Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage || Cultural heritage within digital information contexts

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<ul><li><p>41</p><p>2</p><p>Cultural heritage within digital information contexts</p><p>Abstract: This chapter explores the vast domain of digital information contexts in relation to cultural heritage, providing an overview of the nature of digital media, and also references examples from libraries and museums as well as the fi eld of media studies. The complex topics of the digital divide, moral rights to cultural heritage and intellectual property issues are highlighted as they are especially relevant in information literacy training, and in understanding the presentation of cultural heritage in virtual domains. The social aspects of cyberspace and social responses to the digital domain are also explored, with a particular focus on the problems posed by information fl ux and challenges to traditional authorities in the digital domain. An example of a contested conference by UNESCO on the subject of WikiLeaks is provided to illustrate the problems of tracing contested narratives in the digital world.</p><p>Key words: digital information contexts, digital cultural heritage, digital divide, cyberspace, cyberculture, digital cultural communication, digital media, virtual museums, digital libraries, information fl ux, information literacy, social media, digital intellectual property.</p><p>Overview of the contexts of digital information</p><p>The digital domain has generated a vast area of research and scholarship, and the field of media studies is especially </p></li><li><p>Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage</p><p>42</p><p>strong in discourse on digital information contexts. This chapter will map some key contextual characteristics and features of the digital domain that influence the ways in which cultural heritage is presented and communicated, and which are especially relevant to the development of a model to teach information literacy and cultural heritage in todays networked world. Also explored are the complexities of the digital divide, moral and intellectual property rights, and the social effects of the digital domain in a world that can be described as being in a state of information flux.</p><p>The exploration begins with a distinction between traditional forms of media and those in the digital domain, outlined by Marshall (2004). Traditionally, communications occurred in printed form (letters, books, newspapers and magazines), while in the digital domain printed forms are now manifest though the Internet, the World Wide Web, email, Palm Pilots, mobile phones and digital television. Traditionally, images were conveyed through photographs, film and television, while in the digital domain images are conveyed through DVDs, digital cameras, satellite television, the Internet, the web and webcams. Sound was traditionally conveyed through phonographs, telephone and radio, and in the digital domain this has expanded to include iPods, MP3s, mobile phones, web radio and digital cable music (ibid.: 2). Most importantly, Marshall identified that digitalization is essentially the reduction of all information into binary code, which can be both read and manipulated (ibid.: 17). The ability to manipulate and alter information in digital form is a critical factor to take note of.</p><p>Levy noted that the development of telecommunications led to an explosive and chaotic deluge of information, with the density of links increasing as much as the volume of data within databases, networks and hypertexts. This non-hierarchical flood of data generated intellectual confusion </p></li><li><p>Cultural heritage within digital information contexts</p><p>43</p><p>and wars of propaganda and counter-propaganda (Levy, 2001: xii). Levy argued that the next evolution, namely the formation of cyberspace, created a qualitatively more different space for communication than any previous technological developments, including telecommunications (ibid.: 175). He proposed that the most constructive application of the tools offered by digital communication is to use them to exchange knowledge, develop new forms of cooperation and join forces in collective creation. He thus suggested the combination of collective human intelligence and imagination (ibid.: 182). When considering museums and cyberspace, Levy noted that the digital copy does not substitute for the original, authentic object, and posited that contrary to fears that virtual museums will replace actual museums, the virtual domains actually led to increased numbers of visitors to the physical museums, in search of more rich, actual experiences of culture (ibid.: 197).</p><p>Levy argued that cyberspace will not offer universal solutions to miraculously improve our lives but will lead to additional dimensions of life in terms of modes of relation (interactive and community-based communication in continuously reconstructed virtual spaces), modes of understanding (ways of thinking, simulations, non-hierarchical navigations, collective intelligence), and literary and artistic genres (hypertexts, interactive documents, virtual environments, collective creation) (ibid.: 201). Levy also argued that cyberspace has often been viewed in postmodernist terms, but in fact the values of liberty, equality and fraternity all very modernist Enlightenment views are embedded within cyberculture. He conceded that, despite this, the tools of technology do in fact destabilize economies and societies, sometimes rapidly and violently (ibid.: 250). Levy concluded by noting three major stages in human culture: small societies, based on oral cultures that were self-centered, inward-looking and lived as </p></li><li><p>Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage</p><p>44</p><p>non-universal totalities; civilized societies using writing as a means to developing a totalizing universal view; and cyberculture, which leads to the globalizing of societies and creates a universal ethos, without totality (ibid.: 254).</p><p>Another scholar of media studies, Lacey, argued that any communications medium mediates between audience and reality. A communications medium conveys a representation, and thus it is necessary to be aware of conventions being used in the representations (Lacey, 1998: 222). Lacey noted that with the development of digitization came the increase in power to manipulate images, change them and transmit them instantly and widely (ibid.: 223). Lacey also noted that as more people become media literate and aware that the media deals with representation and not reality, the more likely they are to analyze images and not just accept them at face value (ibid.: 224). This observation is a very important factor to note in the development of a model for information literacy and cultural heritage.</p><p>Kalay explored the issue of preserving cultural heritage through digital media, and noted that digital imaging was the act of historically reconstructing heritage sites, places and artifacts. The benefits of digital imaging include the ability to connect text and data, and the ability to link competing and alternative narratives (Kalay, 2008: 5). The benefits of digital reconstruction include the unlimited storage space for data (compared to physical museums and libraries), but the disadvantage is that it diminishes the power of the traditional gatekeepers of cultural heritage namely academic journals, governments and museums and this opens the way for amateurs and charlatans, leading to questions of authenticity. Kalay also highlighted the key problem of how to choose what data to digitize, and what to leave out, and posed the question of whether the format </p></li><li><p>Cultural heritage within digital information contexts</p><p>45</p><p>would still be accessible several years from the time of digitization. Most important for our purposes was Kalays observation that digital media present viewers of the screen with problems of authenticity, interpretability, guidance and contextuality (ibid.: 6).</p><p>The development of social media platforms has led to problems in conducting research into what occurs in these domains. Tremayne noted that blogs or the blogosphere while being a classic form of social media are an exception in that they have qualities that make them more conducive to research. These qualities include the fact that communication is primarily in text form, is archived, and it is possible to trace and reconstruct the flow of ideas to the point of origin, unlike other social media. Also, the social ties of the blogosphere network are designated in their sections for blog rolls (links to other blogs deemed to be relevant), and in the ability to link within blog posts themselves, often to respond to other blogs. The speed with which this particular social network is evolving is also pertinent (Tremayne, 2007: xxi).</p><p>In terms of digital reproduction of cultural heritage, Malpas (2008) referred to the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage as moving away from previous static heritage practices of collection, conservation and static display from one perspective. Malpas posited that the distinction between material and non-material cultural heritage is an artificial one, since culture is always tied to materiality even language has a form of materiality in speech, symbol and sign (ibid.: 15). In this context, it can be noted that digitization and new media are both reproductive (replicating the existing) and productive (creating the new) (ibid.: 17). Malpas observed that virtual reconstructions allow for a multiplicity of perspectives (ibid.: 18), and digital technology </p></li><li><p>Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage</p><p>46</p><p>releases cultural heritage from being tied to physical location, as well as time period (ibid.: 21). Malpas further observed that the digital reproduction of an object removes it from its original context, making it generic rather than unique, and also obliterates place, distance and difference, providing increased availability (ibid.: 22). This leads to a change in the way that the object is experienced, and also a change in the way that one experiences self in relation to the object (ibid.). Malpas concluded that new digital media thus threaten self-identity and social locatedness (ibid.: 23).</p><p>Sutton observed that in a world of flux and mixture, technology provides a means of durable information storage. While technology itself is a cultural and psychological achievement, it is dependent on the construction and exploitation of social and technological resources (Sutton, 2002: 131).</p><p>In an in-depth exploration of the nature of digital information, Tredinnick premised that the emergence of digital information has destabilized the traditional understanding of the nature of information (Tredinnick, 2006: 1). He argued that the humanist values of the nineteenth century were interrelated with the development of knowledge and culture, and that this was possible due to the stability of print. In this context, libraries and archives located their function to become repositories of collective cultural memory, with a view to improving society (ibid.: 47). However, in the digital age, he noted that the ease with which information can now be copied, retrieved and shared leading to collaborative discourse via websites, blogs and wikis challenges this traditional notion that textual stability is essential to information management practice, and thus the assumption that libraries and archives are the exclusive purveyors of the values of humanism through their collections (ibid.: 4750).</p></li><li><p>Cultural heritage within digital information contexts</p><p>47</p><p>Tredinnick also noted that hypertext (which reflects the conventional academic practice of cross-referencing) on the Internet enables the ability to now combine and recombine texts in new contexts (ibid.: 197201). He observed that specifically in the context of wikis, which have collaborative authorship and textual instability, knowledge production and organization have become participatory. Web 2.0 has been credited with making knowledge creation more democratic; however, Tredinnick argued that the ability to participate requires a range of skills, having access to computer equipment, education and the time to participate (ibid.). Tredinnick also cited the example of blogs, which have become legitimate platforms for intellectual as well as political and social discourse. Anyone can publish an article on a blog, and instant commentary and analysis can occur from readers and participants around the world (ibid.: 228).</p><p>Tredinnick concluded that transglobal cultural formations not shaped by corporate organizations are now possible in the digital world, and thus interactions are no longer being shaped from the top down but, rather, from the bottom up (ibid.: 265). From this, it can be noted that the traditional institutions of museums, archives and libraries role as exclusive purveyors of cultural heritage is being significantly challenged.</p><p>Exploring digital libraries in the context of culture in a report commissioned by UNESCO, Tanner noted that digital libraries, due to their use of a range of technologies, are creating a complete paradigm shift in the field of librarianship. He stated in his report that the term culture can include heritage, arts and creativity, museums, creative industries and tourism, social customs and ways of life, and his report framed culture in the context of this scope. Tanner explained that a major driving force for libraries, archives and museums in pushing to digitize their collections was the </p></li><li><p>Information Literacy and Cultural Heritage</p><p>48</p><p>mission to provide wide access to their resources and reach new audiences, the cost of which is still a constraining factor in many cases (Tanner, 2005: 46). Tanner described some examples of digitization initiatives that had been undertaken which resulted in online access for a world audience. These included the British Library, which has made items such as the works of William Shakespeare, Chaucer, the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta and Renaissance Festival Books available to a global audience (ibid.: 15). He also noted other examples initiated to preserve language and literature, such as the Digital Library of Dutch Literature and the Austrian National Librarys program, as well as several memory projects including the American Memory project, UNESCOs Memory of the World Programme, Australias Pandora Archive and the Czech Memory project (ibid.: 1821).</p><p>Tanner observed that with global patterns of migration, cultural cohesion and social inclusion have become increasingly important factors to address, and that many cultural heritage organizations worldwide were focusing on using digital resources as a means to provide a sense of cultural identity for people who have been displaced, and for indigenous people who have had their sense of home distorted by the arrival of colonial occupants. He noted examples of projects addressing these issues including the Digital Shikshapatri, Shoah Archive, Digital Imaging South Africa, Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Aboriginal resources in Australia such as AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aborig...</p></li></ul>

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