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Future Making in the Anthropocene Podcast Series

Digital citizen engagement with heritage | Future Making in the Anthropocene Podcast

Episode 2

29.11.2022

In this second episode, Heriland-researcher Nan Bai explains how social media can help to understand citizens’ engagement with heritage sites. In response to Bai, Inez Weyermans of the City of Amsterdam’s heritage department, provides her views on dilemmas concerning the appreciation of Amsterdam’s famous Canal ring area. 

Citizen engagement with heritage sites is hard to measure. Lengthy surveys or visitors’ feedback take a lot of time to process and interpret. Social media, on the other hand, readily offers thousands of bits and pieces of information on how both visitors and residents feel about their environment. Could these posts be ‘mined’ and interpreted with the help of machine learning, in order to understand people’s interaction, perception, and emotions with regard to cultural heritage? 

Yes, probably they can, claims Nan Bai, who spent the last couple of years training several computer models to accumulate and process thousands of social media posts in UNESCO World Heritage sites in Amsterdam, Venice and Suzhou. By studying the appreciation of cultural heritage through social media, a new field of possibilities (and drawbacks) opens up: “Traditionally we think that heritage status is determined by experts. But citizens and stakeholders can also be involved. Their knowledge could create important background information for decision making. Social media already provide such knowledge documentation, as called for by the UNESCO 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape.”

Inez Weyermans’ work concerns the 17th Century Canal ring area in Amsterdam’s city centre. The historic city centre attracts millions of tourists a year. She uses social media to monitor how residents feel about the sites’ maintenance. Recently, the renovation of bridges and quays in the Amsterdam city centre has been subject of online debate: “A lot of opinions deal with decisions on how to repair the quays. Are they put back in a historical state or should modern techniques be used, that change the visual impact of the quays?” 

Nan Bai conducts his PhD-research under supervision of professor Ana Pereira Roders and assistant-professor Pirouz Nourian of Delft University of Technology.  

Show notes

Links related to Nan Bai’s research:

Links related to Amsterdam:


Threatened urban heritage narratives | Future Making in the Anthropocene Podcast

Episode 1

11.10.2022

In the first episode of the Future making in the Anthropocene Podcast, Heriland-researchers Komal Potdar and Ana Jayone Perez share views and dilemmas that they encountered in two Israeli port cities: Jaffa and Acre. Their research addresses the development of life in these historic cities from places to live into places that are threatened by mass tourism, gentrification and flooding, caused by climate change.

The cumulative effects of these developments are challenging the value of urban heritage. This can lead to a conflict of interest between residents and businesses, such as real estate developers that cater to the tourist industry. Is the local government capable of bringing conflicting views together in city planning and can it involve the civil society in far-reaching decision-making processes?

According to Ana Jayone Yarza Pérez, asking citizens about major changes in their city, provides an enormous challenge for them. “We are not used to imagining urban futures because the speed of human life is totally different to the speed of the city. Usually the city changes really slowly, while we change our clothes every day and the furniture in our homes every five or ten years.” She argues that city planners should raise awareness on pressing issues and study the cities’ historic evolution to provide insights on possible future development.

To understand the evolution of historic cities, archival maps, historic photos along with intangible aspects of memory and identity play an important role in interpretation and documentation. Innovative methods and tools should be applied for the assessment of the attributes and values of historic cities. Komal Potdar stresses: “The spatial interventions of today will be the character and heritage of the future. This emphasizes the fact that the attributes of historic cities, which gives them their identity, need to be addressed, documented, and assessed for their values. And should foster critical discussions amongst the designers and planners.”

Komal Potdar and Ana Jayone Yarza Pérez conducted their Phd-research under supervision of professor Michael Turner and professor Els Verbakel of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and Frank van der Hoeven of Delft University of Technology. Their position as locally embedded researchers allowed them to interview many different stakeholders involved in city planning and development.

Show notes

Recommendations for further reading:

Credits

The podcast series ‘Future Making in the Anthropocene’ is generously supported by the Creative Industries Fund Netherlands and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, that coordinates the EU projects Heriland and Terranova. Both projects are funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement Nos. 813883 and Nos. 813904 respectively.