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Tuesday, December 3 • 12:30pm - 12:45pm
Digitization and Digital Interaction as a Barrier to Democratic Heritage?

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The democratisation of heritage through digital access is well documented. It has included innovative ways to manage interpretation and create experiences through the ‘decoding’ of heritage. This decoding of heritage becomes democratised, more poly-vocal than didactic exhibitions, and less dependent on ‘experts’. However, the decision of what ‘heritage’ is and what is commissioned for digitisation (the encoding) is not necessarily a part of this democratisation. The introduction of digitisation requires more expertise and training within established professional discourse, and more resources.

This paper will consider 'authorised heritage discourse' (AHD), a top-down approach to heritage that normalises or legitimises existing power structures, within digital humanities. This influences the digital humanities in terms of who has the power to say what encoded and how that takes place.

Through social media projects such as Wiki loves Monuments, the public can upload their own images of heritage.  However, Wikipedia’s convention to avoid original research means that ‘heritage’ is defined by top-down lists (e.g. government designation), thus reinforcing AHD rather than democratising heritage. Alternatives are subject to epistemic populism.

Technology may provide many possibilities, but does it actually promote democratisation of heritage or reinforce existing hegemony? It is meaningless to state that everything can or should be digitised due to the varied approaches, and implicit bias towards tangible heritage. The role of digitisation in the democratisation of heritage needs to be better understood.

Development of ICT initiatives have often been driven by technological possibility rather than societal need, so questions regarding the nature and process of digital interaction, in terms of whose heritage is accessible, affect the very issues of democratisation digitisation appears to promote.

Exploration of who commissions digitisation and interaction, as well as training and research funding, would bring light to how heritage is appropriated and represented, and digitisation’s impact on ‘democratic’ heritage.

avatar for Joel Taylor

Joel Taylor

Joel Taylor is a researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), working on a range of areas connected to heritage management. He has a BSc in Archaeological Conservation from Cardiff University (1993-1996), where he returned to read for a part-time PhD... Read More →

Tuesday December 3, 2013 12:30pm - 12:45pm PST
Stockholm City Museum, Auditorium Ryssgården, Slussen, Stockholm, Sweden

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