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Publication . Article . 2021

From Readership to Usership: Communicating Heritage Digitally Through Presence, Embodiment and Aesthetic Experience

Stéphanie Bertrand; Stéphanie Bertrand; Martha Vassiliadi; Paul Zikas; Efstratios Geronikolakis; George Papagiannakis; George Papagiannakis;
Open Access
Published: 07 Jul 2021 Journal: Frontiers in Communication, volume 6 (eissn: 2297-900X, Copyright policy )
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
The primary mission of cultural institutions, including heritage sites and museums, is to perform and perpetuate Cultural Heritage (CH) by ideally transforming audiences into stewards of that heritage. In recent years, these institutions have increasingly turned to Mixed Reality (MR) technologies to expand and democratize public access to Cultural Heritage - a trend that is called upon to accelerate with COVID-19 - because these technologies provide opportunities for more remote outreach, and moreover, can make partial remains or ruins more relatable to the public. But as emerging evaluations indicate, existing MR intangible and tangible Digital Cultural Heritage (DCH) applications are largely proving inadequate to engaging audiences beyond an initial fascination with the immersive 3D visualization of heritage sites and artefacts owing in part to misguided storytelling or non-compelling narratives. They fail to effectively communicate the significance of Cultural Heritage to audiences and impress upon them its value in a lasting way due to their overreliance on an education-entertainment-touristic consumption paradigm. Building on the recent case made for Literature-based MR Presence, this article examines how the literary tradition of travel narratives can be recruited to enhance presence and embodiment, and further elicit aesthetic experiences in Digital Cultural Heritage applications by drawing on recent findings from the fields of Extended Reality (XR), cognitive literary science and new museology. The projected effects of this innovative approach are not limited to an increase in audience engagement on account of a greater sense of presence and embodiment. This approach is also expected to prompt a different kind of public involvement characterized by a personal valuation of the heritage owing to aesthetic experience. As the paper ultimately discusses, this response is more compatible both with MR applications' default mode of usership, and with newly emerging conceptions of a user-centered museum (e.g., the Museum 3.0), thereby providing a narrative roadmap for future Virtual Museum (VM) applications better suited to the primary mission of transmitting and perpetuating Cultural Heritage. © Bertrand, Vassiliadi, Zikas, Geronikolakis and Papagiannakis.
Subjects by Vocabulary

Microsoft Academic Graph classification: Narrative Storytelling Sociology Literary science Cultural heritage Aesthetics Outreach Value (ethics) Museology Mixed reality


Aesthetic Experience, Communication, Education, Embodiment, Mixed Reality, Multisensory Imagery, Storytelling, Usership, Communication. Mass media, P87-96, General Earth and Planetary Sciences, General Environmental Science

Funded by
Utility and Usership in Virtual Museums of Contemporary Art
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 893454
  • Funding stream: H2020 | MSCA-IF-GF
Validated by funder
Related to Research communities
Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage