The Importance of Being Honest: Issues of Transparency in Digital Visualization of Architectural Heritage

The Importance of Being Honest: Issues of Transparency in Digital Visualization of Architectural Heritage

Stefano Brusaporci
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0675-1.ch003
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The chapter presents a reflection on the concept of transparency in digital modeling and visualization of Architectural Heritage. Moving from topics of transparency and from the experiences in using paradata in different fields to state model's source, the degree of reliability of virtual re-constructions, and to made the digital model testable by other professionals, transparency and paradata are studied and declined for a dedicated application to historical buildings. In fact paradata is useful for model's design, use, management, diffusion, archiving, and interoperability. This according to an aim of model's intellectual transparency, and scientific computing and visualization of historic buildings. Follows issues about: the relationship between physical and digital heritage, the design of the digital 3D model and the database, the communication of transparency through spatial visualizations and multiple windowed representations, the transparency as possible methodological workflow for scientific analysis.
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Looking Through: The Background

Why Transparency?

The title of the well know book “The Transparent Society” (Vattimo, 1989) evokes the critical topic of “interpretation”, typical of the postmodern culture, where a leading role is played by technology and media. Day by day digital tools have changed and are still changing media, according to a dimension of pervasive and continuous interrelation between reality and “digitality” (wording coined by Negroponte in 1995). In our current “on line” life (The Onlife Manifesto, 2015), the concepts of “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” (Prensky, 2001) blurs (Jenkins, 2007). “Hyperreality” (Baudrillard, 1976) has grown, becoming simply a component of reality, and people have become shrewder in their relation with the sort of state of “augmented reality” that involves us. The relationship with technology renews: Its outcomes are constitutive of reality and of our culture, and therefore they requires knowledge, understanding, and assessment. The claim for digital heritage preservation (UNESCO, 2003), and the statement of digital heritage as common heritage ratifies the value and cultural importance of this new kind of artifacts, and consequently their significance in our post-postmodern condition.

The philosophical line of new realism (Ferraris, 2012) is not unrelated to this context: New realism roots on postmodern lesson and hermeneutics, but at the same time reckon with reality and perception; the characteristic of perception of being “opaque”, requires the need to be represented, i.e. interpreted.

In this context the claim for transparency follows. And a request for transparency underlies also the “European Charter of Rights of Citizens in the Knowledge Society” (aka “The Charter of eRights”) of 2005.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transparency: In computer-based visualization, it consists in the statement of sources and of the degree of reliability of the virtual re-constructions. From a methodological point of view it makes the digital model testable by other professionals. The concept has been developed in the archaeological field where often 3D models are realized to show the configuration of ancient artifacts. In The London Charter’s Glossary (2009) AU82: The in-text citation "Charter’s Glossary (2009)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , there is a definition of “Intellectual transparency”: “The provision of information, presented in any medium or format, to allow users to understand the nature and scope of “knowledge claim” made by a computer-based visualisation outcome”.

Architectural Heritage: The “UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention”, indicates as cultural heritage monuments, group of buildings and sites, outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science. In the modern theory of restoration, the qualities of a cultural heritage are the historical and the aesthetic values. An historical building is a complex system of spaces, volumes, materials, surfaces, constructive aspects, actual and past functions and configurations, degradation, etc. The whole is the result of a continuous historical process of modification and transformation. An architectural heritage can be interpreted as an “artifact”, where its elements are witnesses of constructive cultures and of events occurred during the life of the building. In the study of architectural heritage is fundamental the surveying and archival analysis.

Architectural Digital Model: Complex Model made by the synthesis of geo-referenced architectural models and correlated databases. The Informative Model has to be able to visualize and computize synchronically and diachronically architectural information. The model is made by two kinds of digital models: 3D model able to simulate the architectural characteristics of a building (geometries, spaces, materials, historical and aesthetical values, etc.); database model collecting documents, studies, and analysis on the historical building.

Digital Heritage: In 1999, on UNESCO’s “World Heritage Magazine”, Stone defined Virtual Heritage as: “the utilization of technology for interpretation, conservation and preservation of Natural, Cultural and World Heritage.” The “Charter on the Preservation of the Digital Heritage” published by UNESCO in 2003, defines the “Digital Heritage” as “Common Heritage”, made by: “cultural, educational, scientific and administrative resources, as well as technical, medical and other kinds of information created digitally, or converted into digital form from existing analogue resources.” It includes different kinds of products such as texts, databases, images, audio, graphics, software and web pages.

Paradata: It can be generically referred to the process by which the survey data are collected. In particular, paradata is a kind of metadata focused on the use of data, and moreover it describes the transformation of data during their “inter-use” in participatory systems. According to the definition presented by The London Charter (2009) AU81: The in-text citation "London Charter (2009)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. – focused on its use in 3D computer based visualizations – paradata is: “Information about human processes of understanding and interpretation of data objects. Examples of paradata include descriptions stored within a structured dataset of how evidence was used to interpret an artefact, or a comment on methodological premises within a research publication. It is closely related, but somewhat different in emphasis, to ‘contextual metadata’, which tend to communicate interpretations of an artefact or collection, rather than the process through which one or more artefacts were processed or interpreted.”

Semantization: Logical division of digital model’s components according to their meaning. In architectural heritage models, the semantization can be realized “a-posteriori” (reverse modeling processes) or “a-priori” (for example Constructive Solid Geometry processes). The term “granularity” is related to semantization and is about the levels of articulation of the model’s elements.

Architectural Artifact: This definition, referred to an architectural heritage, is used to highlight that a historic building can be seen as a product of human activity. This becomes even more important for an historic building, built with artisan technologies and stratified during of his life. Therefore, its material consistency takes on a specific testimonial value of the cultures and transformations that have generated and modified it over time. Additionally, the material characteristics can be used as chronological indicators for dating parts of the building. Hence it follows that it is necessary to put special attention in the study of construction system also in digital modeling.

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