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2011 Conference on Culture and Computing, Kyoto, Japan, Oct. 20-22, 2011

2011 Conference on Culture and Computing, Kyoto, Japan, Oct. 20-22, 2011

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2011 Conference on Culture and Computing in Kyoto, Japan where I gave a presentation based on the paper I contributed to the conference proceedings: Towards a Dialogic Archive: Canadian Copyright Law, Digital Archives, and Fair Dealing. I won’t discuss my paper here, as that work will be the subject of a future post, but I did want to share some of the highlights of the conference with the HASTAC community.

The organizers did a fantastic job grounding the conference in cultural practices. The conference successfully interwove traditional ceremonies and demonstrations of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture with exhibits of computer-generated cultural programs and academic presentations. The welcome reception included a traditional sake barrel-cracking involving conference notables [insert photo], and a tea ceremony. Exhibitions showcased traditional Japanese crafts, contemporary art, and numerous IT projects. Conference panels were divided between main track papers and special track (digital humanities and media art) papers and presentations.


The tone for the two-day conference was set by Shigeru Miyagawa’s (MIT) keynote address, Open Culture on the Web: Benefits and Risks. Miyagawa described the noteworthy achievements of the MIT Open Courseware initiative and Visualizing Cultures. Each of these projects is enormous in scope, and ambitious in the effort it represents to broaden and enhance access to cultural and educational resources around the world. The second day began with an invited talk by Sarah Kenderdine of City University Hong Kong and Museum Victoria entitled Cultural Data Sculpting: Immersive Visualization for Cultural Heritage. Kenderdine’s work with and prior to the formation of the ALiVE lab constitutes, in her words “a node of experimentation for the cultural imaginary of the times”. The projects Kenderdine presented (see ALiVE site) leveraged 6 different cutting edge technologies to immerse viewers in interactive, spatial, and social experiences of cultural performances and places.


Among the cultural technology projects exhibited, a couple of projects stood out for me. An iPhone app known as “Stroly” merges GPS data with an 18th C map of Kyoto and historical information about city landmarks, letting the user experience the city through a unique historically augmented lens. Big Towns' “Character Communication Studio with TVML” is a real-time computer graphic generation system that allows a user to animate a computer-generated character in real-time using keyboard shortcuts for a library of bodily and facial gestures. The Hachimura lab from Ritsumeikan University showcased their virtual reproduction of the Yamahoko parade.


Main track papers were organized into six sections: Communication and Culture; Intercultural Collaboration; Digital Archive; Agent and Culture; Art and Design by Information Technologies; and Culture and Computing for Life. Special track paper panels were more closely aligned with digital humanities. They included Visualization, Gaming and Music; Performing Arts; Text, Museums, and Multimedia, and DH Platforms and e-Learning. A large number of media arts projects based on Asian Culture were also discussed.


My own panel was chaired by Geoffrey Rockwell (University of Alberta) and gathered four very different presentations together under the topic of Digital ArchiveKathi Martin and Hyeong-Seok Ko discussed their use of web technologies and 3D design tools to develop computer mediated ways to experience historical and contemporary fashions in Imagining Historic Fashion: Digital Tools for the Examination of Historic Dress. In his paper, Towards Preserving Indigenous Oral Stories Using Tangible Objects, Andrew Smith of CSIR Meraka introduced an innovative methodology for preserving indigenous oral stories using the “tangible interface” of “eBeads” - electronic versions of culturally meaningful beads that are embedded and integrated with invisible recording and playback technologies. Jun Takamatsu presented his research group’s 3D computational approaches to studying the “face towers” at Bayon, a Khmer temple at Angkor in Cambodia in Clustering Bayon Face Towers Using Restored 3D Shape Models. Their analysis of distributions and variations among the faces has led to new insights into the production methods of the craftspeople who carved these historically important towers.


The 2011 Conference on Culture and Computing conference was a unique opportunity to learn about a wide range of digital humanities and humanities computing approaches to studying world cultures. The conference involved more than 100 participants from 25 countries, making the event truly international in scope. And Kyoto, as the backdrop to the conference, provided an amazing glimpse into the rich cultural history of Japan. With 17 UNESCO world heritage sites, and close to 2000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, be sure to schedule some vacation days if you make it in 2012!

Photos show the conference opening Sake Barrel Cracking ceremony, and the conference banquet.


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