Of Hockey, Sympathetic Magic, and Digital Dirt

We won tickets to see the Ottawa – Tampa Bay game on Saturday night. 100 level. Row B. This is a big deal for a hockey fan, since those are the kind of tickets that are normally not within your average budget. More to the point of this post, it put us right down at ice level, against the glass.

Against the glass!!!

Normally we watch a hockey game on TV, or from up in the nose-bleeds. From way up there, you can see the play develop, the guy out in the open (“pass! pass! pleeeease pass the puck!” we all shout, from our aerie abode), same way as you see it on the tv.

But down at the glass…. ah. It’s a different scene entirely. There is a tangle of legs, bodies, sticks. It is hectic, confusing. It’s fast! From above, everything unfolds slowly… but at the ice surface you really begin to appreciate how fast these guys move. Two men, skating as fast as they can, each one weighing around 200 pounds, slamming into the boards in the race to get the puck. For the entire first period, I’d duck every time they came close. I’d jump in my chair, sympathetic magic at work as I willed the hit, made the pass, launched the puck.

For three wonderful periods, I was on the ice. I was in the game. I was there.

So…. what does this have to do with Play the Past? It has to do with immersion, and the various kinds that may exist or that games might permit. Like sitting at the glass at the hockey game, an immersive world (whether Azeroth or somewhere else) doesn’t have to put me in the game itself; it’s enough to put me in close proximity, and let that sympathetic magic take over. Cloud my senses; remove the omniscient point of view, and let me feel it viscerally. Make me care, and I’ll be quite happy that I don’t actually have my skates on.

Good enough virtuality is what Ed Castronova called it a few years back, when Second Life was at the top of its hype cycle.But we never even began to approach what that might mean. I think perhaps it is time to revisit those worlds, as the ‘productivity plateau’ may be in site.

In an earlier post, Ethan asked, where are the serious games in archaeology? My response is, ‘working on it, boss’.  A few years ago, I was very much enamored of the possibilities that Second Life (and other similar worlds/platforms) could offer for public archaeology. I began working on a virtual excavation, where the metaphors of archaeology could be made real, where the participant could remove contexts, measure features, record the data for him or herself (I drew data in from Open Context; I was using Nabonidus for an in-world recording system).  But I switched institutions, the plug was pulled, and it all vanished into the aether (digital curation of digital artefacts is a very real and pressing concern, though not as discussed as it ought to be). I’m now working on reviving those experiments and implementing them in the Web.Alive environment. It’s part of our Virtual Carleton campus, a platform for distance education and other training situations.

My ur-dig for the digital doppleganger comes from a field experience program at a local high school that I helped direct.  I’m taking the context sheets, the plans, the photographs, and working on the problems of digital representation in the 3d environment. We’ve created contexts and layers that can be removed, measured, and planned. Ideally, we hope to learn from this experience the ways in which we can make immersion work. Can we re-excavate? Can we represent how archaeological knowledge is created? What will participants take away from the experience? If all those questions are answered positively, then what kinds of standards would we need to develop, if we turned this into a platform where we could take *any* excavation and procedurally represent it?  I’m releasing students into it towards the start of next month. We’ve only got a prototype up at the moment, so things are still quite rough.

The other part of immersion that sometimes gets forgotten is the part about, what do people do when they’re there? That’s the sympathetic magic, and maybe it’s the missing ingredient from the earlier hype about Second Life. There was nothing to do. In a world where ‘anything is possible‘, you need rules, boundaries, purpose. We sometimes call it gamification, meaningfication, crowdscaffolding, and roleplaying.  Mix it all together, and I don’t think there’s any reason for a virtual world to not be as exciting, as meaningful, as being there with your nose at the glass when Spezza scores.

Or when you uncover something wonderful in the digital dirt. But that’s a post for the future, when my students return from their virtual field season.

(cross-posted at Play the Past)

eat, dance, play @ Çatalhöyük

From Middle Savagery – looks like an interesting day coming up!

Join us for eat, drink, play @ Çatalhöyük, a project led by Professor Ruth Tringham of UC Berkeley that explores the intricate life practices of a Neolithic village in Turkey. Okapi Island, which has been in development since 2006, offers individuals the unique opportunity to explore reconstructions of Çatalhöyük, visit our virtual museum, and take guided video walks through the Island. In this demonstration you will join in authentic cooking lessons, dancing by the firelight, and canoeing down the river of Çatalhöyük. We will present student work and changes we made to the island over the past semester. Don’t miss the chance to explore the unique multimedia exhibits of Çatalhöyük research data and come connect with us on Okapi Island.Your browser may not support display of this image.

eat, dance, play @ Çatalhöyük Activities

2:00- 2:15 PM (PST)

Introduction to Okapi Island by Ruth Tringham (Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley, and Principal Investigator of Berkeley Archaeologists at Çatalhöyük). Join Ruth as she explains the background of the project, current projects, and future goals.

2:15– 2:30 PM (PST)

Tell Tour/introduction to the changes on the Island by Colleen Morgan, including a brief presentation about her 2009 Archaeologies publication.

2:30- 3:00 PM (PST)

Student demonstrations of their work this semester, including cooking lessons and an lecture about archiving cultural heritage in Second Life.

3:00- 4:00 PM (PST)

Extemporaneous Machinima Creation, directed by Ruth Tringham. Dress up in Neolithic clothes and flintknap, dance, and join a feast!

4:00- 4:30 PM (PST)

Film Festival – Showing of movies and machinima associated with the island.

4:30- 5:00 PM (PST)

Chat and dance next to the fire with the creators of Okapi Island.

What is Second Life?
Second Life is a 3-D virtual world created entirely by its residents. Okapi Island is owned and build by the OKAPI team (that’s us below!) and the Berkeley Archaeologists at Catalhoyuk.

Getting Started
To visit Okapi Island, you will need to create a user account and download the client software–both free.

To create an account, visit www.secondlife.com, click on Join (in the upper right corner) and follow the instructions. Note: You do not need a premium account to use Second Life or visit Okapi Island.

Next, download and install the Second Life client for your computer:
http://secondlife.com/community/downloads.php

Launch the Second Life client and enter your password. You will likely begin in Orientation Island. To visit Okapi Island, click Map, enter “Okapi” in search field and click Search. Alternatively, you can click on the following slurl (second life url) in your browser, and you will be transported there:

SLURL:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Okapi/128/128/0

See you there!

Frischer on Rome Reborn

Podcast featuring Bernard Frischer on the Rome Reborn project

The audio is here.

Frischer mentions some problems he’s had getting materials into Second Life, so he’s been using something called Open Simulator instead. I recall a ruby-powered tool for pushing autocad or sketchup models into Second Life (it’s on this blog somewhere ;) and of course there’s all sorts of work done using commercial game engines to ‘virtualize’ models. With the obvious resources he has, I wonder why those avenues weren’t explored. Anyway, I think it was Troels who once mentioned it – but whatever tool we use for these simulations, we need to be including the ‘shit’ – the horse droppings, the garbage, the people too. Right now, all of these always feel like Pompeii after the tourists go home… In fairness, Frischer notes that that is something they are working on for their virtual Hadrian’s Villa.

Kinda ironic, in a way – Hadrian’s villa being a virtual world when it was built in the first place. A virtual virtual world? We’re getting all recursive… As I’ve argued before, virtual worlds are nothing new in human experience. It’s just the delivery method & fidelity that keeps changing.

Second Life as an Archaeological Tool: Ruth Tringham

A podcast with Ruth Tringham on her work on Okapi Island: listen here ; transcript at http://www.ncptt.nps.gov/second-life-as-an-archaeological-tool/

Kevin Ammons: Welcome to the Preservation Technology podcast. I am Kevin Ammons. Today I am visiting with Ruth Tringham, one of the founders of the University of California Berkley the People in Multimedia Authoring Center for Teaching in Anthropology at Berkley (MACTiA). As a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkley Ruth uses an online virtual environment called Second Life in her teaching.Kevin Ammons: Welcome Ruth! How did you find yourself at Berkley exploring the notion of Second Life as an archeological tool?

ÇatalhöyükÇatalhöyük (image courtesy of catalhoyuk.com)

Ruth Tringham: Well it sort of developed out of my work with digital forms of visualization things like multimedia 3D modeling and of neolithic archaeological sites in southeast Europe and in Anatolian more recently with Çatalhöyük. I actually did know anything about Second Life. It must of been in the early 2000’s because I had been doing this visualization multimedia stuff for – all through the 90’s – at least the last part of the 90’s. But then I was working with this digital technologist I suppose is not really that he is somebody who worked with museums and digital technology called Noah Whitman. He started working with us on a project called Remixing Çatalhöyük and I can tell you about that a little later but while we were working on that, which was really a method of sharing our Çatalhöyük media database with the public, he introduced me to Second Life. He said, “Have you seen this? You might be interested in this.”

[...]

Returning to Second Life

With my somewhat better internet connection, I can now once again explore in Second Life. It’s been roughly one year since I was last in there; I wonder what’s new, archaeology-wise? So, I went to http://maps.secondlife.com/ and searched ‘archaeology’, and found:

Results 1-10 for “archaeology

ROMA Archaeology

Interested in archaeology? Come dig in the interactive archaeological excavations
in the corner of the ROMA Transtiberim sim. Interested in archaeology?

Okapi Island (archaeology research, education, public outreach)

Team OKAPI and Berkeley archaeologists mirror the prehistoric village,
museum and archaeology in action at Catalhoyuk, Turkey.

The Second Life Center for Archaeology (SLCA) is being developed as an undergraduate
project at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK and focuses on the use

The Roma simulation of an excavation is really rather good. There are animations there that will soon have you troweling or shoveling away. This is very much an exhibit – there are explanatory panels giving some info on the various tasks and strategies of the archaeologist. There’s a bit of interactivity in some games that have you identifying which pot in the stratigraphy is likely oldest, that sort of thing. The graphics and objects are very well done – much better than my attempt at a virtual excavation from some time ago. However, my excavation wasn’t so much as an exhibit as an attempt to translate our metaphors in archaeology into manipulatives in Second Life. Which approach is better? Probably the wrong question to ask… (Incidentally, I tried using Jing to film myself wandering about the exhibit, but it didn’t work.

Okapi island still goes from strength to strength.

The only new one to me then that this search provided was SLCA.There were no explanatory panels or such like, but a couple of reconstructions. The Roman villa seemed nice…

I know the Portus people at Southampton have something going on, but clearly ‘search’ in Second Life still leaves something to be desired.

Rebuilding Catalhoyuk

On my reading list:

Colleen Morgan, Rebuilding Catalhoyuk (full text)

Building virtual models of archaeological sites has been seen as a legitimate mode of representing the past, yet these models are too often the end product of a process in which archaeologists have relatively limited engagement. Instead of building static, isolated, uncanny, and authorless reconstructions, I argue for a more active role for archaeologists in virtual reconstruction and address issues of representational accuracy, personal expression in avatars and peopling the virtual past. Interactive virtual worlds such as Second Life provide tools and an environment that archaeologists can use to challenge static modes of representation and increases access to non-expert participants and audiences. The virtual model of Catalhoyuk in Second Life is discussed as an ongoing, multivocal experiment in building, re- building, and representing the past and present realities of the physical site.

Digital Media and Learning Competition, HASTAC, archaeological entries

Some archaeological entries in this year’s competition:

The heritage sites of the Mississippi Delta are important cultural monuments. This project brings three key Arkansas heritage sites into Second Life, allowing direct access to those sites for students and the general public. This virtual learning platform will be designed to allow a direct engagement with historic material.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is planning a new exhibit called Treasures of the Earth. The goal is to create an adventure in archaeology featuring three major archeological discoveries and a lab where families can use technology to learn about science and uncover clues to the past.
Dive a hundred feet below sea level and take a voyage back hundreds of years in a virtual simulation game to learn how scientific archaeological methods are used to survey, explore, excavate and interpret submerged cultural resources.
Stone Mirror introduces archaeology via participation in a 3-D “virtual dig” of Çatalhöyük, Central Anatolia (southern Turkey). Based on Swigart’s Stone Mirror: A Novel of the Neolithic, students experience both past and present to create a “path of inference” from discovering objects to creating narratives describing their historical meaning.
The goal is to create a system of virtual collaborative environments able to teach how to virtually reconstruct ancient worlds in 3D, involving a community of young users. The system is based on the following archaeological case studies: Roman imperial Villas, ancient Chinese tombs and Mayan sites.

Software Turns that Cheap Camera into a 3d Scanner

Now: can you think of some archaeological applications? :)

See this post in Wired.

It’s called ProFORMA, or Probabilistic Feature-based On-line Rapid Model Acquisition, but it is way cooler than it sounds. The software, written by a team headed by Qui Pan, a student at the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University in England, turns a regular, cheap webcam into a 3D scanner. Normally, scanning in 3D requires purpose-made gear and time. ProFORMA lets you rotate any object in front of the camera and it scans it in real time, building a fully 3D texture mapped model as fast as you can turn an object. Even more impressive is what happens after the scan: The camera continues to track the objsct in space and matches it’s movement instantly with the on-screen model.

I haven’t found a website for this software yet, and I have no idea when/if it is available, but let’s hope it is soon. Should be a boon to those folks who are creating immersive archaeological simulations of real sites & artefacts (Colleen?)

edit: the website address turns up in the last few seconds of the video at 3.16, http://mi.eng.cam.ac.uk/~qp202

Historical Maps, GIS, and Second Life

I’ve just come across a presentation (in three parts) given by David Rumsey, over a year ago. Worth a view!

“A talk given by David Rumsey at the March 6, 2008 launch of his historical map library and exhibition in the virtual world of Second Life. The talk was delivered at the Rumsey Map Islands in Second Life. All of the maps in the talk can also be seen and downloaded from Rumsey’s free online map library at www.davidrumsey.com

Part I

Part II

Part III