The integration of Digital Technology into Physical Reality for Communicating Heritage

Eslam NOFAL, Maastrich University, The Netherlands

Abstract: Heritage forms a unique asset by expressing the richness and diversity of our history, possessing vast amounts of information that varies from factual and explicit, to more tacit and embedded. Tacit knowledge of heritage is typically more challenging to communicate to visitors in understandable and engaging ways due to its implicit and abstract character. Therefore, this lecture presents how heritage information can be communicated to visitors in more engaging, educational and meaningful ways. Thus, the approach of “Phygital Heritage” will be presented, which entails how heritage information can be disclosed via simultaneous and integrated physical and digital means. We hypothesize that this approach forms a potential medium for more engaging and meaningful communication of heritage information to a broader public. The lecture will also present a set of in-the-wild studies, in which interactive prototypes were designed and deployed in real-world heritage and museum environments to explore how the ‘Phygital’ approach facilitates the communication of heritage information to museum visitors and how it affects user engagement. Accordingly, a mixed-methods evaluation methodology was deployed in all studies in order to assess heritage communication and user engagement; such as observation, interviews, sketching, and user experience questionnaires. The interactive prototypes were designed to communicate different forms of heritage information in several contexts. The prototypes were created with rapid fabrication, and benefited from emerging technologies and phygital approaches.

CV: Dr. Eslam Nofal currently is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Digital Heritage at Maastricht University (Netherlands). He is also affiliated to the Department of Architecture at Assiut University (Egypt). His main research interests are related to digital heritage, interaction design, emerging technologies (e.g. AR, VR, and tangible interaction), human-computer interaction; focusing on designing, implementing and evaluating interactive systems that help users to gain insights and knowledge, in particular the communication of heritage information and visitors’ engagement in museums and beyond. Dr. Nofal holds a five-year bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering from Assiut University (Egypt). In 2011, he obtained a joint Master Degree in Management of Cultural Heritage and Landscapes as an Erasmus Mundus scholarship (Université Jean Monnet, France – Università Federico II, Italy – Universität Stuttgart, Germany). In June 2019, he received his PhD degree from KU Leuven (Belgium) in Architecture, where he introduced the approach of “Phygital Heritage”, which entails how heritage information can be disclosed via simultaneous and integrated physical and digital means, as a potential medium for engaging and meaningful communication of heritage to the broader public. Dr. Nofal has published more than 20 peer-refereed papers; most of them are in the field of digital applications on cultural heritage, including both international journal articles and conference papers.