Culture is Smart Culture is Smart

Culture is Smart

Apps, smartphones, software and websites:
how to enhance cultural and artistic assets.

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In Italy, where tourism seems to be the driving force behind boosting the struggling economy, the cultural and artistic heritage is a value-added resource to be supported, strengthened, promoted and, above all, innovated.

With regard to arts and culture, key elements such as new technologies, the creation of new professions and the use of new digital media enable the implementation of innovative development models in this sector and, more generally, the achievement of social and cultural wellbeing for the community.

We are experiencing an innovative impetus with many implications and advantages for creating new artistic products, thanks to the potential of multimedia communication, and exploiting cultural assets and the tourism experience, which involves increasingly interactive and immersive forms.

This especially applies to Italy, a country rich in officially acknowledged artistic and cultural “gems” (Italy has 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and hidden treasures, which are often poorly promoted or little known.

Google is aware of the need to enhance the excellent features of a territory and its artistic and cultural assets. Some recent experiments have followed this path, for example, Google Night Walk, an e-tourism project that relies on the services provided by Google Maps and Street View in order to offer a new, virtual and interactive tour of a city. 

Places of interest and hidden locations around the world can be explored thanks to an interactive guide that accompanies visitors through city streets, using a combination of photos, sounds, videos, stories and information. Currently, this can only be experienced in the city of Marseille but, potentially, it could be applied everywhere

Hidden culture and invisible assets: the MOVIO project

In addition to its excellent features and the many cultural assets that make Italy a true open-air museum, this country hosts many events and exhibitions, which, however, are not adequately publicized. These represent an element of attraction for the local economy and tourism and could be further promoted with the use of digital technologies.

These include, for example, the MOVIO project, implemented by the Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico (Central Institute for the Union Catalogue) with the contribution of the call for tender regarding “Invisible Assets” of 2010 by Telecom Italia Foundation.

In particular, MOVIO is an open source tool that allows archives, libraries, museums, universities, schools and associations to implement virtual exhibitions so they can showcase their masterpieces and promote the less widely known heritage by combining various tools to be used by exhibition administrators: these include different types of photo galleries, timelines, interactive maps and storytelling.

This project has a high-tech content: it is a real kit comprising software for the creation, management and maintenance of web pages, a mini website and customisable Apps for temporary, permanent or web-based exhibitions, as well as a number of services that allow users to personalise their experience. An interesting and rather innovative feature of this project is the ontology builder, a tool that enables exhibition administrators to design a concept map of the exhibition and users to piece together personal cognitive paths using the contents made available for the exhibition.

Another interesting initiative is the Made in Italy project, which is promoted by Google and focuses on Italy. It is a platform developed by the Google Cultural Institute (with the collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and Unioncamere), which uploads about one hundred “digital exhibitions”, on the Web, which focus on Italy's excellent features and “Made in Italy” passions and traditions.

Cultural cities: the Future Centre of Telecom Italia

Another exciting field of experimentation involves the application of new ICT technologies to design and develop new cultural products that can be integrated with the existing heritage in the cultural cities of the future.

Consider, for example, the potential of Augmented and Virtual Reality and of smart environments (from smart environments and ambient intelligence to smart cities), which encourage the creation of interactive works, or NFC (Near Field Communication) solutions that allow visitors to use their smartphone to find and receive explanations regarding the environment where they are situated.

In this context, the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice is an excellent example of how the artistic and cultural heritage of Italy is promoted using new technologies. Researchers at the centre focus on the digital reconstruction of smart environments, interactive and multimedia design, and the analysis of artefacts. The latest initiatives to receive funding include the “Innovative Interactive Tour on Telecom Italia’s Future Centre” contest organised in collaboration with Premio Arte Laguna, which involved the implementation of a project promoting an innovative form of tourism at the architectural spaces of the Telecom Italia Future Centre situated at the former convent of Campo San Salvador. The contest was won by the young Venetian architect Nicola Simion for his project entitled “BitWave”, in which different contents are offered by integrating lights with two-dimensional and three-dimensional multimedia projections.