This page provides a brief description of the subject of this project. The text is an excerpt from the project application.

Interaction with embodied1 mediation technology for artistic activities is a fairly young but intriguing research domain that requires building and testing of paradigms. In particular, user-oriented studies focused on multi-modal interaction are currently very popular and are continuing to gain importance2 both in the academic and industrial sectors of virtual reality, gaming, medical rehabilitation and learning. These studies can bring great benefits to the field of cultural heritage preservation, especially by contributing to the definition of an effective model for the preservation of interactive art, which is currently missing.

Prof. Marc Leman (supervisor at Host Institution) introduced the embodiment paradigm in music studies.

Prof. Marc Leman (supervisor at Host Institution) introduced the embodiment paradigm in music studies.

The increased use of computer-based information technologies in art projects3 since the Post-World War II era requires a multidisciplinary approach to preservation, involving top cultural and scientific competences in the world of arts, archival science and philology on the one hand, and in computer science and information engineering on the other. The main problem with the preservation of interactive art is that established archival practices require that objects are made static for preservation, failing to capture the essence of an art form that is dynamic and transitory. The preservation of ephemera is the current biggest challenge in the international archival community: according to Marchionini4, the past 30 years have seen a transition that blurs the boundaries between information, technology, and people, requiring new models for storage and access to the collective cultural patrimony.

The main objective of this research is to define a framework that describes how people interact with multimedia art installations. In particular, the cognitive process involved in the building of the users’ aesthetic experience will be investigated. This framework is instrumental to the definition of a computational model5 for the preservation of interactive art, which is the long-term objective of my research.

This project is timely due to the fast decay of multimedia artworks (with a life expectancy often limited to the time of the exhibition), and to the heavy reliance of these artworks on computer-based technology – making it subject to rapid obsolescence. Expertise in digital archaeology is required to recuperate artworks produced since the 1990s, as media (e.g., floppy disks), programming languages, hardware and software have already been replaced by several generations of technology. In fact, most artwork produced in the past 20 years is lost or not accessible. I have personally witnessed the loss of artwork produced merely 5 years earlier – for several contributing factors, both human and technological, which I have detailed in my scientific publications on this topic.

Experiment at IPEM with motion capture system on interaction during musical performance.

Experiment at IPEM with motion capture system on interaction during musical performance.

This project is relevant because it addresses an important class of the European cultural patrimony, which we are currently failing to preserve and promote/capitalise. In my experience, I have seen how inadequate methodologies often violate the unity of the work, or distort the artist’s concept, fabricating history.
That is why the principles of digital philology and ethics of restoration6 I can transfer from my years of experience in the field of audio preservation are valuable (I have been a principal investigator in several research projects in this field, see CV). An additional proof that this project’s topic is relevant is the number of symposia and workshops that have appeared in the past few years7. However, the main actors in those venues belong to the world of the arts, ie curators, archivists, etc. I want to bring to the table my expertise in the digital humanities, namely in the field that combines computer science (in which I hold a PhD) with cultural heritage preservation. The added value of multidisciplinarity resides in the ability of switching contexts8, and with my multidisciplinary background, I can connect the worlds of hard sciences and the humanities, with immediate societal benefits by preserving artwork that might otherwise be lost, producing more cost-effective and sustainable models that address current archiving needs, and creating business opportunities for new technologies and services. Finally, a multidisciplinary academic work on interactive art preservation is much needed: it would fill the void left by most financed projects which limit their attention to static visual artworks (paintings, prints, sculptures)9.

1 The concept of embodiment was introduced by prof. Marc Leman (my supervisor at the Host Institution) in Embodied music cognition and mediation technology, MIT Press, 2007.

2 Leman M. et al., User-oriented studies in embodied music cognition research, Musicae Scientiae, 2010, p. 203-223.

3 Brooks A.L., ICT in the arts: Creative industries impact and contribution, International Journal of Arts and Technology, 2014, vol. 7(2), p. 278-289, URL: http://inderscience.metapress.com/content/V15308X1M7708323

4 Marchionini G., Human–information interaction research and development, Library & Information Science Research, 2008, vol. 30, p. 165–174, DOI 10.1016/j.lisr.2008.07.001, URL: http://ils.unc.edu/~march/Marchionini_Inf_interact_LISR_2008.pdf

5 A model is “a simplified abstract view of a complex reality”. In this context, a computational model of interactive installations is required in order to manipulate them by means of a computer-based system.

6 Bressan F. and Canazza S., Digital philology in audio long-term preservation: A multidisciplinary project on experimental music, in Proc. of the 10th Italian Research Conference on Digital Libraries, IRCDL 2014, Procedia Computer Science, Elsevier, in press.

7 For example: “Digital Oblivion” organised in 2010 and 2011 by the ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) in Karlsrühe, Germany.

8 Leman M., Systematic musicology at the crossroads of modern music research, in Schneider, A., Systematic and Comparative Musicology: Concepts, Methods, Findings. Hamburger Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft, 24. Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang, 2008, p. 89-115.

9 For example: Digitising Contemporary Art. Link: http://www.dca-project.eu/