Digital Heritage : Do we need any ‘interpretation methodology’ ?

From the point of heritage management, ‘interpretation’ is often used to indicate the storyline, adopted to help visitors to engage with and understand the place or objects. Therefore, heritage interpretation is usually considered as an effective learning, communicating and management tool that increase visitors awareness and empathy to the site and artefacts.

There is no doubt that ‘virtual heritage’ or ‘digital heritage’ is an emerging domain both from the point of research and practice. Driven by widespread popularity and coupled with the vulnerability of losing intricate data, UNESCO (2003) adopted the Charter on ‘Preservation of the Digital Heritage’. This charter recognizes the significance and value of digital resources while showing its concerns for protecting losses. However, it is still unclear what progress is being made to utilize technology to interpret these digital heritage contents. Like Charter for “Interpretation and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Sites”, there is no such charter or guidelines for digital or virtual heritage sites.

I feel, the field of ‘digital heritage’ still lacks adequate literature focusing explicitly on the theory and methodology of heritage interpretation. Moreover, due to this circumstances most digital heritage projects are generally focused either on ‘process’ or ‘product’ and rarely consider ‘end-user’s perception’ of the content and predominantly developed with an ‘ocular-centric’ tendency.

Of course we need technology and should also looking for new ‘interpretive technology’, but should we allow technology to dominate over our experience ? Shall we continue to demonstrate and evaluate the tools, hardware, software and the skills of the technologists; or will consider serving form more humanitarian ground? Can we overcome this ‘image of practise’ (Kalay, 2008) and explore a new paradigm from socio-cultural perspective where a user’s value will be given priority then technology?

Getting feedback from other discipline like Archaeology, HCI, Cognitive Science and Sociology, can we develop a comprehensive ‘interpretation method’ that is more interpretive, engaging and entertaining for better experience of digital heritage content?

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