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How far back do our modern day practices of collecting, curating and displaying information go? Choosing a Facebook profile picture, creating a gallery of holiday photos, tweeting an image of a strange object you’ve come across – all of these acts have historical roots, taking us right back to the Renaissance period and to the strange and mystical Cabinets of Wonder.

Using a custom built Digital Cabinet of Wonders, we asked participants to think about how collections of items from the past can help us to think about our own world. For instance, John Tradescant collected a hawking glove from Henry the VII that lets us think about whether the glove would be as interesting to us were it not for the association with royalty? Are we looking for a similar connection when we follow the Twitter account of Stephen Fry or Justin Bieber? And when we store our relationships and memories on transient online platforms, will our future ability to reconstruct those interactions be just as difficult as trying to work out the habits of the Dodo from a taxidermy specimen?

Researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute come from a variety of disciplines, including Sociology, Social Anthropology, Information Science, and Digital Humanities. The Digital Wonder Cabinet illustrates how these disciplines come together to explore historical and contemporary practices of collecting, curating and collective sense making.

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Oxford Internet Institute

Digital Cabinets of Wonder

Event supporters

We are grateful to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for their support through the University of Oxford’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

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