Excavating Second Life

When I was a grad student, I remember coming to the common room to find a friend of mine, tearing out his hair. Apparently, someone in his native Norway had just published a substantial article on the exact subject of his MA thesis, meaning he had to change his direction.

I was reminded of him when I opened my in-box this morning to discover that somebody has beaten me to the punch re the archaeology of second life. This is, actually, a good thing. For one, it shows that I’m not out to lunch with this project, and two, that archaeological journals (or at least, the Journal of Material Culture) will publish such work.

So congratulations to Rodney Harrison of the Open University, for his paper:

Excavating Second Life

Cyber-Archaeologies, Heritage and Virtual Communities

Rodney Harrison The Open University, UK, r.harrison@open.ac.uk

While the anthropology of online communities has emerged as a significant area of research, there has been little discussion of the possibilities of the archaeology of virtual settlements, defined here as interactive synthetic environments in which users are sensually immersed and which respond to user input. Bartle (in Designing Virtual Worlds, 2003: 1) has described such virtual settlements as `places where the imaginary meets the real’. In this sense, an examination of the role of heritage in virtual settlements has the potential to shed light on the role of heritage in both `real’ and `imagined’ communities more generally. This article develops the concept of `cyberarchaeology’ (originally devised by Jones in his 1997 article, `Virtual Communities’) to study the virtual material culture of the settlement Second Life, and in particular, its explicit programme of heritage conservation. A survey of heritage places in Second Life suggests that the functions of heritage in virtual settlements may be far more limited than in the actual world, functioning primarily as a structure of governance and control through the establishment of the rationale for (virtual) land ownership and the production of a sense of community through memorials which produce a sense of `rootedness’ and materialize social memory. Such functions of heritage are consistent with recent discussion of the role of heritage in western societies. Nonetheless, this study of heritage and cyber-archaeology provides insights into the ways in which the notions of heritage are transforming in the early 21st century in connection with the proliferation of virtual environments, and the challenge this provides to contemporary society.

Key Words: community • cyber-archaeology • heritage • Second Life • virtual settlements

I look forward to reading this!


Tweeting Archaeology

I don’t tweet.

However, like much else on the web, once the idea is out there, people have taken it and run with it. A round-up article from Wired discusses some of the interesting ways people have hacked the service, from a washing machine that tweets when its cycle is over, to house plants that tweet begging to be watered, to a fellow who can turn on his lights from his cell phone by tweeting his house.

An excavation/site/monument that tweeted if visited/disturbed after visiting hours? Hmm.

I also quite liked a related story where Vik Singh of Yahoo! created a mashup that searches tweets for breaking news:

TweetNews takes Yahoo’s news results and compares them to emerging topics on Twitter, in effect using what’s most popular on Twitter as an index for determining the importance of news stories.

In other words, TweetNews uses Twitter to rank stories that are so new they may not have enough inbound links for algorithm-based ranking systems to prioritize them.

The result is a search engine mashup that tracks breaking news stories ranked by Twitter search results, offering faster updates, better relevance and more in-depth coverage than either source by itself.

In a blog post explaining the ideas behind TweetNews, Singh outlines the frustration many felt when searching for news on the Mumbai attacks: “Twitter messages were providing incredible focus on the important subtopics that had yet to become popular in the traditional media… what I found most interesting… was that news articles did exist on these topics, but just weren’t valued highly enough yet.”

So, here’s the TweetNews on Archaeology; and for those who have trouble with dipthongs, the TweetNews on Archeology .  We have archaeological blog aggregators… should we be aggregating tweets too? Do you tweet? Why, and how can you extend it to something bigger/better?

The original post describing how the service works – and the source code!! – is here. Vingh concludes:

There’s something very interesting here … Twitter as a ranking signal for search freshness may prove to be very useful if constructed properly. Definitely deserves more exploration – hence this service, which took < 100 lines of code to represent all the search logic thanks to Yahoo! BOSS, Twitter’s API, and the BOSS Mashup Framework.

Results of my TweetNews search this morning:

  • At Nimrud, decay is accelerating for 3,000 years of history.
    2009/02/10 22:01:56
  • 1 Related Tweets
  • ChristineFarmer
    @NevadaSlim thanks :) No, I have a PhD in Ancient History and Archaeology.
  • LAist
    LAist couldn’t resist doing a little shopping at The House of Love and Luck on La Cienega just north of Largo at the Coronet. This gorgeous new vintage jewelry store opened six weeks ago. Walk inside to find a treasure trove of beautiful necklaces, rings, bracelets and more. Every item in the store …
    2009/02/10 19:15:00
  • The Wenatchee World
    OLYMPIA Gov. Chris Gregoire has unveiled her plan to streamline government programs, hoping to cut more expenses as the state faces an estimated $6 billion budget shortfall through 2011.
    2009/02/10 18:53:39
  • New Kerala
    London, Feb 10 : A historian has suggested a link between the Stonehenge and an ancient circle of standing stones known as Carahunge in Armenia, which predates the historic site in England.
    2009/02/11 04:59:46
  • The Deming Headlight
    Santa Fe New Mexico communities statewide are being asked to honor sacred places during Heritage Preservation Month, the annual nationwide celebration of historic preservation through community events and other activities held each May, the state Historic Preservation Division announced today.
    2009/02/11 07:14:40
  • New Kerala
    Dhaka, Feb 11 : A rare hand written letter by Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore has been found from a private collector in a Bangladesh village.
    2009/02/11 05:24:02
  • BBC News
    A rare ceramic face mask jug dating back to the 13th century has been uncovered at a building site in Rothesay.
    2009/02/11 12:27:01
  • San Francisco Chronicle
    Why Evolution Is True By Jerry A. Coyne (Viking; 304 pages; $27.95) Praise be the plucky Tiktaalik roseae, the “transitional form” that hauled itself out of the water 375 million years ago to bridge the span between fish and amphibians, whose descendants…
    2009/02/11 13:04:08
  • The Buffalo News
    The public will soon get its first chance to speak out on the proposed $325 million Canal Side project.
    2009/02/10 13:24:34
  • The Pulse-Journal
    A Deerfield Twp. mansion has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    2009/02/10 23:32:35
  • FOX 10 Phoenix
    ASU budget cuts force ASU to cap enrollment – Four Dozen Academic Programs to End
    2009/02/10 22:16:40
  • Straight Furrow
    AN AUSTRALIAN antiques dealer has been arrested in Egypt for allegedly trying to smuggle two 2300-year-old animal mummies and religious figurines out of the country.
    2009/02/11 07:57:53
  • Tiscali
    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Archaeologists have found a mass grave in Mexico City with four dozen human skeletons laid out in neat lines that could reveal clues about the 16th century Spanish conquest that killed millions.
    2009/02/11 01:54:59
  • Rapid City Journal
    Ladies Salad Luncheon set for Tuesday RAPID CITY The Tuesday Ladies Salad Luncheon will be Feb. 10 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 402 Kansas City St. Special guests are the Rev. Kenneth Sortedahl, his wife and students of Peniel Christian School in Spring Valley, Wis. The event includes music at 11:45 a.m., lunch at noon and the program at 12:30 p.m.
    2009/02/11 07:58:13
  • Deseret Morning News
    Wanted: Volunteer docents for the Museum of Peoples and Cultures at Brigham Young University
    2009/02/11 07:31:08
  • PhotonicsOnline
    Future telescopes, with mirrors half the size of a football field, will need special components to deal with the light they collect. Astronomers are turning to photonic devices that guide and manipulate light inside specially-designed materials.
    2009/02/11 12:33:22
  • Otago Daily Times
    Consent applications for a wind farm in the heart of Southland, due to be filed this month, may not be lodged for at least another two months and maybe longer, as the company behind the project gets a swag of assessment reports reviewed.
    2009/02/10 16:42:53
  • Daily Local News
    Chocolate for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day?
    2009/02/11 11:30:57
  • KIRO 7 Seattle-Tacoma
    OLYMPIA, Wash. — In addition to shutting down 150 minor boards and commissions and closing 25 Department of Licensing offices, Gov. Chris Gregoire says the state could save money by merging some agencies.
    2009/02/10 19:01:48
    Egypt’s chief archaeologist has unveiled a completely preserved mummy inside a limestone sarcophagus sealed 2,600 years ago during pharaonic times.
    2009/02/11 15:11:15
  • Charlevoix Courier
    Years after having thought it had taken the steps necessary to lay claim on a ship it lost to rough seas in the 17th century, France formally asserted ownership last week in a Michigan U.S. District Court.
    2009/02/11 07:18:10
    Hairs that likely belonged to humans living 195,000 to 257,000 years ago in Africa have been identified in fossilized brown hyena dung, according to a new study that describes the first non-bony material in the early human fossil record.
    2009/02/10 18:41:25
  • The Daily World
    OLYMPIA The governors plan to streamline government programs would close Department of Licensing offices across the state, including one at South Bend, and eliminate dozens of state boards and commissions.
    2009/02/10 19:20:52
  • Casper Star-Tribune
    Natrona County Coroner Dr. James Thorpen will retire later this year, he said Tuesday.
    2009/02/11 10:51:22
  • The Bryan-College Station Eagle
    WASHINGTON — Chocolate for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day?Folks may be surprised to know how far back chocolate goes — perhaps 1,000 years in what is now the United States.Evidence of chocolate was been found in Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, …
    2009/02/11 02:40:23
  • Billings Gazette
    BUTTE – Butte-Silver Bow’s new historic preservation officer is leaving the position Friday.
    2009/02/11 08:38:51
  • The Village Voice
    Portraits in tenacity make for some of the strongest films in this year’s Documentary Fortnight film fest, again bundled within the supergroup of nonfiction attractions known as MOMA’s Doc Month. You might also group the filmmakers under the banner of the relentless, as they rustle up category-bl…
    2009/02/11 00:16:49
  • Horizon 2009 Report

    If you’re not familiar with the Horizon Reports from NMC, then you should take a moment to page through it. The Horizon Reports

    describe the continuing work of the New Media Consortium (NMC)’s Horizon Project, a long-running qualitative research project that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within learning-focused organizations.

    The report includes numerous links and examples of emerging projects that really push the boundaries.  Two items that caught my eye – my thinking being these would be immediately applicable to archaeology – were the sections on ‘mobiles’ and ‘geo-coded everything’. Some examples already in the pipeline:

    Mobile MaaP
    Columbia University’s Mapping the African American Past (MAAP) website now includes a mobile version designed to be viewed using the iPhone or iPod Touch. The tool includes text and audio information about historically significant locations in New York City and is designed as a tool for mobile learning.

    One could imagine using this kind of application to pre-load all sorts of archaeological landscape information, historic sites, and so on – an augmented reality.

    TinyEye Music, Snap-Tell

    TinEye Music (http:// http://www.ideeinc.com/products/tineyemobile/) and Snap-Tell (http://snaptell.com/) use the camera to record a photograph of a CD, video, or book, then identify the artist or author and display that along with reviews of the piece and information on where to buy it

    When I was in the business of identifying Roman brick stamp types, I had a reverse-lookup dictionary on my lap and an equipoise lamp, trying to read the letters, trying to figure out what the **** I was looking at. These two apps could serve as models for us, to tie our catalogues of stamps, forms, fabrics and so on, to our phones. Snap! ‘Vernice Nera ware’… Snap! ‘CIL XV.1 861a’

    On the Geocoding front:

    Collage (http://tapulous.com/collage/), a photo application for the iPhone, lets the viewer upload geotagged photos, browse photos taken nearby, and see photos as they are taken all over the world. Mobile Fotos (http://xk72.com/mobilefotos/) is another iPhone application that automatically geotags photos taken on the device before uploading them to Flickr.

    Obvious usefulness when you have the right device! But if you don’t:

    The Photo Finder by ATP Electronics and the Nikon GP-1 are examples; they capture GPS data and synchronize it to a camera’s data card to geotag the photos automatically. Another approach is to use a specialized device like the GPS Trackstick (http://www.gpstrackstick.com) that can be carried in a pocket or glove box. It records the path it travels, and the data can be uploaded to create custom maps of walking or driving routes, hiking trails, or points of interest. Geotagging of media of all kinds is increasingly easy to do (or is automatic), and as a result, the amount and variety of geotagged information available online is growing by the day.

    And something I’d never heard of, but looks promising:

    Virtual geocaching — the practice of placing media (images, video, audio, text, or any kind of digital files) in an online “drop box” and tagging it with a specific geographic location — is emerging as a way to “annotate” real-world places for travelers or tourists; enhance scavenger hunts, alternate reality games, and other forms of urban outdoor recreation; and augment social events such as concerts and other performances. Drop.io Location (http://drop.io/dropiolocation) is one such service. Mobile users can detect the location of nearby drops and retrieve any files they have permission to access.

    Some other items:

    Geocoding with Google Spreadsheets (and Gadgets)
    (Pamela Fox, …And Other Fancy Stuff, 27 November 2008.) This blog post includes step- by-step instructions for embedding a gadget, created by the author, that plots addresses from a Google spreadsheet on a map, providing latitude and longitude data that can be used in other mashups.

    The Mapas Project
    The fledgling Mapas Project at the University of Oregon is dedicated to the study of Colonial Mexican pictorial manuscripts. Geolocation is being used to link real-world locations to those represented on the maps.

    This next one I’ve written about before, but it’s worth keeping your eye on as it develops:

    Mediascape is a tool for creating interactive stories that unfold as the viewer moves through physical space and time. By tapping into the GPS on a viewer’s mobile device and incorporating multimedia as well as interactive controls, every mediascape offers a unique experience for each viewer.

    I find it very interesting that so many of these emerging approaches focus on merging historical data with geographical data. Public History and Public Archaeology: the next big things!

    Next Exit History
    Next Exit History is a project by the University of West Florida and the University of South Florida designed to provide geotagged information (podcasts and other media) to assist tourists in finding and learning about historical sites in Florida that are near major interstate highways but often overlooked by visitors.

    How Your Location-Aware iPhone will Change Your Life
    (Adam Pash, Lifehacker, 5 June 2008.) The iPhone’s location-aware features enhance a host of applications from social networking tools to geotagging photos taken by the phone to nearby restaurant recommendations.

    Delicious: Geo-Everything
    (Tagged by Horizon Advisory Board and friends, 2008.) Follow this link to find resources tagged for this topic and this edition of the Horizon Report, including the ones listed here. To add to this list, simply tag resources with “hz09” and “geolocation” when you save them to Delicious.

    And to close, I’ll admit a degree of ignorance about the semantic side of weblife, but that section should also be of interest –

    Tools for making connections between concepts or people are also entering the market. Calais (http://www.opencalais.com) is a toolkit of applications to make it easier to integrate semantic functionality in blogs, websites, and other web content; for instance, Calais’ Tagaroo is a plugin for WordPress that suggests tags and Flickr images related to a post as the author composes it. Zemanta (http://www.zemanta.com) is a similar tool, also for bloggers. SemanticProxy, another Calais tool, automatically generates semantic metadata tags for a given website that are readable by semantic-aware applications, without the content creator’s needing to do it by hand. Calais includes an open API, so developers can create custom semantic-aware applications.


    WorldMapper (http://www.worldmapper.org/) produces maps that change visually based on the data they represent; a world map showing total population enlarges more populous countries (China, India) and shrinks those that have a smaller fraction of the world’s population.

    Cultural Heritage

    The Fundación Marcelino Botín in Santander, Spain is seeking to create a research portal to cultural heritage information about the Cantabria region, using semantic-aware applications to draw connections and combine data from a wide variety of sources, including bibliographies, prehistoric excavations, industrial heritage, and others.

    SemantiFind is a web browser plug in that works with Google’s search bar. When a user types a word into the search bar, a drop down menu prompts the user to select the exact sense of the word that is desired, in order to improve the relevance of the results that Google displays. The results are based on user labels on the pages being searched.

    Delicious: Semantic-Aware Applications
    (Tagged by Horizon Advisory Board and friends, 2008.) Follow this link to find resources tagged for this topic and this edition of the Horizon Report, including the ones listed here. To add to this list, simply tag resources with “hz09” and “semanticweb” when you save them to Delicious.

    The entire report is fascinating; hope this snapshot of its contents shoots you off in new directions!

    Google Maps & Cultural Heritage

    From Cameron Chapman at Mashable comes a list of the 100+ best tools and mashups; below are the ones I’ve selected that may be of interest to readers of this blog:

    Cassini – An overlay of 18th century maps over Google Maps that lets you adjust the transparency of either layer.  (I’ve got copies of the IGM maps of Central Italy from the early 20th century that were used by Ward-Perkins and the rest of the BSR team during the South Etruria survey – I’d love to get those done similar to this application, but I expect I’d run afoul of one or several intellectual property issues…)

    BibleMap.org – An interactive map of locations from the Bible.

    World Heritage Google Map – A Google Map of UNESCO World Heritage Sites worldwide that includes photos.

    PlaceOpedia – A map of Wikipedia articles linked to their locations.

    World’s Creepiest Places – Just as the name implies, this map shows information about the world’ creepiest places.

    The Kremer Collection – Use a Google Maps interface to browse a large collection of paintings.

    zkimmer – An online publication viewer for newspapers and magazines that uses the Google Maps UI.

    Google Maps Recent Edits – A constantly updating map that shows the most recent edits to Google Maps.

    We Tell Stories – A map of the stories of six different authors that lets you follow the trail of their stories around the world

    Map Builder – A quick and easy Google Maps mashup builder.

    MapMyPage – A simple tool to put Google Maps on your website.

    Map My Life – An easy to use mashup that will map your life and show a timeline using an XML file you provide.

    The Google Maps Image Cutter – A free application for cutting any image into tiles for use with the Google Maps interface.

    Automatic Tile Cutter – Another app for cutting any image into tiles to use with Google Maps.

    GMapCreator – A tool to make creating thematic Google Maps easier.

    Geo Twitter – GeoCode your tweets and plot them on an embeddable map.

    Mapmsg.com – An app that lets you put a message (smoke signals, crop circles, etc.) into a map and then email it to anyone.

    Dual Maps – Free mapping tools to combine different Google Maps views as well as Microsoft Virtual Earth maps.

    maps-for-free.com – Get relief layers for Google Maps free for creating your own mashups.

    HeatMapAPI – Use this API to create your own heat maps to overlay Google Maps.

    PdMarker – An app to help you easily customize Google Maps marker behavior

    The original list lives here

    ANGEL LMS @ U Manitoba

    This term, we switched to Angel. Training was offered, but only to those in Manitoba; those of us who teach online, were left to sort things out for ourselves.

    Right now, I have two major complaints – the length of time it takes for anything to load (seems to be very AJAX heavy, though I believe I’m right in thinking that that shouldn’t really be a problem), and the course discussion area tells me that  I have one unread post, but when I click on that, it tells me it can’t find it! I hate feeling like a newb.

    Oh, ok, a third complaint – if I post resources into Angel, and then later decide to delete said resource, the navigation tree keeps the deleted resource, and I start to get caught in nested loops of pages. Just like, in fact, old websites that relied on frame-based navigation, where you could navigate to a second frame-based site, and then back again, and so on, and so on, diminishing each window as you went…

    I hated WebCT; I’m having doubts about Angel. At least I knew what was going on with Moodle.

    Interacting with Immersive Worlds II – Call for Papers Deadline February 2


    Interacting with Immersive Worlds:

    Second Brock University Conference on the Interactive Arts & Sciences

    Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario

    JUNE 15-16, 2009

    The first Interacting with Immersive Worlds conference was held in the beautiful Niagara Peninsula at Brock University in June of 2007. Presenters and attendees from a multiplicity of disciplines heard keynote presentations by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Claremont Graduate University), James Gee (Arizona State University), Chris Csikszentmihalyi (MIT Media Laboratory), and Denis Dyack (Silicon Knights). The 2009 conference will be just as provocative, with keynote speakers such as Janet Murray (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Espen Aarseth (IT University of Denmark), so be sure to electronically submit your abstracts to the program committee by February 2, 2009.

    The primary focus of the conference is to explore the growing cultural importance of interactive media. All scholarship on, and creation of digital interactive media (including but not limited to computer games and interactive fiction) will be considered in one of four broad conference streams:

    The Challenges at the Boundaries of Immersive Worlds stream features creative exploration and innovation in immersive media including ubiquitous computing, telepresence, interactive art and fiction, and alternative reality.

    The Critical Approaches to Immersion stream looks at analyses of the cultural and/or psychological impact of immersive worlds, as well as theories of interactivity.

    The Immersive Worlds in Education stream examines educational applications of immersive technologies.

    The Immersive Worlds in Entertainment stream examines entertainment applications of immersive technologies, such as computer games.
    We welcome the submission of abstracts for a 20-minute presentation plus a 10-minute discussion. Send a 500-word abstract plus a brief biographical statement. Please include a separate cover page with the following:

    · Author’s name and affiliation

    · Email

    · Mailing address

    · Title of presentation

    Since all abstracts will be anonymously reviewed, include the title of the paper on the abstract but not the author’s name, affiliation, email or mailing address. Deadline extended – deadline for receipt of abstracts is February 2, 2009.

    Please email your abstract to jmitterer@brocku.ca

    Acceptance of your paper for presentation implies a commitment on your part to register and attend the conference. Notification of acceptance will be sent out by February 15, 2009.

    Visit the conference web site for details


    Organizing Committee:

    Jean Bridge, Centre for Digital Humanities, Brock University, jbridge@brocku.ca

    Martin Danahay, Department of English Language and Literature, Brock University,


    Denis Dyack, Silicon Knights, Catharines, Ontario, denis@siliconknights.ca

    Barry Grant, Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, bgrant@brocku.ca

    David Hutchison, Faculty of Education, Brock University, davidh@brocku.ca

    Kevin Kee, Department of History, Brock University kkee@brocku.ca

    John Mitterer, Department of Psychology, Brock University, jmitterer@brocku.ca

    Michael Winter, Department of Computer Science, Brock University, mwinter@brocku.ca

    Philip Wright, Information Technology Services, Brock University, philip.wright@brocku.ca

    Sketchup + Augmented Reality

    This is AWESOME:

    Digital Urban posted that video just the other day, and as they say, the potential is fantastic. More from them:

    All you need to make ARplug-in [for sketchup] work is a personal computer, a webcam and a printed code attached to the software.

    For optimal functionality, a Dual-core PC with a standard graphic card for 3D videogames are recommended, see AR-media for full details and download.

    A free demo version is available with the full version coming in at 99 euros.

    Dis Manibus RWU

    If you browse through some of the older entries in this blog, you’ll notice I did some teaching at an online university called ‘Robert Welch University’. I put a lot of effort into the place, developing simulatings in Second Life, exploring wikis for collaborative class-text writing, student blogging instead of essays… one post on this blog about RWU, ‘moodle + wordpress = online university‘, still ranks in my top five posts! That’s an awful lot of traffic, an indication that the interest was certainly there in what we were trying to do.  It is sad then that the direction of the university has put everything on indefinite hold. As Buddy Wasisname used to say, ‘the arse is gone out of ‘er, boys’. I knew this was coming down the pipe (I left RWU a few months ago), but still, it was sad to see today a place holder website where once there was an active little community.

    On the other hand, it was pretty damned cool that a group of people could sit down and say, “Right. We need an online system for teaching the classical civilizations to people who can’t afford or are otherwise unable to attend a bricks-and-mortar school” – and they did it. For nearly three years they made it go. That’s about the average lifespan for most startups.

    The system we used was great, and the content of the different courses (there were over forty on offer at its height, Plato to Nato) was superb (but I would say that, wouldn’t I). I think the main mistake we made was in the marketing. It wasn’t until about February this year that the numbers started to really come together, which was about a year too late. Lesson learned: a product can’t sell itself – you’ve got to get out there and hustle, be it chickpeas or Cicero you’re flogging.

    Ah well. I know some people who’ll be itching to say, ‘I told you so’ for bothering with an online institution – but really, whether RWU or somebody else, more and more teaching is going to be delivered this way.  I count myself lucky and honoured to have had the opportunity.

    Gaming archaeology

    I received a message the other day from a rather frustrated 3d-worlds-for-communications designer, who had been taking CAD meshes of archaeological sites and making them ‘real’ using the Unreal engine. He’d been presenting this work to heritage & archaeology folks, and found that nobody was interested in acutally having 3d reconstructions that could be immersive (ie, via an avatar). I wasn’t at that particular conference, but I can well imagine that kind of response. Nobody ever likes changing direction; there are sunk costs, reputations, all sorts of reasons why things continue on in the direction that they’re going.

    With archaeology’s natural affinity for exploring and understanding the social impact of built spaces & constructed landscapes, with its tools for exploring the visual symbols and markers of cultures, it seems to me that archaeology would naturally adopt digital immersive worlds as a new tool. I guess that’s not happening though (although I hope to be proved wrong!).

    In other, related news…

    In this week’s Escapist, there’s a great article about the intersection between video games and research, especially that which is going on at UCL. In the article, there’s also a discussion of movements in games towards non-linear stories, something of which historians should also take note.

    Finally, there is another entrant into the burgeoning field of augmented reality, of playing video games in real world places, called Locomatrix. This last has clear application for archaeologists, for them to make what they do accessible & valuable to the public. Locomatrix is based in the UK. I’d love to see somebody make a game featuring a county sites & monuments record with their GPS-based play. They will be having a contest soon:

    We will shortly announce a university challenge with a prize of £2,000 for the best game created by a university department. We will also be sponsoring an investigation into outdoor games specifically for girls.

    2 000 quid is an awful lot of coin… c’mon UK archaeologists, let’s see what you can do!

    Angel versus Moodle

    I’ve just obtained a ‘sandbox’ account with Angel Learning. Angel is another course management suite, and I was interested to see how it compares with Moodle. The following is a stream-of-consciousness exploration of the platform…

    It certainly is a very different kettle of fish. I started exploring the ‘eportfolio’ section. For an online student, keeping a portfolio of the different resources you’ve come across, the different bits of writing that you’ve done, and so on, can be quite cumbersome. As a prof, I think I would really like to see what materials my students are using. This eportfolio might address both issues – the student can ‘publish’ a selection of materials from the portfolio to display. So the portfolio feature certainly seems promising. The eportfolio allows the student to upload ‘artifacts’, be they files or links to websites.  The screen-shot below shows the creation of a rubric under a page called ‘Achievements’. Presumably this means that I as a prof could set up a rubric for a literature review assignment, and then the students can add materials to their portfolio to indicate that they have ‘achieved’ the goals of the assignment (formative assessment, I guess!).

    Ah. Just found the relevant help file:

    ANGEL ePortfolio 2.1 allows students and instructors the ability to create an evolving picture of educational as well as personal growth and development. It allows individuals to link progress to institutional, course, and personal achievements, and includes the concept of “certified” artifacts – artifacts imported from ANGEL Courses that include grades and instructor comments. ANGEL ePortfolio’s blogging capabilities allow students and instructors to maintain an ongoing record of educational and co-curricular activities. Finally, sharing elements of an ePortfolio can be accomplished by creating “Publications” – custom web pages consisting of various artifacts from a student’s ePortfolio – and emailing or granting other ePortfolio users permission to see specific aspects of one’s work.

    So on first impressions, the eportfolio allow seems to be an extremely valuable tool for an online instructor. Moodle allows that sort of thing, too, but I’ve not personally had much success with my students in that regard. Of course, that may well say more about the instructor than the platform.

    The layout is simpler than in Moodle, but there seems to be much less customization available. The screenshot below shows the ‘art history’ template, and the opening screen that you see when you’re not in the e-portfolio.

    This next screen shot gives an idea of the various options available to you as an instructor to create your course. Everything is tabbed, once you select a particular option. I set about creating a test, and found it to be fairly similar to setting one up in Moodle, but the layout was much more user-friendly.

    The various kinds of questions you might wish to create are made available to you in a pop-up window:

    Some kinds can be automatically graded, others require manual intervention.

    As time allows, I’m going to try to migrate some courses I built in Moodle, to the Angel Sandbox, and we’ll see how easy/frustrating that process might be…

    Some reviews of Angel, and Angel v. Moodle v. other CMS…
    FindArticles – Technology review: ANGEL(TM) courseware by Angel Learning
    Community College Enterprise, The, Spring 2005, by Harris, Mark

    Moodle Versus Angel on the Moodle discussion forum

    A wiki page comparing various course/learning management systems

    And something from Edutools.

    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…



    EJA Review Piece, ‘Second Lives: Online World for Archaeological Teaching and Research’

    A small review piece of mine, on Second Life & Archaeology, is now available from the latest issue of the European Journal of Archaeology:

    Special Reviews Section: Second lives: online worlds for archaeological teaching and research: Linden Labs, Second Life, http://www.secondlife.com
    European Journal of Archaeology 2007 10: 77-79. [PDF]