ABM: The emergence of cities

I came across an excellent ABM exploring the emergence of cities, and thought I’d pass along the link. The model is by André Ourednik and Pierre Dessemontet. Their abstract:

The very existence of urban formations on all inhabited continents and throughout the history of mankind since the 3rd millennium B.C. leads to suppose a tendency of some structured societies to maximize interaction by minimizing physical distance. Were this tendency unconstrained, it should eventually lead to the concentration of all of the society’s population into one single point: a situation only partially realized by the distribution of urban populations at the global scale. Models of constraints preventing its realization have thus to be proposed. We have set up one such model, using agent based simulation of food production and accessibility, in order to account for the structural constraints particular to the physical space. The simulations have notably shown that, while necessarily emerging from a society investing agricultural surplus into the upholding of specialists, an upper limit to city-growth is imposed by the phenomena of spatial friction.

So I began to experiment with their model. One of the pre-sets that they thoughtfully include is for ‘parasitic cities’. Rome being the archetypical parasitic, or ‘consumer’ city (thanks, Moses!) I thought I would try it out. Lo! and behold, an enormous city emerges, with one other major centre….

The model is conceived in the tension between agricultural producers and urban ‘specialists’.  I wonder about the conclusion regarding an upper limit to city growth. The world of the simulation is a torus, so I wonder if there is an effect there. Hmm. On second thought, probably not. It would be interesting to run this simulation on top of a real-world map, rather than the idealized donut of the torus.

An extremely cool model! Check out the pdf with more detail here.

Serious Alternate Reality Game: Traces of Hope

It is interesting the number of ARGs emerging that have serious purposes behind them. One such is ‘Traces of Hope’ -

“Traces of Hope” is being launched as the first ever charity online ARG and is being built by the British Red Cross to coincide with its Civilians and Conflict month. The game features Joseph a sixteen-years-old caught up in the Ugandan civil war, separated from his family, hungry and alone in a camp overflowing with thousands forced to flee, Joseph is desperately seeking his mother. But he needs your help…

Registration will open on Sunday 28th but until then there’s a teaser page at www.tracesofhope.com and a teaser video at http://www.vimeo.com/1811645

Neogeography, Gaming and Second Life

Archaeologists, take note of work coming out of CASA at UCL in the UK:

[two issues are addressed:] firstly that spatial data is still inherently difficult to share and visualise for the non-GIS trained academic or professional and secondly that a geographic data social network has the potential to dramatically open up data sources for both the public and professional geographer. With our applications of GMap Creator, and MapTube to name but two, we detail ways to intelligently visualise and share spatial data. This paper concludes with detailing usage and outreach as well as an insight into how such tools are already providing a significant impact to the outreach of geographic information.”

Now, this is work that has obvious archaeological implications.

On another note, the same group is implementing ABM in Second Life. I particularly like the screen-grab of an escaped agent wandering off into the Metaverse. There’s something profoundly disturbing about that…



Archaeological Apps for Iphones and Androids?

Simple question really; but I couldn’t browse the i-store to find out. Are there archaeological applications available for download onto your iPhone?

Next question – what about google Android and google phones? (thoughts on all that here at wired). Looks as if it will be easier to develop for Android (since Apple charges $99 just to see the developer’s kit).

The first applications that spring to my mind are more in the public archaeology side of things – location aware applications to bring ‘ancient landscapes’ direct to your phone as you wander about, perhaps. For folks in the field, maybe quick recording to an online database somewhere (linking into Nabonidus or similar)?

Perhaps the folks at open archaeology are already on the case.

RPA Field School Scholarship

A note from the Register of Professional Archaeologists that may be of interest:

[Announcing] a new scholarship opportunity for students enrolled in archaeological field schools that have been certified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA). This year, RPA’s sponsoring organizations American Anthropological Association, Archaeological Institute of America, Society for American Archaeology, and Society for Historical Archaeology will each make an award to a field school director who will present the award to one of his/her deserving students.

If you plan to offer a field school this year and would like an opportunity for one of your students to receive a scholarship, please apply for the RPA field school scholarship. The application process is quick and costs nothing. Details of scholarship announcement along with the application form can be found here at RPAnet.org.

Ramo Games

Ramo Games is a startup, whose ambition is to design an education-themed MMO. They have on staff folks from EA, Thomson Learning, and Yahoo!, so it sounds as if they’ve got a lot of the bases covered. You want people who design games with an educational bent to actually have game-design experience, lest you create drill-n-kill type space-invaders clones. As long as a game embodies the learning in the performance of the game (you have to speak appropriate grade-8 French, say, in order to get the npc to let you pass the obstacle), then we should be able to make entertaining games that educate (to our curricular goals) as well. For examples that are truly exceptional, check out what the American Army is doing to try to prepare its soldiers for the aftermath of ‘do I shoot or not?’ type split-second decisions, chronicled on the Escapist this week.

Anyway, Ramo games currently is maintaining a list of free educational games out there, so it might be worth your time to check out. The categorization is a bit idiosyncratic – a game about dinosaurs is classified under history – but I guess it’s still early days. The company’s blog is here, and from the looks of it, they’re thinking hard about how best to design their games when education is the goal.

evolution of a wikipedia article

File this under…

Archaeology, or archæology (from Αρχαίος, nobody cares, and Λογος, the study of) is the study of really old stuff. Many people confuse archaeology with “archeology” due to the similar spelling and the fact that they mean the same thing.

While seemingly pointless, archaeologists assert that we can learn lots of new stuff by looking at old stuff; this my friends, is a paradox. Most archaeologists are full of crap with their “carbon dating” witchcraft. I mean, how do carbon atoms date, or even have sex? Do they get freaky with their electrons? What about the protons and neutrons and plasma? Why did I fail my Chemistry exam, and does this have something to do with the fact I don’t know what I’m talking about?

That was from the Uncyclopedia. Who knew such a thing existed? The Wikipedia instead reports:

Archaeology, archeology, or archæology (from Greek: αρχαιολογία – archaiologia, from αρχαίος – archaios, “primal, ancient, old” and λόγος – logos, “study”) is the science that studies human cultures through the recovery, documentation, analysis, and interpretation of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, features, biofacts, and landscapes. Because archaeology’s aim is to understand mankind, it is a humanistic endeavor.[1]

The goals of archaeology vary, and there is debate as to what its aims and responsibilities are.

Finally, let’s go back to the beginning. The earliest Wikipedia version dates to 2001:

Archaeology is the study of past human activity, by reconstructing environmental settings and cultural systems, typically from their physical remains (masonry, pottery, coins, engravings, etc). Archaeology often interacts with history to provide a broad view of the human experience.

In recent years, the discipline of archaeology has been much extended; the view that it only examines cultural remains or digs up bones is a caricature. Archaeologists also ask the question: How do we know what we know? What constructs are implicit in this set of knowledge? Some schools of archaeology (e.g. processualism) tend to describe the underlying systems, trying to find common ground between cultures; other schools (post-processualism) either believe this impossible or fraught with difficulty, and so examine archaeology in a certain cultural context.

Interesting that next to nothing of that original article continues to exist, although the structure and logic of the article as it exists today seems to be the same as that original article. So take heart if you’re the first to write on a topic for the wikipedia: your words will be shredded, but once you’ve laid the pathways, they seem to endure.

It would be quite interesting to observe  how this article has evolved over time, a la ‘Evolution of the Heavy Metal Umlaut‘, to see what aspects of ‘archaeology’ attract the fixations of these writers. Of course, you can also go and peruse the ‘talk archives’ for the article here, but I like the Umlaut approach because you get all of the argument, the random edits, the deliberate deletions, the insertions (which don’t always make it into the discussion page). Seeing the article emerge from next to nothing to being a substanital document is also quite mesmerizing…

Maybe this is the archaeology of wikipedia.

Classics and MMORPGS: not classic mmorpgs!

Think Greek. Think Trojans. Yessir, turns out that the Trojan war, as recounted in the Iliad, can be understood through the lens of a MMORPG… check out the latest from The Escapist:

Think of the Achaean warriors (the ones we usually call “the Greeks”) at Troy, and the Trojan warriors (led by Hector) themselves, as toons at the level cap. The most important gameplay mechanic for the Achaeans and the Trojans is called aristeia. Call it “prowess” if you want, but it really means “best-ness.” In this context, Aristeia is a kind of mini-game all its own. The internal evidence of the Iliad suggests that this mini-game is actually the ur-genre of the epic tradition, the earliest and most basic development of oral bardic convention that ended up giving us the written fossil we know as the enormous, 24-book masterpiece called the Iliad….

…Once again demonstrating that a Classical education is all you really need to understand everything…

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

So you’re interested in Alternate Reality Games – some readings

[snipping all the ms-office crap that somehow made it into this post the other day without me noticing]

Things you should read: more ****** = you should really *really* read these

*****Jane McGonigal “This Is Not a Game: Immersive Aesthetics & Collective Play.” Digital Arts & Culture 2003 Conference Proceedings.  May 2003 http://www.seanstewart.org/beast/mcgonigal/notagame/paper.pdf

***** Jane McGonigal “Why I Love Bees: A Case Study in Collective Intelligence Gaming.” Ecologies of Play. Ed. Katie Salen. Forthcoming, spring 2008. http://avantgame.com/McGonigal_WhyILoveBees_Feb2007.pdf

***** Adam Martin and Tom Chatfield, editors. IGDA Alternate Reality Games – Special Interest Group – Whitepaper 2006 http://www.igda.org/arg/whitepaper or for continuously updated wiki version of the same, http://www.igda.org/wiki/index.php/Alternate_Reality_Games_SIG/Whitepaper

**** Shannon Drake ‘Breaking the Fourth Wall’ The Escapist Magazine June 27 2006 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_51/308-Breaking-the-Fourth-Wall

**** Nova ‘Chimaera’ Barlow ‘The making of World Without Oil’ The Escapist Magazine September 18 2007 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_115/1959-The-Making-of-World-Without-Oil

**** “History” unfiction.com http://www.unfiction.com/history/

*** Penelope Green “Mystery on Fifth AvenueNew York Times June 12 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/12/garden/12puzzle.htm

*** Jane McGonigal”Massively Collaborative Science.” Op-Ed. Seed Magazine. Special Issue: The Universe in 2008. February 2008. http://avantgame.com/SEED%20Gaming%20Article_JanFeb08.pdf

*** Frank Rose “Secret Websites, Coded Messages: The New World of Immersive Games” Wired Magazine http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/magazine/16-01/ff_args

** Shannon Drake ‘Wrapped Inside A Mystery In An Engima: Perplex City Revisited’ The Escapist Magazine February 14 2007 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/interviews/1232-Wrapped-Inside-A-Mystery-In-An-Engima-Perplex-City-Revisited

** Russ Pitts “Horror 2.0: Lance Weiler’s Cinema ARG” The Escapist Magazine November 12 2007 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_123/2621-Horror-2-0-Lance-Weiler-s-Cinema-ARG

** Richard Perrin “Art is Resistance” The Escapist Magazine September 18 2007 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_115/1956-Art-is-Resistance

** Jane McGonigal “Making Alternate Reality the New Business Reality.” Op-Ed. Harvard Business Review. Special Issue: Top 20 Breakthrough Ideas for 2008. February 2008. http://www.harvardbusinessonline.org/hbsp/hbr/articles/article.jsp?ml_subscriber=true&ml_action=get-article&ml_issueid=BR0802&articleID=R0802A&pageNumber=1

* Edward Castronova “ARGs and Utopian Dreams” Terra Nova November 21 2005 http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/11/args_and_utopia.html

* Cory Ondrekja “Tombstone Hold’em” Terra Nova October 16 2005 http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/10/tombstone_hold_.html

* Clive Thompson “Fun Way to Lose Weight: Turn Dieting Into an RPG” Wired Magazine August 11 2008 http://www.wired.com/gaming/virtualworlds/commentary/games/2008/08/gamesfrontiers_0811