Connecting the Dots: How Digital Methods Become the Glue that Binds Cultural Heritage to Contemporary Society

Robert Stein, USA

The growth and scale of the world’s cities is exploding at an amazing rate. By some counts, the population of cities is growing at nearly 1 million people every week and will top seven billion by the middle of the century. At the same time, popular culture’s fascination with technology, mobile devices, digital media, and social networking seems to pose a significant threat to the appreciation and relevance of cultural heritage in our contemporary society.

Considering these two factors together forces us to ask some concerning questions about what place culture will have in tomorrow’s cities. Are mobile devices killing museum experiences as some have asserted? Does the cultural heritage field’s current fascination with participation and engagement actually endanger cultural appreciation and learning? The answers to these questions have become polarizing in the press and among professionals in museums, but the answer does not need to be either one or the other.

This presentation will suggest a practical and balanced approach to adopting digital platforms and practices in museums that focus the experience on a personal and aesthetic appreciation of cultural heritage. Furthermore, the talk will examine the potential role cultural heritage organizations can play within a city to engage a local audience in common experiences in a manner that can begin to address the social frictions and disparities that exist among the world’s major cities.

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