New Journal Article on Geospatial Semantic Web

The amount of digital cultural heritage data produced by cultural heritage institutions is growing rapidly. Digital cultural heritage repositories have therefore become an efficient and effective way to disseminate and exploit digital cultural heritage data. However, many digital cultural heritage repositories worldwide share technical challenges such as data integration and interoperability among national and regional digital cultural heritage repositories. The result is dispersed and poorly-linked cultured heritage data, backed by non-standardized search interfaces, which thwart users’ attempts to contextualize information from distributed repositories. A recently introduced geospatial semantic web is being adopted by a great many new and existing digital cultural heritage repositories to overcome these challenges. However, no one has yet conducted a conceptual survey of the geospatial semantic web concepts for a cultural heritage audience. A conceptual survey of these concepts pertinent to the cultural heritage field is, therefore, needed. Such a survey equips cultural heritage professionals and practitioners with an overview of all the necessary tools, and free and open source semantic web and geospatial semantic web platforms that can be used to implement geospatial semantic web-based cultural heritage repositories. Hence, this article surveys the state-of-the-art geospatial semantic web concepts, which are pertinent to the cultural heritage field. It then proposes a framework to turn geospatial cultural heritage data into machine-readable and processable resource description framework (RDF) data to use in the geospatial semantic web, with a case study to demonstrate its applicability. Furthermore, it outlines key free and open source semantic web and geospatial semantic platforms for cultural heritage institutions. In addition, it examines leading cultural heritage projects employing the geospatial semantic web. Finally, the article discusses attributes of the geospatial semantic web that require more attention, that can result in generating new ideas and research questions for both the geospatial semantic web and cultural heritage fields.

New Journal Article Out

Another journal article is out:

Dawson, Beata, Pauline Joseph, and Erik Champion. 2019. “The Story of the Markham Car Collection: A Cross-Platform Panoramic Tour of Contested Heritage.” Collections 15 (1): 62-86. OR

In this article, we share our experiences of using digital technologies and various media to present historical narratives of a museum object collection aiming to provide an engaging experience on multiple platforms. Based on P. Joseph’s article, Dawson presented multiple interpretations and historical views of the Markham car collection across various platforms using multimedia resources. Through her creative production, she explored how to use cylindrical panoramas and rich media to offer new ways of telling the controversial story of the contested heritage of a museum’s veteran and vintage car collection. The production’s usability was investigated involving five experts before it was published online and the general users’ experience was investigated. In this article, we present an important component of findings which indicates that virtual panorama tours featuring multimedia elements could be successful in attracting new audiences and that using this type of storytelling technique can be effective in the museum sector. The storyteller panorama tour presented here may stimulate GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) professionals to think of new approaches, implement new strategies or services to engage their audiences more effectively. The research may ameliorate the education of future professionals as well.

paperback of ‘Organic Design in 20th C Nordic Architecture’ Book

Arrived last week, I think the paperback version may be nicer to hold and read than the hardcover version! Definitely cheaper.. available in Australia or internationally.

Organic Design in Twentieth-Century Nordic Architecture presents a communicable and useful definition of organic architecture that reaches beyond constraints. The book focuses on the works and writings of architects in Nordic countries, such as Sigurd Lewerentz, Jørn Utzon, Sverre Fehn and the Aaltos (Aino, Elissa and Alvar), among others. It is structured around the ideas of organic design principles that influenced them and allowed their work to evolve from one building to another. Erik Champion argues organic architecture can be viewed as a concerted attempt to thematically unify the built environment through the allegorical expression of ongoing interaction between designer, architectural brief and building-as-process. With over 140 black and white images, this book is an intriguing read for architecture students and professionals alike.

Which comes first, the 3D scanner or the golden egg?

Technology Versus Culture, a false dichotomy?

I was indirectly asked at the Humanities, Arts and Culture Data Summit and DARIAH Beyond Europe workshop, 27-29 March 2019, Canberra, whether the most important question /priority/importance was Technology or Culture.

Now a day and an Australian State later, I may have slightly misinterpreted the question or the intention behind it but I thought I would answer here because

  • I may write about it later
  • I will forget it and maybe it raises an important point or two.

I have fairly specific ideas of culture and cultural heritage and technology.

  • For technology I believe it is not just manufacturing things, but also the questions, art and craft of bringing things into existence. And here I must admit to being inspired by Martin Heidegger, a problematic philosopher.
  • For culture I believe it is not just the creation of cultural values, objects, events, beliefs, stories, songs etc but the passing down of these objects stories etc to future generations AND passing down the general instructions and meanings and methods to help keep active the knowledge behind transmitting and modifying these cultural objects, both tangible and intangible.

And what does technology do? It helps the passing down and preservation of these cultural objects and non-objects. I don’t separate technology and culture, because culture needs to control the art of production, of bringing things into existence and keeping them there. When culture becomes consumer production but the production is not part of the cultural life cycle of creator and community, that is where culture weakens, and we could blame that on technology, but that is because we have started thinking of technology as an impartial, neutral, scientific way things have to be. Where tangible heritage or intangible heritage is created by people and needs to be valued, preserved and appreciated by future people, technological factors are never impartial and purely scientific, because technology is there to serve people not machines.

Let me give you another example, when I talk of a digital scholarly ecosystem, digital humanities people understand what I mean, a programmer I spoke to could only think of ecosystem as supplying people with computers and other digital devices and ensuring they always had the latest model and the manufacturers could charge as much as possible to resolve for their shackled customer this perceived and designed obsolescence. That is not what I mean by a digital ecosystem because the users are continually charged with replacing and learning the device itself, they will have little time to actually build, value, communicate and preserve something.

Now I do worry that we increasingly see technology as meaning digital technology, and there are commercial and academic reasons to focus on the equipmental, because funding is more straightforward and goes through fewer people who can raise their careers and profiles. Culture does not have to employ digital technology, and we straitjacket and possibly impoverish it if we continue to think of data as only digital (data predates digital) and technology as only digital (again, techne is a concept from Ancient Greece).

However, they don’t generally make these objects and they don’t generally ensure these objects and non-objects are maintained and used. And this, I think, is a problem for digital humanities, we have few ways to value these people and the work they do and the communities they serve.

And in our session yesterday a professor said there should be a Centre of Excellence in Digital Cultural Heritage in Australia. The audience reaction was highly favorable then and in the tweets afterwards. And someone like me should surely agree, right? I have been writing and designing and teaching about digital cultural heritage for two decades. Well yes and no. I believe it should happen and come from the GLAM sector and indigenous and other local communities, because they are the best guardians and trustees.*

A Centre of Excellence will raise the profile and increase the collaboration potential of academics and academic groups, but it also implies if you are not in a Centre of Excellence you are not excellent. Is that what digital heritage should support? I think it should be bigger: a National  Collaborative Research Infrastructure, or equivalent, supported and driven by the GLAM sector, perhaps helped in focus by academics. Once you have your NCRIs, build your Centre of Excellence around that. Because a Centre of Excellence of digital cultural heritage would and should be huge, it may be better to have smaller and more directed Centres of Excellence. Are there not enough humanities academics in Australia to apply for more than one?

* I see humanities as being larger than humanities academics and researchers. I believe it also includes the creators, the preservers and the audience. At humanities research infrastructure meetings we are asked what we want, but surely this is tied to the problem of what is best for Australian humanities, creators and communities?

NB thus blogpost has been modified, just to stick to the topic and will be modified again when I think of a few more qualifying statements.

CFP: Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

Personal and Ubiquitous Computing (Springer Science)

Special Issue on Virtual and Mixed Reality in Culture and Heritage:


This special issue solicits research related to Virtual and Mixed Reality in Culture and
Heritage. Authors are encouraged to submit articles presenting original and
innovative studies that address new challenges and implications and explore the
potential of immersive technologies in museums, galleries, heritage sites and
art/cultural institutions.

Guest Editors:
Damianos Gavalas, University of the Aegean, Greece
Stella Sylaiou, Hellenic Open University, Greece,
Vlasios Kasapakis, University of the Aegean, Greece,
Elena Dzardanova, University of the Aegean, Greece,

Important Dates:
Submission: July 31, 2019
1st round notification: Sept 30, 2019
Revision deadline: Nov 15, 2019
Final notification: Dec 31, 2019
Expected publication: 4nd Q 2020

CAA 2019 presentations

More for my own use, here are two papers accepted for CAA2019 in Krakow Poland, 23-27 April, 2019.

Author Erik M Champion (Mafi?)

Title Mixable reality, Collaboration, and Evaluation (S36: User Experience Design in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage)

If we are to move past one hit AR wonders like Pokémon Go, scalable yet engaging content, stable tools, appropriate evaluation research, long-term and robust infrastructure, are essential. Formats like WebVR and Web XR show promise for sharing content across desktop and head-mounted displays (without having to download plugins), but there is also a non-technological constraint: our preconceptions about virtual reality. For example, in a 2018 Conversation article “Why virtual reality cannot match the real thing” by Professor of Philosophy Janna Thompson) she argued that virtual reality (and virtual heritage in particular) attempts to provide accurate and equivalent realistic interactive simulations of the existing real world.
VR is not only a possible mirror to the current world. As Sir David Attenborough noted about the Natural History Museum’s “Hold the World” VR application, it provides a richer understanding of process, people can move and view virtual objects that are otherwise fragile, expensive or remote. And it allows people to share their mashups of reality, mixable reality. Collaborative learning can compel us to work in groups to see the bigger picture… your actions or decisions can be augmented and incorporated into the experience. However, there are few studies on collaborative learning in mixed reality archaeology and heritage. This presentation will discuss two projects, (one using two HoloLens HMDs, one a game where two people with different devices must share and control one character,) the theories adopted, and the range of possibilities for evaluating user experience in this collaborative mixed reality.

This is related to part of an article on VR for tourism that was submitted to the online Conversation website, this abstract will be further modified and updated.

Authors: Erik M Champion, Hafizur Rahaman

Title: 3D Models: Unwanted, Unknown, Unloved (Session S37: 3D Publishing and Sustainability: Taking Steps Forward)

Given the importance of three-dimensional space and artefacts to archaeology and to heritage studies, one might therefore assume that publications in the area of virtual heritage are heavily reliant on providing scholarly argument based on 3D models.

To corroborate this hypothesis, we reviewed virtual heritage proceedings of five major digital heritage conferences one could expect to be focused on projects incorporating 3D models. A total number of 264 articles across 14 proceedings were studied, and the results will be tabulated and presented.

The lack of accessible 3D models, usable projects, or ways in which the 3D model could be used and critiqued in a scholarly argument is of great concern to us. We suggest that long-term usage and preservation of virtual heritage models are worrying and persistent issues, and their scholastic impact is severely compromised. We suggest there are least three critical issues: we lack accessible, durable and complete infrastructure, which is essential for storage and preservation; we still don’t have a shared understanding of how to develop, integrate and demonstrate the research value of 3D heritage models; we also lack robust, long-term publication systems that can integrate and maintain both the 3D models and their relevance and functionality in terms of both community engagement and scholarship. We recommend seven practical steps for ensuring that the scholarship going into the development of 3D virtual heritage models, and arising from 3D virtual heritage models, can be fully implemented.

Learning from Lost Architecture: Immersive Experience and Cultural Experience as a New Historiography

The SAHANZ Proceedings for 2018 are out on researchgate. I was co-author of the following:

Learning from Lost Architecture: Immersive Experience and Cultural Experience as a New Historiography

by A de Kruiff, F Marcello, J Paay, E Champion, J Burry – SAHANZ 2018


In 1986, a group of Spanish architects decided to physically recreate an icon of modernist architecture. Mies van der Rohe’s German pavilion for the Barcelona World Expo of 1929 was at the cutting edge of spatial and structural innovation but its influence was limited to what we understand through drawings, photographs, limited film footage and historical interpretations. We can now physically visit the pavilion and experience it but what of all the other pavilions by famous (and less famous) architects that are no more? It would be costly and time consuming to physically rebuild all of them, however virtual reality (VR) technologies and human computer interaction (HCI) methods can bring them back to life. International expo pavilions are temporary structures designed to be at the cutting edge of structural and material technology but what makes them unique and inspirational is seldom preserved directly, their architectural insights, experiential richness and cultural significance are easily lost. This paper asks: How might immersive digital experiences of space help us to recapture ‘authentic’ experiences of history and place? What implications does this have for architectural history, heritage and conservation?

The authors offer some answers to these questions by presenting preliminary results from a larger project entitled ‘Learning from Lost Architecture’: a virtual reconstruction of the Italian Pavilion at the Paris Expo of 1937. Firstly, we will contextualise the practice of digital cultural heritage and present its potential for immersive, investigatory architectural experiences. Secondly, we will critique our own practice to better evaluate the potential of virtual reconstructions to affect architectural learning, discovery and historiography.

de Kruiff, A., Marcello, F., Paay, J., Champion, E. and Burry, J. (2018) 'Learning from Lost Architecture: Immersive Experience and Cultural Experience as a New Historiography'. SAHANZ 2018: HISTORIOGRAPHIES OF TECHNOLOGY AND ARCHITECTURE, The 35th Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand, Wellington NZ, 4-7 July 2018. Wellington NZ: SAHANZ, 113-126.