Thinking Through Hybrid Digital Heritage

Last week, the CHI fellows cohort started our second rapid development project. We are building a project pitch website based on our “Project Version Document” from the first challenge (see Micayla Spiro’s post for more on that project!). For our site, my group decided to revive the Museum of London’s London Wall Walk that was launched in the 1980s. The original Wall Walk consisted of plaques providing information at twenty-one different places along the London Wall, and we proposed to incorporate a QR code at each location to allow the public to access records of artifacts from the area of the plaque that are housed in the Museum of London collections. This idea came from a desire to incorporate a digital component to an outdoor activity so we could further explore methods for developing a more hybrid approach to digital heritage. 

In lectures for the fellowship, we have explored a variety of hybrid examples of cultural heritage initiatives. Some of these include The Engine Shed’s augmented reality map and the National Museum of Finland’s interactive timeline. In many cases, this allows users to digitally mediate their interaction with a physical space. While these examples were primarily what inspired our idea for reviving the Wall Walk with a digital component, we also discussed smaller scale hybrid heritage initiatives such as Museum in a Box that made us consider ways of bringing collections to the community rather than bringing them to the collections. 

In my research, I’ve been working on exploring the ways in which affective responses to cultural heritage sites can be represented digitally. This rapid development project has made me consider whether my problem has been trying to divorce the physical sites from affect. I have been trying to decide how to represent affect digitally on a map; however, I now wonder if it might be better to focus on representing affect digitally in a physical space. If my argument is focused on demonstrating the affective resonances at cultural heritage sites, perhaps I should investigate a more hybrid approach to incorporating the two.  

Last year for an independent study on digital humanities, cultural heritage, and affect, I came across Jessica Hoare’s article for the International Journal of Heritage Studies titled “The practice and potential of heritage emotion and research: an experimental mixed-methods approach to investigating affect and emotion in a historic house.” Hoare used tools such as heart monitors to measure participants’ affective responses to a cultural heritage site. Here, the digital intervention was to measure response to a physical space and collect and collate data. I had originally considered incorporating affect into my research in a similar way; however, now I wonder if I can move away from translating the physical to the digital to creating meaning in a physical space through the use of digital tools. 

Based on a combination of these ideas, I’m wondering about incorporating “data visceralizations,” as described by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein in their open-access book Data Feminism, into physical heritage sites. I may still need to collect affective data, but I’m curious to explore examples of locating data in a place and developing it into an experience rather than something purely visual. I’m looking forward to exploring this idea further throughout the fellowship.

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