Virtuality of Heritage
Gizem Özerol, Leman Figen Gül
Published Apr 14, 2021
“Virtuality of Heritage” suggests that the collections of simulacra or images of a place that are superimposed as several layers onto reality in order to build up a collective memory for its citizens. Although there is an extensive body of research on the concepts of virtual heritage and digital heritage, the term “Virtuality of Heritage” is slightly different: it does not necessarily concern a definite form of cultural heritage; instead, it has elements of both the tangible and intangible aspects of the collective elements of a culture, memories, stories, experiences. The term may even resemble a distorted copy of the reality defined as simulacra. Baudrillard (2016) defined the concept of simulacra in the twentieth century as a representation or a substance of reality. He also defined ‘simulation’ as the artificial reproduction of a tool, machine, or system – a phenomenon-specific functioning by means of a model or computer program for the purpose of examination, display or explanation. Simulations become independent from models of the essence and reality of representation. Furthermore, virtuality and reality are two contrasting and semantically confusing notions that could form a paradigm. The transformability of these two notions into each other may give rise to this paradigm. Anders (1998) called this “cybrid” – a hybrid of physical and cyber spaces. Also, these spaces respond to the needs of an organization by approaching the case from a functional perspective. Cybrids are virtual spaces that mimic real spaces or real spaces that have added as layers onto a cyberspace.
With the recent developments of information and communication technologies, augmented environments can provides opportunities of creating new kinds of simulacra that may have a significant impact on our culture as well as our understanding of past and present ways of living. We suggest that augmented environments can influence the 'real' transformation of simulacra to 'virtuality' and its reflection in the memory of individuals, in particular long-term memory, which stores information of past and has great significance for collective memories. Because individuals do not hold data in their own memory that is independent of environmental relations and history, the role of spaces in the creation of collective memory can be effectively used in the knowledge transfer between generations. Considering the argument of Halbwachs (2016), it is possible to say that when collective memory is dominant in terms of the social acquisitions of an individual, serious changes and memories are recalled, mainly as a common society (including childhood). “Collective memory participates in the actual transformation of space in the works of the collective, a transformation that is always conditioned by whatever material realities oppose” (Rossi, 2006, p. 125). Halbwachs (2017) has stated that, in the revival of memories, instead of the direct effect of images, the index of these images are all perceived. Therefore, even though an individual moves away from a group or community in which s/he is located, the effect of the time that they have shared continues in memory. Anders (1998) has stated that recalled places are the ones that we have captured in the past. Any reflection that has taken place in our memory, or in our inner cognition space, is the incendiary element in the realization of this recognition and recall action.
It is possible to say that items hidden in the memory of each individual are actually those things that arise from social interactions and common perception. Serious changes in the built environment affect the collective memory of the community who lives there. Unless lost values can be transferred, societies and urban environments become unidentifiable from future generations. The fact that the existence of a society in the cultural heritage of a physical environment is a reality can only be because it has reminded us of the past and its connection with history has strengthened. Considering that cultural heritage is an important factor in collective memories, it is possible to provide interactive opportunities through augmented reality technologies in order to reinforce the meaning of historical works. There is a potential for a “Virtuality of Heritage” to create new simulacra and cultural heritage experiences, including the combination of physical spaces and layering cybrids, for building up collective memory of citizens. Acknowledging the provided experiences, a “Virtuality of Heritage” would reflect in the memories of citizens and lead them to examine a way of life and culture both in a formal and semiotic way.
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