Carmen LÖW | Karina GRÖMER, Austria | July 6, 2018 | 10 am

 – an emotional discussion

When I visite an archeological or historical museum nowadays that rightfully claims to be up to date, I inevitably face digital mediation tools.
Screens, projections, audio and video stations should help me to understand what experts want to tell me about their field of expertise. There is usually a lot to touch, tap, select. Every now and then there are games where I linger for different lengths of time. My length of stay ranges from zero – because I myself often can not get much out of these games – to infinity – because the accompanying little people in this regard usually have a very contrary attitude. Quite often I like what I see, but sometimes I do not. This is always the case, if principles of cultural mediation are not taken into account. For example when there is a bewildering number of sub-levels that I could select via touchscreen, or whenever reconstructions are shown that remain sketchy and therefore fail to create an image in my head, which – at least to my opinion – is the fundamental determination of reconstructions. Sometimes exhibitions even contain digital tools that actually seem to have no content at all. At the latest then I feel like the tool was first defined and only after that it was considered with which content one can fill it with – instead of first defining the content according to the exhibition’s target and then asking which tool will best to accomplish this task.

There has also been little change in the approach to mediation – that is, the transfer of knowledge from the knower to the not knower without the possibility for the not knower to give a feedback or at least to express an opinion. Participation in its true sense is usually not provided. According to Mörsch, this would be the case “if an offer and its scope of action are predetermined by the mediators, but within this framework the participants have possibilities for independent design, for reworking of contents and forms or even the rules of action themselves.” (Carmen Mörsch, Beteiligungsgrad: Partizipativ. In: Zeit für Vermittlung. Eine online Publikation zur Kulturvermittlung. Herausgegeben vom Institute for Art Education der Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK), im Auftrag von Pro Helvetia, als Resultat der Begleitforschung des «Programms Kulturvermittlung» (2009 – 2012), Kap. 4.3, S. 88). This is rather rare in archaeological exhibitions – no matter whether digital or analogue tools are used.

My attempts to talk to colleagues about the problems regarding the use of digital tools often fail. In most cases, the reactions can be assigned to one of two categories – and none of them I consider as being helpful. Some complain about the generally simplified content, the susceptibility, the follow-up costs and much more – a rejection of the digital tools that I do not share and do not find useful. The other reaction that can follow is that they explain to me how great it is, what technically is possible now and that one is much more flexible than with all these analogue tools and that everything is much less complicated etc. These people often seem to think that I am against the digital transformation, which is not the case – just for the record. However, there seems to be something the both sides have in common, namely the fact that the discussion – although it is on for a longtime now – is still lead quite emotionally.

I miss a real substantive debate of the subject with the question of which tools are suitable for what, or in other words: the cultural mediation is neglected. You probably do not need to be a prophet to realize that neither the digital tools nor the analogue tools can garantee a successful exhibition. Both offer different advantages and disadvantages that should be sought or avoided depending on the content of the mediation and the mediation goal. We would like to discuss these in our session, which we provocatively called “Digital versus Analogue – Challenges and Benefits in Archaeological Reconstructions and Presentations in Exhibitions”.

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