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Museums and the Web

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Cultural Data Sculpting: Omni-spatial interactive visualization for large scale heterogeneous datasets


This paper presents a three research projects currently underway to develop new omni-spatial visualization strategies for the collaborative interrogation of large-scale heterogeneous cultural datasets using the worlds’ first 360-degree stereoscopic visualization environment (Advanced Visualization and Interaction Environment - AVIE). The AVIE system enables visualization modalities through full body immersion, stereoscopy, spatialized sound and camera-based tracking. The research integrates ground-breaking work by a renowned group of international investigators in virtual environment design, immersive interactivity, data visualization, museology, cultural analytics and computational linguistics.  The work is being implemented at the newly established world-leading research facility, City University’s Applied Laboratory for Interactive Visualization and Embodiment – ALIVE).

For researchers currently, interactive, immersive and collaborative techniques to explore large-scale datasets lack adequate experimental development essential to the construction of knowledge in analytic discourse (Pike et al. 2009). Recent visualization research remains constrained to 2D small-screen based analysis and advances interactive techniques of “clicking”, “dragging” and “rotating” (Lee et al. 2009, Speer et al. 2010:9) Furthermore, the number of pixels available to the user remains a critical limiting factor in human cognition of data visualizations (Kasik et al., 2009). The increasing trend towards research requiring ‘unlimited’ screen resolution has resulted in the recent growth of gigapixel displays (e.g. Powerwall) and next generation CAVE systems (e.g. StarCave, DeFanti et al. 2009).

The opportunities offered by interactive and 3D technologies for enhanced cognitive exploration and interrogation of high dimensional data still need to be realized within the domain of visual analytics and digital humanities (Kenderdine, 2010). The three projects described take on these core challenges of visual analytics inside AVIE to provide powerful modalities for an omni-directional exploration of multiple textual datasets, archaeological laser scan data and museum collections responding to the need for embodied interaction; knowledge-based interfaces, collaboration, cognition and perception and, narrative coherence (as identified in Pike et al. 2009).

Within the museum, the rapid growth in participant culture has seen creative production overtake data access as the primary motive for interaction with databases and search engines. The meaning of diverse bodies of data is increasingly expressed through the user's creative exploration and re-application of data, rather than through the simple access to information. Through AVIE, museum users investigate the quality of narrative coherence brought to interactive navigation and re-organization of information.

Databases and projects included in this paper: (1) Western Han Tomb archaeological data; (2) Museum Victoria multimedia rich records (30,000); (3) multilingual datasets including the Tripitaka Koreana in Classical Chinese (the world’s largest single corpus composed of 52 million glyphs on 83,000 printing blocks, carved in Korea in the 13th century); New Testament in Greek and English and Chinese; Bible in Hebrew and; Qur'an in Arabic.

Even though this work takes place largely “off the web” it seeks to provide new visualization paradigms that scale, cross-platform. In addition, partners in Australia, Hong Kong, USA and Germany, with AVIE style systems can be connected together for collaborative distributed access.

T'Visionarium: T'Visionarium © UNSW iCinema Research Centre

T'Visionarium:  © UNSW iCinema Research Centre

Collaborators: Museum Victoria, City University of Hong Kong, ALiVE, UNSW, UC San Diego, UC Merced UC Berkeley, Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative, ZKM, Jiaotong University, Tufts University



Paper - in formal session


sarah kenderdine's picture
Dr. Kenderdine researches at the forefront of interactive and immersive experiences for museums and galleries. In widely exhibited installation works, she has amalgamated cultural heritage with new media art practice, especially in the realms of interactive cinema, augmented reality and embodied...
Timothy Hart's picture
Tim has worked in Museum’s for the past 22 years, in collection management, policy development, project management, information technology, multimedia development and senior management. He studied Architecture and Archaeology at Sydney University, graduating in 1987. In 1997 he was appointed...

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