Digital Mediation of Art and Culture – From Web to Augmented Reality
What are current data-based practices and strategies of “digital mediation of art and culture”? In how far are they inherently digital? And what are networked forms of learning from and about cultural data as well as co-creative knowledge generation afforded by different forms of digital media?
The paper will take the plenum on a comparative journey through data-based mediation practices and strategies, (re-)using cultural heritage sources in different modalities – from Web over mobile media to Augmented Reality. In all these digital mediation forms the term mediation is also understood as designing the “in-between”, the interface between visitor and cultural objects. Using the analytic lens of Software Studies (Manovich, 2001, 2013) the paper will introduce research results that show, how the digital mediation forms itself and especially its interfaces have evolved into a digital display for art and culture in their own right: from remediating analogue forms of mediation into the digital realm to the creation of disruptive new experiences based on cultural data.
The point of departure is the database, which will be introduced as nexus for digital mediation based on Florian Wiencek’s recently published PhD research (Wiencek, 2019). It is conceived of as a cultural form (Manovich, 2001). The task of a digital repository goes far beyond providing accessibility and enabling the findability of data. Rather databases are a framework for storytelling and co-creative knowledge generation on the basis of housed data; a basis for diverse possible experiences through re-contextualization and reuse of the data within or outside the gallery, depending on the visitor interaction. Software and technology will in that context be introduced as agent in their own right in the mediation process, for which the notion of critical mediation of art (Mörsch, 2011) is central. The introduced examples will start from web-based practices around online collections (e.g. Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Museum, Staedel Museum, Rijksmuseum) and cultural repositories as mediation medium (such as Google Cultural Institute, Artsy, Europeana), introducing informal, personalized and networked learning and knowledge generation as connectivist (Downes, 2012) and co-creative practices (see Carletti, Giannachi, Price, & McAuley, 2013; Shedroff, 1994; Wiencek, Morbey, & Lombardi, 2012).
A second set of examples introduces digital learning tools and strategies based on cultural data employing mobile media as well as Augmented Reality (AR). These examples extend personalized and participatory mediation strategies in location-based settings inside the gallery or in public spaces. The paper will introduce the Art.Lector concept (Kasra Seirafi & Seirafi, 2016) that was developed by Fluxguide in cooperation with the University of Applied Arts in Vienna in a multi-year R&D project. It implements a 3-phase learning concept developed especially for school classes while being also applicable for individual learners that enables a holistic, digital learning experience for teachers and students before, during and after a museum visit. It promotes active learning instead of passive content consumption, employing forms of E-Learning and gamification in a cultural learning setting. Examples of different implementations of the strategies will be introduced: such as an avatar-based learning tour and learning platform at Deutsches Berbaumuseum Bochum (Germany), an app-based school learning service at Kennedy Space Center (USA), a museum-scavenger hunt at Stadtpalais Stuttgart (Germany) or location-based mediation of Roman history through the combination of micro-content and micro-learning in the apps “Römerspuren” and “Helden der Römerzeit” (Germany and Austria).
The move to Augmented Reality as medium for cultural learning affords the integration of physical space and digital information, opening up new opportunities for holistic visitor experience design and explicit mediation (Moesgaard et al., 2015) in the museum. This gives visitors not only access to information but also a better understanding of situations and processes. To conclude the tour through different digital modalities of cultural learning, the paper will summarize major results from the research project HoloMuse (K. Seirafi & Wiencek, 2017). The innovation project researched the state of the art of AR in the museum, explored the needs and understanding of different stakeholders with regard to museum augmentation and developed concepts and mediation strategies that effectively use AR for cultural learning resulting from these insights. The concepts were piloted with museum partners such as Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (Austria) and Deutsches Museum Munich (Germany).
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