it could degrade what is conventionally viewed as the original artifact, the
physical book. However, when establishing a book’s provenance depends
on the edition of a volume or to whom
it belonged, how should scanning be
applied? Is the scanner able to capture
the mottling on the page margins or
evidence of dog-eared pages? Google
Books offers a digitization method that
applies advanced imaging techniques
to digital archiving even as it prompts
questions as to what exactly researchers aim to preserve.
In a second project, Proudfoot and
Levoy12 developed what they call a “3D
computer archive” of Renaissance
artist Michelangelo’s sculptures by
scanning the original forms as they
found them in museums. They sought
to create a lasting archive of the artworks by stitching together data from
multiple sources, including a planar
light field scanner, handheld lightfield
scanner, and low-res models for planning purposes. In the process, they accommodated variable ambient light,
filling holes through space-carving
techniques and aligning scans from
multiple gantry angles and positions.
This archive increased access to the
statues, as well as public availability
of the artifacts, even as they displaced
their cultural context.
Computing researchers view digi-
tization in these settings as computer
science and engineering. Engineers
built the scanners and use them to
scan and archive physical artifacts.
Museum attendees and others using
the scans have little influence on what
books are available to them and how
they were preserved in digital form.
While an engineer could decide not
to scan the first edition of Miguel de
Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote, be-
lieving the fifth and sixth editions were
sufficient, a scholar of Latin literature
might require the first edition to con-
textualize 17th century interpretations.
In Tortellino X-perience and Spyn, not
only engineers but also craftspeople
and others—Italian chefs, pasta mak-
ers, and knitters—interested in pro-
ducing the actual items take up the
work of digitization. Users of Tortel-
lino X-perience shape the vision algo-
rithm’s understanding of events and
subsequent sequence of actions shown
on a video screen. Knitters using Spyn
choose the kinds of stories they want
to tell through digital media collected
while knitting and control the degree
to which the fabric is legible to vision
algorithms. By creating, using, and re-
visiting digitized files, contemporary
pasta makers and knitters take part in
the digitization and, in turn, the pres-
ervation of cultural practices.
Our study of Tortellino X-perience
and Spyn find people use computing
resources to connect their current experience to past events, comparing
their own unique gestures to the delicate pinch of the tortellini dough rendered by a digital display to remember
a given technique. Likewise, they use
media associated with knitted fabric
and garments to recall lost stitches at
particular moments. Even though the
revisited pinching and knitting techniques will never be exactly as originally performed, the physical dough
pinching and needle manipulation
help users construct memories and
recognize particular practices as part
of a cultural tradition. Preserving cultural practices involves moving beyond
digital historiography and its institutionalized requirements to explicit
evidence, documentation, authenticity, and provenance. Viewing cultural
practices through the lens of memory
practices, researchers and practitioners find them “preserved” through
histories in constant flux, intertwined
with collective memory.
Exploring computing technologies
through the lens of cultural practices
reveals the complex nature of digitization and degradation, enabling us to
comment on the status of the ephemeral, how when we trace the ephemeral, the ephemeral changes the behavior
we hope to trace. Modern technologies
are able to register and reify the practices central to our cultural heritage
but also reconfigure them. 4 We thus
face the challenge of understanding
the kinds of transformations made
possible through digitization and the
physical craft-making patterns due to
The authors would like to thank the
Italian ALTruism Enabling Resource
Network for supporting this work.
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Daniela K. Rosner ( email@example.com) is an assistant
professor of engineering and co-director of the Tactile
and Tactical Design Lab at the University of Washington,
Marco Roccetti ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a full professor
in the Computer Science Department of the University of
Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
Gustavo Marfia ( email@example.com) is an assistant
professor in the Department for Life Quality Studies at the
University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
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