Reflections on Digital Densities

Regards the conference and panel at Digital Densities University of Melbourne: Friday 27 March 2015

  • I gave a short paper of some projects and ended with the following points:
    As situated counterfactual simulations, games are open-ended learning experiences but they don’t scale easily and they are not cultural learning experiences.
  • How do we thematically include conjecture and interpretation?
  • How to creatively connect to archives (of media, literature, place event and character references).
  • Solution: To mention later (a digital scholarly ecology): link papers+tools+methods+models+forums:
    explain the difference between method and methodology
    develop a way of substantiating digital heritage creation as academic output
    diagram how the DH ecology would work in terms of critical review, component-based (Unity, Collada, Blender.blend) versus single format (X3D, Collada) versus exportable format (different 3D packages can export to shared format) … but how do you share, archive, export interaction structures?

NB I did  not really mention my aim to bridge the missing links between text and place.

How does this relate to the central material and institutional conditions of the digital archive?  Digital Heritage archives require: alive filterable meta-layerable searchable component based, query-metrics, visual ontological structure, component-based, exportable or bespoke archival formats Sadly, Digital Heritage projects are ad hoc, do not relate to literature and other sources, are not component based but imprisoned in legacy technology But that will have to be for another day. And so will some reflections on density, as there are many aspects to it that I initially and naively took as self-evident.

However, I was also asked to attend a panel (Materiality, the Archive, the Future) at the end of the Digital Densities event. The format was pecha kucha, a format I have never actually presented in before. 20 slides, 20 seconds each, we had 6 minutes 40 seconds to present. You can say (or show) a lot in that time but as I discovered it was too short to say what I had to say. And I wasn’t feeling well so the focus wasn’t up to scratch.
But from the presentations I saw and the questions I was asked, I thought there was something to explore.
The Future (Digital Humanities in the next 10 years):

There are 9 things I believe DH should and will concentrate on, and to explain them requires an essay!
tourism and education
multimodal – self-driven learning
focus on design and usability
critical infrastructure
faster communal publication>>bigger teams
combined degrees with business law ICT media
cottage industry humanities start-ups
a potential turn back to (augmented) craft
tinkering spaces

But what I ran out of time to comment on were my observations of some trends of the day.
1.     Future of the Future of the Book was a concern, what will the book be or has it apparently died so often that it is now a case of the boy who cried wolf?
2.     The question of digital originality: that simulation and digitisation has created the loss of aura scenario predicted by Walter Benjamin.
3.     Completeness and importance of the physical artefact: self-evident, or is it? Many aspects of a historic or heritage artefact cannot be re-experienced or understood or situated.
4.     Care=archives<>databases: many of the scholars and archivists and librarians seem to distinguish between an archive and a database. I wonder if the latter lacks for them a sense of care, or if they simply feel there are no preservation specialists in the latter that are empathic to books and other traditional scholarly media.
5.     Spectator-led narratives archives (museums are more performative?): there was a little discussion of politics and indigenous heritage issues and open access, but I also thought there was some concern over the future of museums and that museums felt the need to be more performative, but how spectators create or augment narrative was not really followed through.
6.     Communal ownership and priority vs. anti-ownership: how could databases protect rather than share local or socially distributed levels of knowledge?
7.     Proprietary technologies and their permanence: more my point than the others, such as the walled garden that keeps people in, not just out, and how some game technologies are outlasting the mainstream VR software products.
8.     Funding for ongoing projects…people seemed to agree with me that funding is often for equipment rather than for (skilled) people, I ran out of time to mention the success of in funding the transfer and exchange of heritage skills and young people (interns, students).


One thought on “Reflections on Digital Densities

  1. Hi Erik, what do you mean by “cottage industry humanities startups”?

    Leah Irving B.A, M.A, MPET Learning Engagement (Projects) | Curtin Teaching and Learning| DVC Education Curtin University Tel | +61 8 9266 1260 Add | Bldg 105, Level 1, Room B104, GPO Box U1987 Perth, WA, 6845

    I acknowledge the Nyungar Wadjuk people as the traditional owners of country on which Curtin’s Bentley campus sits. I wish to acknowledge their continuing connection to land, sea and community and I pay my respects to them and their culture; and to Elders, past present and future.

    From: Erik Champion <> Reply-To: Erik Champion <> Date: Sunday, 29 March 2015 9:38 pm To: Leah Irving <> Subject: [New post] Digital Densities @Melbourne-some reflections

    EMC posted: “Regards the conference and panel at Digital Densities University of Melbourne: Friday 27 March 2015 I gave a short paper of some projects and ended with the following points: As situated counterfactual simulations, games are open-ended learning experien”

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