Kim H. Veltman

Challenges for ICT/UCT Applications in Cultural Heritage

Seville: Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Historico, 2004 (in press).


While a precise forecast for the next decades is clearly impossible, some major challenges that need to be addressed in the next 10-20 years can be identified. Technologically there will be a shift from Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to Universal Convergence Technologies (UCT). In the cultural realm, these challenges include problems of repositories, the changing scope of cultural heritage; new links between national, regional and local; between culture, knowledge and scholarship; approaches to intellectual property and to models of culture. Five dangers are outlined, namely, over-zealous commercialism; anti-technology among scholars, anti-universal narratives; forgetting the past and a systematic destruction of memory. The need for a permanent E-Culture Net is outlined which would a) address these challenges; b) develop critical methods; c) create new models of culture that transcend Euro-Centric visions and d) focus on a Distributed European Electronic Resource (DEER). The American vision of the Internet remains focusses largely on uni-lingual e-commerce. By contrast, the European vision, through its links with tourism, clearly has financial dimensions, and at the same time is developing a multi-lingual approach to cultural heritage that includes historical and cultural dimensions. This vision extends beyond culture to new definitions of knowledge. While the rhetoric of the day may focus on profit schedules for the next quarter, it is important to recall that major changes in new media have much longer cycles entailing decades and even centuries before their full effects are appreciated.

1. Introduction
2. Repositories
3. Changing Scope of Cultural Heritage
4. Links between National, Regional and Local
5. Culture, Knowledge and Scholarship
6. European Approaches to Intellectual Property
7. New Global Models of Culture
8. Dangers: Systematic Destruction of Memory
9. Need for a Distributed European Electronic Repository (DEER)
10. Conclusions

1. Introduction

There are adages that the only problem with predictions is that they concern the future. The past decades have brought so many changes on such scales that any attempt to predict precisely the impact of the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) with respect to cultural heritage is doomed to future failure and/or retrospective mockery. Nonetheless, as an historian, it is useful survey past developments in order to discern which of these are likely to have an impact on the decade to come. The Internet is changing rapidly and is changing quickly what is possible. In 1995, there were 5 million users of the Internet. In 2000, there were 200 million. In March 2004, despite complaints of a bust, the Internet has grown to 804 million. In 1995, over 95% of the Internet was in English. In 2004, English represents 35% of the Internet and European languages also represent about 30% of the Internet. In the next years there will be more Internet users in China than in the United States, and it is predicted that Chinese will become the most used language.

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