Studiolo Communis

Development of a co-active work environment to support research activities in the history of art and architecture

Studiolo communis is the name of a project which started in July 2010. It is conducted by an interdisciplinary research team of the University of Paderborn. The team comprises the UNESCO Competence Centre on “tangible and intangible heritage”, the Chair of Computer and Society of the Heinz Nixdorf Institute (HNI) and the Information and Media Technologies Centre (IMT). It is financed through a research grant by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The overall goal of the project is to support researchers in the preservation of cultural heritage with the support of digital techniques.

During the Renaissance era, the Studiolo was invented: a special type of room decorated with art, including portraits of important men and study objects such as books and sculptures. It was a place to collect, to study and to reflect and is thus comparable to the laboratories of the natural sciences. It is also closely related to the humanitarian ideal of the scholar. Todays research environments are very distinct from those of the renaissance. They differ in the type of rooms as well as in the tools. Nowadays a networked computer characterizes the work place of a researcher. The study objects are digital and stored on hard drives, databases as well as on the internet and can be accessed by various programs. In general it becomes more and more difficult to determine where applications and services are storing their data and where relevant information can be found; this is especially true in art and architectural history. There is the danger of losing a well defined place in which the media objects and research outcomes can be examined, discussed, arranged, commented on, connected and published.

The daily work routine of an art and architectural scientist is based on analysis of, on the one hand tangible objects such as constructions and sculptures mostly in the form of images. On the other hand, it can be based on intangible objects such as video taped rituals. A great variety of different systems and methods are used for these analytic processes. The variety of media objects, tools an methods causes media discontinuities and prohibits a continuous support of the research processes. Recently it has been virtually impossible to jointly work on images or audiovisual data with the existing systems. Actual research processes take place in the individual work places and can only be shared partly via a communication channel such as e-mail which is not always suitable.

The objective of the project Studiolo communis is to build a virtual, co-active research environment in which the different research objects can be arranged, commented on and linked with each other. During the course of research collections of complex data objects are created, which have to be annotated, commented and discussed. Additionally different views on these arrangements are needed, depending on the the specific goal, to arrange relevant information in the perceptional field of the researcher and to omit less important aspects. Furthermore, a sophisticated role and rights management and the possibility to create private and public work environments are crucial for the cooperation network of researchers.

The virtual work place of a researcher which is to be developed should firstly support the research discourse in the subject of the history of art and architecture working with images and more and more with audio and video data. In this way, the UNESCO Competence Centre on “tangible and intangible cultural heritage” from Prof. Dr. Eva-Maria Seng has already been using broad technical systems such as the Paderborn Picture Library. However, many work processes and tasks are possible only partly or by following difficult procedures. Besides, the research environment should not only confined to be a work place, but also support the cooperation between the researchers. With the concept of cooperative knowledge spaces developed by the research group Computer and Society led by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Reinhard Keil, there is a sustainable basis which is already in use successfully in e-learning environments. Amongst others, this includes the co-active learning and working environment koaLA which has more than 15 000 users and is broadly used at the University of Paderborn. The technical implementation of the project is done in cooperation with the IMT supervised by Dr. Gudrun Oevel. Additionally, the integration in the technical infrastructure of the University of Paderborn is ensured by the IMT.

A project in which cultural scientists, computer scientists and the Information and Media Technologies Centre are involved is embodying the interdisciplinary vision of the University of Paderborn and further highlights the integrative role of the Heinz Nixdorf Institute. The new research environment for the support of the UNESCO Competence Centre should also be designed in a way such that it enables transfer to other subjects on a later stage.

The project Studiolo communis has been granted now for two years by the DFG and includes the option to continue another year.

Contact: Andreas Oberhoff


  • UNESCO Competence Center on „tangible and intangible cultural heritage“
  • Information and Media Technologies Center

Supported by: German Research Foundation

Architecture and components of the work environment