3 things from the Culture and Computers Conference 2014 in Berlin

Bode Museum

By Jessica Taylor

I attended the Culture and Computers Conference (@Kul2014) at the Bode Museum in Berlin last week, where I spoke about the opportunity for museums to take their storytelling expertise away beyond the museum walls and to turn our cities into museums. It was great to exchange ideas with colleagues from around the world and to hear from them on the topic of reality and virtuality. There were three talks in particular that raised questions for me, you can see them alongside my takeaways below.

1. Virtual Humans: Bridging the Gap between People and Machines. Keynote by Bill Swartout, CTO of Institute for Creative Technologies at USC (@USC_ICT)
Recent developments e.g. Google Glass, Oculus Rift, point to the fact that barriers between people and computers are being reduced. ‘Virtual Humans’ are becoming more and more nuanced and more and more lifelike. The Institute for Creative Technologies have successfully introduced them in advanced prototypes for training, as docents in museums and as a first line of support for war veterans seeking information about PTSD. Questions: What questions are raised by ever more lifelike virtual humans? How deceptive is this in first line support situations?

2. Persuasive Computing: An African Cultural Experience in Namibia. Talk by H.N Muyingi and others
At the Independence Museum in Windhoek, which celebrates the country’s independence in 1990, many artefacts on display are ordinary objects that Namibians have in their homes. Visitors therefore really responded to interactive elements of the visit, which took them beyond their ordinary lives. The most successful interactive installation is an iPad that allowed people to take photos of themselves, that would be added to the museum archive and potentially displayed in the museum in the future.

3. Past Worlds – Virtually or Physically Preserved? Mayke Wagner, German Archaeological Institute
Chinese visitors to museums in China come to see the ‘real things’. As a contrast to the outside world which can seem full of larger than life technology, ads, fake goods etc, the ‘real things’ can often be far more exciting than virtual reconstruction or myriad interactive features. So while there are new museums in China where the architecture appears to outshine the exhibits, this can actually be a show of authenticity rather than an underwhelming experience.

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