Cultural heritage represents an enormous amount of information and knowledge. Accessing this treasure chest allows not only to discover the legacy of physical and intangible attributes of the past but also to provide a better understanding of the present. Museums and cultural institutions have to face the problem of providing access to and communicating these cultural contents to a wide and assorted audience, meeting the expectations and interests of the reference end-users and relying on the most appropriate tools available. Given the large amount of existing tangible and intangible heritage, artistic, historical and cultural contents, what can be done to preserve and properly disseminate their heritage significance? How can these items be disseminated in the proper way to the public, taking into account their enormous heterogeneity? Answering this question requires to deal as well with another aspect of the problem: the evolution of culture, literacy and society during the last decades of 20th century. To reflect such transformations, this period witnessed a shift in the museum’s focus from the aesthetic value of museum artifacts to the historical and artistic information they encompass, and a change into the museums’ role from a mere "container" of cultural objects to a "narrative space" able to explain, describe, and revive the historical material in order to attract and entertain visitors. These developments require creating novel exhibits, able to tell stories about the objects and enabling visitors to construct semantic meanings around them. The objective that museums presently pursue is reflected by the concept of Edutainment, Education + Entertainment. Nowadays, visitors are not satisfied with ‘learning something’, but would rather engage in an ‘experience of learning’, or ‘learning for fun’, being active actors and players in their own cultural experience. As a result, institutions are faced with several new problems, like the need to communicate with people from different age groups and different cultural backgrounds, the change in people attitude due to the massive and unexpected diffusion of technology into everyday life, the need to design the visit by a personal point of view, leading to a high level of customization that allows visitors to shape their path according to their characteristics and interests. In order to cope with these issues, I investigated several approaches. In particular, I focused on Virtual Learning Environments (VLE): real-time interactive virtual environments where visitors can experience a journey through time and space, being immersed into the original historical, cultural and artistic context of the work of arts on display. VLE can strongly help archivists and exhibit designers, allowing to create new interesting and captivating ways to present cultural materials. In this dissertation I will tackle many of the different dimensions related to the creation of a cultural virtual experience. During my research project, the entire pipeline involved into the development and deployment of VLE has been investigated. The approach followed was to analyze in details the main sub-problems to face, in order to better focus on specific issues. Therefore, I first analyzed different approaches to an effective recreation of the historical and cultural context of heritage contents, which is ultimately aimed at an effective transfer of knowledge to the end-users. In particular, I identified the enhancement of the users’ sense of presence in VLE as one of the main tools to reach this objective. Presence is generally expressed as the perception of 'being there', i.e. the subjective belief of users that they are in a certain place, even if they know that the experience is mediated by the computer. Presence is related to the number of senses involved by the VLE and to the quality of the sensorial stimuli. But in a cultural scenario, this is not sufficient as the cultural presence plays a relevant role. Cultural presence is not just a feeling of 'being there' but of being - not only physically, but also socially, culturally - 'there and then'. In other words, the VLE must be able to transfer not only the appearance, but also all the significance and characteristics of the context that makes it a place and both the environment and the context become tools capable of transferring the cultural significance of a historic place. The attention that users pay to the mediated environment is another aspect that contributes to presence. Attention is related to users’ focalization and concentration and to their interests. Thus, in order to improve the involvement and capture the attention of users, I investigated in my work the adoption of narratives and storytelling experiences, which can help people making sense of history and culture, and of gamification approaches, which explore the use of game thinking and game mechanics in cultural contexts, thus engaging users while disseminating cultural contents and, why not?, letting them have fun during this process. Another dimension related to the effectiveness of any VLE is also the quality of the user experience (UX). User interaction, with both the virtual environment and its digital contents, is one of the main elements affecting UX. With respect to this I focused on one of the most recent and promising approaches: the natural interaction, which is based on the idea that persons need to interact with technology in the same way they are used to interact with the real world in everyday life. Then, I focused on the problem of presenting, displaying and communicating contents. VLE represent an ideal presentation layer, being multiplatform hypermedia applications where users are free to interact with the virtual reconstructions by choosing their own visiting path. Cultural items, embedded into the environment, can be accessed by users according to their own curiosity and interests, with the support of narrative structures, which can guide them through the exploration of the virtual spaces, and conceptual maps, which help building meaningful connections between cultural items. Thus, VLE environments can even be seen as visual interfaces to DBs of cultural contents. Users can navigate the VE as if they were browsing the DB contents, exploiting both text-based queries and visual-based queries, provided by the re-contextualization of the objects into their original spaces, whose virtual exploration can provide new insights on specific elements and improve the awareness of relationships between objects in the database. Finally, I have explored the mobile dimension, which became absolutely relevant in the last period. Nowadays, off-the-shelf consumer devices as smartphones and tablets guarantees amazing computing capabilities, support for rich multimedia contents, geo-localization and high network bandwidth. Thus, mobile devices can support users in mobility and detect the user context, thus allowing to develop a plethora of location-based services, from way-finding to the contextualized communication of cultural contents, aimed at providing a meaningful exploration of exhibits and cultural or tourist sites according to visitors’ personal interest and curiosity.

Virtual Heritage: new technologies for edutainment / Martina, Andrea. - (2014). [10.6092/polito/porto/2541502]

Virtual Heritage: new technologies for edutainment

MARTINA, ANDREA
2014

Abstract

Cultural heritage represents an enormous amount of information and knowledge. Accessing this treasure chest allows not only to discover the legacy of physical and intangible attributes of the past but also to provide a better understanding of the present. Museums and cultural institutions have to face the problem of providing access to and communicating these cultural contents to a wide and assorted audience, meeting the expectations and interests of the reference end-users and relying on the most appropriate tools available. Given the large amount of existing tangible and intangible heritage, artistic, historical and cultural contents, what can be done to preserve and properly disseminate their heritage significance? How can these items be disseminated in the proper way to the public, taking into account their enormous heterogeneity? Answering this question requires to deal as well with another aspect of the problem: the evolution of culture, literacy and society during the last decades of 20th century. To reflect such transformations, this period witnessed a shift in the museum’s focus from the aesthetic value of museum artifacts to the historical and artistic information they encompass, and a change into the museums’ role from a mere "container" of cultural objects to a "narrative space" able to explain, describe, and revive the historical material in order to attract and entertain visitors. These developments require creating novel exhibits, able to tell stories about the objects and enabling visitors to construct semantic meanings around them. The objective that museums presently pursue is reflected by the concept of Edutainment, Education + Entertainment. Nowadays, visitors are not satisfied with ‘learning something’, but would rather engage in an ‘experience of learning’, or ‘learning for fun’, being active actors and players in their own cultural experience. As a result, institutions are faced with several new problems, like the need to communicate with people from different age groups and different cultural backgrounds, the change in people attitude due to the massive and unexpected diffusion of technology into everyday life, the need to design the visit by a personal point of view, leading to a high level of customization that allows visitors to shape their path according to their characteristics and interests. In order to cope with these issues, I investigated several approaches. In particular, I focused on Virtual Learning Environments (VLE): real-time interactive virtual environments where visitors can experience a journey through time and space, being immersed into the original historical, cultural and artistic context of the work of arts on display. VLE can strongly help archivists and exhibit designers, allowing to create new interesting and captivating ways to present cultural materials. In this dissertation I will tackle many of the different dimensions related to the creation of a cultural virtual experience. During my research project, the entire pipeline involved into the development and deployment of VLE has been investigated. The approach followed was to analyze in details the main sub-problems to face, in order to better focus on specific issues. Therefore, I first analyzed different approaches to an effective recreation of the historical and cultural context of heritage contents, which is ultimately aimed at an effective transfer of knowledge to the end-users. In particular, I identified the enhancement of the users’ sense of presence in VLE as one of the main tools to reach this objective. Presence is generally expressed as the perception of 'being there', i.e. the subjective belief of users that they are in a certain place, even if they know that the experience is mediated by the computer. Presence is related to the number of senses involved by the VLE and to the quality of the sensorial stimuli. But in a cultural scenario, this is not sufficient as the cultural presence plays a relevant role. Cultural presence is not just a feeling of 'being there' but of being - not only physically, but also socially, culturally - 'there and then'. In other words, the VLE must be able to transfer not only the appearance, but also all the significance and characteristics of the context that makes it a place and both the environment and the context become tools capable of transferring the cultural significance of a historic place. The attention that users pay to the mediated environment is another aspect that contributes to presence. Attention is related to users’ focalization and concentration and to their interests. Thus, in order to improve the involvement and capture the attention of users, I investigated in my work the adoption of narratives and storytelling experiences, which can help people making sense of history and culture, and of gamification approaches, which explore the use of game thinking and game mechanics in cultural contexts, thus engaging users while disseminating cultural contents and, why not?, letting them have fun during this process. Another dimension related to the effectiveness of any VLE is also the quality of the user experience (UX). User interaction, with both the virtual environment and its digital contents, is one of the main elements affecting UX. With respect to this I focused on one of the most recent and promising approaches: the natural interaction, which is based on the idea that persons need to interact with technology in the same way they are used to interact with the real world in everyday life. Then, I focused on the problem of presenting, displaying and communicating contents. VLE represent an ideal presentation layer, being multiplatform hypermedia applications where users are free to interact with the virtual reconstructions by choosing their own visiting path. Cultural items, embedded into the environment, can be accessed by users according to their own curiosity and interests, with the support of narrative structures, which can guide them through the exploration of the virtual spaces, and conceptual maps, which help building meaningful connections between cultural items. Thus, VLE environments can even be seen as visual interfaces to DBs of cultural contents. Users can navigate the VE as if they were browsing the DB contents, exploiting both text-based queries and visual-based queries, provided by the re-contextualization of the objects into their original spaces, whose virtual exploration can provide new insights on specific elements and improve the awareness of relationships between objects in the database. Finally, I have explored the mobile dimension, which became absolutely relevant in the last period. Nowadays, off-the-shelf consumer devices as smartphones and tablets guarantees amazing computing capabilities, support for rich multimedia contents, geo-localization and high network bandwidth. Thus, mobile devices can support users in mobility and detect the user context, thus allowing to develop a plethora of location-based services, from way-finding to the contextualized communication of cultural contents, aimed at providing a meaningful exploration of exhibits and cultural or tourist sites according to visitors’ personal interest and curiosity.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11583/2541502
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