Countering the "digital uncanny": post-processing for 3D digital heritage

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Photogrammetry and laser scanning, or combinations of the two, are increasingly used in cultural heritage settings to create three-dimensional digital replicas. Yet the technical production processes involved can sometimes result in undesirable outcomes – flattening shadows, light, and surface textural variations of original artifacts. Many of these important visual cues contribute to our understanding of digital models as ‘historical objects,’ and the resulting overly digitized photogrammetry – lacking visual context and depth – can impede user interactivity. Viewers of digital heritage can become deterred by the uncanny, static, or unreal aesthetic of some photogrammetric and laser scans. This article considers two digital heritage projects: “Emotions3D: Bringing Digital Heritage to Life,”and the Smithsonian Apollo 11 Command Module scans in order to explore how technical and curatorial decisions can address issues in photogrammetric and laser post-processing. While often subtle, different post-processing choices are perceived and deeply cognitively and emotionally internalized by viewers and users of digital cultural heritage. Therefore, this paper assesses the relevance of emotions studies, theories of the ‘uncanny’ and the ‘uncanny valley,’ and issues of authenticity and best-practice digital interventions to enhance user engagement and accessibility through digital post-processing techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-185
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in Digital Heritage
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


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