TAG CLOUD: a European cooperation to engage in cultural heritage

TAG CLOUD croppedThis post is originally written for the blog of the Norwegian project Culture and nature travel (translated from Norwegian). It presents the project TAG CLOUD that we contribute to. We have earlier referred to the project, but not yet provide an overview of our activities. It is time to do it!

TAG CLOUD is a EU/FP7 ICT project that develop new and innovative digital services with the aim to engage a wider audience in cultural heritage. TAG CLOUD share common goals with Culture and nature travel. Digital services are central means in both projects. Can we avoid duplicating work and instead complement each other? A first step is to get to know each other. It is the purpose of this post that introduces TAG CLOUD. First, a few words about us, SINTEF ICT, a newcomer in the field of culture.

About our motivation to join TAG CLOUD

In winter 2012, SINTEF ICT was invited to participate in a European cooperation related to the theme ” ICT for access to cultural resources .” We conduct research on digital technology, which consists primarily of experimenting with new applications of technology and developing new technology. We have expertise in a variety of application domains, for example welfare and transport. Culture, however, was an unknown field for us. Our knowledge of mobile technology and social networks as well as our experience with user-centred development were relevant to TAG CLOUD. Therefore, we were invited. We noticed two main objectives of the EU strategy for culture: To contribute to personal development and to create social cohesion . These main objectives unite with our commitment to social inclusion. Therefore we accepted.

We wanted to set up a pilot study in Norway. This was accepted by the TAG CLOUD consortium. We also got Sør-Trøndelag County Council as a partner in the project.


TAG CLOUD develop digital services with the aim to increase interest in heritage. Personalization is central to the approach: Dissemination will be adapted to user interests. Personalization applies to both content and interaction with cultural resources. Which information is relevant, which type of media (e.g., text or audio), which application (e.g., gaming or storytelling), all this can be customized. Focus on personalization has given its name to the project. Content and interaction will be categorized (TAG). Data matching between users and cultural resources takes place in the cloud (CLOUD).

Personalization occurs in the background. TAG CLOUD is also developing mobile applications by combining:

  • Social computing. The goal is to raise awareness through network effects. In addition, social media is a means to gather information about the user’s interests, and is thus relevant for personalization. The information from social media can also be analysed by professionals in order to understand user behaviour and create offerings.
  • Virtual environments. The goal is to engage users through augmented reality and games. The “fun factor” is important, especially for the young generation.
  • Digital Storytelling. Good stories that create interest. TAG CLOUD will both support the dissemination of stories and engage people to tell and share.


TAG CLOUD consortium consists of 9 partners from 5 different countries. Cultural institutions, ICT research and ICT industry are represented.

Initially two partners from Norway participated: SINTEF ICT and the Sør-Trøndelag county authority. Due to change of personnel, the county authority withdrew from the project in fall 2013.

TAG CLOUD meeting Alhambra

Plan and pilot studies

TAG CLOUD started in February 2013 and will end in February 2016. The project is divided into two phases of evaluation at the end of each phase. The first evaluation will start in summer 2014, the second is scheduled for summer 2015. Three pilot studies will be set up in three countries in each phase. While the goal of the pilot studies in phase 1 is to evaluate a variety of mobile applications, personalization will be evaluated by users in phase 2. However algorithms for personalization will also be evaluated using simulation in phase 1.

Pilot studies will be carried out at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts (England), at Alhambra y Generalife (Spain) and in Sør-Trøndelag. The three sites for piloting have different goals. While Alhambra y Generalife wish to provide a varied range of offers to visitors, Barber Institute wish to attract more visitors. The needs are also different. While the experiment will take place outdoors in Sør-Trøndelag, it will take place indoors at the Barber Institute.

What happens in Norway

Idea generation with a reference group

As early as the autumn of 2012 – before the start of the project, we worked with brainstorming. Our experience is that it is important to be well prepared at project start. EU cooperation involves varying, sometimes divergent, interests and discussions about priorities. The more clear the ideas and user requirements are presented early in the project, the greater benefits can be achieved by the user representatives. The Sør-Trøndelag county authority therefore invited a number of players in the county to an idea generation seminar in autumn 2012. This was followed by another seminar in spring 13 that resulted in a basis for specifying scenarios. Representatives from MIST, school, county library, archive and several others participated.

Anchoring our work in previous user surveys

Our scenarios were also designed with regard to the results of a number of Norwegian user surveys related to cultural participation. Feedback includes the desire to prioritize outdoor activities, the need for cultural activities for families in need of lowering the threshold of culture and willingness of users to share experiences through social media. We also took into account the results from the Danish surveys. They point out similar conclusions: It is important that the offer includes children and youth, and that lowers the threshold for participation. In addition, the Danish studies show that the public wants to participate – i.e., they do not only wish to consume but to actively shape the experience.

The Sør-Trøndelag county authority is responsible for cultural heritage in the county and for secondary schools. Theme “culture in the landscape” was chosen for the pilot study in Norway and students from the secondary school as target group for evaluation. While the role of the county authority was important for these choices, we see that they match well with the needs identified through the surveys.

Scenario evaluation through focus groups

Our scenarios involve cultural dissemination outdoors, play and learning. They involve young people and involve users in the production of content. The scenarios were evaluated in June 2013. We visited two secondary schools: Thora Storm in Trondheim and Rissa VGS . In addition, we organized two focus groups with experts in culture, tourism , media and IT.

The scenarios were positively received by the students. We observe that access to information on mobile and the possibility of sharing with friends are essential. The students were concerned with quality content. They suggested features to ensure the quality of the content produced by the users.

The reception from professionals was more mixed. Opinions were divergent as for the participation of users and about whether amateurs have enough qualifications to contribute content or not. One concern was also related to the effort required to make the content available to different applications. Some professionals were afraid that it would be necessary to duplicate content. There is clearly a need for an infrastructure to avoid this, which Digital Museum and Digital Narrated in Norway cover well. Everyone agreed that digital communication is essential to increase the interest of young people in cultural heritage.

TAG CLOUD focus group

Development of the mobile App ”stedr”

Based on feedback from focus groups, SINTEF ICT has developed the idea of ​​a mobile App “stedr” that combines digital storytelling and social media. We propose to associate different types of stories to places. Some stories are based on qualified sources. One finds them in Digital Fortalt. Other stories represent an easier and spontaneous expression, for example experiences captured through images and sounds. The latter can be collected from social networks, e.g. Instagram and Soundcloud.

The development of “stedr” started in autumn 2013 in collaboration with a student group at NTNU. In spring 2014, a new student group at NTNU took over. The new version of “stedr” will soon be available. This will be announced in this blog. The plan is to start the evaluation in June 2014.

Place Erkebispegården - stories

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