Research Theory in Digital Culture/Relation Between Cultural Heritage and Digital Technology: Case Games

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Jaakko Suominen: A four-fold table regarding the relation between cultural heritage (or history) and digital games[muokkaa]

The relation between cultural heritage and digital technology has usually been perceived as a very instrumental one. Digital technology has been viewed of as a kind of machine, used for transferring non-digital “historical content” to novel digital products. These products, including such as multimedia shows, games, web sites and online course environments, are targeted at juvenile audiences, typically considered to be the primary users of such new media forms. In this process, technology is commonly blackboxed and disconnected from its own historical context.

There are, however, alternative ways to discuss the relation between cultural heritage and digital technology. Here I introduce a four-fold table regarding the relation between cultural heritage (or history) and digital technology, with a particular focus on questions of digital games and cultural heritage. The four-fold table contains the dimensions of theory and practice and analyses of digital games both as an internal and an external phenomenon, and the dimensions will be illustrated with practical examples, including a typologization of history-oriented computer games, retrogaming and educational workshops on game classics during the course as well as in the academic papers and articles I'm writing at the moment.

External frame of referenceInternal frame of reference
Analysis and theoryStudy on how general history and cultural heritage are represented within digital game products. Study on how the history of games itself has been represented within digital games cultures.
  • Examples: Jaakko Suominen: The Past as the Future -article; Whalen & Taylor (eds.): Playing the Past - History and Nostalgia in Video Games (2008)
  • Use, practiceHow to use games as a tool in teaching history and cultural heritage (both already existing commercial games and new games tailor-made for educational purposes). How to increase awareness of the cultural heritage of digital games e.g. by teaching and organizing exhibitions and performances.
  • Examples: Pac-Manhattan (2004); Digitaalisten pelien analogisointityöpaja (2007)