Costis Dallas

Costis Dallas is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, and a founding Research Fellow of the Digital Curation Unit (DCU), IMSI-Athena Research Centre in  Athens, Greece.

In his research, he investigates the relationship between people, things, and information in contemporary practices of cultural heritage curation, social interpretation and scholarly research, and the digital infrastructures, methods and tools that mediate this relationship.  He aims to establish a pragmatic theoretical framework for curation “in the wild”, shaped by increasingly pervasive digital infrastructures such as mobile capture devices, Application Programming Interfaces, and online communication tools in scholarly work, and by participatory online information practices such as cultural memory and affilative interactions between communities, amateurs and professionals on social media.

Professor Dallas is the Principal Investigator of E-CURATORS - Pervasive Digital Curation Activities, Objects and Infrastructures in Archaeological Research and Communication (SSHRC Insight Grant). He is also the Vice-Chair of ARKWORK, where he conducts scoping and qualitative research on archaeology and social media. He holds a BA in History from the University of Ioannina, Greece, as well as MPhil and DPhil degrees in Classical Archaeology from the University of Oxford.
Professor Dallas serves as Chair of the DARIAH-EU Digital Methods and Practices Observatory Working Group (DiMPO) where he coordinates a longitudinal European Survey on Scholarly Practices and Digital Needs in the Arts and Humanities across Europe. He recently co-authored "Archaeological Knowledge Production and Global Communities: Boundaries and Structure of the Field ". His written work includes “Heritage Encounters on Social Network Sites, and the Affiliative Power of Objects”, “Digital Curation beyond the ‘Wild Frontier’: A Pragmatic Approach”, and “Curating Archaeological Knowledge in the Digital Continuum: From Practice to Infrastructure”.

He was co-principal investigator of EU digital heritage research grants such as CARARE, LoCloud, Europeana Cloud, and ARIADNE, participated in the development of  the NeDiMAH Methods Ontology (NeMO), and led the requirements analysis and functional specification work for the Metadata and Object Repository (MORe). Previously he worked in various professional positions in the field of museums and cultural policy, including Head of Documentation at the Benaki Museum, Special Secretary for Libraries and Archives of the Greek Ministry of Education, and Special Adviser on Cultural Affairs to the Greek Foreign Minister, and served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Acropolis Museum.

Research project: Thingformation: ontologies of the cultural record, humanities knowledge, and curation practice in the digital continuum

Sweeping changes in the practices of memory institutions (libraries, archives, and museums) and knowledge work of the humanities challenge established notions of authenticity, authority, and fixity, dominant discourses of the status of the cultural record, and the empirical engagement of people with cultural objects (both material and intangible). Based on earlier research on museum information systems, heritage object representation and metadata, cultural heritage metadata repositories, scholarly information practices, digital research infrastructure requirements and specifications, research methods ontologies, and emerging digital curation practices, and drawing from multiyear involvement with collaborative digital humanities and digital heritage initiatives such as DARIAH, ARIADNE, Europeana Research, CARARE and LoCloud, this book-length study, currently at the conceptualization and planning stage, aims to address these changes by establishing  a revised conceptualization of digital curation of cultural heritage, based on historical and pragmatic principles of inquiry, capable of addressing the diversity, complexity and pervasiveness of curation practice within and beyond custodial contexts, compatible with contemporary theorizations of cultural heritage and knowledge practice in the digital environment, and, amenable to formal representation and operationalization.

At the heart of this planned book-length synthesis lies a critical re-evaluation of the dominant view of digital curation theory and practice, as a body of knowledge and set of professional norms and practices focusing on the long-term digital preservation and professional stewardship of (mostly research, administrative, and cultural heritage) data. Digital curation scholarship has so far also mostly ignored the widespread vernacular practices of digital curation as content generation, aggregation, re-purposing, remix and syndication of digital information in the online environment, despite the clear import of such practices on cultural memory and the formation of the cultural record. Emergent phenomena in the networked digital environment such as web curation, remix and syndication, “dark data” in scholarly communication, personal digital archiving, crowdsourcing and “user-generated content”, digital communities and social media, produce patterns of digital information object creation, manipulation and use which blur the boundaries of what is (to be) curated, where it resides, at what point it may or may not be curated, by whom, and what curation consists of in the final analysis. This study conceives digital curation of cultural heritage as a “state of affairs” that gathers the properties of cultural objects as socially efficacious things, constructed through their curatorial biographies – the cultural identification of an artefact by an archaeologist, the annotation of a museum exhibit by a visitor, the critical edition of a literary text by a scholar, the reminiscence of an elderly person on an old photograph. It will seek to integrate an ontological re-theorization of cultural heritage and curation activity with evidence-based inquiry on curation practices in the increasingly pervasive, participatory, knowledge-driven networked digital environment, and with the specification and assessment of appropriate curation-enabled digital infrastructures for scholarship and cultural meaning-making.

An introduction and extended outline is under preparation, to be submitted to an academic press in 2019 as a proposal for a book contract.

Dates of stay: 01 October 2018 - 28 February 2019