For the past twenty years, digital tools, technologies and infrastructures have been playing an increasingly determining role in framing the ways in which heritage is understood, preserved, managed, maintained, and shared. Perhaps the most official indication of the undeniable shift towards the digital in cultural heritage was provided by UNESCO which, in 2003, proclaimed digital heritage as common heritage. The UNESCO’s statement has had profound implications for the conceptualization of digital heritage. For example, when heritage institutions started to digitise huge quantities of heritage material, the semantic motivation behind it was that of preserving cultural resources from feared deterioration or forever disappearance. The direct consequence of such discourse was that the digitisation process was framed as a heritagising operation in itself. In discussing the effects of the digital on cultural heritage, in this talk I devote specific attention to the way in which digitisation has been framed and understood and to the wider consequences for the understanding of heritage, memory, and knowledge as a whole. Drawing on recent posthumanist approaches, I discuss how this in turn has had consequences for the production of digital heritage and with respect to heritage values and practices. Finally, I rework such notions using the construction and curation of the digital heritage collection ChroniclItaly 3.0 as an example of the fluid interactions between human and technological processes that are required in the contemporary context of knowledge production. This includes acknowledging the limitations and potential biases of specific tools adopted in digital research as well as a thorough documentation of the steps and actions taken during the process. In this way, it is not just the product that is seen as worthy of preservation for future generations, but also equally the process (or processes) for producing it.
Dr Lorella Viola is Research Associate in Linguistics and Digital Humanities at the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH), University of Luxembourg. She holds a PhD in Language and Communication Studies from the University of East Anglia, UK. Her research focusses on how language use reveals latent assumptions and circulates implicit ideologies in media and society and how migrants are depicted in the media. She also develops Digital Humanities methodologies that bridge the gap between quantitative and qualitative methods to unveil and understand patterns in digital archives and to encourage transparency and reproducibility in digital humanities research and digital heritage practices.