Enriching cultural heritage on location
An article about my master's thesis, the Netherlands Institute for Sound And Vision and the mobile application 'Picture War Monuments'.
Beginning in 2010, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision started the Picture War Monuments project with the intention of enriching 200 nationwide war monuments with audiovisual material through the use of mobile and location-aware technology. As a graduate student partaking in the New Media and Digital Culture master’s program at Utrecht University, I was looking for a research internship. Having devoted several papers to the subject of augmented reality, the Picture War Monuments project fitted perfectly with my interests. Sound and Vision gave me the great opportunity to participate in this innovative project, which resulted in the realization of a successful iPhone application (http://www.erfgoedinbeeld.nl).
During my internship I was able to contribute to applied research, editorial and production activities but I was also kept busy trying to answer more conceptual questions concerning ways of accessing digital cultural heritage. Like how should access be granted to a heterogeneous user group (ranging in age an interests) and what are the implications for the experience of digital heritage on location from a user-centred point of view? A recommendation document arose from these questions, based on desk-research, theory and the possibility of attending workshops, seminars and conferences on the subject.
The Picture War Monuments application was launched in October 2010. Towards the end of my internship I wrote a scenario for a pilot to be conducted with 5 participants: all potential users of the Picture War Monuments application. The pilot consisted of a semi-structured interview and some tasks on location with the iPhone application in order to gather practical insights in the experience of location-based digital cultural heritage. Unfortunately, there was little time left to carry out the pilot, as the internship came to an end and writing my master’s thesis was up next. After reflecting on the scope of the thesis, continuing the pilot seemed the only logical thing to do in order to provide a practical approach to the thesis. The pilot provided answers but raised even more questions about the necessary conditions to enrich cultural heritage. Is mobile augmented reality able to deliver on the promise of enriching cultural heritage and what does this mean for the exploitation and the use of a medium still to be explored fully?
The first part of the thesis is dedicated to the results of the Picture War Monuments pilot. The insights obtained from the pilot are based on the criteria: look and feel, functionality, value and user generated content. The second part offers a perspective on Picture War Monuments by analysing 6 relevant locative mobile applications: BrooklynMuseumMobile (http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/mobile/support), De Stad Geschonden (http://www.destadgeschonden.nl), FourSquare (http://www.foursquare.com), DukeMobile (http://m.duke.edu) WikiMe (http://www.supportware.nl/mobile/wikime) and AroundMe (http://www.tweakersoft.com/aroundme). The outcomes of the analysis resulted in a possible scenario for designing and using Picture War Monument, but the scenario should also be considered thinking out other mobile applications involved in enriching cultural heritage.
The results from both the pilot and the analysis of locative mobile applications showed that providing unique information on location is important to create value, but even more important is creating user generated context to stimulate an active use of any heritage application. Creating context is done both by the user and the developer. It is essential to create a connection between the user and the content and social dynamics, reward and play are all important facets to establish this connection. The heritage application should also facilitate participation in an approachable way. Implementing crowdsourcing functionality for instance, allows the user to implicitly contribute to the content, emphasising on the importance of experiencing digital cultural heritage on location as a commonly, but foremost free practise.
As being a graduate now it would be great to participate in solving user-centred issues leading to innovative projects similar to Picture War Monuments. Please feel free to download or read my master’s thesis and share any ideas, suggestions or other thoughts on the matter. Thank you.
- Original post on Sound and Vision's research-blog: http://www.beeldengeluid.nl/blog/research-and-development/201202/cultureel-erfgoed-verrijken-op-locatie (in Dutch)
David van Toor