Decentralized Heritage: A Participatory Platform for Digital Cultural Heritage

Decentralized Heritage: A Participatory Platform for Digital Cultural Heritage

Team Member
Anna Borou Yu
Jiajian Min

Short Summary
“Culture heritage is not a singular narrative.”

Nowadays, in terms of the digitization of cultural heritage, museums, cultural and education institutes are prioritized as the expert in knowledge above any communities. However, we believe cultural heritage is a common property of all mankind and the digital data should also be open and free to the public. On the other hand, with the development of 3d scan, blockchain and XR technology, the pipeline has potential for the public to get actively involved.

So we propose a new protocol, Decentralized Heritage: A Participatory Platform for Digital Cultural Heritage for the public to participate in the process in the preservation of cultural heritage, engaging the concept of low floor, high ceiling, and wide walls from Professor Mitch Resnick at MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarten Group. The outputs will be a Decentralized Heritage Kit, a field-test, and a website and GitHub repository.

Reference: 3D Capture and Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage

QUESTION1 What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance?
Digitization, storage, visualization and exhibition process of cultural heritage.
The Whole Lifecycle and Ecosystem of Digital Cultural Heritage, including data capture, documentation, management, as well as presentation, visualization, and interpretation, which involves various cultural institutes.

Nowadays, in terms of the digitization of cultural heritage, museums, cultural and education institutes are prioritized as the expert in knowledge above any communities. However, several potential issues need to be addressed:

1 No Clear Protocols. No clear protocols for digitization and data storage pipeline. The 3D assets obtained from various institutes are in different formats and are either not published or published on different platforms.
2 Copyright Issues. Datasets are owned by the institutes, usually not accessible to the public, which could hardly be used for further research, comparative study or public purposes.
3 Rare Public Contribution. The mass participants are often indifferent about the life cycle of digital cultural heritage, or could hardly get involved in the process.
4 Urgent Preservation Needs. Cultural heritage sites are deteriorating and urgently call for immediate action of documentation and preservation.
5 Slow Pace to include New Technology. Even though AI technology is emerging into the field, most are still in demo status and hard to be included in the workflow.

QUESTION2 What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?
1 Public Participation. The public should be able to participate in the process of cultural heritage conservation, becoming an active part of the effort.
2 Open-Source Data. And digitized public domain cultural heritage should not be controlled by institutions, instead, it should be open and free to the public.

QUESTION3 What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol?
1 Previous Experience in Academia and Industry. As researchers, media artists, and university lecturers at Harvard, MIT in the US and Tsinghua University and several universities in China, we have intensive experience in the field for the past several years. Through our collaborations with museums like New Museum of Contemporary Art (NYC), cultural institutions, universities, and technology companies, we found out the issue of lack of public participation, protocols and transparency of digital data.
2 Multimedia Exhibition. We have also curated numerous multimedia exhibitions both online and onsite that involve meticulous processes—from art historical research and conceptual design to surveys, collecting, cleaning, fine tuning data, and exhibition design. Our works are in various media, including ARVR, choreography, performance, immersive experience, etc.

3 Interviews and Surveys. We plan to conduct comprehensive interviews and surveys with various stakeholders, further identifying existing methodologies, identify challenges, analyze failed technology implementations, and envision future possibilities.

QUESTION4 In what form will you prototype your improvement idea?
The prototypes will be
1 A Website and GitHub Repository where the public could use for the whole life cycle of digital cultural heritage.
2 A Decentralized Heritage Kit teaching the public how to be involved in the participatory process of digital cultural heritage.
3 An Field-Test at Burning Man including data capture workshops, seminars, exhibitions and documentation.

QUESTION5 How will you field-test your improvement idea?
We aim to use Burning Man as a sandbox, and we could also collaborate with other organizations like Edge City or GCC to test our idea. We believe a community environment like this where everyone shares a mutual mindset is eager to try new things. There are also opportunities to collaborate with cultural heritage sites or urban communities.
1 Volunteer Recruitment. Before the field-test, we will recruit volunteers of technical and design teams.
2 On-Site Public Participation. Workshops and ceremonial cultural elements facilitate community participation and conscious efforts to improve the project collectively. Collective drone and phone scanning and 3d reconstruction allow participants to experience the project firsthand.
3 Documentation and Exhibition. Further creative development can occur, with the possibility of exhibiting in museums and becoming an official part of the Burning Man’s records.

QUESTION6 Who will be able to judge the quality of your output?
We want to invite academic and industry experts in the field of digital cultural heritage, as well as community members who are eager to participate in this process
1 Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT Media Lab, MIT Connection Science Director
2 Mitch Resnick, Professor of Media Arts & Technology at UC Santa Barbara, focusing on Interdisciplinary Studies: Art, Science, Technology, Performance, Digital Media and Space Art
3 Takehiko Nagakura, Professor at MIT Computation Group, A Leading Scholar on Digital Cultural Heritage and ARVR
4 Peter Bol, Professor at Harvard University, A Distinguished Scholar on Digital Humanity
5 Researchers from CyArk (A Digital Cultural Heritage Platform Collaborating with Education Profession)
6 Community Members

QUESTION7 How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea?
Our aim is to cultivate a participatory approach to the preservation and application of cultural heritage data.
1 Website and Kit
Web development and management play the roles of database, presentation platform, research resource, and think tank.
1.1 Digital Documentation. We plan to collaborate with 3d scan companies like Luma AI and Agisoft Metashape, with its API to create 3d scan models and upload to the platform.
1.2 Decentralized Data Storage, combining IPFS and Blockchain. Leveraging IPFS enables the efficient management of substantial data volumes, with the capability to embed immutable, enduring IPFS links within blockchain transactions, obviating the need to directly incorporate the data onto the blockchain.
1.3 Virtual Reality Showcase. While the public finished 3d scanning, the result will be showcased simultaneously in a virtual reality environment for visualization.
1.4 GitHub Repository will serve as a hub for document, disseminating open-source data and results.
2 Interdisciplinary Collaborations. We will extend invitations to museums and institutions deeply engaged in this field, such as Google Arts and Culture and EUreka3D. This collaborative effort will encompass expert seminars, joint projects, and ample opportunities for experimentation.
3 Workshops and events
Through workshops, podcasts, and publications, we will actively promote this methodology and encourage its replication worldwide, with meticulous documentation of processes. Leveraging the communities of our judges and advisors, we will effectively disseminate the protocol. Miro, Discord and Slack will be used for brainstorming and community communication.
4 Publication
Furthermore, we envision future creative endeavors, including potential museum exhibitions and integration into the official records of the Burning Man Event. Ultimately, we aspire to establish a dynamic, long-term operational model—a community characterized by its openness, modularity, and fluidity.

QUESTION8 What is the success vision for your idea?
Individuals can actively awareness of the situation, about the field, educate. engage in the preservation of cultural heritage with greater awareness and involvement. This presents an opportunity for substantial contributions and industry advancement through public participation. By leveraging accessible technology, the traditionally rigid pipeline of this sector can be revitalized, moving away from monopolistic practices.

The evolvement and popularization of internet and portable technology, promotion of digital humanities, the concept of open data have transformed people’s cognition and understanding of the world, the expectations around how we expect to see global problems tackled.

Furthermore, mass knowledge production is paramount. We are all part of a mass system and we could cognitively take action. A metaphor might not be appropriate enough, while it kind of explains the vision we have: if a stranger is fainted, maybe we are not professional enough to use a AED, while we are confident enough to break the glass case and take the device out, hand it to the doctor and save the life.
Similarly, I hope our participants are aware of the field of Digital Heritage, the recent development, pipeline and kit, and if there is opportunity, we can take some action. Every step counts, for everyone, in everytime, at everywhere. Though such occurrences may be infrequent, proactive measures taken by informed individuals can yield substantial social impact, potentially surpassing current understanding and expectations. Ultimately, collective engagement has the potential to catalyze significant changes, demonstrating the value of each individual contribution.

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