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Values across Space and Time

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VAST (Values across Space and Time)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2021-11-30

“I didn’t say yes. I can say no to anything I say vile, and I don’t have to count the cost. But because you said yes, all that you can do, for all your crown and your trappings, and your guards—all that you can do is to have me killed.”
-Sophocles, Antigone

Thus speaks Antigone and draws the lines of battle: The Laws of God pitted against the Decrees of Man; Familial Obligation against State Authority; Woman’s Self-Determination against Male Dominance; Duty against Mortality. How many times have women and men not reanimated these ancient battlefields of values, always with some bard standing ready to immortalise them, in verse and song? And at the heart of all this stand the most basic of questions: What values encode out communities? How do these values define a self? It is the answers given to these questions through the medium of mythos, in its many diverse forms, that we seek to explore in the VAST project.

Why do values matter? Values define who we are. Values are the trails of our common legacy, our collective memory, the way we think about ourselves and the others. Values are historically dynamic, they travel through material culture (artefacts, books, scientific instruments etc.), they are appropriated in different places and times by different people, and they re-emerge in new cultural forms, whether tangible or intangible.

VAST envisions to bring (moral) values to the forefront in the field of advanced digitisation. By providing advanced modelling, methods, techniques and digital tools, enabling the collaborative study, annotation and continuous capture and digitisation of experiences, VAST will examine narratives that represent significant moments of European culture/history and narratives stemming from citizen experiences, to study how the meaning of specific values has been expressed through different narratives (Greek drama, 17th century Scientific Revolution texts, folktales) and user experiences (artists, spectators, curators, museum visitors, pupils).

An emphasis will be placed in those core European values considered fundamental for the formation of sustainable communities and enabling citizens to live well together, such as freedom, democracy, equality, tolerance, dialogue, human dignity, the rule of law.

The VAST project: Values Across Space and Time
VAST wants to a) research existing collections of intangible assets and trace and inter-link the values emerging from them; b)expose audiences to moral values, collect (and digitise) their appropriations; and c) collect and digitise the experiences of those in charge of communicating values, especially through arts (focusing on theatre), folklore preservation (focusing on folktale storytelling), science (focusing on how science is communicated through museums) and education (focusing on museum educational programs).

VAST Core Objectives
• Study values across space and time: VAST will annotate narratives with values and further consolidate, through its platform, digital assets such as texts, videos, images, enabling the study of how values have been transformed from antiquity to early modernity.
• A semantic graph over artefacts: VAST will design an integrating conceptual schema, modelling contexts, interpretations, associations, historical-scale events and values, semantic relations among artefacts, stories and other types of narratives.
• Continuous digitisation of intangible content: Continuous digitisation of experiences and stories of artists, professionals and practitioners involved in the curation and communication of values to modern audiences, as well as audiences.
• Support Museums, Arts and Creative Industries: VAST aims to support Museums, the Arts and Creative Industries through the material that will be tagged and digitised and new knowledge created, with values and stories being at the centre of the digitisation procedure.
• An initial version of the “Registry of Values” has been designed as an ontological module of the VAST ontology.
• Methodologies for narrative analysis and digitisation have been designed based on preliminary analysis of sample documents from the three pilots.
• The first set of services related to narrative analysis and annotation offered by the VAST platform to academics, scholars, and researchers has been developed and used for the analysis of the past of values.
• A set of 44 digital artefacts have been annotated with values.
• Two audience research campaigns have been implemented (involving more than 100 participants).
A) Progress beyond the state of the art
Methodologies for narrative analysis and digitisation have been designed based on preliminary analysis of sample documents from the three pilots, leading also to a common list of "keywords", closely related to values, used annotation.

An initial version of the “Registry of Values” has been designed as an ontological module of the VAST ontology. VAST's ontology modells under an integrating conceptual schema the requirements related to “past of values” knowledge representation, including the annotation of artefacts with values, and the requirements related to the “present of values”, including the representation of contexts, multiple interpretations, and semantic relations among artefacts.

Finally, the design of the VAST research methodology has been initiated. The methodology aims at transferring the past of values to the present through museum activities and other exhibits. In order to materialise VAST impact, the methodology is based on three pillars: 1) the knowledge of the past, i.e. the values encountered during the annotation of narratives, 2) principles of social psychology, 3) values education.

B) Expected results
VAST aims to deliver a Content Management System (CMS) for values that supports: the collaborative and multidisciplinary activities required by VAST users, as well as the continuous digitisation of new tangible and intangible material through the prism of values across time. In this framework, VAST will define a set of semantic relations. This infrastructure will allow scholars and value communicators to consolidate digital artefacts through annotations. Moreover, VAST will digitise intangible content including experiences and stories of artists, professionals and practitioners involved in the curation and communication of values to modern audiences, as well as audiences that receive and interpret these messages.

C) Potential impacts
VAST aims to better promote Europe’s cultural heritage through its connection to Europe’s common values. VAST wants to bring moral values to the forefront of digitisation, by raising awareness about moral values in social activities like attending performing arts events or visiting a museum, and by exploring the potential of teaching values outside the framework of a formal education process. VAST will employ an arsenal of new technologies to assist scholars, researchers and value communicators to curate, re-use and re-purpose this material re-visiting moral values in the content of modern society. VAST proposes to turn implicit knowledge into explicit and use a suitable metadata framework to support the annotation of artefacts with this knowledge. The proposed semantic relations based on values will allow the stories and experiences of moral value communicators to be preserved in VAST as a memory and as references for the future.
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