Histoire numérique et l’historiographie

DeXTER: A post-authentic approach to heritage visualisation

Cultural heritage institutions and academics are resorting
more and more to visual representations of cultural heritage
material as a way to enhance access to collections for
users’ appreciation and research purposes (Windhager et
al., 2019). However, scholars have pointed out (Drucker,
2011; 2013; 2014; 2020; Windhager et al., 2019) how a
critical approach to visualisation is still largely missing and
how on the whole, user-interface (UI) design still shows
a functional and task-driven approach, oriented towards
satisfying a need for information rather than towards
eliciting curiosity, engagement and reflection. With this
presentation, I aim to contribute to the urgent need for the
establishment of a critical data and visualisation literacy in
current task-driven approaches to interface design which
continue to see the user as a consumer and to operate within
a problem solver model. Drawing on critical posthumanities
(Braidotti, 2017; 2019), I here propose a critical framework
to digital cultural heritage and digital cultural heritage
visualisation. With this approach —which I labelled “postauthentic
framework” (Viola, 2021) —I want to initiate a
discussion and critique of the fetishization of empriricism
and technical objectivity in digital knowledge creation.
To exemplify how the post-authentic framework works in
practice, I present the design choices for developing the tool
DeXTER – DeepteXTminER, an interactive visualisation
app to explore enriched cultural heritage material. The
discussion will revolve around the challenges facing
product design, with specific reference to visualising the
ambiguities and uncertainties of network analysis (NA)
and sentiment analysis (SA). DeXTER is currently loaded
with Chroniclitaly 3.0 (Viola and Fiscarelli, 2021a), a
digital heritage collection of Italian American newspapers
published in the USA by Italian immigrants between 1897
and 1936.

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