Call for Abstracts for International Conference: High-Tech Heritage: How Are Digital Technologies Changing Our Views of the Past?

Sunday, January 15, 2012 - 12:00am

How Are Digital Technologies Changing Our Views of the Past?

May 2 - 4, 2012 at the UMass Amherst Campus

Abstract Submission Deadline extended to January 15, 2012


The Challenge

Major questions about the past have long been studied through sequential chronology, typology of form, geographical and spatial dimensions, and literary narrative. Are the lenses of the digital technologies now focused on the past magnifying, enhancing, expanding, or distorting contemporary understandings of the past? 3D visualizations, complex databases, interactive websites, social media, and Geographical Information Systems allow us to model, record, analyze, disseminate, map, and interpret information about cultural heritage. Digital technologies have led to a new means of envisioning past cultures, eras, and landscapes in a virtual, non-spatial, non-narrative immediacy. They are also introducing new methods and new perspectives that challenge traditional historiographical techniques. What implications does that have for historiographical representation in academic publications and in public interpretation? What role do the digital technologies play in complicating or simplifying the stewardship of historic resources? How do they enhance or trivialize the public interpretation of sites and monuments for the purposes of cultural tourism?

The goal of this conference is to bring together a wide range of academics, museologists, digital specialists, heritage professionals, and community leaders to examine the achievements, opportunities, and serious social challenges of digital heritage. The program will highlight ongoing projects, technological breakthroughs, educational assessments, economic evaluations, and philosophical reflections on the impact of new technologies on heritage research, on collective memory, and on the very concepts of “Place” and “Time.”

Major Themes and Suggested Topics

We are seeking innovative research papers, case studies, and demonstrations of new techniques and applications that reflect the impacts of digital heritage technologies across the globe. The major themes to be addressed at the conference include:

  • Urbanization, industrial development, and climate change: How can digital heritage technologies monitor and help address intensifying physical threats to heritage of all types from natural deterioration, urban and industrial development, deliberate destruction, and climate change, all on an unprecedented scale.
  • Transdisciplinary Collaboration: Does digital heritage facilitate or hinder the sharing of information across and within present disciplinary boundaries such as history, archaeology, anthropology, art history, architecture, folklore studies, ethnomusicology, linguistics, and regional planning?
  • Marketization of Culture: With worldwide budget cuts in government support for cultural heritage, many heritage organizations, institutions, and sites are increasingly dependent for their survival on economic self-sufficiency. What is the impact and role of digital heritage in attracting visitors? What kind of digital “pasts” are emerging in this era of interactive museums and visitor centers?
  • Heritage and Identity: In an age of increasing ethnic and cultural diversity, posing challenges to essentialized “national patrimony,” can digital heritage create sustainable structures for individuals and groups express their own interest and pride in traditions, monuments, landscapes, and memories of particular significance to them?

Specific topics under these themes may include:

  • Photorealism and the construction of authenticity
  • Preserving the digital record
  • Digital technology and education
  • The reliability of public wikis
  • Social media and the past
  • Economic inequality and the digital heritage divide
  • Digital reconstruction and physical conservation
  • Virtual communities, participatory research and heritage
  • Digital documentation and public archaeology
  • Cyberarchaeology and virtual simulation of the past
  • Game theory and heritage applications
  • Digital technology and intangible heritage
  • Cross-disciplinary use of digital data
  • The economics of digital heritage
  • Digital heritage and tourism
  • Linking diasporas through digital technology
  • The role of digital heritage in sites of conscience and human rights

The aim of all these themes and specific topics is to spread awareness of theoretical challenges, practical problems, new tools, and successful new approaches to heritage in various regions of the world as well as across the United States. To that end, selected papers will be published in a special issue of Heritage & Society, a peer-reviewed journal, whose editorship has been assumed by the UMass Amherst Center for Heritage and Society.

Plenary Speakers & Themes

  • Maurizio Forte (University of California, Merced): Emerging Concepts of Time and Space in Virtual Heritage
  • Francis P. McManamon (Digital Antiquity & Arizona State University): Digital Data and New Approaches to Archaeological Heritage Management
  • Maria Roussou (makebelieve design & consulting, Athens): Educational Strategies and Applications for the New Heritage Technologies

Submission of Abstracts

Abstracts for poster presentations, research papers (20 min.), demonstrations, workshops, roundtables, and organized sessions or symposia on the conference themes are being accepted online at They should be a maximum of 300 words in English with a maximum of one illustration or screenshot. Note to session organizers: if you are proposing a session or symposia, you are responsible for submitting each paper abstract (or discussant slot) individually and repeating the session information on each form verbatim.

Program Committee

  • Alonzo Addison (UNESCO)
  • Erik Champion (Massey University, New Zealand)
  • Maria Economou (University of the Aegean, Greece)
  • Maurizio Forte (UC Merced, USA)
  • Bernard Frischer (University of Virginia, USA)
  • Halina Gottlieb (Interactive Institute, Sweden)
  • Susan Hazan (Israel Museum, Israel)
  • Eric Kansa (UC Berkeley, USA)
  • Sarah Kenderdine (City University of Hong Kong, China)
  • Frank McManamon (ASU, USA)
  • Franco Niccolucci (University of Florence, Italy)
  • Jon Olsen (UMass Amherst, USA)
  • Maria Roussou (UCL, UK)
  • Donald Sanders (Leaning Sites, Inc. USA)
  • Mario Santana (University of Leuven, Belgium)

This event is being organized by Elizabeth S. Chilton and Neil A. Silberman of the UMass Amherst Center for Heritage & Society.  Visit our website: 



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