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Fluid Ontologies for Digital Museums


Abstract With the advent and accessibility of the Internet, artistic and indigenous communities are beginning to realize how digital technologies can be used as a means for documenting and preserving their histories and cultures. However, it is not yet clear what knowledge architectures are most appropriate for creating a digital museum in order to facilitate an effective collection, organization, conservation, and experience of cultural and artistic heritage. In this paper, we discuss the concept of ldquofluid ontologies,rdquo a novel, dynamic structure for organizing and browsing knowledge in a digital museum. Fluid ontologies are flexible knowledge structures that evolve and adapt to communitiesrsquo interest based on contextual information articulated by human contributors, curators, and viewers, as well as artificial bots that are able to track interaction histories and infer relationships among knowledge pieces and preferences of viewers. Fluid ontologies allow for a tighter coupling between communitiesrsquo interests and the browsing structure of a digital museum. We present the key ideas behind the use of fluid ontologies within the context of digital museum design and seminal work in metadata/dynamic ontologies, particularly as it pertains to objects of cultural heritage, and discuss these characteristics in three concrete examples: (1) Village Voice, an online agora that ties together the narratives created by a group of Somali refugees using an iteration of community-designed ontologies, (2) Eventspace, a node-based collaborative archive for design activities, and (3) Tribal Peace, an online digital museum still under construction and evaluation that uses proactive agents to tie distributed Kumeyaay, Luiseno, and Cupeno reservations together in their quest to achieve greater political sovereignty .

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