The Expanded Field of Cultural Heritage AR: Forms of Converging Temporalities in Cultural Heritage Augmented Reality Mobile apps


Liron Efrat, University of Toronto, Canada

Today, Augmented Reality (AR) apps for museums, archives, and cultural heritage sites enjoy increasing popularity among visitors and institutions alike. However, while such mode of cultural production makes a significant impact on our engagement with cultural memory and narratives, these AR projects are usually discussed either in isolation or as a part of a larger consideration of the contemporary culture of digital heritage. Although both forms of discourse certainly contribute to our understanding of the social function of such mediated experiences of heritage, in this paper I offer another perspective as I examine AR cultural heritage apps in relation to one another. Understanding those apps as a perceptual and a cultural phenomenon, my goal is to identify the specific forms enabled and practiced by using AR in the context of cultural heritage.

For this purpose, I first discuss how AR apps generally practice a form of temporal confusion through the mixing of past, present, and future, to demonstrate what I call a dynamic presentism. Then, I adjust Rosalind Krauss’ scheme of the Expanded Field (1979), in order to map the different forms of AR’s temporal paradigm. Exploring projects like Mapping Ararat (2014), Wikiup (2017), and TimeTraveller’s Berlin Wall app (2014) I demonstrate how these in-situ, synchronized mobile interactions illuminate specific social and cultural conditions and spatial politics through the mixing of virtual and actual pasts and futures. I further discuss how my scheme can be used as a practical tool in the development of future projects, and how it is useful in mapping and thinking through some of the essential issues that underlie many AR projects, such as digital memory, narratives’ centralization, and the linearity of history. Correspondingly, I propose that AR produces CR: Convergent Reality, in which the physical boundaries of spaces, and the well-established perception of linear chronology, are expanded and transformed.

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