Right now, it’s 6.17 am, EST, which makes it about 11.17 am Dublin time, and 3.17 am Second Life time. No doubt, there’s a wild party going on somewhere in Second Life, but here at the RWU virtual excavation prototype, all is quiet.
I’m waiting to give my presentation to the folks at WAC6 in Dublin, but last I heard, there were some technical issues on their end – so a good thing I made a video of the presentation!
Youtube, in the end, could not handle my video because they have an upper limit of 10 minutes – my talk clocks in at 13. Google video doesn’t have a length restriction, so I went with them (but seeing as how they own Youtube anyway, I wonder why the distinction). It took forever for the thing to upload – I had to leave the computer running over night. I uploaded as an AVI file – Camtasia makes excellent SWF files, but for reasons unknown to me, it truncated my video – after nearly two hours of rendering – to 4 minutes and 32 seconds! Anyway, the quality is a little blurry, but I never said I was Fellini…
The argument of the talk, in brief: SL for archaeology: a place to ‘do’ archaeology’, a place for archaeological VR, and a place for archaeological teaching and outreach.
- SL as a place to ‘do’ archaeology: Virtual worlds have always existed – from the caves of Cro-Magnon, to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, to Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, to Disneyland, SL just the latest in a long line of virtual worlds. Indeed, since SL is a world of imagination and flights of fancy, it has more in common with the virtual worlds of the past created by historians or archaeologists in their reconstructions. How do we understand SL then? Think of games: what do games teach best? Not what they are ostensbily about, but rather, how to play them. The rules of the game might correspond with various historical epistemologies (think Civilization franchise): the rules of the game make a kind of argument for how the world works: a procedural rhetoric (in Ian Bogost’s felicitous phrase).
- What are the rules in SL, in this world where ‘anything’ is possible? The rules are best expressed through how SL allows objects and scripts to be built: so to understand the rules and their implications means casting the same kind of archaeological eye over this virtual material culture and landscapes as we would in the ‘real’ world.
- therefore, if millions of people choose to spend their time and money in SL or other similar worlds, archaeology has a role in uncovering and studying the procedural rhetorics of this new frontier.
That’s strand one. Strand two:
- traditional archaeological VR: clean, antiseptic, disembodied: you can only experience it by looking at the pretty pictures. In SL, since you are embodied in an avatar, you can explore the experience of the space; space-syntax in the real world explores how interconnected spaces give rise to certain kinds of experiences, so it should be possible to use SL to explore interconnected, re-created ancient spaces with space-syntax tools…. also, SL tends to clean up after itself (if you drop something, it gets returned to you) so in the presentation we take a side trip to SL dumpster to explore how one artists’ collective uses SL to collect others’ trash to study the lives of residents.
Third strand: SL for teaching
- if the argument about procedural rhetorics is correct, and that the only thing games teach you is how to play them, then I make that a virtue by translating archaeological metaphors into the basic building blocks of SL. Demonstration of the RWU virtual excavation prototype, integration with Nabonidus on-line recording system.
And so, without further ado, the video which should make much the same argument as above:
Just a pic to show how Nabonidus can be brought into the virtual excavation. In the picture, I’ve just touched and ‘excavated’ the topmost layer on the site, and have clicked on the Nabonidus link in the background. This opens Nabonidus in a browser. I then login, without leaving second life, and can enter the relevant information.
By the way, latest info on Nabonidus is here.
I was originally supposed to be going to Dublin for WAC, to give two papers. Unfortunately, life intervened and I’m not able to go. However, I will be giving one of those presentations anyway, via Second Life in the Art, Archaeology, and Technology: Current Experiments in Interpretation session.
Abstract for Electric Archaeology: Archaeology In, and Archaeology Of, ‘Second Life’
Archaeology is about material culture, about exploring the human condition (not necessarily in the past) through how we create and manipulate objects & landscapes. In recent years, the power of computing has opened up new universes for exploration, places where individuals create the worlds around them. This paper discusses my archaeological explorations in the current leading virtual world, ‘Second Life’. This world deserves archaeological study – perhaps even needs archaeological study – in that it is nothing but pure construction of will and imagination. ‘Virtual Worlds’ are in themselves nothing new: from the Haning Gardens of Babylon, to Hadrian’s Villa, to Disneyland in Florida, humans have been creating fantastical worlds for many different purposes, with simple entertainment not necessarily the prime motivation. Building on these observations, the paper discusses my own attempts to alter this world for archaeological outreach: a re-usable archaeological excavation.
It will be a live presentation from within Second Life, if all goes according to plan. If not, I’ve already recorded a video presentation to be given in case of emergency, and I’m just waiting for Youtube to do its magic. It turned out to be much more difficult to make this video than I anticipated.
Firstly, you need to do screen captures in Second Life. I followed the directions here to make that work.
Then, I downloaded Camtasia studio (trial version) to do the movie editing. I spent a fruitless day stitching together my stills and clips and then trying to match the audio to the video. I found it easier (relatively speaking), to do the audio first, and then the video.
I used audacity to record my stream-of-consciousness lecture, and then imported that. (Is there anything more cringe-inducing than listening to your own recorded voice? At least when I speak live, I can react to my audience; speaking to a recorder makes everything into a monotone…).
I will make the video public after the talk, which is on Monday, 11-ish am (an early start at 6am EST!). If you’re interested in being in SL while I do the talk, let me know and I’ll send you the coordinates. I want to use the voice-chat feature, but for some reason I can’t get the microphone to work right yet. If I don’t get that fixed, I’ll be doing a mean amount of typing…
My virtual excavation prototype is coming along nicely. It has several contexts/layers, salted with artefacts from around the archaeo-web-o-sphere. I have a large media projector loaded with the Nabonidus webpage; when students touch that, it opens a browser window allowing them to log into Nabonidus and to do their recording. Picture below:
In my preparations for the talk, I’ve been visiting many different sims, and I came across an amazing temporary build, A Cruise on the Nile:
It was part of a fund-raising effort for breast cancer research, in the ‘Duchy of Greystoke’. Worth a visit if it’s still up.
On a similar theme to the last post, a game called ‘The Sky Remains’. It uses Mscape technology, which I’ve written about in an archaeological context here.
From ‘The Sky Remains‘:
The Sky Remains is a new type of cross-platform game. Combining interactive narrative, social networking, geocaching, alternate reality gaming and Hewlett Packard’s Mscape technology.
Once you sign up for free to The Sky Remains site you enter the fictional world of The Sky Remains 6th Dimension Detective Agency. You become an Agent of the 6th Dimension and are given your first case. You’ll find all the clues you need in The Sky Remains site but you won’t just be using the internet; you’ll also be taking part in outdoor activities, treasure hunts and geocaching as well as using the latest GPS software. Through The Sky Remains site you’ll be able to share all your findings and activities surrounding the game with all the
other players, using the site’s social networking tools.
The Sky Remains offers official content which allows you to follow an interactive and re-playable narrative both as a single player and as a member of The Sky Remains community. The Sky Remains site is also open to user- generated content, so that once you’ve completed the first story, you can add your own case to the files, using text, video and photographs to weave your own interactive narratives. Once you’ve started playing, the sky’s the limit!
A number of posts in the various blogs I read has sent off a train of thought… stay with me and see if we jump the track or not.
The apartment is quite attractive and perfectly functional in all the typical ways, and its added features remained largely unnoticed by its inhabitants for quite some time after they moved in, in May of 2006. Then one night four months later, Cavan Klinsky, who is now 11, had a friend over. The boy was lying on the floor in Cavan’s bedroom, staring at dozens of letters that had been cut into the radiator grille. They seemed random — FDYDQ, for example. But all of a sudden the friend leapt up with a shriek, Ms. Sherry said, having realized that they were actually a cipher (a Caesar Shift cipher, to be precise), and that Cavan’s name was the first word. (slideshow showing the apartment)
This is quite cool, and was taken up all around the blogosphere. Tracking it brought me to The Guardian Newspaper Games blog (which is quite good, by the way). On that site, it’s filed under ‘Alternate Reality Games’… which got me to thinking (always dangerous, I know).
Here’s the idea – archaeological sites (or historical sites in general) open to the public tend to be curated with a sort of earnestness that can put people right off (my wife, for instance, refuses to visit any of these with me, but that may in fact be the fault of her live-in tour guide). Perhaps we should be taking a cue from Mr. Clough, the architect of the Manhatten Puzzle Apartment and salt our interpretation materials with puzzles, clues, codes and ciphers. What I’m suggesting isn’t that we should cater to the pseudo-archaeology crowd. Rather, have our standard interpretational panels etc, but incorporate another layer of information to draw people in… For instance, in Gatineau Park where I sometimes work is an estate left to the nation by MacKenzie-King, a Canadian Prime Minister. King was something of a landscape designer, and so he built follies around his estate. These all have information panels, with the regular who-what-when-where-why. But King was active all over Canada… interpretation with clues built in (and these would also be all over the internet too, natch) could draw the visitor to explore some of King’s other landscaping activities, those of his contemporaries both in Canada and abroad… a mystery to unravel by the ever-so-slightly more observant visitor.
The theme for Yo You Games’ latest game making competition (using Game Maker 7.0) was ‘Ancient Civ’. Well, clearly, ‘ancient’ and ‘civ’ were interpreted with some latitude. It would be interesting to see a game where the game mechanics were dictated by the theme/content/historical trope for once… Some of these just feel like regular games with different graphics. But who am I to grouse? Anyway, here are the winners:
1st Place, [$1,000]:
Ancient Ants Adventure by RedSystem
Another great isometric shooter from RedSystem. You are a race of (Egyptian?) ants, fighting tooth and claw for survival against a compelling range of nasties. We were particularly impressed by the professional finish, the variety in the gameplay, and the necessity to employ tactical foresight to get through the game. Altogether an excellent package combining beautiful graphics, humorous gameplay and that crucial addictive quality: a YoYo Games must play, well deserving of first prize.
2nd Place [$500]:
Caveman Craig by RhysAndrews
The finest caveman simulator we have ever played. The game combines beautiful graphics with a surprisingly challenging battle for survival. Life as a caveman is tough, especially when you’ve got to train everyone yourself. The implementation of a quick save feature in this game really made it: you will be ravaged by dinosaurs and being able to reload makes the grizzly experience less painful.
3rd Place, [$250]:
Tut’s Test by KCLC
A really well implemented 3D puzzle game with a lot of charm. The premise of the game is an unorthodox job interview for the role of pyramid builder (sought after?), but in fact sees you manipulating blocks across hazardous grids to rescue other blocks. Tut’s Test is truly testing and achieving the perfect score can become something of a compulsion. A really neat package with fiendishly well designed puzzles.
Huge congratulations to the winners and our commiserations to all the runners up, the competition really was fierce. Here’s a list of notable mentions representing the best of the rest, and those who made it so close:
Sixty Five Million and One BC
Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries
Theseus and the Maze
Legends of the Middle Ages
The PKAP project (Pyla-Koutsopteria) has been making great use of blogs etc to record some of the other aspects of an archaeological excavation, the kind that don’t usually make it into the final monograph but yet have an important bearing on what was found, why it was deemed important, etc, the ‘subjective’ side of archaeology (assuming, for the moment, that it’s possible to differentiate that from a putative ‘objective’ side).
Anyway, check out their assortment of blogs and podcasts from the site- sure beats sitting in a closed office in 30 C heat (40 with the humidex!). From Bill Caraher:
For more on the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project see our sister blogs: Pyla-Koutsopetria Graduate Student Weblog, Pyla-Koutsopetria Undergraduate Perspectives, and Pyla-Koutsopetria Season Staff Blog.
In my inbox this morning, a notice of what looks like a fantastic opportunity:
DHCS Colloquium, November 1st – 3rd, 2008
Submission Deadline: August 31st, 2008
The goal of the annual Chicago Digital Humanities/Computer Science (DHCS) Colloquium is to bring together researchers and scholars in the Humanities and Computer Sciences to examine the current state of Digital Humanities as a field of intellectual inquiry and to identify and explore new directions and perspectives for future research. In 2006, the first DHCS Colloquium examined the challenges and opportunities posed by the “million books” digitization projects. The second DHCS Colloquium in 2007 focused on searching and querying as both tools and methodologies.
The theme of the third Chicago DHCS Colloquium is “Making Sense” – an exploration of how meaning is created and apprehended at the transition of the digital and the analog.
We encourage submissions from scholars and researchers on all topics that intersect current theory and practice in the Humanities and Computer Science.
Sponsored by the Humanities Division, the Computation Institute, NSIT Academic Technologies and the University Library at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the College of Science and Letters at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Having just watched the last Indiana Jones flick, I can safely say that it was better than IJ 2, worse than IJ 3, and cannot even begin to approach Raiders of the Lost Ark.
And don’t get me started on aliens. As a friend of mine said, ‘there are so many *great* archaeological stories… why’d they go with aliens?!’. But that got me to thinking. What are my great archaeological stories? What are yours?
My two favourite stories, that I trot out as occasion demands, involve a vampire and a scooter. When I was 18, I was excavating with the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies from Toronto, at the site of a Cistercian Monastery near ancient Stymphalos. We discovered a skeleton, placed against the wall of the church. Its head had been removed, and replaced with a cut stone block… near its feet was the skeleton of a neonate. The treatment of the adult seemed consistent with what the folklore of the region prescribed for vampires. Remove the suspected vampire’s head, replace it with something else, and the vampire goes into a bit of a holding cycle. It feels complete, so wants to rise; but it isn’t complete, so it can’t get out.
For an 18 year old kid, fresh from the backwoods of Quebec, that was quite an adventure. I mean, digging up vampires sure beats working at McDonalds…
When I was a grad student, I went to Rome to study the aqueducts. I wanted to follow the course of the Aqua Claudia, backwards from Rome up to the mountains. When in Rome and all that: I rented a scooter from a dealer near the Termini train station in Rome.
“Take it around the block for a test drive, to get used to it” suggested the dealer (in Italian).
And off I went, wobbling at first, then with increasing confidence. Hell, this is easy! Look at me, just like a Roman! Down the back stretch, around the final two corners, and back to the dealer. Problem: two tram cars parked in the road. Solution: lift the front of the scooter onto the sidewalk, and drive around them, just like the Romans do. Disaster: lifting the front wheel, while holding firmly onto the accelerator, causes the scooter to shoot out from under the rider a la Wiley Coyote.
I have blurred memories of sheer panic as the scooter races down the sidewalk, me running behind it still holding onto the accelerator making it go faster as pedestrians jump aside, shopping flying, little faces peering out of the windows of the tram… I got around the trams, leaping onto the scooter, and put-putting down the street to the dealer.
He wasn’t looking at me, but rather back towards where I’d come. I turned around: and an entire street of people were running after me.
Good times, good times…
oh, and somebody shot at me last summer when I was doing a heritage inventory of Gatineau Park.
Be an archaeologist, live the adventure!
Came across a post today on the ‘GIS and Agent-Based Modelling‘ blog (from the good people at CASA at UCL in the UK) that should encourage more archaeologists to get into agent modelling. Archaeologists are very familiar with GIS, and to a much lesser degree, agent based modelling. Getting the two to work together – importing GIS data into an agent-modelling environment – has usually been difficult. Apparently, there is now a plugin for Netlogo to import esri shapefiles into the Netlogo environment:
“Whilst browsing the OpenABM website I came across a post by Eric Russell about a beta version GIS Extension for NetLogo and could not resist trying it out. The extension provides primitives for importing vector GIS data (in the form of ESRI shapefiles) and raster GIS data (in the form of ESRI ascii grid files) into NetLogo.The extension and instillation instructions can be downloaded from:
There are two example models, one which loads a raster file of surface elevation for a small area near Cincinnati, Ohio (above). To quote from the documentation “It uses a combination of the gis:convolve primitive and simple NetLogo code to compute the slope (vertical angle) and aspect (horizontal angle) of the earth surface using the surface elevation data. Then it simulates raindrops flowing downhill over that surface by having turtles constantly reorient themselves in the direction of the aspect while moving forward at a constant rate”.
This should make it easier for archaeologists with an interest in how humans interact with the landscape to get their GIS (for managing landscape data) & ABM’s (for modelling how we think humans work) to work together! I’m going to, when I have a moment, install this plugin and see what it can do.