Digital Cities: Representing the Past and Inventing the Future

Spring 2013

VMS 380S

Florian Wiencek, Timothy Senior, Victoria Szabo


This course on ‘Digital Cities’ is being developed as collaboration between Jacobs University (Bremen, Germany) and Duke University with the aim of exploring the use of new tools, techniques and methods from digital and spatial research in the visualization of historical material culture and the built environment. It combines theoretical and practical approaches to digital places and spaces or localized digital media, as location has become a dominant coordinate system to digital information in the last years.

Our focus at Duke University is digital storytelling of site specific and architectural history and the re-mediation of spatial experience using a variety of tools, such as 3D-modelling, audio, video, augmented reality or web-authoring. The theory and practice will be grounded by readings of theories of digital media, digital storytelling and digital cultural heritage and digital spaces. Moreover we will learn practical media production skills in lab-sessions in class – complemented by WIRED! Workshops taught by Sarah Goetz on Friday afternoons – in order to produce rich-layered historical accounts of different sites in Durham, NC. The projects, which will be carried out in groups and will contribute to a larger common project, will be “deep dives” into the histories, possible histories and possible futures of architectural sites in Durham, NC on the basis of available archival material as well as individual research by the students on the site(s). Ideally these projects will have the form of interactive / participative / performative (on-site) interventions using different forms of digital media, which will (re)mediate the in situ experiences of the sites’ histories, presents and futures. This practical project is combined with a written documentation, which will explain your project ideas, the role of individual group members in the project as well as the theoretical grounding and rationale of the projects and the reason you chose the media at hand for realizing your project.

The course will be conducted through a mixture of regular joint classes of Duke University and Jacobs University over videoconferencing to both teach and experiment with core technologies and to explore core topics of the course together, as well as independently-run classes in a lecture/seminar format, which will focus on relevant theory and group-project development.

Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany Collaboration
Duke has established a close relationship with members of the Jacobs University community in Bremen, Germany. In 2012-13 several Jacobs graduate students came to campus as exchange students. We taught our Digital Cities course, which was coupled virtually with a course at Jacobs. Both courses met at the same time and videoconferences discussion and workshop sessions with one another, as well as sharing project crits.

Related Essay:
This project was presented at the Digital Heritage International Congress 2013 and subsequently published:
“Digital Cities: A collaborative engagement with urban heritage”
Timothy Senior, Victoria Szabo, Florian Wiencek