eCommemoration Convention 2023 – Bridging analogue and digital worlds
In 2023, we again brought together international historians, memory workers, digital pioneers and creative minds. This year, the eCommemoration Convention specifically aimed to create and explore bridges between analogue and digital worlds. Various panels, hands-on digital experiences and creative exchange again formed the centre of this two-day interdisciplinary convention, which took place on 28 and 29 September 2023 in Hamburg.
This year’s mission
Maybe analogue and digital worlds are generally less separated than one might think – in 2005 already, Danish game designer and theorist Jesper Ruul described video-gaming as a half-real space, in which rules and standards of the analogue world meet fictional worlds. Videogames or Extended Reality, neither is an agency-less add-on of the analogue world, fully disconnected from “traditional” standards, practices and strategies of history-telling and cultural narration.
But where and how do these connections work and appear in eCommemoration?
The third eCommemoration Convention specifically aimed to create and explore bridges between analogue and digital worlds. We wanted to identify the cross-sections of analogue remembrance and digital practices with regards to commemorative culture: where do different practices spill from one into the other sphere? To what extend can both worlds benefit from their respective peculiarities?
Retrospect eCommemoration Convention 2023
Futurism has always been driving our imagination. Not just since the game “Second Life” does the world discuss to what extend our future may take place in a fully virtual environment. Looking in a different direction, at the past and remembrance culture, foundations, game developers, cultural institutions and museum-makers are heading towards these new shores of digital possibilities. The potentials of digital tools seem endless and push us to critically re-evaluate the last decades of telling and remembering history. With our project eCommemoration we address new questions about history, inspired by these modern technologies, in order to renew our understanding of the past. Yearly, our eCommemoration Convention brings together a wide variety of people, who shape how we perceive history today – in 2023 over 65 participants from 17 countries discussed about memory culture in the digital age.
On site and online, the convention 2023 started with a panel about digital protests that are connected to protest movements all over the world. INK Stories CEO Navid Khonsari and Fornite game developer Mathieu Arribart gave us insights into their work. Khonsari stated: „You don’t need to win the game, you need to experience it“. The panel was followed by different hands-on exhibitions and talks. Creators and curators presented a selection of VR experiences, video games and other digital projects from the fields of history, commemoration, and interdisciplinary art. Stacey Pitsillides, design researcher, invited us to explore the topic of digital afterlife, while historian Karen Jungblut showed us how the transformative shift of digital technology has revolutionized the engagement with poignant topics like the Holocaust. Pawel Schreiber, assistant professor in contemporary British drama, showed us how the remembrance of the Eastern bloc in video games looks like from a perspective different from the American and Western European views.
The second part of the day brought the eCommemoration Convention guests from Design Zentrum to the recently opened event space KörberHaus in Hamburg Bergedorf, where two public events took place. Media artist Nora Al-Badri gave her keynote on „Artifical Memories“. She „decolonized our minds and data“ with her concept of technoheritage. Al-Badri also introduced the audience to „The Other Nefertiti“, an interventional art project. Together with a colleague, Al-Badri scanned the head of Nefertiti at Pergamon Museum without permission, and brought some 3D printed copies of the artwork to Egypt as a symbolic return ot the iconic sculpture. Her keynote was followed by a panel discussion with journalist and moderator Marcus Richter, who discussed with her new questions that can be raised through the lenses and voices of AI as an artistic tool.
The first day of the convention ended with „opera – a future game“. Director Michael von zur Mühlen and author Thomas Köck presented a playable, spooky, artistic and immersive opera. Asked who wanted to play the opera first, Karen Jungblut was the one taking over the controller. Then Gurbaksh Singh jumped in. She led us through a dystopian landscape that tells of the disapperance of the present and of a society that is apparently only capable of thinking of the future as a catastrophe.
The second day of our eCommemoration Convention started off with different workshops – from „Reddit’s Askhistorians“ with DPhil student Clare Burgess to „Building AR-monuments“ with artist Anne Wichmann. More treats were planned for this day: two panels with vivid discussions followed the hands-on experiences. In „Extended Realities“, the former social media manager of Smithsonian NMAAHC, Lanae Spruce, made clear how important social platforms are in order to reach out to audiences that for a long time weren’t considered by museums. Professor and game developer Katrina Keefer introduced us to the small island of Bunce Island in Sierra Leone. Her game „Bunce Island: Through the Mirror“ is an interface which immersively brings research around the slave trade to students. With their work, Keefer and Spruce display how digital media give way to new forms of participation and collaboration.
The last panel concentrated on the navigation of travel between the digital and analogue world. Archaeologist Khaled Hiatlih works on bringing the dead cities of his home country of Syria back to life with 3D modeling. Gurbaksh Singh is the maker and creator of „The Unfiltered History Tour“ – a guerilla tour of the British Museum’s stolen artefacts using Instagram augmented reality filters. Both panelists pointed out the challenges and possibilities of making history more accessible through digital media.
The eCommemoration Convention 2023 ended with a game intervention by the Total Refusal Collective. In this short film we watched a recorded let’s play of the game Red Dead Redemption 2. But it’s more than that – the artist collective does not only comment on the game and interpret it in their own ways, but it is also an online lecture-performance, presenting a crash course on Marxism and class analysis through the mass medium of a video game.
This year’s eCommemoration Convention gave plenty food for thought. We brought together people from around the world to discuss how digital media and modern technology are reshaping history, and how we all can be part of bridging analogue and digital worlds.
Panel-Discussion 1: Call for Action.
Mobilising People with the Help of eCommemoration
28 Sept. – 11.30am
Looking at the past allows us to re-evaluate the world we live in.
Often, contemporary protests root in historical events, which pathed the way for decisions against which people protest or rebel today.
The legitimacy and interpretation of those historical events and developments could be called into question with eCommemoration.
Further, eCommemoration itself can be a catalyst – mobilising people to take action and initiate change in physical spaces of the ‘real’, ‘analogue’ world.
The panel “Call for Action” discusses digital projects connected to protest movements all over the world and in particularly iNK Stories’ 1979 Revolution and Fortnite’s March through Time.
Navid Khonsari, Video Game Designer & Mixed Reality Film Creator
Mathieu Arribart, CEO Vysena Studios
Moderator: Mai-Vy Thach
PUBLIC EVENT Keynote & Discussion: Artificial Memories. Decolonizing our Minds and Data
28 Sept. – 6pm
Nora Al-Badri will talk about her conceptualization of technoheritage: what happens when technology/ artificial intelligence, decoloniality and museum collections come together?
Talking to moderator Marcus Richter, Al-Badri will discuss which new questions, in the realm of politics of representation and collective memory, can be raised through the lenses and voices of AI as an artistic tool. Will the subaltern start speaking or are we even amplifying the good old colonial power structures and oversimplify the world with limited machinic abstraction?
Speaker: Nora Al-Badri, Conceptual Media Artist
Moderator: Marcus Richter, Journalist & Moderator
PUBLIC EVENT opera – a future game
28 Sept. – 7.30pm
“opera – a future game” is an interactive, digital music theatre video game essay. Accompanied by an inner voice, the users wander through a dystopian landscape that tells of the disappearance of the present and of a society that is apparently only capable of thinking of the future as a catastrophe. Meanwhile, other audience members in the room can follow the events, comment on them and intervene.
Director: Michael von zur Mühlen
music by eloain lovis hübner – texts by thomas köck
based on the opera “opera opera! revenants&revolutions”
Panel-Discussion 2: Extending Realities.
Generating New Forms of Knowledge about the Past
29 Sept. – 1pm
The internet gave way to new forms of participation and collaboration. Archives, museums, game developers and projects dealing with a people’s history of historical events now often use not just swarm intelligence to collect and share history. They also base their knowledge about specific objects, places, spaces and events on accounts and memories shared via social media, game forums or other digital tools. Further, sharing these findings via social media and digital projects allows us to bridge analogue and digital worlds, listening to voices previously unheard.
The panel “Extending Realities” gives space to projects which re-adjust the reading of history with the help of participatory and collaborative forms of eCommemoration.
Katrina Keefer, Cultural Historian
Lanae Spruce, former manager of social media and digital engagement, Smithsonian NMAAHC
Moderator: Soraya Jaber, CEO & Co-Founder Opuscope
Panel-Discussion 3: Navigating Travel.
Innovative Forms of On-, Off- and De-Boarding
29 Sept. – 4pm
Traveling between analogue and digital worlds is still challenging for all of us. Entering virtual reality and virtual interpretations of our past can be overwhelming. Immersive exhibition-makers, XR artists and digital historians pay special attention to the challenges and benefits of well-conceptualised practices of on- and off-boarding. How do these interconnections work with regard to museums and heritage sites? How do we experience, contextualise and preserve history and make it accessible?
The panel “Navigating Travel” looks at implemented on-, off- and de-boarding practices, digital archaeology and digital contextualisation of museum collections.
Gurbaksh Singh, Chief Innovation Officer
Khaled Hiatlih, Archaeologist and Director of Heritage Roots
Moderator: Tessniem Kadiri, Journalist & Moderator
This event was realised together with the great team of Brace Productions at Design Zentrum Hamburg and KörberHaus. Thank you! Team eCC23: Anastasia Misbach, Anna Norpoth, Deana Mrkaja, Felix Fuhg.