Wishful Thinking – A critical discussion of \”extended reality\” technologies in the cultural heritage sector


\”We go where the eyeballs are\” is the rationale used to engage with online platforms whose motivations and behaviours are increasingly difficult to reconcile with those of the cultural heritage sector. These same platforms are now working to extend their reach through the promise of immersive and interactive environments whose technological and financial overhead will all but guarantee that they will be exclusionary spaces in which museums will be forced to operate. Further they will be spaces gated on the economic imperatives and editorial criteria of those same platform vendor rather than museums themselves.

Through the lens of fast-developing \”extended\” (sometimes called \”virtual\” or \”augmented\”) reality platforms and the push to adopt them in cultural heritage settings this paper will discuss the consequences of our participation in the technologies we choose to embrace. It will contrast the goals and origins of these new technologies with the world wide web which is incorrectly understood as an old and outdated technology in need of replacing. Finally it will address the chronic problem of staffing and retention for technology roles in the cultural heritage sector and how these problems will determine whether or not the digital aspirations of the sector will continue to be held hostage to third-party commercial interests.

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