(Re)Engineering Cultural Heritage Contexts using Creative Human Computer Interaction Techniques and Mixed Reality Methodologies

(Re)Engineering Cultural Heritage Contexts using Creative Human Computer Interaction Techniques and Mixed Reality Methodologies

Carl Smith (Learning Technology Research Institute, London Metropolitan University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4490-8.ch040
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Abstract

The contribution of this research is to argue that truly creative patterns for interaction within cultural heritage contexts must create situations and concepts that could not have been realised without the intervention of those interaction patterns. New forms of human-computer interaction and therefore new tools for navigation must be designed that unite the strengths, features, and possibilities of both the physical and the virtual space. The human-computer interaction techniques and mixed reality methodologies formulated during this research are intended to enhance spatial cognition while implicitly improving pattern recognition. This research reports on the current state of location-based technology including Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) and GPS. The focus is on its application for use within cultural heritage as an educational and outreach tool. The key questions and areas to be investigated include: What are the requirements for effective digital intervention within the cultural heritage sector? What are the affordances of mixed and augmented reality? What mobile technology is currently being utilised to explore cultural heritage? What are the key projects? Finally, through a series of case studies designed and implemented by the author, some broad design guidelines are outlined. The chapter concludes with an overview of the main issues to consider when (re)engineering cultural heritage contexts.
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What Are The Requirements For Effective Digital Intervention Within The Cultural Heritage Sector?

The central challenge for curators and educational designers is to create contexts that promote effective and engaging learning. With the generation and increasing adoption of mobile augmented reality (MAR) and mixed reality methodologies and techniques we now have the potential to explode the form and complexity of these learning contexts. The core question of this research is can we develop augmented heritage contexts that are more effective because they take advantage of the affordances of these mixed reality methods and techniques. The majority of mobile learning research and mobile app development creates experiences which tie all the requirements of the user’s attention down to and onto a four inch screen. This includes the majority of MAR applications. To avoid this, new interfaces must be created that take advantage of the physical and digital affordances of each learning situation.

Gallagher (2010) defines cultural heritage as being concerned with collections of physical structures and the intangible values that they project about the culture in which they are situated. He believes MAR has the potential to augment these heritage contexts bi-directionally: “Traditionally, cultural heritage studies has explored physical structures as stable entities and the intangible values as contextually fluid; augmented reality attacks this traditional structure and demonstrates that the physical structures themselves, along with the values that they accompany, are in states of constant flux. This flux is interpreted, mediated, and reconstructed in the individual learner.”

New forms of contextual representation and engineering can now do real-time interactive justice to the complexity of both the form and function of cultural heritage. However, there are some key issues to consider when deciding on a technological solution. Boyer and Marcus (2011) state that an unfortunate fact of most augmented reality applications is that screenshots of an application give a better impression of the functionality than the actual use. In addition, without thoughtful design, digital interventions risk distracting visitors from meaningful engagement with the cultural objects that they are actually designed to augment.

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What Are The Affordances Of Mixed And Augmented Reality?

In order to achieve the aim of designing and supporting learning across physical and virtual heritage space we need to combine the affordances of the physical with the affordances of the digital. This gives us an opportunity to reinvest value back into the full thick description of physical site specific space and at the same time ensure we are using embodied experience (and not just vision as is common in most AR) to interact with these spaces. In Kevin Slavins mobile Monday presentation ‘Reality is plenty thanks’ (2010) he discusses the importance of peripheral vision in learning situations by illustrating how reality is not actually communicated via a single focus. ‘Reality is the whole world around us and not just what is in front of us. As a result MAR can often make things seem less real. Reality is only augmented when it feels different and not just when it looks different.’

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