Contemporary digital museum in theory and practice
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This dissertation investigates the interplay between a selected set of museum practices, such as online strategies, digitisation of artwork reproductions, and crowdsourcing, through a theoretically grounded perspective. Existing discourse and debate on the museum's movement from an exclusively physical, to a digital or hybrid presence display an excessive interest in advocacy, usually focusing on small examples of successful practices which are then argued as somehow empowering or resolutive, usually from a 'social justice' point of view. Conversely, in those same discourses little attention is paid to the macro-context within which these cases take place: current debates lack an articulation of how museum practices reflect ongoing trends and paradigms on a culture-wide level, and also eschew non-advocative, neutral discussion of the politics, discourses and power relations that such practice entail. I suggest that the contemporary constructivist, digital museum can be better contextualised if we frame emergent digital museum praxis within a framework that resorts to well-established, and well-described theoretical paradigms that can be observed in other cultural and social contexts as well. The advantage of such an approach is that museum practice, and the museum as an institution, can then be seen in continuity with current macro-trends, rather than as isolates whose usefulness and sustainability begins and ends within the museum's precinct. This dissertation begins this proposed shift in point of view by addressing emergent museum practices such as the drafting of digital strategies; the creation of digital reproductions of artworks for online display; and crowdsourcing in the context of theoretical frameworks such as the utopian imagination; ontology of digital-beings; and contemporary labour practices. While not comprehensive, and exploratory in nature, this dissertation contributes to the discipline by providing a new, more in-depth point of view on 'hot' practices, encouraging a contextualisation of the museum that goes beyond the museum itself, into a theoretical and interdisciplinary field that takes advantage of ideas developed within digital humanities, labour critique, informatics and cultural studies.