Cultural heritage and ICT in the experience economy

Results of the CreativeCH workshop at the INVTUR 2012 Conference (Aveiro, Portugal) on the 17th of May 2012. The workshop focused on the combination of heritage content, creative approaches and novel technologies to enable engaging and memorable cultural experiences.

Workshop highlights

Experience economy:
The “experience economy” was understood to offer an inspiring and useful concept for local/regional development building on available specific assets. But such assets often need to be revitalised, adjusted to new consumer trends, and presented in new ways. Some examples related to the cultural domain included turning historic buildings into office spaces for creative companies, communicating the unique cultural heritage and regional identity to tourists, and organising festivals that mobilize and bring together regional cultural and creative actors.

The experience economy is not only about creative cultural products and services: While the focus of CreativeCH is cultural heritage the importance of other themes and assets should be noted. For example this includes high-value regional food, i.e. producing and marketing organic food from regional agricultural varieties (in the sense of “biological heritage”) and other natural and ecologically sound products (e.g. textiles, furniture, etc.). Such themes and assets can be subsumed under the specific cultural identity of a region.

There is no “one size fits all” experience economy approach: The discussion made clear that there is no “one size fits all” approach. Each region must identify its specific assets and strengths and develop a programme that allows making the most from them. Experience economy programmes can mobilize the community, strengthen local/regional businesses, and retain or bring back people. However, establishing centres of cultural and creative industries in former “industrial age” or rural areas will require sustained, long-term investment.

Tourists are seeking memorable experiences: The “experience economy” concept is particularly relevant for the tourism sector. People take more but shorter breaks while looking for special, memorable experiences rather than the typical “tourist package”. Yet, encountering in novel ways cultural history and heritage is but one option among others which, for example, include the performing arts (e.g. concerts) as well as sports events.

Important role of mobile applications also for promoting cultural heritage sites: A strong supporting trend is the rapidly increasing use of smartphones and downloads of mobile “apps” that are available for various purposes. Tourism was seen as one of the lead markets for such apps as tourists increasingly turn to up-to-data digital information on interesting places, events, shopping, transport and other information. An important role of mobile technologies for promoting cultural heritage sites through allowing tourists to interact with historical images, 3D models and site descriptions was emphasised by all presenters and confirmed in the discussion.

Novel digital applications may also contribute to heritage preservation: Augmented reality and other applications that demonstrate the change of urban and other sites can contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage by showing the loss in built and other historic environment.

Cooperation of heritage experts, creative designers and technical developers: A major challenge in the creative cooperation on novel cultural ICT applications was seen in bridging the “two worlds” of on the one hand heritage experts working in museums and archives and, on the other hand, creative designers and technical developers. The heritage experts want to ensure the authenticity of the historical material while the creative team members are eager to explore novel design and technical capacities.

The cultural heritage is in the content not in the technology used for communication: Creating new user experiences requires the right combination of creativity, content and technology to allow for new user experiences. While technical applications provide new channels and ways of communicating cultural heritage the core role of the cultural content and knowledge must be emphasised. The cultural heritage is in the content not in the technology used to mediate it. Therefore it is very important to avail of experts who are skilled in the selection, preparation, adaption and mediation of the content.

IPR/copyrights and licensing: IPR/copyrights and licensing of cultural heritage content was seen as a particularly critical issue. The managers of the presented projects and other workshop participants noted that it is often difficult receiving from heritage institutions licenses to use historic material. Sometimes the copyrights are not cleared or the institutions are concerned about making available digital images, fearing that they may be captured and used in inappropriate ways.

Summary by Guntram Geser (Salzburg Research)

Workshop content

Full report of the workshop, presentations, videos, additional content and links at:

Includes presentations by

  • Luis Moura Ramos (University of Coimbra): The experience economy and local development;
  • Miguel Silvestre (Municipality of Obidos): Óbidos Creativa;
  • Patrick Burkert (Zeitfenster GbR): Zeitfenster (Time Window) application;
  • Alexandre Pinto (iClio): Just in Time Tourist.

Selected material and links: