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A New Stage for the Cultural Heritage in European Puppetry


A new service that brings a FP5 technology innovation to the long and rich tradition of European puppetry. As a trial it puts content owners in a position to create as multipliers an easy and enjoyable access to European puppet theatre productions. eStage creates the basis for a new virtual community building medium that opens up new ways to inspire creative talents and to exchange ideas concerning puppet theatre productions and related information. eStage raises the information quality level by its easy, enjoyable, and unified access to distributed data sources. Together with a new and broader usage of this information this trial leads to new practices in creating puppetry productions that finally strengthens the role of this entertainment and education medium.

In adapting the new and advanced basic technology for information repositories available through the results of the FP5 project IRAIA, the objective of this proposal on take-up addresses a new service to a broad user community from experts to novices. The pivotal characteristics of this proposal on information repositories for archiving, publishing, and disseminating puppetry productions have three major lines:
1. It offers a novel way to open up the richness of European puppetry to a variety of users such as schools, puppet theatres, puppeteers, puppet museums, and the interested public.
2. It brings together various content owners in a virtual community of European puppetry and allows them to publish their contributions for this kind of media.
3. This trial benefits from the synergy with IRAIA's appliances for economic information services and, conversely, it accelerates the wider adoption of IRAIA and supports its exploitation.

Work description:
Bringing the physical puppets to modern information technology unleashes an absolutely new movement from cultural memory institutions to cultural actors and creative talents. Information repositories lay the ground for virtual communities that enable new ways of exchange of cultural and scientific content. eStage is a unique instrument to open a new distributed and shared information infrastructure for the rich and long tradition of European puppetry, to make it available for a broad audience in the education in schools and universities, for academics, small theatres as well as the famous ones among them. It helps to study one the most wonderful media in European history and to inspire the creation and diffusion of all kinds of productions from amateurs to professional theatres. The community building effect opens new ways to express ideas and develop creativity of all people dealing with this medium. For a broad group of users this means a completely new experience with puppetry. IRAIA is an RTD project under FP5 that contributes its robust technical infrastructure to the construction of context-oriented information repositories.

1. Release of eStage (month 6)
2. Final release of eStage/Final report (month 12)
eStage is an information service that is built around material related to puppetry such as plays, descriptions of puppets, abstracts of plays, and useful literature like tales. The digital collection itself is available for free and lives from the free contributions of its community. This trait reflects the centrepiece of eStage’s objectives: It is a self-organising and self-sustained service established for and through the community active and interested in puppetry. Unlike other systems preserving cultural content eStage does not base on already existing (physical) collections of one or a couple of content owners – primarily museums or archives.

From the user expectations and evaluation at different stages of the project emerged the following cornerstones of successful implementation of a box of incentives:
- The access to a digital archive must enable them to go directly to the spot they are looking for while bypassing the vast majority of the collection.
- The interaction mode must cope with the requirement that users show up with a very vague idea that steers their searching and navigating. However, this idea is the only steering element.
- The structure of guidance provided by the system must be sensitive enough to let the users keep their vague idea as the steering element. Any too rigid structure may cause an unacceptable information overload.
- There is no such thing like a precise answer to this vague query. Anything that relates to it can be useful.
- Any kind of information found by serendipity is welcomed. The characteristic outlined so far demonstrates the expectations of a user community requiring a platform that supports actively their work - expectations that determine the rationale of eStage.

This platform must be different from an application that digitises an archive or museum with their functions of information mediating as a leading design rationale. The users of eStage clearly do not want a portal realising a virtual tour through a puppetry museum. eStage was a 12-months trial that tested the feasibility of establishing a new information service for puppetry based on the technology that stems from the RTD project IRAIA (IST-1999-10602). IRAIA is a service provider platform designed, in particular, for large and complex information spaces. The pivotal attribute of eStage in this context is to lead the user in a small number of steps to a very small but comprehensive fraction of the information space that contains all data necessary to solve her or his information problem. IRAIA’s first application area was data from National Statistical Institutions and Economic Research Institutes that constitute usually quite huge and complex collections. The ability of its navigation interface to support such precise queries was definitely an important factor of IRAIA’s success. Complexity however is only one attribute of these collections, heterogeneity is another one. A retrieved fraction of a collection is only satisfactory for a user if it is a block of coherent content and closely related to her or his information problem. Such a block is usually always made up by data of different types. For instance, it may contain time series accompanied by explaining texts or texts with time series revealing insights through their graphical presentation. This coherent view on heterogeneous data is realised through semantic mapping. As IRAIA supports the analyst with tailored information, so should eStage be a virtual box of inspirations besides the puppeteer’s workbench.

What makes a virtual box become a source of inspirations? That was the key question eStage had to answer. One may say that should be no-brainer: take a suitable content and an interface that lets the user discover this content and the problem is solved. Despite some indispensable modifications, the IRAIA technology turned out to provide the right interface. Its interaction mode conforms exactly to the features the vast majority of users expect from an interface of a box of inspirations accessible through a computer. eStage had the ambitious goal of letting the users build their own collection. The idea was simple: their contributions are building blocks that transform gradually into a suitable collection when a critical mass of documents will be reached. It was clear right from the beginning that just setting up a nice web site does not make the puppeteers rushing in. To summarise the results, we can say that eStage proved the assumption that a suitable technical platform can help actors in puppetry to build up a meaningful content on their own. eStage met specific requirements of this user community that were not addressed before by any other information system. The numerous contributions show that it was not necessarily a disadvantage of eStage not to have a content institution as a consortium partner. The speed of voluntary content building was the only thing eStage had underestimated.

Call for proposal

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Ickstattstrasse 16
80469 Muenchen

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Participants (2)

Koenigin-luise-strasse 5
14195 Berlin

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118, Route De Narbonne
31062 Toulouse

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