(P011)
The effects of digitisation: art, object, knowledge, responsibility
Location British Museum - BP Lecture Theatre
Date and Start Time 01 Jun, 2018 at 11:30
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • James Leach (CNRS) email
  • Lissant Bolton (British Museum) email

Mail All Convenors

Short abstract

What are the effects of transforming art/knowledge/artefact into digital formats? We seek to interrogate the effects of access and transmission in altered formats, and how these transformations can best be approached to meet various and varying interests and agendas.

Long abstract

What are the effects of transforming art/knowledge/artefact into digital formats?

The digitisation of art, knowledge, and artefacts brings to the fore key questions of responsibility, trust, and connection. Ranging from indigenous artefacts and knowledge of technique, design, and use, to the presentation of art forms in new ways, and to issues around collected artefacts and repatriation, new media means new relations of access, of control, and of format. But objects and art are already replete with the conditions and terms of their own production. Is digitising artefacts and knowledge just another way of documenting them? We suggest that it can make them anew, and that this implies a new politics, and a new and altered resource.

While we might point to distinctions in both kinds of content, and kinds of media format that shape the possibilities and outcomes of digitisation, there are also relationships and expectations in which these things are already embedded.

How do, or should, developments around the digital (often carried on a wave of optimism) meet? We seek to interrogate who and what knowledge/artefact/art is for, the effects of access and transmission in altered formats, and how these transformations can best be approached to meet various and varying interests and agendas.

We are interested in contributions with a view to modeling or understanding appropriate responses that could shape future digitisation projects. What could ethnographic material, or artists' practices (for example), offer in the way of different models for thinking about ownership and responsibility in this domain?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Digital Affordances - Remediation, Rearticulation, Recirculation

Author: Paul Basu (SOAS) email

Short abstract

This paper explores how the digitisation of historical collections affords a range of action possibilities in the present, including new ways of researching collections, rearticulating them with associated knowledges, and recirculating them to different publics.

Long abstract

The exploration of 'digital affordances' is part of a broader AHRC-funded project investigating a range of broader 'Museum Affordances' (see Panel 32) - the action possibilities latent in museum collections, curatorial interventions and exhibition strategies. The focus of this presentation is to explore how the digitisation of historical collections affords a range of action possibilities in the present, including new ways of researching collections, rearticulating them with associated knowledges, and recirculating them to different publics. Insights are drawn from preliminary research conducted with the collections assembled by the colonial anthropologist N. W. Thomas in West Africa between 1909 and 1915. These collections, which include material culture, photographs, sound recordings, botanical specimens, and fieldnotes, were subsequently dispersed to different institutions. The paper considers how, through exploiting the affordances of digital technologies, these disarticulated collections and knowledges can be rearticulated, and recirculated in different ways to different publics, including source communities. This in turn allows us to consider what other action possibilities are latent within the collections, and how they might be activated in the building of relationships and enrichment of society. See details of the Museum Affordances project and N. W. Thomas collections at https://re-entanglements.net

Unpacking the aesthetics and politics of 3D digitalisation through curatorial design interventions at the British Museum.

Author: Amelia Knowlson (Sheffield Hallam University) email

Short abstract

This paper uses curatorial design interventions to explore the effect of 3D scanning and printing at The British Museum. Spanning the realms of curation, design and artistic practice it reveals systems of hierarchical value, knowledge transformations and considerations around control and access.

Long abstract

This paper aims to explore the decision-making process behind 3D digitisation by using creative methods to examine micro pre-existing and emerging 3D projects at The British Museum. The work formed part of a 3-month residency at The British Museum that sought to understand the effect 3D scanning and printing has on the museum from the perspective of the curator.

The residency consisted of working with 8 curators to contribute and explore the aesthetics and politics of 3D digital artefacts within the museum landscape. Each curator was given a box of curiosities, inspired by 'cultural probes' (Gaver, Dunne and Pacenti 1999), containing diary pages, flow charts, questions and maps that sought to reveal the relationships, value and judgments behind 3D digital projects. Museum objects at the centre of each curator's project were 3D scanned and used as curatorial outcomes, as well as a means of facilitating discussions in complement to the box.

Such a method offers a new way of thinking about 3D digitalisation that could not have been possible with traditional means of inquiry. Spanning the realms of curation, design and artistic practice it revealed systems of hierarchical value, knowledge transformations and considerations around control and access. Curators added their own content, visualisations, metadata and notes to the box, revealing the types of information considered intrinsic to not only approaching and completing 3D digital projects, but also documenting them as well.

- Gaver, B Dunne, T. and Pacenti, E. (1999). Design: Cultural probes. Interactions, 6 (1), 21-29.

Texts and Memories: The Digital Journey of the Bodongpa Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism

Author: Jill Sudbury email

Short abstract

In the post-59 period of Tibetan religion, digital media has become a significant tool in the documentation of endangered traditions and rituals. The Bodongpa tradition has embraced the digitisation of texts, images, memories and rituals, highlighting both significant possibilities and pitfalls.

Long abstract

The Bodongpa tradition, already in a parlous position by the mid-20th century, seemed destined to disappear following the Chinese annexation of Tibet and the destruction of religious centres during the Cultural Revolution.

However, their willingness to utilise digital media has been one of the factors in the ongoing revival of the tradition. It has also exposed limitations and potential hazards, and this presentation will explore how this process has been, and continues to be, negotiated.

Digital imagery, both still and video, has focussed on the following:

• ritual texts;

• artwork, especially murals;

• performance of rituals;

• memories.

The ease of this media has enabled material to be shared across scattered communities, both inside Tibet and in exile. This has inevitably raised contentious issues, including:

• ensuring the safety of the material and those who access it;

• how the issue of permission and access is negotiated, particularly with ritual material that requires prior initiation;

• determining who is ultimately responsible for the material, both now and in perpetuity.

However, it has also facilitated:

• a cohesive body of standardised texts for use in all Bodongpa monasteries;

• a record of rituals, especially largescale monastic rituals;

• an effective aide-mémoire to trigger memories amongst elders within the broader Bodongpa community, both lay and religious.

Significantly, digitisation also raises hope for the eventual deciphering of the scattered texts of the founder of the tradition, which the Bodongpas believe will ensure their future standing within the broader Tibetan religious firmament.

Addressing Digital Affordance: Mapping Cross Cultural Value in 3D Scanned Belongings.

Authors: Hannah Turner (Simon Fraser University) email
Reese Muntean (Simon Fraser University) email

Short abstract

This paper examines community belongings digitised in 3D for museum education purposes in a Canadian museum. It argues that the scanners, software programs, and people have digital affordances and politics that shape representations and structure knowledge.

Long abstract

The philosophical concept of affordance is taking hold across media studies and anthropology and it connotes how epistemologies are encoded into technological infrastructures. In the age of digital reproduction - virtual scanned models and algorithmic representations for example - the concept of affordance has gained credence as we consider not just the representation itself but the reproduction technology, the modelling software, and the individuals who coded, scanned, and produced the representations; the immaterial and illusive materialities that afford new relations.

But what are the nature of these affordances in the context of digtisation of cultural heritage? How are these new affordances political? Through the 3D scanning and digitisation of Musqueam (an Indigenous community in British Columbia) belongings; this paper addresses the concept of affordance to map value systems embedded in digitised belongings. Based on ongoing workshops and the co-production of 3D digital surrogates, we plot the social and ethical issues faced by museums and artists who use digital technologies to represent objects. We ask: What are the affordances of scanning belongings? Are these models useful for educational purposes or community knowledge circulation? How do Indigenous practices of making challenge Western notions of digital authenticity? We propose recommendations for future museum digitisation policies that address how we should respect original knowledge holders when creating 3D models and to what extent we can modify scan data for the purposes of education and sharing. Ultimately these technologies are becoming ubiquitous, and grounding a critical study of affordances in local digitisation projects is needed.

Gurrutu 3.0 : objects, relations and the digital turn in north-east Arnhem Land (Australia)

Author: Jessica De Largy Healy (CNRS) email

Short abstract

Gurrutu, the Yolngu kinship system, has been reconceptualised and transposed on computers to re-embed various digital objects in relationships. This model provides a valuable insight into the effects of digitisation on cultural practice, both for its authentication and its renewal.

Long abstract

In the past twenty years, a myriad of digital archiving projects have emerged in Australian indigenous communities across the continent. Driven by local aspirations to reconnect with collections of objects and ethnographic records dispersed in distant institutions, the momentum towards the digital repatriation of Aboriginal cultural heritage was facilitated in Australia by nation-wide infrastructural developments and by the implementation of museum policies informed by new collaborative practices. Indeed, one could argue that Aboriginal Australians have been at the forefront of the increasingly global reflection on the digitisation of indigenous knowledge.

In the Yolngu communities of North-east Arnhem Land, where ancestral knowledge is owned by specific sets of kin and subject to complex restrictions, the digital return of materials such as bark paintings, ritual objects, sound or visual records has required close attention to be paid to issues of classification, ownership, control and access.

Drawing on a chronological series of examples, this paper will show how gurrutu, the Yolngu kinship system, has been reconceptualised and transposed on computers as the main organising principle for local archiving projects. From an initial wariness of "mixing everybody's knowledge on a computer", or of identifying "who will hold the key to the system", to the many creative ways in which these materials are being reinvested today in the ceremonial and artistic domains, Yolngu digital experiments over the past two decades provide a valuable insight into the effects of digitisation on cultural practice, both for its authentication and its renewal.

Annotation as practice, products of annotation and coding schemes

Author: Scott deLahunta (Coventry University) email

Short abstract

The publication the W3 web annotation standards appear to coincide with an increase in movement and computing research projects utilising annotation. This paper will explore connections with the recording, annotating and disseminating of meaningful digitised documentation of contemporary dance.

Long abstract

The publication in February 2017 of the W3 standards for an interoperable, sharable, distributed Web Annotation architecture appear to have coincided with an increase in the number of movement and computing research projects utilising experts to annotate data recordings based on a more or less agreed taxonomy of terms and definitions. This paper will briefly explore connections between these developments and recent efforts on the part of contemporary dance practitioners to record, annotate (in some cases) and disseminate meaningful digitised documents of process. In particular, the author theorises an 'unbridgeable' gap between manual forms of annotation and automated computational analysis, referring to some examples in the movement and computing field and drawing attention to how manual (human) observation is informed by the constraints of the system and yet exceed these. The author is also involved in the development of best practice approaches to digital video annotation. He will share some of this work drawing on current research projects involving the use of annotation as a means of explicating the tacit and embodied knowledge forms associated with the practices of contemporary dance.

Making something together

Authors: Siobhan Davies (Coventry University) email
James Leach (CNRS) email

Short abstract

A conversation between Siobhan Davies and James Leach on collaboration and responsibility in her choreographic practice

Long abstract

Choreography in Siobhan Davies Dance has an explicit intention around conversation, discovery and making. In this way, we hope to sustain a practice that is inclusive and responsive. It echoes the complexity of life, that we are not on our own, and we are responsible to each other in each moment. We aim to explore the tension between finding some distinctive quality in ourselves while knowing and wanting to work with others doing the same thing; adjusting our singular activity in order to be alongside others. During processes of documentation and digitisation, we continue to explore ways to keep the live-ness of of choreography and dancing in a medium other than our bodies. How do we keep the renewal of activity in other forms? Our interview explores the possibilities of maintaining the connection between live-ness in choreography, dance making, and digitisation.

New approaches to the protection of knowledge holders

Author: Peter Jaszi (American University) email

Short abstract

This paper will propose a turn away from solutions based on classical models of public ordering toward one that promotes an array of alternative and complementary alternative approaches.

Long abstract

After more than 15 years, the World Intellectual Property Organization's efforts to broker consensus around the text of a treaty for the protection of "traditional cultural expressions" are deadlocked. Over the same period, we have come to understand more about the inherent limitations of national intellectual property laws where embodied and collective creativity are concerned. Meanwhile, the implications of new technology for the collection and circulation of detailed information about making art have become increasingly apparent. The obvious benefits of digitization in terms of building general knowledge are offset, to an extent not yet fully understood, by the risks it poses to cultural survival. It is timely, therefore, to consider new ideas about how to mitigate these risks

This paper will propose a turn away from solutions based on classical models of public ordering toward one that promotes an array of alternative and complementary alternative approaches. One such approach would be the promotion of private ordering through agreements between knowledge holders and researchers. Another would emphasize more general "soft" norms informed by ethical and relationship considerations. Examples of this approach include disciplinary and institutional codes of conduct, research-based recommended "best practices," and new applications of regulations relating to the protection of research subjects. Both approaches would take into account the preferences of creative and custodial communities, as well as the legitimate aspirations of knowledge consumers.

Digitising contemporary and traditional dance practices for education, analysis and creativity.

Author: Sarah Whatley (Coventry University) email

Short abstract

This paper will discuss the implications of recording and digitizing (by video and motion capture technologies) a variety of cultural and contemporary dance performance practices, core to a multi-partner European project: WhoLoDancE, focusing on issues of reuse, ownership and responsibility.

Long abstract

The WhoLoDancE project is a multi-partner European Commission-funded project that is creating a variety of digital tools for supporting the transmission of different dance practices (contemporary dance, ballet, Flamenco and Greek folk dance). The aim of the tools is to support educational and creative processes in dance; including analysis (through annotating and discovering dance content stored within the movement library) and choreography (through a blending tool and virtual learning devices). The recordings and subsequent processing of dance material into digital data raises interesting questions about the responsibilities of the project team to the dancers who have contributed their material to the project, particularly when it is transformed into data visualisations that can be accessed and reused by others. The presentation will focus on how value accrues in these kinds of resources and sometimes in unexpected ways, partly through the preservation of traditional (and previously undocumented) dance practices but in collecting and sharing these materials, what ethical issues arise around ownership and attribution in the digital environment?

Digital Ghost Effects

Author: Kriss Ravetto (UC Davis) email

Short abstract

This paper explores how dance and digital media "take form," performing something akin to what Brian Rotman calls "virtual ghosts," that is, a potential sense of self, a self that will be projected into a future archive.

Long abstract

A great amount of faith has been put in digital media's ability to record, document, and archive live events, but more importantly to be able to retrieve them, and thus, bring them back to life, by reanimating them. These reanimated images do not easily lend themselves to evaluation. They also have the potential to spin out of control, doubling and redoubling figures, spaces, and our very perception of time. It is in this act of doubling, reanimating that spectral forms emerge to question our understanding of presence, our very relation to those archives that preserve our image in time. This paper explores how dance and digital media "take form," performing something akin to what Brian Rotman calls "virtual ghosts," that is, a potential sense of self, a self that will be projected into a future archive. Yet, this taking of form does not always imply emergence as the becoming of formation, becoming in-formation; the act of taking form is also an act of repetition which puts more emphasis on the concept of "taking" (Deleuze), and sometimes this repeated formation even amounts to the undoing of form (the exhaustion of form). Looking at Matthias Sperling's Loop Atlas and Siobhan Davies and Anri Sala's The Drum as Visual Speaker, I will examine the mediation between forms of individuation — a mediation between vital, collective, and technical modes of individuation. In their very attempt to return to unity, they take form by disfiguring our notion of form, and thereby create a ghostly aesthetics.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.