Paper accepted for Researching Digital Cultural Heritage – International Conference, Manchester UK, Dates: 30/11-1/12/2017 twitter #digheritage17
Keywords:Digitally enabled collaborative, participatory and reflexive approaches in cultural heritage design, research and practice.
If conveying cultural significance is a central aim of virtual heritage projects, can they convey cultural significance effectively without an understanding of the contextual role of cultural knowledge? In this talk I will argue this is very difficult, but even populating virtual environments with others (human-guided or computer-scripted), there are still vital, missing ingredients.
In virtual heritage projects with enough computational power and sophistication to feature intelligent agents, they are primarily used as guides (Bogdanovych et al. 2009). They lead players to important landmarks, or perhaps act as historical guides (revealing past events, conveying situationally appropriate behaviour). Intelligent agents are usually designed for limited forms of conversation and typically help convey social presence rather than cultural presence. For an enhanced “sense of inhabited place”, engaging narrative- related elements, or embodiment, a cultural agent recognizes, adds to, or transmits physically embedded and embodied aspects of culture. They could provide a sense of cultural presence, becoming Aware-Of-Not-Quite-Being-‘There’.
Cultural agents would not be mere conversational agents if they were able to:
- Automatically select correct cultural behaviours given specific events or situations.
- Recognize in/correct cultural behaviours given specific events, locations, or situations.
- Transmit cultural knowledge.
- Modify, create, or command artefacts that become cultural knowledge.
To fulfil the above criteria, cultural agents would be culturally constrained. Not just socially constrained; their actions and beliefs would be dependent on role, space, and time. They could understand and point out right from wrong in terms of culturally specific behaviour and understand the history and possibly also the future trajectory of specific cultural movements. In this talk I will discuss three scenarios for cultural agents, their relationship to roles and rituals, and two more missing ingredients. The result? A more situated, reflexive appreciation of cultural significance via virtual heritage.