The Digital Laocoön: Replication, Narrative and Authenticity

Stuart Jeffrey, Steve Love, Matthieu Poyade


This paper examines what qualities and affordances of a digital object allow it to emerge as a new cultural object in its own right. Due to the relationship between authenticity and replication, this is particularly important for digital objects derived from real world objects, such as digital ‘replicas’. Such objects are not an inauthentic or surrogate form of an ‘authentic’ object, but a new object with a complex relationship to the original and its own uses and affordances. The Digital Laocoön Immersive (VR exhibit), part of an AHRC funded project, was a response to the tragic fires at the Mackintosh Building of the Glasgow School of Art in 2014 and 2018. In this project a digital replica of a plaster cast of Laocoön, with a long history of use within the school, was chosen as the centre piece for the proposed immersive. As a consequence of both the immersive’s design methodology and the lessons learnt in its production, the Laocoön proved to be an ideal subject through which to critically assess the question of the status of the replica. This paper will explore not only how the material infrastructure, form and content of digital representations have an impact on its broader set relationships, but how the concept of an extended object, its production processes, and the way that these are explicitly acknowledged (or not), operate on its relationship to the original.


Digital Replicas, Laocoön, Virtual Reality, Co-design, Extended Object

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Copyright (c) 2021 Stuart Jeffrey, Steve Love, Matthieu Poyade

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360