to form an attachment and sense of
commitment to objects and places
with which we hold a long and
meaningful connection. Grounded
in the understanding that we build
(or oppose) a sense of community
and identity through a plurality of
experiences, meanings, and affects,
heritage practice shifts the focus of
interaction design from the centrality of an individual experience to
repeated and enduring interactions.
This shift opens up questions [ 5].
How can we bring enduring participation and engagement to bear on
the cultural work done by emerging
To those interested in digital
memories, heritage practice offers
the opportunity to expand their
concerns from the technical and
political issues of digital archiving
to the social benefits of remembering and forgetting [ 6]. The organizational politics of preservation
that influence the accessibility
of archival records in the future
remain important [ 7]. Heritage
practice emphasizes how remembering is a way of coming together
as a family, a community, or a
society through the stories we tell
and improvise—and through what
we do not want to remember. This
opens up the opportunity to reflect
on what we must remember to be
who we are now, debating on what
factual records should be preserved
and who should be deciding. But it
emphasizes also the issue of how
we might be in the future, and the
need for technologies of memory to
bring us together around matters
of shared concern. We need to ask
explicitly: Why and how should we
remember [ 8]?
To those interested in social
media, heritage practice offers a
lens to understand the cultural
and historical value of information shared and curated in a
spontaneous collection was pulled together by the
Flickr community by using the tag “rosie the riveter”
to describe photos of the Library of Congress that
had been classified differently. Try a search for
“rosie the riveter” in Flickr Commons.
[ 3] The 25th Anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak is
an interesting example of how social media such
as Facebook and Wikipedia made possible a
“remembering together” of the event that helped
develop and reaffirm existing social solidarities; it
also offered the possibility of new social connections between diverse people. This case is part of
an ongoing virtual ethnographic study conducted
by Ph.D. candidate Sophia B. Liu at the Connectivity
Lab, University of Colorado, Boulder, directed by
Prof. Leysia Palen. Try a search for “bhopal gas
leak” in Facebook.
[ 4] For example, “Silence of the Lands” is a project
that enables people to capture sonic experiences of
the natural environment and use them as conversation pieces of a social dialogue about the places
they share. Participants capture their sonic experiences with a GPS-equipped recording device and
then create, annotate, and share soundscapes of
the places where sounds were recorded. The result
is an acoustic map that changes over time, according to people’s shared perceptions and interpretations of their environmental setting. See Giaccardi,
E. and Palen, L. The social production of heritage
through cross-media interaction: Making place
for place making. International Journal of Heritage
Studies 14, 3 (2008), 281-297.
[ 5] Some of these questions were recently
addressed in a workshop exploring emerging
design inquiries in the heritage domain. Giaccardi,
E. and Iversen, O. Heritage inquiries: A designerly
approach to human values. Proc. of the Eighth
ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems.
(Aarhus, Denmark, Aug. 16-20). ACM, New York,
[ 6] Bannon, L. J. Forgetting as a feature, not a bug:
The duality of memory and implications for ubiquitous computing. CoDesign 2, 1 (2006), 3-15.
[ 7] Van House, N. and Churchill, E. Technologies
of memory: Key issues and critical perspectives.
Memory Studies 1, 3 (2008), 295-310.
[ 8] See recent work on the design opportunities of
interacting with inherited digital materials. Odom, W.,
Banks, R., and Kirk, D. Reciprocity, deep storage,
and letting go: Opportunities for designing interactions with inherited digital materials. interactions 17,
5 (2010), 31-34.
[ 9] Liu, S. B. Trends in distributed curatorial technology to manage data in a networked world.
UPGRADE Journal 11, 3 (2010), 18-24.
“socially distributed” fashion
across a multitude of technological devices and infrastructures [ 9].
Particularly in times of crisis and
disaster, when the breakdown of
social significance impels communal activities of recovery and
solidarity, heritage practice offers
also a vocabulary to understand
the long-term role of social media
in support of community identity
and resilience. How can the next
generation of social-media tools
unbury the value hidden in the
living experiences and memories
of ordinary citizens and communities? How can we enable people
to organize, interpret, and share
what matters to them from the
bottom up, and use it for positive
social change? This leads to the
more fundamental question: What
is a positive social change? As
designers, how should we address
the differences and conflicts in
what is valued that exist among
different people and groups?
More generally, heritage practice teaches us that values are not
attached to objects, buildings, or
places. Neither are they frozen in
time. They are the result of ongoing
and sustained interactions. As we
naturally and continually reinvent
ourselves and our cultural affiliations, the heritage value we ascribe
to things—both sociocultural and
economic—is subject to change
and renewal. We need to always
be mindful: With the power to
shape our interpretation of the past
will come the ability to shape our
visions of the future.
Submissions are welcome.
[ 1] For projects and approaches, see Ciolfi, L.,
Cooke, M., Hall, T., Bannon, L. J. and Oliva, S., eds.
Re-thinking Technology in Museums: Towards A New
Understanding of People’s Experience in Museums,
Univ. of Limerick, 2005.
[ 2] Rosie the Riveter is a good example of story
around women workers during War World II. This
About the Author
Elisa Giaccardi is an associate
professor for the Institute of
Culture and Technology at
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.
She graduated in 2003 from the
January + February 2011
© 2011 ACM 1072-5220/11/0100 $10.00