From replica to artefact to portal: how digital objects can break domain barriers
Dr. Stuart Jeffrey
Reader in Heritage Visualisation, the School of Simulation and Visualisation,
Glasgow School of Art, UK.
This keynote lecture will chart the rapid evolution of the Digital Heritage Object (DHO), tackling some of the fundamental questions and issues this raises, including its unexpected transformation from passive object to dynamic portal. The DHO, essentially a translation of a physical site or heritage object into a digital form, has undergone a number of significant conceptual changes. While it was initially conceived as a digital version of traditional analogue records, the DHO has come to assume a status and life of its own, parallel to the physical original. In an echo of historic replicas, the DHO can become an artefact in its own right, while its production is also arguably a significant chapter in the biography of the original, with the potential to borrow from and enhance its aura and authenticity in the process. These changes in how DHOs are conceived and deployed open up specific affordances and create new opportunities for engagement, empowerment and democratisation.
I will discuss how this new approach to the DHO allows us to tackle some of the challenges associated with the digital realm in heritage practice, including issues of access, control and representation. I will also look beyond current conceptions of the digital, both as a new form of record and a new type of artefact, to explore the next stage in the development of these technologies. This takes us past questions of production and dissemination, and recognises the attributes of the digital realm that allow us to think of DHOs as something entirely different from their originals; objects that can operate as portals into heterogeneous and diverse content. In this way DHOs can create unforeseen linkages and break down traditional barriers between domains: tangible/intangible, nature/cultural, technical/creative.