HIST3000|CLCV3000 Introduction to Digital Archaeology – Trailers!

I started scratching out ideas for what this ‘intro to digital archaeology’ class might look like as I taught my early summer course, ‘Crafting Digital History.’ Scratches became mindmaps and random scraps of paper and orphaned text files. One thing that I found really worked well with the DH course was that it had a regular beat to it. Each week, the rhythm and routine was the same, although within that there was a lot of choice about what to do and how to approach it. I want to preserve that for the digiarch class; I also want to provide more signposts along the way, so I’m planning to seed the readings with my own annotations using hypothes.is; I also saw someone on Twitter mention that they might embed short wee videos of themselves speaking about each reading, in the reading via annotation and I thought, ‘my god, that’s brilliant’ and so I’ll give that a try too. I have the link to the tweet somewhere, just not here as I write.

Anyway, in the interests of providing more structure and more presence, I’ve also been building trailers for the course and the modules within it. Making these have helped narrow down what it is I want to do; you can’t touch on everything, so you’d better go deep rather than wide. Without further ado…

and a bit about me…

Elegy for George Floyd

Today is the funeral of George Floyd, the man murdered by police in Minneapolis. Since his death, other instances of police brutality as the police riot have been collated in various places; one reckoning has over 400 instances (link here, kept by Greg Doucette, and just the ones that have been shared on Twitter!).

We – Andrew Reinhard and myself – wanted to honour George Floyd, and so we composed ‘Elegy for George Floyd’, a data composition built from sonifying the data in that spreadsheet and then remixing the results.

As you listen, you will hear a trumpet (police siren / police action) that waxes and wanes with the brutality of the action recorded. The reports for each incident were loaded into Voyant-Tools, where they were reorganized by the most common terms. Each word was then replaced in the report by its count; then all of the scores for each report were added up. This index value was then mapped against four octaves in D# minor, a key that invokes “…Feelings of the anxiety of the soul’s deepest distress, of brooding despair, of blackest depresssion, of the most gloomy condition of the soul. Every fear, every hesitation of the shuddering heart, breathes out of horrible D# minor. If ghosts could speak, their speech would approximate this key. ” (source). These reports are scored into the music twice – one voice in whole notes, a second voice in arpeggiated chords to reflect the sirens and chaos of the police brutality

Each city’s latitude and longitude and the cumulative report number were converted into chords and baseline.

The resulting sonification was then remixed, with an 808 bass line added. T808 runs throughout the entire song, the heartbeat of George Floyd that abruptly stops at 8:46. It contrasts with the intrusive double-bass of the police line generated in the original sonification. The crescendos of all of the data tracks reflect clashes with the police. Towards the end of the song, there are instances (and then a full minute) of tracks playing backwards, which reflects how upside-down things have become.

The remixed piece is at 90 bpm which we feel adds to the gravitas of the work; it is unsettling and sad, but yet, even now, contains beauty and hope.

With respect, we offer this piece in that spirit.

Our original tracks are available at https://github.com/shawngraham/elegy-for-George-Floyd. We invite you to remix and recompose your own version.

We are uploading the piece to itunes, and any monies it might earn will be donated to #blm.

Archstopmo: the 2020 edition

How lovely, that with everything going on, that some folks found the time to try their hand at archaeological stop motion! Let’s watch some films:

Buried Ship

Abby and Maggie Mullen write,

“We created this film because we like Vikings and we wanted to make something about the ocean. (Our team likes a lot of different archaeological sites, so we went through a lot of ideas before landing on this one!) We found that the two-minute limitation made it both easier and more challenging, because it’s difficult to communicate a complicated story in two minutes, with Legos, but that helped us narrow down our topic.

Our process started with research about different archaeological sites, and when we found two stories about different Viking ships found with GPR, we decided it could be fun to try to view the site from both above the ground and below it.

Our set designer painted our backdrops in watercolor and built the sets in Lego. We had to adjust the scale of our Lego models multiple times, which she built, to make our photography work. We weren’t 100% successful, but an 8yo’s attention span is limited and we can’t exactly run out to the store right now to get more supplies.

We used an iPhone to take the photographs. We set it up on a tripod with a remote shutter to make it easier to keep it mostly in the same place. We then transferred our photos to a MacBook Pro and put the photos into iMovie to create the stop-motion. Our “silent film” text slides were created in PowerPoint, and we used a song from the YouTube Studio free music collection for our soundtrack.”

Comments on Youtube include, “I really liked this! It was so interesting AND beautiful. Really well done. It made me want to learn more!” and “Great information! I did not know that Viking ships had been found so recently from so long ago. I greatly enjoyed the scene settings and photography. The accompanying music was excellent.”

The Venus of Willendorf: an archaeological yarn

Karen Miller writes,

“As a traditional women’s craft, crochet is an apt sculptural method to recreate an iconic archaeological artefact that evokes the beauty of the female body. I was excited to find the pattern at Lady Crafthole’s ‘Cabinet of Crochet Curiositie’s https://www.crochetcuriosities.com/. I filmed it on an ipad with the Stop Motion Studio app https://apps.apple.com/au/app/stop-motion-studio/id441651297 and added the title and credits in iMovie. ”

Archaeological Tea-construction

Beth Pruitt writes,

“This video is about methodological theory in archaeology, created for SAA’s Online Archaeology Week after the cancellation of the planned Austin Public Archaeology Day at the 2020 SAA Annual Meeting. Through observing the attributes of the rim sherd (its curvature, decoration, etc.), archaeologists can make inferences about the rest of the whole, even when pieces remain missing. This is based on an in-person activity that I do at public archaeology events to help visitors understand laboratory methods and induction. I used the app Stop Motion Studio for taking the frame photos and strung them together in the Windows 10 Photos app. I drew the animated overlays frame-by-frame in Inkscape.”

Jury Prizes

  • To Maggie and Abby Mullen, in the ‘Story of a Site’ category
  • To Karen Miller, in the ‘Biography of an Object’ category
  • To Beth Pruitt, in the ‘Archaeological Theory’ category

Best Overall and Choix du Peuple

To be announced May 4th! Make your votes on the Choix du Peuple:

Tuesday May 5th:

And with the polls closed, looks like ‘Tea-Construction’ is the Choix du Peuple!

Searching Inside PDFs from the Terminal Prompt

I have reason, today, to want to search the Military Law Review. If you know which issue the info you’re looking for is located, then you can just jump right in.

When do we ever know that? There’s no search-inside feature. So we’ll build one ourselves. After a bit of futzing, you can see that all of the pdfs are available in this one directory:

https://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/Military_Law_Review/pdf-files/

so

$ wget https://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/Military_Law_Review/pdf-files/ -A .pdf

should just download them all directly. But it doesn’t. However, you can copy the source html to a text editor, and with a bit of regex you end up with a file with just the paths directly to the pdf.  Pass that file as -i urls.txt to wget, and you end up with a corpus of materials.

How do we search inside? This question on Stackoverflow will help us out.  But it requires pdftotext to be installed. Sigh. Always dependencies! So, following this, here we go.

On the command line (with Anaconda installed):

conda create -n envname python=3.7
conda activate envname
conda config --add channels conda-forge
conda install poppler

The pdfs are in a folder called ‘MLR’ on my machine. From one level up:

$ find /MLR -name '*.pdf' -exec sh -c 'pdftotext "{}" - | grep --with-filename --label="{}" --color "trophies"' \;

et voila!

a quick thought on library JSON

Read this post today: https://tomcritchlow.com/2020/04/15/library-json/

which seems very cool. In Tom’s #update 1, he points to a parser that one of his readers wrote for this imagined spec, and if you format your books according to Tom’s spec, and point the parser at the file, you get this really cool interface on your materials: see https://bookshelves.ravern.co/shelf?url=https://tomcritchlow.com/library.json .

Anyway, the thought occurred that the ruby script that inukshuk wrote with regard to my query about adding materials to tropy notes in json (full thread here, .rb file here ) could easily be modified to produce the json from simple lists in txt.

So I might fart around with that.

 

Archstopmo: An Archaeology Stop Motion Movie Festival!

April 5 – 30th, with winners revealed May 4th.

Let’s have a movie festival. Also, I like stop-motion films – y’know, like the Wallace and Gromit films (and here’s an archaeological one I just found on youtube using playmobil!). So here’s what you do –

How?

  1. Make a stop motion film on one of the following themes:
    • a. archaeological theory
    • b. history of archaeology
    • c. the story of a site
    • d. the story of a dig
    • e. the biography of an object
  2. Make it two minutes in length
  3. Can be lego, clay, paper cut outs, whatever you like
  4. Upload to youtube
  5. Tweet it out with #archstopmo
  6. Check out twitter under the ‘archstopmo’ hashtag
  7. Prepare an artist’s statement that explains and contextualizes your work, as well as the software you’ve used, and your process.
  8. Submit your film at the form below.
  9. Have fun!

There will be a film gallery which will be updated frequently with entries and links to the artist’s statement.

Judging

Prizes (there are no prizes, only glory!) will be selected by a panel of judges, plus one audience choice.

  • Best in each category – five prizes
  • Choix des Judges – best overall
  • Choix du Peuple – best by voting

Submit Your Work

 

Featured image by Adi Suryanata  on unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/5T0bY-x9A8U

Ah, I See You Have A Policy: A Screenshot Essay on the Trade in Human Remains

Warning: There are many photographs of human remains in this post.

There is a literature on the online trade in human remains going back to at least Huxley and Finnegan’s 2004 piece on eBay in the Journal of Forensic Science,  and since then, several academics have been active in discussing the ethical, moral, and legal dimensions of this trade, producing a steady stream of articles. At the same time, the trade was transformed by the merging of social media with marketplace and ad-driven revenue models, expanding in scope and reach. Several platforms, over the last decade, have added wording to their prohibited categories of goods that deals with human remains. Let’s walk through some of that.

I found a copy of the World Archaeological Congress 2010 Newsletter in the Internet Archive, with this one line describing a human skull seen on Etsy, and WAC’s successful request to Etsy to remove the post.

The post was not in fact removed. And can still be found online.

It sold in 2011. What’s etsy’s stance on human remains, anyway?

Etsy’s current policy on human remains. Such as it is. Human remains were added to the prohibited list in 2012.

The seller from 2010, still active, using a different skull as a prop. Still selling human remains, now points people towards her Facebook page, and since Etsy banned human remains, wants you to send private messages if you’re interested. Facebook’s good for that sort of thing, eh? Private messaging, I mean.


Facebook says no human body parts or fluids.

But here’s a Facebook store selling…. human remains.

We are not surprised, to find human remains on Facebook. After all, Facebook owns Instagram, and there are any number of posts there selling human remains. Including this one. But wait, is that an Amazon box? Does Amazon have a human remains policy?


Yes, yes they do. And it seems a bit contradictory. And unenforced.

And it is trivial to find human remains being sold on Amazon. Like this skull. Displayed sideways, since the photo was taken with the seller’s cellphone.

Since I’m on wordpress.com, you might see advertisements interspersed in this essay. It will be interesting to see which advertisements WordPress matches to this post; it might even be hard to see the difference between those ads and these screencaptures.


Ebay, 2012: ” [the policy prohibits] “humans, the human body, or any human body parts”  but expressly permits “clean, articulated (jointed), non-Native American skulls and skeletons used for medical research.” (Marsh, 2012, HuffPost). Today?

It was on eBay that we all (the archaeological ‘we’) first twigged that human remains selling online was lucrative and booming. While their policy has changed over the years, the policy is now admirably lucid and succinct. Did this tighter, stronger, policy have any impact?

It is possible to find the ruins and remains of specialist eBay aggregator sites like this one in the Internet Archive. I spent quite a lot of time tracking as many of these down as I could, teasing out which posts were actually for human remains, and which ones were replicas or adjacent materials, and scraping the data, plotting it over time.

And I see three phases here. An early phase where there was a lot of money happening (remember, these values are approximate indications rather than absolute totals. They give us a sense of the trend rather than the exact dollar number); a phase where language is suddenly cagey about what precisely is being sold (the stand? or the skull? Remember the earlier wishy-washy policy of 2012?), and the volume drops; and then, from July 2016: eBay bans human remains outright. And human remains drop out of the aggregators completely. The ban – to judge from these numbers – worked. Graphs and underlying research Graham, forthcoming.

Have we accomplished anything? eBay certainly has, I think, and that’s worth thinking about.  Perhaps an auction site where sales are also dependent on reputation responds better to moral suasion than the other platforms. When is it in a platform’s best interest to actually police its own policies?

Human remains are in a nebulous zone, legally. In Canada, the law to my mind seems pretty clear:

Section 182.B seems to cover it. These materials are human beings. Buying and selling humans interferes -at the very least!- with human dignity. I’m no lawyer, and I don’t think this has ever been tested in court. But: If a platform profits from a user’s breaking of the platform’s very own policies on human remains, if a platform turns a blind eye, is the platform not condoning the trade? Is this not a nudge-nudge wink-wink tacit approval of the trade? Who should want to invest in a platform that makes money from selling human beings? Should we not hold such a platform accountable?

See ACCO for more on various illicit and illegal trades happening across social media. For more on our project studying the trade in human remains, see bonetrade.github.io.

Posts referred to have also been saved to the Internet Archive.

a note on git-lfs

Sometimes, I have files that are larger than github’s 100 mb. So here’s what you need to do.

brew install git-lfs
brew upgrade git-lfs

Start a new git repository, and then make sure git large file storage (git lfs) is tracking the large file. For instance, I just moved a topic model visualization to a repo on github (20,000 archaeological journal articles). It has a data csv that is 135 mb. So I made a new repo on github, but didn’t initialize it on the website. Instead, after getting git-lfs installed on my machine:

git init
git lfs track "20000/data/topic_words.csv"
git add .gitattributes 20000/data/topic_words.csv
git commit -m "initial"
git add .
git commit -m "the rest"
git remote add origin https://github.com/shawngraham/archae-topic-models.git
git push -u origin master

Making Nerdstep Music as Archaeological Enchantment, or, How do you Connect with People Who Lived 3000 Years Ago?

by Shawn Graham, Eric Kansa, Andrew Reinhard

What does data sound like?

Over the last few days, what began as a bit of a lark has transformed into something more profound and meaningful. We’d like to share it with you—not just the result, but also our process. And in what we’ve made, perhaps, we find a way of answering the title’s question: how do you connect with people who lived 3,000 years ago?

In the recent past, Shawn has become more and more interested in representing the patterns we might detect, at a distance, in the large collections of digital data that are becoming more and more available . . . using sound. Called ‘sonification’, this technique maps aspects of the information against things like timbre, scale, instrumentation, rhythm, and beats-per-minute to highlight aspects of the data that a visual representation might not pick up. It’s also partly about making something strange—we’ve become so used to visual representations of information that we don’t necessarily recognize the ways assumptions about it are encoded in the visual grammars of barcharts and graphs. By trying to represent historical information in sound, we have to think through all of those basic decisions and elaborate on their implications.

Last week, he was toying with mapping patterns of topics in publications from Scotland from the 18th and 19th centuries as sound, using an online app called ‘TwoTone’. He shared it on Twitter, and well, one thing led to another, and a conversation began between Shawn, Eric, and Andrew: What might archaeological data sound like?

Sing in me Muse, through thine API, of sherds and munsell colors, of stratigraphic relations, and of linked thesauri URIs!

—Eric Kansa

Get Some Data

First things first: get some data. Open Context (Eric’s pet project) carefully curates and publishes archaeological data from all over the world. He downloaded 38,000 rows of data from the excavations at the Etruscan site of Poggio Civitate (where, in a cosmic coincidence, Andrew attended field school in 1991) and began examining it for fields that could be usefully mapped to various sonic dimensions. Ultimately, it was too much data! While there are a variety of ways of performing a sonification (see Cristina Wood’s Songs of the Ottawa, for instance), TwoTone only accepts 2,000 rows. The data used therefore for this audio experiment was very simple—counts of objects from Poggio Civitate were rendered as arpeggiated piano lines over three octaves; average latitude and average longitude were calculated for each class of thing thereby making a chord, and then each class of thing had its own unique value. Shawn’s initial result of data-driven piano sonification can be listened to here.

The four original dimensions of the sonification appear above, mapped in TwoTone. The rising notes in the bottom track are the item type ids. All of the materials come from the same chronological period, thus to listen (or view left-to-right) needed some sort of organizing principle. Whether or not it is the right principle is a matter of interpretation and debate.

Archaeology is a Remix

But what if an actual musician got a hold of these tracks? Andrew recently published a work called ‘Assemblage Theory’ where he remixed found digital music in order to explore ideas of archaeological assemblages.[1] Taking his experimentation in electronic dance music (EDM) a step beyond Assemablage Theory, he took Shawn’s four original tracks based on Eric’s 3,000-year-old data and began to play, iterating through a couple of versions, in a genre he calls ‘nerdstep’. He crafted a 5-minute piece that has movements isolating one of the four data threads, which sometimes crash together like waves of building data, yet are linked together. He opted for 120 bpm, a dance music standard, and then, noting where the waves of data subside into quiet pools, was inspired to write some lyrics. “The quiet segues are basically data reflexivity in audio form,” he says.

Data propagation
All this information
Gives me a reaction
Need time for reflection

A one-way conversation
This endless computation
Numbs me from sensation
Need time for reflection

Reflexivity
Give me time to breathe
Give me time to think

Reflexivity
Data raining down on me

Emotionally exhausting
How much will this cost me
I’m alone but you are watching
Look up from your screen

Reflexivity
Give me time to breathe
Give me time to think
Look up from your screen.

Reinhard used the open source Audacity audio software application to create the song based on archaeological data sonification. The first four tracks are Shawn’s piano parts, staggered in such a way as to introduce the data bit-by-bit, and then merged with 16 other tracks—overburden or matrix. In the beginning, they are harmonious and in time, but because of subtle variations in bpm, by the time the song ends the data have become messy and frenetic, a reflection of the scattered pieces within the archaeological record, something that happens over time. Each movement in the song corresponds to an isolated data thread from one of Shawn’s piano parts, which then loops back in with the others to see how they relate.

Life is A Strange Loop

Speaking of loops, let’s think about the full loop we’ve encountered here. 3,000 years ago, at a plateau in the tufa landscape of southern Etruria, people lived their lives, only to have their debris carefully collected, studied, systematized, counted, digitized, and exposed online. No longer things but data, these counts and spaces were mapped to simple sonic dimensions using a web-toy, making a moderately pleasing experience. Remixed, the music moves us, enchants us, towards pausing and thinking through the material, the labour, the meanings, of a digital archaeology.[2] If/when this song is performed in a club (attn: John Schofield and the Theoretical Archaeology Groups [TAG] in both the UK and North America), the dancers would then be embodying our archaeological knowledge of Poggio in their movements, in the flows and subtle actions/reactions their bodies make across the floor. In dancing, we achieve a different kind of knowledge of the world, that reconnects us with the physicality of the world.[3] The eruptions of deep time into the present [4] – such as that encountered at an archaeological site – are weird and taxing and require a certain kind of trained imagination to engage with. But by turning the data into music, we let go of our authority over imagination, and let the dancers perform what they know.

For the three of us as creators, this playful sonification of data allows us to see archaeological material with fresh eyes . . . errrrrr ears . . . and by doing so restores the enchantment we once felt at the start of a new project, or of being interested in archaeology in the first place. Restoring the notion of wonder into three middle-aged archaeologists is no small feat, but the act of play enabled us to approach a wealth of artifacts from one site we know quite well, and realize that we didn’t know it quite like this. Using the new music bridges the gap between humans past and present and in dancing we (and hopefully you) embody the data we present. It’s a new connection to something old, and is experienced by bodies. This is perhaps almost as intoxicating as the work done by Patrick McGovern (U. Penn) and Sam Caglione (Dogfish Head) in their experimentation and creation of ancient ales, the first of which was “Midas Touch”, a surprisingly drinkable brew concocted from an ancient recipe recovered on excavation in Asia Minor. Archaeology is often a cerebral enterprise, which deserves—at times—a good ass-shaking derived from a driving beat.

I’m listening now and am amazed. It is really beautiful, not only as a finished product, but as a process that started with people who lived their lives almost 3000 years ago.

—Eric Kansa

Reflexivity, by KGR [5]

Endnotes

[1] Reinhard’s article, “Assemblage Theory: Recording the Archaeological Record,” and two responses by archaeologists Jolene Smith and Bill Caraher.

[2] An argument made by Perry, Sara. (2019). The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record. European Journal of Archaeology, 22(3), 354-371. doi:10.1017/eaa.2019.24

[3] See for instance Block, Betty, and Judith Kissel (2001). Dance: The Essence of Embodiment. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 22(1), 5-15. DOI: 10.1023/A:1009928504969

[4] Fredengren, Christina (2016). Unexpected Encounters with Deep Time Enchantment. Bog Bodies, Crannogs and ‘Otherworldly’ sites. The materializing powers of disjunctures in time. World Archaeology 48(4), 482-499, DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2016.1220327

[5]  Kansa-Graham-Reinhard (pronounced as either “Cager” or “Kegger”—the GIF-debate of archaeological nerdstep/nerdcore).

References

Block, Betty, and Judith Kissel (2001). Dance: The Essence of Embodiment. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 22(1), 5-15. DOI: 10.1023/A:1009928504969

Caraher, William. (2019). “Assemblage Theory: Recording the Archaeological Record: Second Response” Epoiesen http://dx.doi.org/10.22215/epoiesen/2019.10

Fredengren, Christina (2016). Unexpected Encounters with Deep Time Enchantment. Bog Bodies, Crannogs and ‘Otherworldly’ sites. The materializing powers of disjunctures in time. World Archaeology 48(4), 482-499, DOI: 10.1080/00438243.2016.1220327

Perry, Sara. (2019). The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record. European Journal of Archaeology, 22(3), 354-371. doi:10.1017/eaa.2019.24

Reinhard, Andrew. (2019). “Assemblage Theory: Recording the Archaeological Record” Epoiesen http://dx.doi.org/10.22215/epoiesen/2019.1

Smith, Jolene. (2019). “Assemblage Theory: Recording the Archaeological Record: First Response” Epoiesen http://dx.doi.org/10.22215/epoiesen/2019.5

Anthony Tuck. “Murlo“. (2012) Anthony Tuck (Ed.) . Released: 2012-07-06. Open Context. <http://opencontext.org/projects/DF043419-F23B-41DA-7E4D-EE52AF22F92F> DOI: https://doi.org/10.6078/M77P8W98 ARK (Archive): https://n2t.net/ark:/28722/k2222wm10

Featured Image by Sarthak Navjivan https://unsplash.com/photos/iTZOPe7BpTM

A Song of Scottish Publishing, 1671-1893

The Scottish National Library has made available a collection of chapbooks printed in Scotland, from 1671 – 1893, on their website here. That’s nearly 11 million words’ worth of material. The booklets cover an enormous variety of subjects. So, what do you do with it? Today, I decided to turn it into music.

As part of writing the second edition to the Historian’s Macroscope, I’ve been re-writing the topic modeling section, and I’ve included working with this information, and building a topic model for it using R. As part of that exercise, I preprocessed all the data so that it would be a bit easier for the newcomer to work with it (which will be held in a Github repo for the purpose). Part of the preprocessing was adding a ‘publication date’ to the NLS-provided inventory file (which involved a whole bunch of command line regex etc to grab that info from the METS metadata files).

To turn this into sound – I used the Topic Modeling Tool  to build a quick topic model on the 3000 + text files containing the ocr’d text. The TMT can also match your metadata up against the topic results, which is very nice and handy, especially for turning the results into music, which I did with the TwoTone app. Drop the resulting csv onto TwoTone, and your columns are ready to map to the music; the visualization is also handy to get a sense of when your topics are most prominent (where the left hand side is my earliest date, and the right hand side is my latest date):

Then I played with the settings, filtering things so that notes only are played if they are making a meaningful contribution to the entire year’s text.

You can listen to it on Soundcloud.

The piano arpeggios are mapped to a topic that seems largely to be bad ocr. The pipe organ corresponds to a topic about religion. The trumpet seems to be stories of people off to make their fortune (as I read the topic words for that topic). There’s a double base in there, which I assigned to the ‘histories’ topic (because why not). The glockenspiel is assigned to the topic that I understand as ‘folk wisdom’, while the harp is mapped to stories of love and romanced (and doomed love too, for that matter).

What do we learn doing this? Well, for one thing, it forces us to think about the constructedness of our ‘visualizations’, which is never a bad thing. It foregrounds how much dirty data is in this thing. It shows change over time in Scottish publishing habits (“we could have done that with a graph, Shawn!” to which I say: So what? Now you can engage a different part of your brain and feel that change over time.)

Enjoy.

Revisiting AR, some notes

I haven’t futzed around with AR in a while. Here are some notes from a recent foray back into Unity3d + Vuforia. My students Ayda & Marissa were trying to use ARIS to do some AR in the National Gallery. It worked in their tests with 1 image, and so they went ahead and developed several more triggers and overlays (which took a lot of term time), but then when they went to play the AR, it would crash. I thought maybe it was a memory error, but after reformatting their images, triggers, and database, the crash continued.

We quickly ported it to Unity3d and Vuforia.

– when installing Unity, you now have to install unity hub. It’s from the hub that you add the android sdk, and the vuforia modules, if you forget to add those initially.

– the programming historian tutorial on unity and vuforia is a bit out of date as a consequence

– the unity quickstart guide is pretty good for getting going https://docs.unity3d.com/Manual/vuforia_get_started.html

– it adds 3d objects to the tracking images. For an image overlay, right click on the ImageTarget, select ‘plane’ from 3d object. Drag your image overlay from your assets folder ONTO the plane.

– make sure your plane occupies the same spatial coordinates as your target. Otherwise, in AR the image will float in ‘real’ space at those other coordinates

– name your scene containing all of your ImageTargets ‘scene 1’

– make a new scene for your splash/menu. Call it ‘scene 0’

– make sure to add your scenes to the build settings, and that scene 0 is loaded BEFORE scene 1.

– this tutorial can be followed, more or less, to create the menu http://theflyingkeyboard.net/unity/unity-ui-c-simple-main-menu/

– you really just need the exit button, and the button that loads scene 1 when pressed.

An Enchantment of Digital Archaeology – a peek at the contents

What is more rational than a computer, reducing all phenomena down to tractable ones and zeros? What is more magical than a computer, that we tie our identities to the particular hardware or software machines we use?…Archaeology, as conventionally practiced, uses computation to effect a distancing from the world; perhaps not intentionally but practically. Its rituals (the plotting of points on a map; the carefully controlled vocabularies to encode the messiness of the world into a database and thence a report, and so on) relieves us of the task of feeling the past, of telling the tales that enable us to envision actual lives lived. The power of the computer relieves us of the burden of having to be human.

An enchanted digital archaeology remembers that when we are using computers, the computer is not a passive tool. It is an active agent in its own right (in the same way that an environment can be seen to be active)…In that emergent dynamic, in that co-creation with a non-human but active agent, we might find the enchantment, the magic of archaeology that is currently lacking in the field.

I might be a posthumanist.

An Enchantment of Digital Archaeology: Raising the Dead with Agent Based Models, Archaeogaming, and Artificial Intelligence with Berghahn Books in New York, in the series edited by Andrew Reinhard, ‘Digital Archaeology: Documenting the Anthropocene’, has now moved to the next stage of the publishing process. I signed the contract two years ago, got the first draft to the editor in June of this year, got the peer reviews back in September, rejigged the damned thing, rewrote parts, rearranged the structure, added new parts, and resubmitted it earlier this month. The peer reviews were incredibly generous, even when some parts or decisions on my end left them cold, and so of course the end result isn’t their fault, as the acknowledgements will duly note.

In one way or another, this is the book that I’ve been trying to write since I came to Carleton. I might’ve even outlined the idea for this book in my original application for the job. It’s always had a pedagogical aspect to it, even when it was called Toying with the Past (too negative) and then later Practical Necromancy (too scary). But what finally made things start to click were conversations with the folks at the University of York, who as a department seem to really gel around ideas of reflexivity, affective engagement, and plain ol’ out-there digital archaeology. I love them all!

The book is meant to take the reader through my own experience of disenchantment with archaeology, and then the ways I found myself re-enchanted through digital work. The intended audience is undergraduate students; I am not writing a how-to, but rather, I want to enthuse with the possibilities, to spark curiosity, and to fire the imagination.

Anyway, the publisher asked me to write abstracts for each chapter, and said I could share them here, so awwaaaaay we gooooo!

Introduction: An Enchantment of Digital Archaeology?

‘Enchantment’ is discussed, drawing on the political philosophy of Bennett, and contrasted with the ways archaeology comes to know the past. The rupture of the past into the present is one locus of enchantment. The chapter argues that simulation and related digital technologies capture something similar. A rationale for why simulation should be a necessary part of the archaeologist’s toolkit is offered. Considering enchantment means confronting disenchantment, and so prompts a reflective examination of the purpose of archaeology and archaeological computing. This kind of reflexive writing necessarily requires a very personal engagement with the materials. The chapter concludes with a discussion on some of the potential dangers of misunderstanding ‘enchantment’ as ‘seduction’.

Keywords: enchantment; digital archaeology; new aesthetic; simulation; affective engagement

Chapter One: Imagine a Network

Networks are a foundational metaphor for digital archaeology. If we can imagine the archaeological past within a system of relationships, we are dealing with networks. Networks can then be operationalized as the substrate for simulation, and the substrate for computation. The chapter sets up a longer discussion where we begin with a network as metaphor before moving towards more grounded and less metaphorical uses. It imagines the city of Rome as a process of flows through intertwining networks, a process of concretization of flows of energy and power and materials.

Keywords: city of Rome; bricks; building trade; complexity; networks

Chapter Two: Reanimating Networks
Agent based simulations are introduced. Their potentials and limitations are discussed, as well as the ways the code of the simulation captures the historiography of the phenomenon under discussion. Part of the attraction of agent based models rests in their formalization of the ‘just-so’ stories we might normally tell. This allows us to test the unintended or unforeseen consequences of those stories. We create self-contained software agents and give them rules drawn from our understanding of the past to guide their behaviour – and then we turn them loose to interact within the channels of the archaeological networks we have uncovered. In this case, the network of inter-urban communications.

Keywords: agent based models; antonine itineraries; information diffusion; replicability; formal models

Chapter Three: Add Agents, and Stir

The network can exist in social space, in addition to physical space. The social information recovered from stamped Roman bricks can be stitched into a network of human interactions over time; these networks can then be used as the starting point for simulating ancient social dynamics, and for asking what-if questions. The chapter concludes with a reflection on how such computational agents might escape from the confines of the machine, and what that implies for how we might know or have an affective response for the past. One way is that the labour these resurrected Romans, these ’digital zombies’ do depends on compelled labour in the ‘real’ world. How we talk about the creatures we create (in silicon) has ramifications for the world outside the machine.

Keywords: agent based models; agency; salutatio; violence; assemblages; vibrant matter

Chapter Four: Archaeogaming

One way for the archaeologist to sink into the digital assemblages reanimated with simulation is to transform the simulation into a game. Archaeogaming is considered in the sense of playing games with archaeological themes. A theory of play is also a theory of learning. The simulation considered in the previous chapter is recast as an archaeogame and the consequences of ‘playing’ this game are considered. The points of intersection between archaeogames and agent based models are considered for the ways in which the two forms differ. The chapter concludes with a discussion of a case study where students were asked to design games to communicate ‘good history’. The play of building leads to greater engagement and enchantment.

Keywords: archaeogames; design; play; time; failure; pedagogy

Chapter Five: The Fun is in the Building

A case study building an actual video-game informed by an agent based model is discussed, including design elements and a post-mortem on the successes and failures of the project. The ethics of game play and meaningful individual choices as they intersect with a larger society-level simulation should make for an engaging experience, but our lack of expertise in actual game design hampers the project. There is a mismatch between the mechanics of the genre and the dynamics of the cultural experience we wish to explore. Returning to the idea of the city of Rome as a kind of emergent outcome of dynamic flows, we consider the city management genre and its connections to archaeogaming. The chapter concludes with a consideration of how an analogue format, the board game, promotes the kind of digital thinking and enchantment we are seeking.

Keywords: first person shooter; artificial anasazi; simCity; Will Wright; board games

Chapter Six: Artificial Intelligence

Networks are capable of computation. Neural networks enable us to represent our archaeological information and historical imagination in ways that a computer can engage with creatively. A simple recurrent neural network is trained on the writings of various historical personae so that it can mimic their voice. A very complex language model released by the OpenAI foundation is used as a kind of parameter space out of which we can collapse its understanding of ‘archaeology’, as filtered through its understanding of the writings of Flinders Petrie. The enchantment of digital archaeology might therefore sit at the point of combination of powerful neural network models of knowledge with agent based models of behaviour and archaeogaming methods for interaction.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; GPT-2; neural networks; ethics; augmented reality

Conclusion: Enchantment is a Remembering

Digital artefacts are subject to decay and ruin. They sometimes erupt into the digital world’s ever-present ‘now’ in the same ways archaeological materials interrupt the physical world of today. To program something necessarily means cutting away information, and to understand how something is programmed involves actively trying to break it, to see in its ruptures what has been cut away. There is enchantment in this process. The simulations and toys that the book considers also point to the playfulness that is necessary to find the enchantment in digital archaeology. Ultimately, the growing power of digital technologies to pluck representations of the past out of the possibility space of computation increases our responsibility to the dead to be truthful, to be engaged, and to be enchanted.

Keywords: ruin, forgetting, world-views; representation; complexity

Afterword: Guidelines for developing your own digital archaeology

Some thoughts on how one might get started in all of this

Appendices

Code walk throughs for developing some ABMS and re-implimenting one of my earlier models.