CAMMA THURSDAY TALKS: "Empowering People’s Heritage with digital technologies and social media: beyond institutional heritage definitions for effective preservation" Prof. Sandra L. López Varela


Empowering People’s Heritage with digital technologies and social media: beyond institutional heritage definitions for effective preservation - Prof. Sandra L. López Varela

Istanbul Bilgi University, Santralistanbul



Mexico City has experienced significant growth for over a century, creating a built environment populated with buildings, apartment complexes, shopping malls, streets, avenues, and modern transportation. This built environment is of great value to Mexico’s citizens, as it holds their experiences and memories, which are now part of “their history.” When further growth puts pressure on the built environment, people are on the streets demanding its preservation, whose claim is unattended by heritage stewards, concerned only about monumental heritage value, not social value, the foundation of one’s identity as an individual and member of a community. In response to their demand, the ‘Alternative Mexico’ project allows Mexico City’s citizens to share and promote their heritage using digital technologies, mainly a mobile application for iOS and Android devices and social media platforms. The project advocates for an “object-oriented democracy,” as expressed by Latour and Weibel (2005); otherwise, stewards will continue to face further public unrest and increasing disinterest in monumental properties, which can be assessed already by the low performance of Mexico’s tourist market, the third most important source of revenue for its economy.

Sandra L. López Varela (Ph.D., University of London 1996) is a professor at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), teaching preservation, policy, and business and marketing heritage courses. She is a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel-Forschungspreis awardee of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and Scientific Ambassador to the City of Berlin in Mexico. She has served as President of the Society for Archaeological Sciences and Archaeology Chair of the American Anthropological Association. She has co-chaired the task force that revised the ethical principles of the Society for American Archaeology just recently. México Alternativo (Alternative Mexico), a mobile application to preserve people’s heritage resources, is her latest project, exploring the construction of memory and identity based upon national and institutional discourses of heritage.