hyperlinked multimedia 45 hyper-reality, 92 hypertext, 67, 70 iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research, 275, 278, 287–9 ICOMOS, 29 ICT: evaluation in exhibitions, 245; for learning, 244, 252–3; in formal educational environments, 201, 251, 255; social dimension of visit, 244, 247–8 identity, 15–16, 23–4 IEEE, 29 ill-structured knowledge domain, 72 image of practice, 9 image, 92, 96, 108–9 imagination, 252 immaterial, 310 immediacy, 69 immersion/immersive, 226–38, 254


INDEX impact, 2–3 implications, 1 import(s), 210–11, 220 India see Vijanayangara indigenous, 295, 297–299, 301–2; cultural heritage, 294–5, 298, 301 informal educational environments: behaviour, 249; constructivist paradigm, 243; evaluation studies, 244–5; importance of social context, 243, 255; learning in, 255; methodological approach(es), 245 information, flow, 121–3 inscriptions, 42, 49 institutionalized, 170–1 intangible, 92–3, 107, 109 interaction, 234–8, 305; cross-media (see cross-media interaction); space of, 121, 123 interactive maps, 71 interactivity, 40; definition attempts, 243; for learning, 252; in VH applications, 243–4, 248 intercommunication, 96 interface(s): design, 248; locative, 121; tangible social, 118, 120, 129 Internet, 50–1 interpretation, 16, 20, 23–5; descriptive, 92; discursive, 92–3, 96, 99, 108; heritage, 92–3; interpretability 3, 5–6, 9, 231; vs. presentation, 89 interpretation(s), repertoire of, 43, 118 intersubjective dialogue, 69 involvement (of ICT users), 246 irony, 108 ISPRS, 29 Jacobs, Jane M., 165 Jacoby, Russell, 156 Jerusalem, 54, 56–8 Jorvik Viking Centre, 18 Kennewick Man, 7, 10 knowledge, 9; construction of, 93 Koolhaas, Rem, 137–8, 140–2, 145, 149–50 Krier, Leon, 161 Kurosawa, Akira, 135–6, 149 Kymlicka, W., 62 Landow, G., 70 landscape, 296–300, 302 Las Vegas, 159, 166–7 laser scanner(s) see scanner latent stories in architecture, 215 Lave, J., 73, 74 Le Corbusier, 215–16 learning: difficulties, 246; in informal educational environments, 243, 255; styles, 252; types, 253, 255

legitimacy, 308 leisure, 309 Lighthouse Centre for Architecture, Design and the City, Glasgow, 248–9 linear, 93–4, 109 literary: experiments, 133–7, 141; theory, 70 locatedness, 15–16, 22–3 longevity, 27, 34–5, 37 low tech, 75 Lowenthal, David, 83 ludologists, 198 Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas, 167 machine agents, 275–6, 280–1, 284, 290 Maerlant Centre, 68, 73 Main Street, Disneyland, 163 maintenance, 108–9 Malinowski, B., 61 management of, 1, 3–4, 8; cultural heritage, 54, 61–2; general heritage, 54, 56, 61–2; tradition, 53, 55, 60, 64 manufacture of heritage, production, 155, 157, 159, 162 map(s), collaborative mapping, 122 Marceline, Missouri, 163 masses, the, 20–1, 25 materiality, 15–16, 19–20, 24, 26 Mathews, Gordon, 165 de Montebello, Philippe, 87 meaning, 1, 3 media, 42, 48, 67; broadcast, 44; cross-media (see cross-media interaction); locative, 118–19, 122, 129; new, 13–14, 17, 19–26; photographic, 42; old, 13–14, 17, 19, 23; traditional, 40–1 mediation, 6, 9 medium (media), 67 MEMEX, 70, 142 memorial, 16 memories, 94–5, 98, 102–4, 108 memory, 16, 54, 56–7, 60, 62; capsule, 92, 94–6, 107–10 message, 60–1, 64 metadata, 27, 35, 37, 96 meta-perspective, 252 Meyrowitch, Joshua, 23 micronarrative, 135 mimetic theory, 280 Mirzoeff, N., 69 Mitchell, Timothy, 158 mixed reality (MR), 226, 244, 248–9 mobile computing, 248–9, 253 modeling, 2; from images, 228 moderated, 99 moderator, 96, 100–2, 105, 107–8 modernity, 21, 53, 55, 61, 157, 165 modularity, 8


I ND E X operational, 305 oral history, 43, 297, 300 ordinary, the, 54, 57, 61–2, 64 orthodox Jewish society, 53–5, 63–4 “other,” 159 ownership, 107–8, 110

monumental, 311 Morocco, 163–4 Motion Capture, 284–5, 289 motivation (of users of ICT applications), 246–7, 249, 254–5 movies (cinema), 53, 64 Mt Moffat, 296, 298 multimedia, 245–8, 250, 253 multiplicity, 16, 19, 21, 24 mundane, 54, 61–2, 64–5 Murray, J., 67, 70, 73 museum(s), 228–38; metaphor, 268; of Oxford, 250; Victoria, 275, 278; virtual, 117, 127 music, 63–4 myth, 295–6 mythology, 57, 60–2 narrative, 5–7, 212–14, 216–17, 220, 232–33, 307; digital, 280; historians, 134–5; model, 217; multi-model, 280; mythological, 282; of space(s), 215; uni-modal, 280; virtual heritage, 280–1 narratologists, 198 NASA Worldwind, 36 nation/nationalism, 155–8, 163, 167 National Museum of Australia, 271 National Museum of Natural History, Washington, 251 National Park Service, 114, 128 natural areas, preservation of, 114; enjoyment of, 114 natural heritage, conservation, 112–14; cultural meaning(s), 112–13, 118; experience, 114, 121–2; shared understanding, 116, 123, 127; virtual representation, 121–2 natural quiet, preservation of, 114, 124 navigate/navigable, 189, 191, 212 negotiation of meaning, 96, 99, 102, 107 network, 300–1 new global order, 155, 163 New Gurna, Egypt, 162 new heritage, 185, 190–1, 195, 197–200, 202, see virtual heritage new media, 6, 210; components and accessories, 53, 55, 63, 65; general, 53–7, 61–3, 65; methods, 53–4, 63 New Urbanist /neo-traditionalist), 161 New York, 137–8, 140–1, 166–7 non-linear, 69 non-photorealistic rendering, 231 nostalgia, 93, 109 numerical presentation, 8 object, 14–16, 22, 24–5 Ohmae, Kenichi, 156, 157 open source, 75, 108

pagan, 33 panoramic, 278–9, 283–4, 287–8, 290; camera, roundshot VR, 283; movies, 287; resolution, 288 paradigm, 1, 8–9 Parc De La Villette, 215 Paris Exposition of 1889, 164 Paris, France, 137–41, 164 Parsons, T., 61 participation, 124, 126; support mechanisms, 124 past, 22, 24; accessibility of, 82–3 PDA, 119, 121, 123, 126 photogrammetry, 28, 298 photography/photographic/ photographs, 42, 68, 94, 96, 105 photorealism, 93, 228, 281, 305 physical counterpart, 210 Piazza San Marco, 159 pilgrims (pilgrimage), 281–2, 289–90 place, place-making, 14–16, 21–3, 25–6, 207–8, 212–13, 216, 221 playstation 2, 189 point cloud, 31 point of view, 70 polychrone, 71 Poundbury, U.K., 161 practice(s), 9; existing, 117, 125; individual, 116, 121, 124; social, 112–15, 118, 123, 126–9 prescriptive learning, 198 presence (co-presence, cultural presence), 16, 20, 25, 187–8, 199, 278–79, 281–2, 284, preservation, 1, 7, 9 pre-understanding, 93 primary students, 246–7, 250, 252 print, 68 probing, 192 procedural learning, 197 protocols, 294, 301–2 provenance, 33, 35 realism, 75, 254 reality, 225–38; agent(s), 236; applications, 226–28; environments, 226–38 realm, 189–90, 193, 195, 200–2 recall, 252 reconstruction, 2, 4–7, 43, 46–7, 68, 92–3, 228; animated, 44; imaginary, 43; metaphorical, 43; virtual, 40, 49


INDEX reconstructive use of new media, 18 re-creation, 92–3, 109, 308 re-enactment, 308 reflexive, 99 relational database, 35 reliability, 32 remediation, 69, 308 repertoire, 308 representation 1, 3, 41–4, 47, 155, 225–38, 251, 254, 305; of cultural tradition, 158; digital, 48; geometric, 48; symbolic, 41; technologising, 43–4 reproducibility, 14, 20, 25 reproductive v. productive use of new media, 17–19 responsibility, 7 responsive space, 220 retention, 246 Rialto Bridge, 159 Rio de Janeiro, 132–3, 145–8 Rio-H, 132–3, 137, 142–5, 148–9 ritual, 22 Robins, Kevin, 163 Rockefeller, John D., Jr., 88 Rockox, N., 73 role of content/activity, the, 208 Rushdie, S., 70 sacred, 54, 61–2, 64–6 Santa Fe, 160 scanner, 28, 31–2 Schiltz, M., 75 Science Museum, 254; of London, 248 screen space and off-screen space, 218 screenplay, 214, 217 Seaside, Florida, 161 Second Life, 210, 304, 310 secondary students, 246–7, 249–50 self, 20, 22–5 sense of place, 92, 133, 143, 148, 150, 207, 216 sensory, 306 sequential characteristic of activities, 210–11 setting, 209 Shafer, R., 75 significance, 92–3, 95, 105, 109 signifiers, 93 Silence of the Lands, 115–17 simulation, 281–2 social/cultural, 92; context, 210, 211; dimension, 74; importance of, 243, 255; interaction, 244, 247–50, 253; software, 94, 96, 108; studies, 243; in VH applications, 244, 247, 248 sonic, 278, 282, 285, 288 Sophia University, 30

sound(s): ambient, 116; camera, 121; collecting, 119; interpreting, 119, 122; mapping, 119; natural, 114 soundscape, 116, 120, 126; collective, 116, 122; ideal, 112, 119, 122–3; interactive, 119, 125; personal, 122 soundwalk(s), 125 space (and time), 14–16, 21–3, 67, 71 space, public, 119, 122–3 spatial concepts, 253 spatial navigation, 216 spiritual, 295–6, 300 Spiro, R., 72–3 square peg 1, 8–9 Staley, D., 69–70 standards, 35 stereoscopic (and panorama), 275, 277, 283–4, 288 Stonehenge, 29 story(ies), 94–5, 98, 103, 108, 295–6, 299–302; structure, 213; board, 209, 212; telling, 133, 214–15, 232–6 structural historians, 134–5 subject, subjectiveness, subjectivity, 25, 26, 231 suspending disbelief, 232 sustainability, 75, 109 symbols, symbolic, 253, 305; logic, 276 synagogue, 18 Taisei Corporation, 27–8, 39 Taliban, 158 Talk Shows, 63 tangible, 92, 109, 305 tax, 304 Technical University Darmstadt, 18, 19 technology, technological, technologies, 178–82, 305; evaluation, 255; experience with, 251; gender biases, 255 (see also gender); in CH settings, 243; in formal educational environments, 244; social interaction, 244, 247; use, 247 telescoping, 192 television, 53, 63 temple: general, 55, 57, 59–61; Mount, 54, 56–7, 59–60; the Temple Institute, 54, 57 temporal concepts, 252 textual, 94, 96 theme parks, 160 Tilden, Freeman, 20, 23, 25 time, 67, 71; frame, 71; travel, 7 Times Square, 166–7 timing, 247, 249 toolkit, 294, 297, 300–1 top-down, 109 tourism, 155, 157, 163 tradition, 22, 155, 157–8, 160, 164


I ND E X traditional neighborhood development (TND), 161 transactional models, 93 transcoding, 3, 4, 8, 305, 308 transmission (of cultural values and data), 53–5, 61, 63, 65 Truman Show, 161 Tuan, Yi-Fu, 164 UNESCO, 27, 29–30, 35, 38–9, 113, 171–5, 179–80, 186, 275 Unicorn Tapestries, 86–8 uniqueness, 14, 16, 20–1, 25 universal heritage, 158 University of Colorado, Center for Lifelong Learning & Design, 117; Museum of Natural History, 117, 129 university students, 252 unpredictable, 109, 110 Ur-history, 139, 141 user control (of ICT applications), 246 validity, 5 Valley of the Kings, 29 value and significance, 171, 178, 180 variability, 8 VE(s), 209–10, 216, 219–20 verisimilitude, 109, 311 version, versioning, 5, 7 viability, 309 viable, 109 viewpoints, multiple, 93 Vijanayangara, India, 275, 281–2 Villa Savoye, 215 virtual: archaeologies, 50, 226; characters, 233–8; heritage, 225–38, 275–91; community, 48; environments, 46; interpretive, 276; narrative, 280–1; projects, 40–1, 43–4, 46, 48–9; site, 209 virtual community(s), 94–6, 107–8, 110 virtual environments, 246–7, 252 virtual guide, 249 Virtual Heritage, 27, 29, 32, 35–7, 185, 187–8, 190, 193, 196–202, 295, 300–2; definition, 243; design of, 245–6, 252; interactivity, 243; realism, 254; role of the human mediator, 243, 249 Virtual Heritage Network, 29, 39

virtual museum, 249, 264 virtual presence see conceptual presence Virtual Reality (VR), 29–30; applications in CH settings, 243–4; as a navigation metaphor, 247; as a visual communication tool, 252–3; conceptual limitations, 242; educational effectiveness, 243, 253, 255; potential, 242; practical problems, 242; relationship with other exhibits, 248–9; therapeutic uses of, 254 Virtual Room, 18 Virtual Room (platform), the, 277 virtual world, 295, 296 virtualism, 17 vision tracking system (motion), 288–89 visual, 227 visual turn, 69 visualization, 2, 187, 192; cultural context of, 83 visuo-spatial cognitive style, 252 VLE, 245 Von Ranke, L., 68, 75 VRML, 29, 34 VSMM, 29 Website, 59–60, 65–6; creation by students (study of), 246 Wenders, Wim, 21 Wenger, E., 73–4 Western Australian Museum, 262 Western Wall: general, 54–5, 60–2; the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, 54, 60 White, Hayden, 62, 69, 148–50 whole, 25 Wiki, 74 Wikipedia, 94 wildlife, preservation of, 114 Williamsburg, Virginia, 160 Wineburg, S., 68, 73 world, 188–95, 197, 200–1 World Heritage, 27, 35; List, 85; Convention, 30, 36, 39; ID, 35–6; portal, 27, 35, 38 Yellowlees Douglas, J., 70 Yellowstone National Park, 30