Cultural Specificity in Digital Collections

Workshop at the National University of Singapore 12-14 August 2016

Workshop convened by Miguel Escobar Varela and John Phillips

See the PDF with the full abstracts.

This workshop was funded by the Singapore Ministry of Education, Grant Number FY2015-FRC3-004 and  013-t2-1-011.

Digital records of artistic practices (such as recordings, prints, motion capture data, and 3-D models) enable people around the world to access information about a wide array of artistic practices that originate in different cultural contexts. Through online archives, collections and scholarly editions, an increasing number of people are able to explore records of artistic practices not readily available through other means. This is important for teaching, preserving and studying a variety of culture-specific artistic practices that are often under-represented in international scholarship. Due to their visibility, online collections must cater to both specialist and generalist audiences. Therefore, the makers of online collections are faced with the crucial task of contextualizing the items in their collections within larger cultural histories and contexts.

This workshop aimed to produce a reflexive overview of the key mechanisms through which the makers of digital collections introduce general audiences to the cultural specificity of their collections. A possible concept that can encompass these mechanisms is ‘hermeneutic algorithms’, which encompasses things as diverse as audiovisual introductions, critical commentaries, interactive visualizations, navigational frameworks and tool-tip displays. The questions considered in the workshop were:

  • What strategies are used in order to communicate cultural specificity through digital collections? How do these strategies continue or displace traditional practices of cultural hermeneutics?
  • What are the implications of the specific design choices actualized in the interfaces of the digital collections?
  • How are these strategies developed, tested, and changed within the life-cycle of a digital collection?
  • How can quantitative digital humanities tools be used to learn more about the items in the collection and the ways users are interacting with them?
  • What conceptual frameworks are the most appropriate to describe the technical/conceptual hybrids represented by these hermeneutic algorithms?

Schedule – 12 August (Day 1)

9:30 – 10:00

Theatrette 2


Opening ceremony

Welcoming addresses by John Richardson (Head of the English Language and Literature Department, NUS) and Lee Cheng Ean (University Chief Librarian, NUS)

Opening remarks by Miguel Escobar Varela

10:00 – 11:20

Theatrette 2


Session 1: Dealing With Data   Chair: Miguel Escobar Varela

Integrating Cultural Specificities from the Beginning: Conceptual and Data Modeling Using

Juan Luis Suárez (Western University, Canada)

Data Creation for A|S|I|A

YONG Li Lan (NUS) and Eleine NG (Shakespeare Institute)

11:20 – 11:40


Coffee Break
11:40 – 13:00

Theatrette 2




Session 2:  Digital Theatre Collections   Chair: YONG Li Lan

 Making Theatre Makers Asia (TMA)

Alvin LIM (NUS) and Ken Takiguchi (NUS)

“This is not a Theatre” Local Values, Global Connections, Relational Histories of Performing Arts in Digital Collections

Nic Leonhardt (University of Cologne)

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch Break
14:30 – 16:30

Theatrette 1

Public Session: Presenting Cultural Specificity in Digital Collections  Chair: Miguel Escobar Varela

Minimal Computing and Cultural Specificity

Alex Gil (Columbia University)

Reinventing Historiography, Redefining Contexts:  Creating the Southeast Asian Art Archive

Farah Wardani (National Galleries of Singapore and Indonesian Visual Arts Archive)

Challenges for Presenting Cultural Specificity in Digital Collections in the South African Context

Justus C. Roux (North-West University, South Africa)

16:30 – 17:30 Afternoon tea break

 Schedule – 13 August (Day 2)

10:00 – 11:20

Theatrette 2


Session 3:  Visual Narratives   Chair: Ken Takiguchi

 Enhancing Contextual Narratives with a Geo-Temporal Visualization Platform

Chiung-min Tsai (National Taiwan University)

User Experience (UX) for the Presentation of Cultural Specificity

Miguel Escobar Varela (NUS)

11:20 – 11:40 Coffee Break
11:40 – 13:00

Theatrette 2




Session 4: Heritage Sites   Chair: Nic Leonhardt

The theatre-finder Project: Lessons in Resources, Sustainability, and Preservation

Franklin J. Hildy (University of Maryland)

A Scholarly or Communal Digital Eco-system for 3D Heritage

Erik Champion (Curtin University)

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch Break
14:00 – 16:00

Theatrette 1

Session 5: Digital Scholarship  Chair: Alex Gil

Significance of Digital Humanities for Developing the Full Potentials of Arts and Humanities Studies in East Asia in the Digital Age

Masahiro Shimoda (University of Tokyo)

A Trend of Digital Humanities Research in Japan: From Literary and Linguistic Computing to Digital Scholarship

Mitsuyuki Inaba (Ritsumeikan University)

16:00 – 17:00 Afternoon tea break