Curating Digital Images: Ethnographic Perspectives on the Affordances of Digital Images in Heritage and Museum Contexts

The DFG-funded project “Curating Digital Images” is located within the frame of the DFG priority programme “Das digitale Bild” / “The Digital Image” and focusses on ethnographic research on practices of digital curation related to the field of museums and heritage. It brings the competencies of the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH) at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin together with perspectives and approaches of media and digital anthropology. The empirical core of the project consists of two interconnected ethnographic studies, both focussing on the curation practices of laypeople: the first study examines how the users of digital image archives actually view, search, sort, alter and creatively rearrange these images and for what purposes; the second study concentrates on the digital image practices and social media activity of museum and heritage visitors, which become an integral aspect of the emotional and aesthetic experiences related to the visit. Besides the empirical insights (which are valuable for academic researchers and practitioners in the field alike), the project will make a significant contribution to the conceptual and theoretical debates of the priority programme regarding the digital image. From an ethnographic perspective, the particularities of the digital image – and therefore its theory – can only be understood in relation to the practices enacting such images. Thus, the question “What is the digital image?” is not to be answered by theory and by examination of the images alone but is, crucially, about their lives in use.
To study the digital image from this perspective, the project analyses the affordances (action-capacities and action-restrictions) of digital images in relation to everyday practices of digital curation. While focussing on ethnographic methods such as (offline and online) participant observation and qualitative interviews as well as mixed methods approaches, the project is complemented by a close collaboration with information science (co-applicant Prof. Dr. Elke Greifeneder, HU Berlin) and the application of eye tracking approaches, allowing for a transdisciplinary methodological innovation. Furthermore, the project is enriched by a methodological and theoretical reflection with media studies (cooperation partner Prof. Dr. Jens Ruchatz, University of Marburg), strengthening the projects contribution to the field of digital humanities. In its final stage, the project then works toward digital innovation through a dialogue with computer science (cooperation partner Prof. Michael A. Herzog, University of Applied Science Marburg-Stendal) as well as practitioners in the field of museums and heritage (chief curator Dr. Gorch Pieken and curator Dr. Friedrich von Bose of the Humboldt Labor in the Humboldt Forum).

Principal Investigators
Greifeneder, Elke Prof. Dr. (Details) (Information Behavior)
Bareither, Christoph Prof. Dr. (Details) (European Ethnology Specializing in Anthropology of Media)
Macdonald, Sharon Prof. Dr. (Details) (Social Anthropology)

Financer
DFG: Sachbeihilfe

Duration of Project
Start date: 12/2019
End date: 11/2022

Last updated on 2020-07-09 at 10:19