Embodied Interactions with a Sufi Dhikr Ritual: Negotiating Privacy and Transmission of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Virtual Sama


“Virtual Sama” is an interactive multimedia installation that connects computationally abstracted ethnographic documentation of a Sufi Dhikr ritual with viewers through an artistic artificial intelligence (AI) abstraction process and interactive rhythmic full body movement. In this paper, we describe how the installation is designed to elicit reflection on the implications of transforming intangible heritage into digital heritage through digital documentation and storage, and to encourage exploration of questions around privacy and safeguarding of sensitive cultural practices. Against the context of detailed fieldwork with Uyghur Sufi practitioners in Xinjiang, China, we explore how AI processes and embodied interaction might be mobilised to present alternative representations of anonymity, while drawing attention to the complexities of representation, access and transmission of intangible cultural practices in the digital age.

In Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA), British Computer Society.