Context-Aware Cultural Heritage Environments

Context-Aware Cultural Heritage Environments

Eleni Christopoulou (University of Patras, Greece & Ionian University, Greece) and John Garofalakis (University of Patras, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-044-0.ch012
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Cultural heritage environments, like museums, archaeological sites and cultural heritage cities, have gathered and preserved artefacts and relevant content for years. Today’s state of the art technology allows the shift from traditional exhibitions to ones with reinforced interaction among the cultural heritage environment and the visitor. For example, mobile applications have proved to be suitable to support such new forms of interaction. Effective interaction exploits information both from the cultural environment, the visitor, and the broader context in which they occur. The aim of this chapter is to present the value of context in applications designed for cultural heritage environments and to demonstrate an infrastructure that effectively exploits it.
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A View On Context-Aware Cultural Environment Applications

The concept of context-aware computing was introduced in (Weiser, 1991), where Weiser describes ubiquitous computing as a phenomenon ‘that takes into account the natural human environment and allows the computers themselves to vanish into the background.’ He also shaped the fundamental concepts of context-aware computing, with computers that are able to capture and retrieve context-based information and offer seamless interaction to support the user’s current tasks, and with each computer being able to ‘adapt its behavior in significant ways’ to the captured context.

The term “context-aware” was first introduced by Schilit and Theimer (1994), who defined it as software that “adapts according to its location of use, the collections of nearby people and objects, as well as changes to those objects over time”. Schilit, Adams and Want (1994) defined context as “the constantly changing execution environment” and they classified context into computing environment, user environment, and physical environment. Schmidt (2000) also considered situational context, such as the location or the state of a device, and defined context as knowledge about the state of the user and device, including surroundings, situation and tasks and pointing out the fact that context is more than location.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp): Technology that is seamlessly integrated into the environment and aids human in their everyday activities. The embedding computation into the environment and everyday objects will enable people to interact with information-processing devices more naturally and casually than they currently do, and in whatever locations or circumstances they find themselves.

Mobile Computing: The ability to use technology in remote or mobile (non static) environments. This technology is based on the use of battery powered, portable, and wireless computing and communication devices, like smart mobile phones, wearable computers and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

Context-Awareness: A system is context-aware if it uses context to provide relevant information and/or services to the user, where relevancy depends on the user’s task.

Mobile Device: A device which is typically characterized by mobility, small form factor and communication functionality and focuses on handling a particular type of information and related tasks. Typical devices could be a Smartphone or a PDA. Mobile devices may overlap in definition or are sometimes referred to as information appliances, wireless devices, handhelds or handheld devices.

Cultural Heritage: The entire corpus of material signs – either artistic or symbolic – handed on by the past to each culture and therefore to the whole humankind. Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artefacts, like buildings, historic places, monuments, etc., as well as the intangible attributes of a group or society, like social values, traditions, customs, beliefs, etc.

Ontology: A formal, explicit specification of a shared conceptualisation. A tool that can conceptualise a world view by capturing general knowledge and providing basic notions and concepts for basic terms and their interrelations.

Context: Any information that can be used to characterize the situation of an entity. An entity is a person, place or object that is considered relevant to the interaction between a user and an application, including the user and applications themselves, and by extension, the environment the user and applications are embedded in.

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