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Executive Summary
It is axiomatic to say that information technologies have broken down distance and
enable new kinds of interactions between people whether they are in the same building
or continents apart. Asynchronous mechanisms such as Email, bulletin boards, and mailing
lists support the passing of messages and information. Synchronous tools make possible
dynamic, active, and engaging communication of both a personal and professional nature.
Peer-to-peer technologies have enabled the possibilities for the effective and efficient
sharing of resources (using the computers of community members rather than servers) to
be explored and exploited.
These developments have opened new possibilities for the cultural and scientific heritage
sectors.The first of these is the increased ability for attracting a global audience to study
or present cultural heritage artefacts through more intense, more varied, lower cost, and
simpler communication mechanisms.They have also created new possibilities for building
consortia and partnerships between cultural/scientific organisations and their existing and
new audiences.They provide the basis for both formal and informal interactions, and
platforms for enabling professional development.This section is not about virtual com-
munities themselves, but about the technologies that can be used to underpin them.The
development of virtual communities has been considered in DigiCULT Thematic Issue 5.
Whether fully technology-driven or simply technology-assisted, electronic collaboration
is working its way steadily into all areas of human activity and interaction.This section's
case studies demonstrate a wide range of these approaches, and depict the variety of pur-
poses to which they can be put.The eMarCon project gives a technology-driven solution
to a straightforward logistical problem: how can (physically) huge artefacts be experienced
in context with each other when their real-world locations are far apart? Another
approach is that taken by VRoma, whose innovative approach to historical and scholarly
work allows geographically separated users to access and
discuss material in a shared virtual space.This shows
how collaborative resources can be deployed for multiple
purposes, particularly as a medium for structured and
unstructured learning. An examination of eStage pro-
vides insight into the process of building a shared, com-
munity-specific portal, from planning to execution, and
on to potential future commercialisation.The MIRROR
community of practice gives perhaps the fullest account
of the benefits of these new approaches, with the goal of
creating both a virtual, pan-European group of natural
science museums and new methodologies for learning.
The variety of technologies and approaches involved
here highlight the growing importance of interoperabil-
ity between collaborative systems.Taken together these
Collaborative Mechanisms
and Technologies
heGlasgowStory and Glasgow City Council (Glasgow Museums)
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