I recently posted a query on the Second Life Educator’s list explaining what I was up to, and, in the interests of not reinventing the wheel, whether anything similar has been done. I received a number of notes from people with suggestions of approaches to try, and examples of other archaeologically-themed sims, chief amongst them Okapi Island (read about opportunities for apprenticeships here!) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Crimson Island. Thank you so much!
(By the way, there is a session titled ‘Current Experiments in Interpretation‘ at this year’s World Archaeological Conference that should be of interest to readers of this blog.)
An interesting approach was suggested to me by Paula Christopher at Georgia State. Using simple box-prims layered on on top of the other displaying the ‘texture’ (picture) I want to show for each layer, she suggests putting a show/hide script in each prim. That way, the student can touch each layer, and have it ‘excavated’ away to reveal the layer below. This I think might be a ‘safer’ way of doing it than what I’ve been trying this past week:
I had noticed, inadvertently, that I could lose prims ‘underground’. I could only recover them by using the land tool to lower the ground, exposing the prim. This gave me an ‘ah ha!’ moment. I rezzed the simple cabin that comes with every avatar’s inventory on a piece of ground that I had lowered to just above the level of the ur-ocean that underlays every piece of land in SL. I then unlinked all of its component prims, and made them all ‘physical’. They collapsed according to SL’s physics engine, making a pile of beams, etc. I then made them all ‘normal’ again ie they don’t move unless you use the repositioning tool. At this point, I raised the land around the prims as unevenly as I could, making sure to make the land a bit bumpy over the long walls and so on – site formation processes in SL! Then, a few bits of grass and other bits of greenery, placed to mimic growth over an archaeological site, salt with web-linked prims to archaeological databases, and voila.
The flaw in this plan, is that in order to excavate, I would have to turn over permissions to alter the landscape to my students. Maybe that’s not an issue, but on reflection I can think of one or two ways that that could go horribly wrong. That’s why I think I’ll redo this show/hide prims rather than the actual landscape of SL.