Project context

The Inclusive Digital Museum Innovation project runs from Feb 2022 – Jul 2023 and is funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It is a cross-disciplinary network between the UK and the Republic of Korea exploring inclusive approaches to the digital transformation of arts and heritage organisations. 

This project takes advantage of the two countries’ strengths in digital innovation and their cultural and creative industries to make not only an academic contribution to the identification and development of themes and topics around digital inequality and the social responsibility of museums in the digital age, but also practical contributions to museums and other collecting institutions. 

This project initiates the unique international partnerships between UCL Institute of Archaeology (IoA) and Games and Life Lab, KAIST Graduate School of Culture Technology (GSCT) as well as museum and library partners, which act as a springboard for further international collaborative research towards prototypes of gamified, inclusive digital museums. This long-term relationship will contribute to the prosperity of the two countries and their ability to create a sustainable future for the digital economy and creative industry. 

Project aims

The overarching aim of this project is to bring South Korea’s advancements in digital technology and the digital game industry and the UK’s socially engaged museum practices into dialogue with each other in order to explore inclusive and ethical approaches to the digital transformation of arts and heritage organisations. In particular, this project aims to motivate museums to take actions to mitigate global challenges of digital inequality in society, improve our understanding of digital ethics regarding museum practices, and explore the potential benefits of digital gaming towards equity, diversity, and inclusion in museums. 

Digital innovation that rapidly changes our lives promises to be a driving force for the economic growth of post-pandemic Britain and South Korea. The development of game studies in South Korea emerges from its game industry, which ranks as the fourth largest market in the global game industry. This project seeks to integrate game studies to help global museums improve their understanding of the radically changing field of digital culture and digital leisure in a post pandemic society where the digital is rapidly becoming the default. 

Project objectives

The objectives of this project are threefold: 

O1. First, it initiates the unique international partnership between the UCL IoA and KAIST GSCT. This newly established partnership aims to bring mutual benefits to the ongoing digital transformation of both countries’ museum sectors. Moreover, given this project’s international nature, it improves understanding of cultural differences in ethics, which have become increasingly critical for museums as they welcome audiences from varied cultural backgrounds and become digitally connected beyond national territories. The project respects the diversity of culture and as such takes a cross-cultural approach to building knowledge around museum ethics in the digital age. The long-term relationship established with the project contributes to the prosperity of the two countries and their ability to create a sustainable future for the digital economy and creative industry. 

O2. Second, this project identifies and develops concepts around digital inequality and seeks ways to apply them in museums to enable them to take social responsibility for the well-being of their audiences in the digital age. Museums and libraries, which function as hubs for the creative and cultural industries, are not only soft power platforms that contribute to promoting a country’s rich cultural heritage. They also have a significant impact on communities as facilitators of health and well-being. This project seeks to develop digitally enhanced approaches for museums and libraries to increase the well-being of their communities through the design and incorporation of inclusive technology. 

O3. Lastly, this project, taking a cross-disciplinary approach between museum studies and game studies, promotes knowledge exchange for the improved understanding digital leisure. In a post-pandemic society, the field of digital leisure is growing, in terms of both global business markets and academic research. Advanced knowledge and experimental methodologies developed in game studies help museums understand digital culture and different contexts of digital users. In particular, research on game players, for example, those left behind by digital innovation (e.g. people with disabilities and people with marginalised ethnic and cultural backgrounds), has the great potential to help design inclusive digital museums. 

Research questions

  1. How can we understand the relationship between technology, culture, and ethics, and how can this understanding inform museums’ digital transformations to be more inclusive for individual citizens’ well-being and social connection? 
  1. How can museums and other cultural organisations help mitigate digital exclusion in a post-pandemic society, especially for communities often left behind by digital innovation, such as people with disabilities and people with marginalised ethnic and cultural backgrounds? 
  1. What approaches and design thinking are required for museums and other cultural organisations to adopt inclusive technology in their digital practices? What are the opportunities and challenges of applying such technology in practice? 

Project activities

Key research activities of this project include a series of thematic workshops, public engagement events online, and a final international conference. 

  • March 2022: web site launch 
  • June 2022: run online workshop 1, Tech, Culture and Ethics 
  • September 2022: run online workshop 2, Digital Divide  
  • November 2022: run online workshop 3, Inclusive Technology 
  • December 2022: call for papers for the programme of an international conference 
  • June 2023: organise the two-day final international conference in London 
  • July 2023: submit a final project report and a joint research proposal