Author: Thomas Mormont

Materiality and Digital Collections : The Weapons Collection of the Grand Curtius Museum

The outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 changed many aspects of our social lives. It has been approximatively one year since European governments have taken strong measures in in order to stop the epidemic. Almost every social places such as bars, restaurants, cinemas or Museums were shut, re-opened and shut again in the course of 2020. The stakeholders of these different areas had to organise and find alternatives to keep their sectors and businesses alive. Restaurants had to propose take-away services to survive, even those that were not used to do it before. Museums and curators had to maintain people interest for their collections with their closed doors. In order to do that, many museums decided to move their collections online during the pandemic (Burke & al., 2020). Numerous digital collections already existed before COVID-19. However, during this period, museums were pushed to increase significantly their online presence. They had to adjust their interactions with their audience. For example, in Italy, UK and US, museums boosted their communication through social medias and remain very active during the lockdowns. Indeed, social medias are easy access to mass communication (Deborah & al., 2020, p.363: Samaroudi & al., 2020, p.356). The different institutions also proposed online catalogues, audio visual content or even complete digital exhibition such as virtual museum tours. Digital platforms have been vital for Museums during the pandemic. Indeed, it allowed visitors and researchers to glimpse collections through shut doors. However, even if many efforts were put in the digitisation of archives and artefacts, virtual experiences of exhibitions are not comparable with physical ones. Additionally, museums have important social context and are important places of interactions that are not operative through digital platforms (Burke & al., 2020: Vanayou & al., 2020, p.1).

Since the advent of new technologies, the digitisation of archives and artefacts collections became a highly debated topic among scholars. Indeed, many articles discuss the importance of physical objects materiality and the consequences that digitisation of archives and historical artefacts could have. This is exactly what this blogpost focuses on. It exmines the implications of artefacts materiality and their digital replication. To this end, this post firstly reviews the academic conversation about digitisation. Next, to exemplify the discussion, this post have a look at the ancients weapons digital collection of the Belgian Grand Curtius Museum. Lastly, In connection with the discussion about materiality, it draws some conclusions about the latter case.

Cox and Guillemin (2018) explain that objects are primary data sources that teem with many different information. Indeed, the multi-sensory nature of physical objects add richness and complexity to their materiality. It also increases the meaning and the understanding we have about our world and the interactions we have with it. In opposition, digitalized object and numerical images are uni-sensory and hold far less meanings (p.2766). In the same line of thought, Lester (2018) explains that engaging with archives and artefacts is a holistic experience which is both physical and intellectual. Without both sides of the experience, the author argues that it is impossible to grasp the full meaning of objects. Indeed, the multi-sensory experience of an artefacts is very important. It creates personal emotional feelings that can be associated with design, form and shapes. Additionally, being in presence of an object can have a special resonance. These are these emotional responses to objects that bring us new useful understandings and meanings about them and our world (pp.73-5). Lester (2018) also discusses the process of digitalisation of physical objects. When museums started the first digitisations, many scholars were afraid that it would replace original artefacts. However, it finally allowed to launch a discussion that allowed to rediscover materiality of historical objects and archives. Nevertheless, the author argues about digitized artefacts that when they are without their bodies, they lose their aura as well (p.76). Therefore, It is important to favour a co-existence culture between physical and digital objects in order to not miss any information. In addition, objects are traces and their physic can transmit information about social, historical and economical context of the past that cannot be identify when digitised (Lester, 2018, p.77). Varnalis-Weigle (2016) also explains that physical objects stimulate critical thinking and play an important role in our social and emotional development (p.1). When rendering them digital, elements of the objects are lost and the sensory and emotional engagement is diminished. The author argues that artefacts contain non-textual elements that cannot be transmit through digital medias. There are deep connections between people and objects that are only maintainable with physicality.(Varnalis-Weigle, 2016, p.17). However, the article also shows that digitising can be very useful for institutions, researchers and people. Indeed, it provides an easy access to collections from all around the world and experimenting a digital collection of objects can encourage visitors to experience it physically (Varnalis-Weigle, 2016, p.17).

Since the announcement of restrictive measures because of the COVID-19, museums have increasingly digitised their artefacts collections. Apparently, the argument of  Varnalis-Weigle (2016) about encouraging people to physically visit collections with digital collections has proved to be very useful during lockdowns. Indeed, Burke & al. (2020) explain that institutions use digital in order to attract and maintain people interest in their collections. By this mean, they push them to physically visit exhibitions when museums will be open again. They give visitors a foretaste of their collections by digitally opening a little window to their exhibitions. Indeed, Tebeau (2016) argues in the same direction. According to him, digital helps to reconnect people to physical and renders the latter more accessible. Such as Varnalis-Weigle (2016) and Burke & al. (2020), he explains that the more digital collections are online, the more it focuses the attention on the physical collections (p.475). As stated by Tebeau (2016), digital collections did not replaced the physical ones but they altered our relationship with the latter by emphasising their importance (p.476).

Nevertheless, according to Forlini and Hinrichs (2017), it is still very important to preserve physical content because digitised collections have an tendency to devaluate  materiality. Therefore, the authors focus their work on how to transform sensory physical experiences digitally and how to make it best. In order to do that, they porpose a process called “synthetic visualization”. It consists to accompanied digital artefacts with metadata about size, weight, texture and materials but also with multimodal interactions such as visual or auditory. This creates new ways to digitally explore objects. In addition, the authors explain that the combination between “content- and materiality-centric metadata” is the best way to holistically approach digital curation of artefacts (pp.1-2).

Now that the academic discussion around the importance of materiality has been reviewed, the case of the digital weapons collection of the Grand Curtius museum in Liège is analysed. This blogpost tempts to understand how materiality is conveyed through the latter digital collection. The arms collection of the city of Liège has been created in 1885, which makes the Arms Museum one of the oldest museum of the city. The arm industry is emblematic in Liège. From before 1885 until now, the city always kept its renown as a leading place for weapon production worldwide. Consequently, the Arms Museum which has been merged in 2018 with the Grand Curtius museum also occupies an international leading place regarding its weapons collection. Indeed, thousands of firearms and cold weapons from the local production and from all over the world are detained by the Arms Museum of Liège. The collection covers every part of the history of weaponry. What is interesting about this collection is that since the fusion between the Arms Museum and the Grand Curtius museum in 2018 a website that host parts of the collection has been created. Additionally, since March 2020 and the first lockdown after the outbreak of COVID-19, the Museum had to close for a while. Therefore, as mentioned by Burk & al. (2020), the curators had to find solutions to keep the collections accessible and entertaining for their visitors. Therefore, some parts of the Grand Curtius became accessible through a virtual tour. In this case analysis, the parts that concern the weapons collection form the Arms Museum are examined.

As stated previously, , in order to decelerate the COVID-19 pandemic, the Belgian government had to take strong measures, such as closing closing down many social places. Therefore, the Grand Curtius decided to allow its visitors to immerse themselves in a virtual tour of the museum and its collections. Concerning the weapons collection of the Arms Museum, only two rooms are accessible virtually.

When landing on these pages, the virtual immersion is complete. It creates a feeling of physically such as being in the museum. The 360° view allows to look all around the room. However, the felling of presence and freedom quickly subside. Indeed, the space cannot be felt extensively because it is impossible to change position. It feels like you are standing in the middle of hallway with your feet attached on a lazy suzan and you are not allowed to move the later. It is a bit frustrating as it is not possible to clearly identify the objects that are not right in front of you. Nevertheless, this interactive experience still enhance the mediation of materiality as explained by Forlini and Hinrichs (2017), even if it could be richer. Indeed, this virtual tour still provides a more sensory environment than looking at classical digital images of weapons. The spatial reproductions of the two rooms allow viewers to compare and imagine the weapons in relation with the environment surrounding. This virtual tour provides a limited sensory experience.

The feeling of being restrain will also come back if visitors want to know more about the artefacts their contemplating in one of the two virtual rooms. Indeed, There are no metadata neither explanations nor descriptions of the latter objects. In order to learn more about the weapons of the Liège Arms Museum, the virtual tour needs to be deserted to navigate on the website of the Grand Curtius. A short history about the collection is the first thing presented when landing on the page. Under this, a collection of 7 weapons is displayed in an image gallery which is follow by a section of 9 “unavoidable” arms in an image slider.

On this page, the materiality of the collection is not well portayed. Except from the rather limited virtual tour, this collections does not benefit from multimodal interactions that could enhance the feelings of materiality such as proposed by Forlini and Hinrichs (2017). Nevertheless, by clicking on one of these images, visitors can access to well furnished meta-data about the objects. Some precise pictures of individual weapons allows to distinguished very small details of the weapons. These images are accompanied with rich meta-data. A little text that contains information about the history of the model, its mechanism and its design is presented beside each weapon.

Additionally, under individual pictures, we can find the name of the gunsmith, the year and place of production, the dimensions and the calibre of the firearm. As explained by Forlini and Hinrichs (2017), the combination between “content- and materiality-centric metadata” is the best way to holistically approach digital curation of artefacts. In this collection, the quality and the accuracy of the picture accompanied with the meta-data allow visitors to get a better sense of the physicality of the weapons. Academics or passionate people can find important indications about the designs and the technical features of these objects. However, in addition to the multimodal and interactive factors, there is one important thing missing to get a complete sense of the materiality: the weight of the weapons. Indeed, the weight of the arms can be a crucial information in order to envision their physical aspects.

The digital collection of weapons from the Grand Curtius museum in Liège clearly lacks from a sensory and physical experience to strengthen the materiality of its digital objects. The virtual tour could be much more interactive and immersive to let the visitors completely dive into the museum universe and get a better sense of physicality. Moreover, more meta-data could help to emphasis the materiality of the digital collection. Lastly, after visiting the website and browsed over the different weapons exposed, what is interesting is the “not-enough” feeling developed. It maybe can be explained by the argument of Varnalis-Weigle (2016) that digital collections are used to encourage visitors to physically discover the collections. Therefore, one  could ask if that the “missing” information that would have allowed to get a better sensory experience with the digital collection are intentionally omitted. By this mean, the museum can focus the attention on the physical collection and make visitors want to visit it.

In conclusion, in this blogpost, the academic discussion around materiality and its implications for digital collection has been reviewed. Some authors discuss the importance of physical artefacts  and express their fear of replacement by digital objects. However, many other scholars agree that even if digital is becoming very significant, it should and could never replace the physical materiality. Therefore, academics propose ways to process objects digitally. Through various method such as the “synthetic vizualtion” of Forlini and Hinrichs (2017), they try to explain how to preserve the most features of artefacts materiality in their numerical counterparts. In light of this academic discussion, the digital collection of the weapons of the Grand Curtius museum has been analysed. It showed that interactions and “content- and materiality-centric metadata” do help to convey the materiality of collections digitally (Forlini and Hinrichs, 2017p. 2). However, the analysis showed that in the latter case, a lot of work could be done in order to enhance materiality. Some missing pieces are missing in the digital collection to benefit from a holistic approach to the weapons of the Grand Curtius Museum of Liège. Nevertheless, one might think that omitting information is maybe a strategic practise of the museum to lure visitors to see their physical collections.

If you have not checked yet the digital collection, clic on the link bellow :

To try the virtual tour of the weapons collection follow these two links :


Burke, V., Jørgensen, D., Jørgensen, F. A. (2020). Museums at Home: Digital Initiatives in Response to COVID-19, Norsk Museumstidsskrift 6.

Cox, S., & Guillemin, M. (2018). Enhancing meaning-making in research through sensory engagement with material objects. The Qualitative Report23(11), 2754-2771.

Deborah, A., Arnaboldi, M., Lampis, A. (2020). Italian State museums during the COVID-19 crisis: from onsite closure to online openness, MuseumManagement and Curatorship,35:4, 362-372.

Forlini, S., & Hinrichs, U. (2017, June). Synesthetic visualization: balancing sensate experience and sense making in digitized print collections. In Proceedings of the conference on Digital Preservation for Social Sciences and Humanities.

Lester, P. (2018). Of mind and matter: the archive as object. Archives and Records39(1), 73-87.

Samaroudi, M., Echavarria, K. R., & Perry, L. (2020). Heritage in lockdown: digital provision of memory institutions in the UK and US of America during the COVID-19 pandemic. Museum Management and Curatorship, 35(4), 337-361.

Tebeau, M. (2016). Engaging the Materiality of the Archive in the Digital Age. Collections12(4), 475-487.

Varnalis-Weigle, A. S. (2016). A comparative study of user experience between physical objects and their digital surrogates. Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies3(1), 3.

Vayanou, M., Katifori, A., Chrysanthi, A., & Antoniou, A. (2020). Cultural Heritage and Social Experiences in the Times of COVID 19. AVI2CH 2020, September 29, Island    of Ischia, Italy.

Weapons. Grand Curtius.

Reflection : 3D Modeling & The Covid Collection

It’s the day before Carnival break and I am very happy and proud of what we have learned and produced since the beginning of 2021. Everything did not went as I imagined but I finally managed to produce a 3D model of moderate quality for the “COVID19 Collection”.

When I receive the professional equipment from the university during the last week of January, I had never used a professional camera before. I only had some theoretical basis from our courses. It was already quiet challenging for me to set the camera and the lights of the lightbox correctly. However, I did it after several hours and finally managed to get my dataset.

After this I was convinced that in the following week I will be done with the processing on Agisoft Metashape. I was wrong, completely wrong… I tried to process my beautiful pictures but they refused to align. I tried many things; re-doing masks, adding some markers but still nothing. After few days of trying to fix problems, I finally realized that my object (computer mouse) was way too shiny and some of the photos were not focused correctly (difficult to see that at first glance when you had never used such a camera before). I then tried with two other objects but once it was too smooth, once it was too shiny. It was a real challenge for me to find a significant object that can be processed in 3D. I realized that we could not choose what we exactly wanted. They are some limitations to the software and it is a bit sad in the framework of our collection.

I finally and sadly found something; a beer opener. It is maybe more representative of my life during COVID19 then the mouse and more interesting to analyse in the light of the lockdowns. Indeed, alcohol consumption among young people (in Belgium) has increased significantly during the pandemic (Steenhoud, 2020).

Anyway, I found this object but I did not have the professional equipment in my possession anymore. Therefore, I had to re-create a data set with the camera of my Iphone. Surprisingly, this attempt was the more easy to do and I finally could process a correct 3D model (I said correct because there are two holes in the model I did not succeed to fill with the techniques proposed; closing holes in the mesh and adding some photos to dataset).

Lastly, I think it was particularly challenging for my fellow student and me to process these 3D models because we had our courses fully online. Even if our tutors were very virtually present and answered quickly to all our questions, I think that it would have been way easier to follow this course in real life with the adequate equipment. Even if my results are not perfect, I am happy and proud from what we have learned this period.

Here is my 3D model. (Screenshot from Agisoft Metashape)

My 3D model is accessible on Sketchfab by clicking on the following link:


Steenhoudt, F. (2020, May 15). En période de confinement, Les jeunes ont tendance a consommer plus d’alcool et de tabac. Daily Science Brussels.   en-roken-meer-tijdens-lockdown/13/05/2020/.

A Living Room Talk : Discovering Multimodality

This podcast is part of a series of different elements, which all focus on discovering the concept of multimodality. This contains multiple blog posts discussing different aspects of it as well as this podcast tying all of this together in verbal form. If you want to discover more about multimodality, just press play :

To access the other elements of the series, click on the buttons bellow:

References :

Teaching & Multimodality

This blogpost is part of a series of different elements in regards to the concept of multimodality. This contains multiple blog posts discussing different aspects of this concept as well as a podcast tying all of this together in verbal form. To access the other elements of the series, click on the buttons bellow:

Multimodality is defined as the use of multiple modes in one products (Jewitt, 2008). In other words, Multimodality occurs when different literacies are used in order to make meaning of something (Kress, 2011). In order to learn more about this concept and its history, you are invited you to visit the blogposts of the other members of this project. The advent of digital culture increased and diversified the use of different modes in our daily ways to communicate. Indeed, with digital platforms, multimodal literacies became accessible to everyone. Additionally, new technologies provided to people facilities to read and write in combination with other complex aspects such as music, sounds, graphics, images or videos (Walsh, 2010, p.211). As Cope and Kalantzis (2000) maintain, literacy learning and teaching should change as the world is changing. However, Leeuwen (2015) explains that schools belong to a more formal and less multimodal era (p.583). Indeed, most of education testing requirements in primary and secondary schools are still based on printed texts. Nowadays, multimodal literacies are essential for communication. Therefore, it is important to consider them in school in order to prepare student to use them (Walsh, 2010, p.211).

            In this blogpost, the importance of multimodality in education is approached. Through different examples, it looks at why and how multimodality can be teach and learned in schools.

            As mentioned previously, multimodal literacies became essential for contemporary communication and need to incorporated within schools’ curriculums. However, it is also important to not reduce the importance of books and printed based texts while adding multimodality to learning programs (Walsh, 2010, p.211). Walsh (2010) conducts a study on nine classroom in Sidney and focuses on how teachers could engaged with multimodal literacies (p.212). This research shows that it is possible to combine in class both print based and digital literacies with blogs, images, PowerPoints, smartboards. In addition, teachers recognizes that there is a need to prepare pupils with the accurate communication tools they can use outside schools and that will be significant for their future. (Walsh, 2010, p.226). With the diagram displayed bellow, Walsh (2010) shows that with digital technologies it is possible to propose to student a complete learning experience where talking, listening, reading and writing are interdependent. In addition, the diagram, which as been design according to the conducted study, points out that multimodal literacies are resources that can be associated or interchanged with each other in a classroom (pp.222-3).

Walsh, M. (2010)

This interchangeable aspect of multimodal literacies in the classroom is important. Indeed, Walsh (2010) explains that we are in a transitional period because both digital as pint-based literacies are still essential. Indeed, when we integrating new technologies in education, it has to be sure that basic aspects of reading, writing, grammar and spelling are still correctly taught and learned (p.226).

            In another work, Roswell and Walsh (2011) presented a pilot study that was organize in a primary school in Oakville, Ontario about the use of iPads as multimodal tools in classrooms.

The results of this study were really satisfying according to the teachers. Moreover, the authors explain that teachers recognized the need to teach multimodal literacies to student in order to prepare them for their future life (p.54). Indeed, they emphasis the importance of multimodality in our lives by stating that : “digital communications technology has so permeated the way we communicate, informally and formally, that it has become more than a tool in many ways.” (Roswell & Walsh, 2011, p.60). The teachers of the study also realized that multimodal tools were already accessible to their students outside school. Therefore, it is also appropriate to use these new tools such as blogs, Twitter, Wiki or smartphones apps in order to teach in class. Additionally, this study reveals that using these techniques enhanced the collaboration between students. The authors claim that “There was more problem-solving occurring as students investigated a topic and then negotiated the way they would create and construct a product to demonstrate their learning.” (Roswell & Walsh, 2011, p.60).

            In order to understand better how multimodality works in schools by using a different mode than written text, I invite you to watch this video of an Australian teacher using multimodal tools in her class.

            Using multimodality in class has some benefits. Indeed, multimodal learning creates an exciting and inclusive environment for students. It allows student to follow what they are learning with the mode they prefer. If they are not comfortable with a mode, they can choose another learning style. Multimodality ensures students to have a better understanding of knowledge and multiple modes even helps them to remember information. In addition, multimodal learning enable the use of new and fun technologies and medias in the classroom (May, 2019).

Bales (2019) proposes several tips to engage with multimodality in school. He explains that it is firstly important to make sure that student have the same accessibility to digital medias. Then he proposes to provide to students various ways to interact with texts such as infographics, audio books or podcast (By the way, we recorded one podcast in the framework of this project about multimodality, click here to listen to it). The author adds that it is important to associate words with images and to make appeal to the visual with videos or PowerPoints. Finally, he explains that one example that could be use in class with older than 13 years old student could be to communicate with them through social media platforms. As explained by Lazear (2011), the more different ways you learn something the more you will really learn it, remember it and understander it.

In conclusion, the literature concerning multimodality in education is almost unanimous. Multimodality can be very beneficial in schools if it is applied correctly. Indeed, it enhances collaborative work between student. It is also very inclusive because it allows pupils to choose between multimodal literacies and follow the one that correspond the most to them. This often results in a better general understanding and helps to remember learned knowledge as it teach through different ways. Moreover, it prepares students to the contemporary multimodal ways of  communication omnipresent in our society. However, neglecting the importance of book and printed text based learning in school would be a huge mistakes. It is primordial that an adequate teaching of reading and writing basics is guaranteed.


Art & Multimodality : A Belgian Example

This blogpost is part of a series of different elements in regards to the concept of multimodality. This contains multiple blog posts discussing different aspects of this concept as well as a podcast tying all of this together in verbal form. To access the other elements of the series, click on the buttons bellow:

Multimodality is defined as the use of multiple modes in one product (Jewitt, 2008). In other words, multimodality occurs when different literacies are used in order to make meaning of something (Kress, 2011). In order to learn more about this concept and its history, you are invited to visit the blogposts of the other members of this project. Artists were the first ones to play with these different literacies and their interactions. Indeed, the interplay of text, image and sound is present in artworks since many years (Clivaz, 2017, p.101). However, there has been an increasing use of Multimodality in arts and in society more generally with the advent of digital culture. New Technologies rendered various modes and literacies easily accessible to everyone. They even became embedded them in our daily ways of communicating (Walsh, 2010, p.211).

Some multimodal artworks can appear complex at first glance. Indeed, it can be difficult to grasp all the information of a piece at once. People naturally ignore some features of the work to focus on others (Nanay, 2012, p.363). However, multimodality in Arts  is interesting to focus on because it allows artists to create unique experiences by stimulating different senses. Different modalities are not solely used by artists to create sensory experiences. Some artists also decide to use multimodalities in order to provide additional information that are essential to the understanding of their work. Such as in this audible comics you can discover by clicking on this link :

In this case, the author decided to give oral complementary information to the readers. The comments can be activated by clicking on this signal  ► on the right top corner of the comic when you are on full screen mode. By doing that, you are able to listen to what the author wanted you to know in addition to the comics (Diao, 2012).

In this blogpost, one case of multimodal artwork is more extensively presented to you. Indeed, a closer look is given to the cybernetic light tower realised by Nicolas Shöffer.

Nicolas Schöffer is a French artist born in Hungary in 1912. After graduating in Budapest, he spent most of his life in the French capital where he dabbed firstly into painting to finally devote himself to sculpting and modelling. This multifaceted creator promoted the use of new technologies in his works. He preferred to sculpt lights and sounds rather than stone. In addition, Nicolas Schöffer wanted to produce accessible pieces which communicate with their public and their environment.  He believed that people should stop being simple spectators of art and should become actors of it. That is exactly what the artist achieved with his cybernetic sculptures (Ville de Liège, 2016).

Watch this video in order to visualize Nicolas Schöffer’s pieces. If you do not speak French, do not forget to make use of multimodal tools by activating translated subtitles.

This blogpost focuses on the biggest artwork materialized by Nicolas Schöffer, the Cybernetic Light Tower of Liège in Belgium.

            This monumental futurist 52 meters tower was built in 1961. This giant sculpture is composed of different motorized arms and spotlights which are monitored by an electronic brain. The latter is able to interact with its environment. Through different algorithms and sensors that capture temperature, surrounding noises and wind speed, the electronic brain can accordingly react with three different modes. The tower moves reflecting plates, it can produce noises and turns on lights of different colours (Ville de Liège, 2016).

Around the end of the 20th Century, the tower lost the interest of the people and has been abandoned for a few years. However, in 2015, it was restored and re-inaugured in 2016. In this second version, new technologies were used in order to improve the quality of the interactions of the tower but without modifying them. The original spirit developed by Schöffer around this tower was kept and even upgraded (Zimmerman, 2019). Indeed, one dimension of Schöffer vision of Art has been add to the tower; the public implication in his art. The tower is now able to react according to its public through two different modes; a specific application or  Twitter. Therefore, it is now possible to interact with the tower from home and see the result instantaneously.

Let’s try it, and let me guide you through this experience.

1. Firstly, start  by clicking on the link bellow to see how the tower is interacting with the environment and its public in real time.

2. Now that you understand how the tower works, follow this twitter account:

3. Lastly, while watching the tower, try to twit a colour and tag the latter account (@Cybertower) in your twit.

4. Now see the result, the tower should display the colour you choose in your Twit (Ville de Liège, 2016).

There is another way to interact with the tower from home. Indeed, you can download an app on the following website, This program allows you to determine every functions of the tower; lights, axes of the reflecting plates and noises. After choosing a configuration, you can submit it, and each Friday from 10pm to midnight, every submitted configurations are displayed one by one by the tower (Ville de Liège, 2016).

            At his creation, the cybernetic tower represented a new and innovating way to make art by combining three different dimensions, light, sound and time. The latter were little exploited together by sculptors before. With his tower, Nicolas Schöffer created an unique multimodal experience. Indeed, this artistic creation embodies perfectly the notion of multimodality. Via different modes, the tower processes information of its environment and its public and is able to react to them through three modes. Indeed, the tower use multimodality by producing lights, sounds and moving its axis. Additionally, it does not do it randomly and this is why it generates such an unique spectacle. By using new technologies, the tower is able to transform multimodal data such as Twits, wind, temperature and sounds and alters it into three distinct other modes. People can also create their own artwork through this tower. Indeed, with an app, you can decide what you want to display for short moments, while the rest of the time these three modes are monitored by the environment of the tower. In conclusion, Nicolas Schöffer’s creation successfully managed to use multimodality in order to switch his public from spectator to actor of his art.


  • Clivaz, C. (2017, November). Multimodal Literacies and Continuous Data Publishing: une question de rythme. In Advances in Digital Scholarly Editing. Papers presented at the DiXiT conferences in The Hague (pp. https-www). Sidestone Press.
  • Jewitt, C. (2008). Multimodality and Literacy in School Classrooms. Review of Research in Education, 32(1), 241-267.
  • Kress, G. (2011). ‘Partnerships in research’:multimodality and ethnography. Qualitative research, 11(3), 239-260.
  • Nanay, B. (2012). The multimodal experience of art. aesthj Journal52(4), 353-363.
  • Ville de Liège. (2016, June 21). Nicolas Schöffer. La Tour Cybernétique de Liège.
  • Walsh, M. (2010). Multimodal literacy: What does it mean for classroom practice?. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, The33(3), 211.
  • Zimmerman, Q. (2019, February 13). La tour cybernétique de liege (1961). Les Petites     Histoires.

Reflection on Period 2

This second period already comes to an end and I can’t wait to be the 17th of December at 16pm to enjoy a well deserved Christmas break. Indeed, this period has been intense in term of workload. However, I learned many new valuable things I have not heard about before. What I really like about this period is that we started to practise and use very useful tools (Audacity, microphones, Voyant Tools) to actually make projects.

As it is state in the name of the course, in Design Thinking and Maker Culture, we actually started to make. When this course started, I was really enthusiastic about  producing actual things other than academic papers. This is what we are currently doing with a podcast that you will be able to listen on this blog in a few days. For this podcast which is part of a bigger project, my group and me decided to approach the concept of multimodality. I realized by analysing it that this was probably the best way to communicate and make a clear and understandable meaning of a message. I also liked how we were introduced to multimodality in different environments such as academic, education or arts. It allowed me to get how it could be used and also incited me to maybe use it in further projects.

I was less enthusiastic about the second course, Machines of Knowledge. Indeed, at first glance, it looked like a traditional theoretical course with an academic paper at the end. However, I really liked how through different theories (Feminism, Post Colonialism and data sphere) we approached current societal issues with a very specific method; distant reading. I probably would have liked being introduced to this very new method a bit earlier in the period in order to grasp everything and not being in the rush to understand it two weeks before the deadline. However, I really liked that we had to make use digital programs I did not know because these are tools that could be really useful for our professional careers.

From today, I still have one complete week left to finish all the final assignments. Then I ‘ll probably take some days off to rest a little bit. Then, I’ll start thinking about our biggest project of this year, the master thesis.

Reflection on Period 1

When looking back to period 1, I can affirm that these 8 first weeks went really fast and the deadlines arrived maybe more quickly than I was thinking. As a commuting student between Maastricht and Liège, it was also a strange period for me. At the beginning of each week, I was never 100% sure to attend tutorials at Fasos. However, I have been introduced to many interesting topics and this could explain why time went so quickly. Even if it is my fifth year at Fasos, I encounter some struggle to acclimate with  new matters, especially with the Real Virtualities course. Indeed, I have never been introduced to philosophy before and it was sometimes hard for me to participate to in class philosophical discussions. I felt way more comfortable in the Transformation in Digital Cultures course.

One of the topic the really pique my curiosity was when we discussed the ideologies behind the creation of web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. It is the latter topic, in combination with the text regarding online communities that brought me to write about activism and digital platforms. I had a lot of fun when writing my final paper and I think that these topics deserve much more investigations. Indeed, during the interview I conducted, what really striked me was the major role that encrypted platforms play within activist groups. I think that this particular aspect of activism has been overlooked by scholars and could deserve more attention.

            Another intersting topic, that catch my attention during the courses of period one was thechnostalgia into music production. Music is one of the central points of interest in my life and I have always been amazed to see music producers searching for 1980s synthesizers or older musical instruments to find the perfect sonority in their sound. Anyway, I beleive that this could be a really intersting topic to investigate as I am really passionated about it.

           I hope the following courses will introduce me to even more interesting topics. I am really looking forward to start learning new matters next week.

Final Paper: Activism and Digital Platforms


In November 1989, massive demonstrations were held in Berlin after Eastern-German authorities decided to abolished border controls between the East and the West of Germany. Classical mediums of communication such as radio, letters, newspapers and telephones  were the main channels of information during this period and they played a major role in the conduct of these protests. However, an even greater impact on population could have been expected during Berlin wall fall protests. Indeed,  these classical mediums of communication were only exposing information to a limited sphere of citizens (Sandoval-Almazan & Gil-Garcia, 2014, p.366). New technologies and especially the creation of internet significantly transformed the dynamics of activism and social movements organizations. Information and Communication technologies (ICT) became interesting tools for activists to share information and mobilize a maximum of people. These new technologies reduced significantly the costs of collective actions and allowed an easier and faster access to politics (Van Aelst & Walgrave, 2002, p.465).

The growth of the internet since the mid-1990s generated a new debate among scholars regarding the influence that internet has on political process and social movements. Since then, the internet has evolved a lot. Starting from the Web 1.0, we are now slowly entering in the era of the Web 3.0. These periods are clearly noticeable in the literature about activism and new ICT. This research focuses on the second era of the World Wide Web, when social medias and interactive platforms where created. Most of the studies analysing social movements in relation with the Web 2.0 mainly emphasis the role of digital platforms as tools for external communications and publicity. In this paper, both internal and external medium of communication are addressed. Through a modest digital ethnography conducted via a semi-structured interview of a Belgian leftists activist, this work tries to understand what role plays current digital tools in the organization and the communication of activists groups. Therefore, the research question of this paper is: “How digital platforms are used within Belgian leftist activists groups ?”. Sandoval-Almazan and Gil-Garcia (2014) defines activism as “political activities that embrace a goal” within a group of people who shares the same ideas and become organized (p.366). This work refers to activism according to the latter definition.

This research firstly addresses some important concepts by reviewing the literature about new ICTs and their implications within activism and social movements. The second section presents the data analysed in this paper and  is subsequently devoted to the development of the methodology to examine the use of digital platforms within activists groups. The next part concerns the main body of the research with a discussion and an analyse of the obtained information. Lastly, concluding remarks will be drawn to answer the research question.

Literature Review

            In the academic literature, three main different categories regarding internet studies can be identified; Web 1.0, Web, 2.0 and Web 3.0. Ragnedda and Destefanis (2019) describes the first stage of the Internet as constituted of static websites that share information but without any interactions possible between users. The authors explain that the Internet served only to digitalize content (p.2). The second era of the Internet, Web 2.0, is characterized by its participative features. Indeed, digital platforms shifted from readable to writable content. With websites such as Wikipedia passive website visitors turned into active generators of content. Internet users were allowed to share information, add content and exchange data. The arrival of social medias on digital platforms even reinforced further the participation and collaboration features of Internet (Ragnedda & Destefanis, 2019, pp. 2-3). The last era  we are slowly entering in is the Web 3.0. Ragnedda and Destefanis (2019) describe this third web generation based on the creation of decentralized networks without any points of control through a new technology called “Blockchain”. The latter allows the exchange of values without any intermediate between people that would be monopolistic service provider or centralize organizations making benefit on these transfers (p.3). The literatures linking the influence that the of the second era of the Web can have over social movements are numerous. These researches are called digital movements studies 2.0. Others focuses on how the transition between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 has changed the story of social movements. However, articles concerning the role that Web 3.0 can play for activists groups remain rare for the moment.

            Treré (2015) explains that digital movement studies 1.0 look at how the introduction of digital medias affected the organization of activists groups. However, the author questions the development of collective identities during the transition between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. He explains that some scholars argue that the advent of the first digital medias of communication did not have a significant impact over social movements organization. However, others maintain that collective identities could have been build through the first digital communication technologies such as emailing (pp.5-6). For example, Danitz (1999) research about the Burma movements against the authoritarian regime at the beginning of the 1990s shows that the first digital medias played a major in the organization of protests. Indeed, before the arrival of emailing services there were not much information going out of Burma regarding their regime. With the Internet, people could create websites to inform the world about the situation in Burma and use email to communicate with the outside world. The first ICTs served as a great tools to communicate, raise awareness and create the Free Burma movement (pp.257-260). However, the author also explains that the tools they had at this time were not completely satisfying because, they could only rely on one source of communication with the outside which was risky knowing that Internet could have been easily monitored. In addition, not everyone at this time had an Internet connection. Therefore, the sphere of influence of digital medias was limited (Danitz, 1999, pp.261-4). This growth of Internet during the mid- 1990s rose concern about its implication in political processes. Van Aelst and Walgrave (2002) explains that it clearly facilitated participation politics and make it easier and faster for citizen-based groups of activists to organize. However, the authors stay skeptical about a complete change of logic with collective actions and social movements during the 1990s (p. 466). After analyzing the protests of the Batlle of Seattle in 1999, Van Aelst and Walgrave (2002) argues that social movements still need real life meetings in order to create a collective identity. In addition, they state that the influence of internet over the activism has been exaggerated (p. 487). Sandoval-Almazan and Gil-Garcia (2014) also share this idea and explain that during this period, activist groups that used new digital tools to organize and communicate took place where real life relationships were already established (p.367). Additionally, these movements had unidirectional structure through the use classical medias, rogue informational websites or email discussion and they always ended in street protests.(Sandoval-Almanzan & Gil-Garcia, 2014, p.368).

             According to Treré (2015), the introduction of social medias on the Web 2.0 significantly change the dynamic of activism. Indeed, even if the outcome of activists actions did not change, the horizontal nature digital platforms completely reframe organization and communication. Such platforms allowed to abandon the strong organizational control of social movements (p.17).  Social medias with their users-generated contents became the perfect tools to mobilize people as well online as offline. They reduced the barriers of social exchange and increased connectivity. Even if the connectivity is limited to users, their participatory nature enables activists to spread discourses to involve a maximum of people in society issues (Hwang & Kim, 2015, p.478). Sandoval-Almazan and Gil Garcia (2014) also share these ideas. According to them, technologies improve social activists organization and faster communication in order to protest against the establishment (p.367). In opposition to Treré (2015) who states that social media did not altern the outcome of social activism, Hwang and Kim (2015) raise concern about keyboard activism which consists to support social movements by sharing and linking content. They consider this practice being a low level of involvement in social movements and are afraid that active members of activist groups became passive users. This would considerably change the outcome of activism as it would not end in real life actions or in the streets anymore (p.480). Indeed, as explained by Sandoval-Almazan and Gil-Garcia (2014), activists share considerable amount information about actions on social media. They presents facts via Youtube, organize with Facebook and Twitter and raise awareness on interactive websites. The more people are informed, the more people are going to participate. However, social medias also allow people to decide they degree of involvement within these actions and it could be by sharing posts on Facebook or signing an online petition (p.368). This path could enhance a change of activists’ morality by questioning them about their legitimacy to conduct real life actions. Kamphof (2017) define technomoral change as the way technology affect our morality. With this growing concern about keyboard activism, activists could be led to rethink if their ways to act with protests and violent actions are the more legitimate or moral manners to reach their goals. They could therefore limit themselves to keyboard acivism. Anyway the authors results show that, social medias have changed the strategies of activists but as for the first era of digital activism, social movements still ends in real life actions or street protests (Sandoval-Almanzan & Gil-Garcia, 2014, p.375).

            In his research, Treré (2015) made a significant distinction between two dimensions in the communication of activist groups that is also made in this paper. The author identifies the Frontstage use of social  and the backstage use of social media within activist groups (p.1). Indeed, activists use social medias to organize, create and generate a collective identity but some private digital spaces of exchange exist where they can express safely far from the official lights of Facebook (Treré, 2015, p.15). Through memes, pictures, parodies or different means of expression, activist groups reinforced their solidarity and their interactivity on different digital platforms. These safe places could be considered as third places. Hamilton, Garretson and Kerne (2014) define them as “public places that host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work” (p.4). They also explain that third places are “alternative locations, for people to come together, form, and maintain communities through informal public social interactions.” (p.4). However, even if activists develop a real sense of belonging through social media, Van Aest and Walgrave (2002) points out that in order to build a necessary basis of trust for a community, real life meetings are still important (p.466).


            In order to answer the research question, this paper conducts a digital ethnography of Belgian activist groups through a semi-structured interview. The framework of this work does not allow the results to be generalized. Indeed, as Pink (2016) mentions, complete digital ethnography require to dive in the every day life of the group studied. Reading, listening and observing are essential to fully explore the consequences of the presence of digital medias over a specific group (pp. 1-3). This paper analysis is limited to the 42 minutes semi-structured interview of an anonymous individual member of a leftist Belgian activist group. Therefore, some pieces to achieve a digital ethnography are missing in order to understand all the dynamics of activist groups. However, in order to apply digital ethnography methods to the data collected to structure this research, the units of analysis developed by Pink (2016) are used. Throughout the 22 open-questions raised during the interview, this work is going to focus on experiences, practices, things, relations, social world, localities and events (Pink, 2016, p.15) As mentioned earlier, frontstage and backstage use of social medias by activists are treated separately and the concepts of third places and online communities are also going to structure the achievement of this research.


In order to start this research, the social world of activists is presented. Pink (2016) explains that to engage with social worlds through digital ethnography, it is important to look at how social relationships and collective activities are bound together (p.16). The interviewee explain that what ties group members in leftist activist groups and push them to act together are the ideologies they all share. Indeed, he says that everyone is aware of social and environmental issues of our society. They all mostly believe in systemic change through direct actions. Some of them consider that the anti-capitalist opposition they represent is essential to our society in order to give hope to people of a possible better world. The interviewee states that they all want to bring “emancipatory, progressist and pro-environment narratives” on the social medias in order to counter “the ambient conservatism in our society which is more and more important and sometimes close from neo-fascism”.  The interviewee realize the paradoxical relationship between their ideologies and their presence on social medias. Indeed he explains that they defends certain disruptive values on social medias which aim to left capitalism whereas these digital platforms have ultra-capitalist structures. However, it is these ideologies that constitute the social world of leftist activist groups in Belgium. The interviewee also mentioned that the trust basis in their groups is also a major factor of their social world they need to have to conduct collective actions. 

Personal relations are very important in the building of collective identity within activist groups. Pink (2016) states that it is important to look at how personal relation are constituted and maintained through technologies and digital platforms. In our case, two different ways to initiate personal relationship with group members can be identified. In order to be accepted and create personal bounds with the activist community, the interviewee explain that is it better to first being seen “on spot” during legal actions. Indeed, activists prefer to meet new people in real life before integrating them in their world. They need a strong trust basis as some of their actions are illegals. The other way to integrate a group is through mainstream public social media. However, for the same trusting reasons, a real life meeting with some older members is also often required before accessing the backstage of their groups. For example, the interviewee who is administrator of a Facebook page, explains that he already met some of the people who were particularly active at share posts and commenting on his page. Some of them even joined the activist group later on.            

Sometimes relations can also be created and initiated elsewhere on social medias. Indeed, it exists some places where activists share contents and interact with each other more freely. They can relate to each other experiences and create a collective identity. Our interviewee explain that some private Facebook groups called “Neurchi” are constituted of thousands activists who share memes, experiences or articles to read about their ideologies. He also says that these people share de same values and know the codes of the activist culture. He even talks about Online communities emerging on these groups. Such localities can be defined as a third place because they clearly are “alternative locations, for people to come together, form, and maintain communities through informal public social interactions”. (Halimton, Garretson and Kerne, 2014, p.4).

According to the interview, events organization seems to be one of the main practices of leftist activist groups. Many parts of the organization and the communication about these actions take place on digital platforms. Two different dimensions can be identified in the communication and the organization of activists groups, the internal or the external dimension. The interviewee explains that his personal main task in the group concerning external communication consists to film actions and generate aesthetically appealing videos. These videos are then published of social medias such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter in order to reach a maximum of people and raise awareness about the values they defend with these actions. He also explains that for now, Facebook is the main channels they use to communicate publicly. The interviewee explain that even if Facebook is in decline since a few years, it remains the largest social media they reach the largest audience with it. For them, mainstream social medias play a major role in sensibilization and the recruitment of new members. Concerning the organizational side, these platforms are very useful to mobilize people when coordinating legal events. However, actions led by leftist activist groups are often illegal. For example, the interviewee participate to blockage of a refinery in Belgium and tried to protect a natural zone destined to become a factory by implanting a camp on it. These kind of actions require a secret organization that happens in the backstage. The interviewee explains that the police is monitoring many activists personal social medias and tells that actions have already been crushed before starting because of that. Therefore, activist groups have to deal with surveillance that appeared with new technologies. This represents a soft impact of technomoral changes. Indeed, Swierstra (2015) explains that the latter are “morally ambiguous, and there is no consensus on the question of whether their impacts are good or not”, which is the case for this classical trade-off between privacy and security. (Swierstra, 2015, p.10). However, the interviewee reveals that activists group have found ways to bypass this surveillance issue through digital platforms. The internal communication concerning the organization of actions now take place on encrypted social medias such as Telegram or Signal. In addition, activists try to disclose the less information possible about actions on digital platform even if they are encrypted. Before the actions, they all gather together for a real life meeting and solely there display crucial details about actions. During the action, the internal communication between activists when they are separated is also made through encrypted platforms. At the briefing meeting all activists receive list of phone numbers to contact on encrypted platforms in case of emergency or arrestation by the police.

However, the interviewee also explains that the mainstream public social medias are also very important for the internal dynamics of their group. He says that “it motivates us to see that we have some traces ore nice videos of what we did during actions and it allows us to be proud of our actions”. Indeed, having a archives of their work which is seen and shared by many people is a thing that gives meaning to what they do.


            This paper examined the use of digital platforms by Belgian leftist activist groups. Throughout the semi-structured interview of one of their members, some observations allow to now better understand the implication of technologies within their group. The analysis shows that some online communities of leftist activists are created on online third places. Members of these groups build common identities by sharing and exchanging ludic content around the values they all share. However, the interview also demonstrate that offline meetings are still very important for activists to build strong relationship. Indeed, the illegal nature of certain actions led them to test the honesty of new members in order to generate trustful connections. The experiences of the interviewee go against the concerns that Hwang and Kim (2015) had about going toward a keyboard activism. On the contrary, the interviewee explained that low level of activism on social medias is often a gateway through direct activism.

            Internal and external communication methods within activist groups have been approach separately.  Frontstage communication is achieved through mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. On these platform activists share information about their engagements and publish videos on their previous actions in order to publicize what they are doing and reach a maximum of people. In the case studied Facebook remains the easiest tool to share content and mobilize people. However, Mainstream social medias are also important for the internal dynamics of activist groups. The publication and videos they published help them to motive and give meaning to what their actions.

            Concerning internal communication, activists had to find ways to overcome the soft impacts of technomoral changes. Indeed, the arrival of new technologies increased the digital surveillance over their movement. Therefore, activists decided to use encrypted platforms such as Telegram or Signal in order to communicate internally. It allows their groups to organize illegal actions without being crushed by the police before the beginning of the action. The academic literature regarding encrypted digital platforms remain rare for the moment and could receive more academic attention.


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Phenomenological Anecdote: Rushing Online

It’s Tuesday, a day without any tutorials or lectures. The clock shows it’s a bit earlier than 10, perfect time to make my morning coffee. I am alone in the kitchen. The idea of having a complete free day and the silence in the house provide me deep peacefulness and serenity. Suddenly, my Iphone breaks this tranquillity. The WhatsApp notification that appears on my screen completely shakes my state of mind. . “It’s 10.05. I can read “Thomas where are you?”, than another message pops up “the tutors said that there is one student missing and I think it is you”. The mentor meeting for 10 to 4, I forgot it. Usually, there is no class on Tuesday. At this moment, the whole quality of the time stretches out. I run to my bedroom, open my laptop join the class through the Zoom link. It’s okay, I am only seven minutes late. However, I am not concentrated, I do not listen, I am not mentally prepare to do so. The transition between my day without tutorials and my apparition in the virtual classroom was so brutal. In a few seconds, I have to rush online whereas I was in serene moment of intimacy with myself. The zoom class is more intrusive than usual, I am not at the same place than usual for online meetings. I had no time to prepare anything. However, I do not have the choice anymore, I am connected now and nobody even noticed that I was late. I get used to this situation. The stressful felling of being forced to rush online for my academic obligations slowly disappear. I can now concentrate. Susan and Kostas split us in group of four to work until 4. 4! It is a long class, when I woke up this morning I thought that I had nothing for the day, the time stretches out even more. It’s okay, I’ll do the work as best as I can now that I am connected.