HanHee Hahm
Professor of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, Chonbuk National University

Complying with UNESCO’s safeguarding policy for ICH, Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration attempted to initiate a digital inventory project in 2010. A group of researchers of the different fields including ICH specialists, folklorists, anthropologists, and computer scientists joined this project. I participated in this project as director. The project team endeavored to develop a new experimental ICH inventorying methodology using a new concept of collective intelligence and advanced information ethnologies. The team established Ichpedia, a web-based ICH inventory and archives in Korea.

The Ichpedia team consists of two groups: one group is concentrating on inventory-making through collecting ICH elements, and the other group is developing computer software programs regarding the database, archives, and GPS. Based on this collaboration, the team establishes a new way of investigating and inventorying ICH. The philosophy and new method of digital inventorying employed in the project is experimental with respect to the recording of ICH in several respects. Non-material features of ICH are known to be difficult or impossible to keep static, and such characteristics of ICH are frequently cited as impediments in the process of recording. Through the use of various forms of digital technology, such as audio devices and video tools, the project team makes it possible to record such dynamic characteristics of ICH.

Secondly, ICH’s changeable and unfixed nature can be traced more easily by efficient recording recesses. Since many ICH elements are closely related to everyday lifestyles, practices, and ideas, subtle changes and disappearance may not be readily apparent. Thus, computerized devices can record the present conditions of ICH and make it easier to keep track of any future changes. Regularly updating inventories can be achieved by using information technology.

Thirdly, the project, with its digital innovations, tries to encourage participation on the part of ICH communities, groups, and individuals. They have direct access to the Ichpedia system and can record certain ICH elements on a voluntarily basis. It is completely the communities’ own decision whether or not to participate in the recording process. They have access to some guidelines and support to input their own information online with various source materials from Ichpedia assistants. The recording processes are considered a way of safeguarding ICH so that through the processes, the community members and bearers are able to raise awareness of its importance not just for the external groups but for their own community. However, for them, the use of digital technology may not be an easy task. The Ichpedia assistants provide practical aids to any volunteered informants who have difficulties in digital inventorying processes.

Fourthly, the web-based inventory is open to the public and develops cooperative works. Surveyors, administrators, NGOs, and ICH bearers can establish networks to share their interests of safeguarding ICH, and thereby, they have access to each other’s knowledge, activities, and practices. In the early stage of this online system, we may face some critical issues such as reliability of information, human rights infringement, and copyright disputes. But when these problems are resolved, the inventory making through the online system using collective intelligence will eventually evolve into a cultural movement. Owing to this movement, communities’, groups’, and individuals’ ICH that is in danger of disappearing would be protected and preserved by diverse stakeholders.

Lastly, Ichpedia reduces the economic burdens of establishing a highly efficient database system. It is easy and simple yet offers high efficiency compared to other web-based ICH encyclopedias worldwide. Ichpedia has the advantage of being the least expensive option for the development and maintenance of such a system. It is our team’s wish that Ichpedia will pave the way for digital innovation in the area of ICH recording with the free and open distribution of the digital platforms and technologies. Meanwhile, online networks require technological standardization. We have installed the database of archives and Ichpedia in compliance with international standards. By doing so, we can expand our online network to global ICH communities. The web-based network is convenient and efficient, and it is evolving rapidly.

To sum up our efforts thus far on the Ichpeida project, to compile exclusive lists of ICH, we use an online survey to solicit involvement using a bottom-up approach. The ultimate goal of the Ichpedia project is to increase cooperation among stakeholders for safeguarding ICH in Korea. The online networks have certain merits, including surpassing barriers of time and space, as well as various divisions and partitions within society. Our project will continue to move forward in dealing with important issues and unresolved challenges, such as the enhancement of cultural diversity, human creativity, and human rights violations.