Posted to the Ethnos Project by on December 7th, 2011

A kind fellow by the name of Jeremy just sent me a message letting me know that the link to the Digital Songlines page no longer works. After looking around a bit online, I have learned why: the group that created the project is sadly no longer in existence. The project evidently is continuing self-funded, however.

What is the Digital Songlines project?

Launched by the Australasian CRC [Cooperative Research Centre] for Interaction Design (ACID), Digital Songlines is a project to develop protocols, methodologies, and toolkits to facilitate the collection and sharing of Indigenous cultural heritage knowledge in Australia. The title of Digital Songlines represents the blend of new media technology, simulation technology, and high-end computer visualisation systems to depict Aboriginal culture and heritage. Through the virtual sharing of oral histories, herbarium data, dreamtime myths, legends, and stories, organisers hope to protect, preserve and promote Indigenous cultural practices and their survival techniques in accessible, interactive, creative ways.

This is an initiative to conserve indigenous heritage using information and communication technologies (ICTs). Digital Songlines involves the development of a 3-D digital environment for the representation of indigenous cultural knowledge, practices and languages – mixing story, art, and cultural icons in an effort to present knowledge as nonlinear and multilayered stories as they were told (and sung) in traditional ways. The project explores the effective recording, content management, and virtual reality delivery of Indigenous cultural knowledge in ways that are culturally sensitive and involve the Indigenous custodians, leaders and communities. Traditionally, organisers explain, the Aboriginal heritage was transferred from generation to generation by rituals and storytellers through dance, stories, and artworks. Digital Songlines is an interactive immersive simulation experience that is designed to communicate this ancient heritage in an entertaining, exciting, and creative way using computer simulation technology.

Specifically, Digital Songlines as a toolkit is a platform-independent software developed in a number of formats to meet the divergent needs of the Indigenous communities, educational requirements, and stakeholders. Its purpose is to be a virtual heritage kit that addresses the needs of the Indigenous community, edutainment market, museums, science centres and homes for both national and international distribution. The kit can be customised according to community wishes, educational needs, and other requirements and can incorporate traditional language, oral histories, video, panoramic photography, and so on.

For example, through the technology that ACID is creating, users will be able to experience a virtual environment composed of Australian flora and fauna, topographical features that have been restored in high resolution 3D. Spatial audio can be used to reflect the ambient sounds and audio of the landscape, and to enable users of the website to see and hear virtual 3D avatars telling immersive Indigenous quests, stories, myths, and legends in Indigenous languages that are meant to reflect an experience and sense of actually being there. They can witness virtual representation of Aboriginal art, stories, and artifacts as well as the high definition 3D design and spatial representation of these within a 3D landscape based upon actual satellite topographical imagery. One focus area of interest to ACID in developing these websites is on cultural protocol and gender-based issues relating to Aboriginal heritage.

Digital Storylines strives to connect people through ICTs by integrating interactive aspects into the process, such as the possibility of recording in a relational database Dreaming stories, myths, and legends. The user is thus set on an “exploration quest” involving tasks fulfillment, knowledge gathering, skills development, and character advancement based upon Aboriginal culture and heritage. [source]

Here is a brief video that shows the gameplay experience…

Read a 2006 ACID press release about the project

For a deeper look at the project, included below is a paper titled Evaluating the Digital Songlines Game Engine for Australian Indigenous Storytelling written by Brett Leavy, Theodor G. Wyeld, Joti Carroll, Craig Gibbons, Brendan Ledwich, and James Hills (presented at the 13th International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia, 2007, Brisbane, Australia).


This paper reports on a consultative development cycle with remote indigenous peoples around Australia, the protocols established for their respectful engagement, and evaluation of the digital storytelling game engine developed for them. The Digital Songlines (DSL) digital storytelling project is funded by the Australasian Cooperative Research Centre for Interaction Design (ACID). The project has been developing protocols, methodologies and toolkits to facilitate the collection, education and sharing of Australian indigenous cultural heritage knowledge since 2004. The project explores the areas of effective recording, content management and virtual reality delivery capabilities that are culturally sensitive and involve the indigenous custodians, leaders and communities from around Australia. It investigates how players, in a serious gaming sense, can experience Indigenous virtual heritage in a high fidelity fashion with culturally appropriate interface tools. This paper reports on evaluation of its effectiveness in the field.

Read the paper here

More information can be found at the CyberDreaming website.

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