Twitter Times: The Electric Archaeology Edition

Inspired by Dan Cohen’s ‘Digital Humanities Now‘ implementation of Twitter Times, I’ve done the same thing with my own twitter feed, its lists, and everyone I follow.

Heard of Twitter Times?

Dan writes,

More recently, social media such as Twitter has provided a surprisingly good set of pointers toward worthy materials I should be reading or exploring. (And as happened with blogs five years ago, the critics are now dismissing Twitter as unscholarly, missing the filtering function it somehow generates among so many unfiltered tweets.) I follow as many digital humanists as I can on Twitter, and created a comprehensive list of people in digital humanities. (You can follow me @dancohen.)


Digital Humanities Now is a new web publication that is the experimental result of this thought. It aggregates thousands of tweets and the hundreds of articles and projects those tweets point to, and boils everything down to the most-discussed items, with commentary from Twitter. A slightly longer discussion of how the publication was created can be found on the DHN “About” page.

I’m following mostly folks in elearning, archaeology, and digital humanities; you can see my edition here.

Affordable 3D printer: archaeological uses?

Archaeology is slowly getting into 3d representations of artefacts, sites, and so on. I don’t know whether we’ve spent enough time thinking ‘why bother?’. What does having a 3d representation of an object or site help us to achieve? A quick answer might have something to do with public archaeology, or education… but that’s a post for another day (or search the archives of this blog ;)

Anyway, for less than $1000, one can now own a 3d printer, and “print” those objects out, from plastic.  If you want to build your own printer, plans exist on the internet. This was a need I didn’t even know I had, but now I very much want… I’ve posted the video in a separate post (thanks, Wired!) From what I can find out so far, if you’ve got the svg file (I think), and it’s not overly large, you can print it.

So why would an archaeologist bother with this, other than its inherent coolness? Explore Bill Turkel’s Lab for Humanitistic Fabrication and read the rationale:

One of the key problems that social scientists and humanists face is knowledge mobilization: getting information out of the ‘silos’ surrounding particular research groups, integrating it on a broad scale, and making it available to all Canadians. The transformation of image, text and sound into a common digital currency has profoundly lowered the transaction costs for researchers to find and utilize new information. A range of new technologies—powerful search engines, wikis, weblogs, text and data mining tools, and so on—make it easier and faster than ever to conduct research and disseminate results. In many disciplines, however, the focus has remained on individuals reading and writing with traditional desktop or laptop computers.


I propose to develop a methodology and a number of prototype devices to make the digital data sets and interpretations of a strategic knowledge cluster available in interactive, ambient and tangible forms that can be recreated in many different settings. To give some idea of the potential of these kinds of devices, consider the difference between writing with a word processor and stepping on the brake of a moving car. While using a word processor you are typically focused on the task and aware that you are interacting with a computer. The interface is intricate, sensorimotor involvement is mostly limited to looking and typing, and your surrounding environment recedes into the background of awareness. On the other hand, when braking you are focused on your involvement with the environment. Sensorimotor experiences are immersive, the interface to the car is as simple as possible, and you are not aware that you are interacting with computers (although recent-model cars in fact have dozens of continuously operating microcontrollers). As academic researchers we have tended to emphasize opportunities for dissemination that require our audience to be passive, focused and isolated from one another and from their surroundings. We need to supplement that model by building some of our research findings into communicative devices that are transparently easy to use, provide ambient feedback, and are closely coupled with the surrounding environment.

(and also read this for a few more arguments).

Well archaeologists? Are you going to let a historian lead the way with material culture?

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,

NetherNet Redux? Google Sidewiki

What always excited my about The Nethernet (nee Pmog) was the ability to annotate websites (refugees from the Nethernet keep the flame burning here).

So over at Ubernoggin, I see that the Googlemonster is allowing folks to annotate websites. There’s potential here.

From Ubernoggin:

I can’t help but be excited about Google Sidewiki. It allows users (with google accounts) to leave comments on any website. So now, rather than signing up for forums and chats to comment or searching through dozens of pages to read customer feedback, you can simply click a button in your browser and see what people are saying.

I could be wrong. I could be overly excited. But I can’t help feeling that this is HUGE. The whole of the web now becomes a social network. Every page can have an unbiases forum tacked on that’s viewable by anyone.

It will be interesting to see how this evolves. What was extremely cool about Nethernet, was how those annotations could be made dynamic (puzzles, explosions, you name it). Google as a game playing platform? Stranger things have happened.

Learning with Digital Games – Nicola Whitton

I’ve just gotten my hands on an (e-)inspection version of Nicola Whitton’s Learning with Digital Games: A Practical Guide to Engaging Students in Higher Education.

From the introduction,

Two recent UK studies provide evidence that students may not be as comfortable with technology for learning and new ways of working as is commonly assumed. In a study of student expectations of higher education, IPSOS MORI(2007) found that while the group of potential students who took part in their study had grown up with technology they did not value the use of technology for its own sake, but instead put a high value on face-to-face teaching and traditional teacher-student interaction. A recent study by CIBER (2008) also provides evidence that the assumption that young people who are brought up in the information age are more web-literate than older people is false. Although young people show an apparent ease with computers, they rely heavily on search engines and lack critical and analytic skills. In fact, the study claims, character traits that are often associated with young web users, such as lack of tolerance of delay in search and navigation, are actually true of all age groups of web users.

This followed a section dealing & dismissing with ‘digital natives’, that old saw. I like it already! I would love dearly to give you the page number for that reference, but the e-inspection software does not allow me to copy text, so I typed it all out – then my browser reloaded, and the page was reset to 1.

Would you accept that excuse from a student? Of course not… :)

(The same digital version, minus bookmarking and annotation tools, can be viewed here). The companion site is here.

Anyway, this looks like a tremendously useful book. Whitton targets her approach explicitly at higher education, from a constructivist point of view. I should’ve ordered a paper copy. You should too!

From the publisher’s blurb:

Written for Higher Education teaching and learning professionals, Learning with Digital Games provides an accessible, straightforward introduction to the field of computer game-based learning. Up to date with current trends and the changing learning needs of today’s students, this text offers friendly guidance, and is unique in its focus on post-school education and its pragmatic view of the use of computer games with adults.

Learning with Digital Games enables readers to quickly grasp practical and technological concepts, using examples that can easily be applied to their own teaching. The book assumes no prior technical knowledge but guides the reader step-by-step through the theoretical, practical and technical considerations of using digital games for learning. Activities throughout guide the reader through the process of designing a game for their own practice, and the book also offers:

A toolkit of guidelines, templates and checklists.

Concrete examples of different types of game-based learning using six case studies.

Examples of games that show active and experiential learning

Practical examples of educational game design and development.

This professional guide upholds the sound reputation of the Open and Flexible Learning series, is grounded in theory and closely links examples from practice. Higher Education academics, e-learning practitioners, developers and training professionals at all technical skill levels and experience will find this text is the perfect resource for explaining “how to” integrate computer games into their teaching practice.

A companion website is available and provides up-to-date technological information, additional resources and further examples.

I have had my own experiences with game-based learning in my classes so I’m looking forward to reading Whitton’s recommendations for design and implementation, to juxtapose with my own experience.

Digital Research Tools Wiki

I came across the DiRT page this morning, run by Lisa Spiro. What an awesome resource! If you know of tools that are useful in your own research, suggest them to Lisa and get them listed on this page. From the front:

This wiki collects information about tools and resources that can help scholars (particularly in the humanities and social sciences) conduct research more efficiently or creatively.  Whether you need software to help you manage citations, author a multimedia work, or analyze texts, Digital Research Tools will help you find what you’re looking for. We provide a directory of tools organized by research activity, as well as reviews of select tools in which we not only describe the tool’s features, but also explore how it might be employed most effectively by researchers.

Please provide feedback on DiRT and recommend tools not included here (yet).

If you’re interested in contributing to this wiki, please email Lisa Spiro at  Please see Guidelines for Contributors to learn how to add new information to the wiki.

I love how it is organized by asking what it is you want to do.  While focussed on the humanities and social sciences, there is a distinct lack of Agent Modeling or other simulation tools, which I suppose indicates that simulation hasn’t made great inroads amongst the digital humanities set yet.

Some great dynamic map tools though!


  • ArcGIS: “an integrated collection of GIS software products that provides a standards-based platform for spatial analysis, data management, and mapping” (Commercial, Windows)
  • GeoNames: “GeoNames geographical database covers all countries and contains over eight million placenames that are available for download free of charge.” (Free, web-based)
  • Google Earth: “Google Earth lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean. You can explore rich geographical content, save your toured places, and share with others.” (Free, with Pro version available; PC/Mac/Linux)
  • Google Maps: allows you to view maps and directions, with practical applications for transportation and diverse viewing options to further specify location (Free, web-based)
  • Open Street Map: “a free, editable map of the whole world…allows you to view, edit and use geographical data in a collaborative way from anywhere on Earth” (Free, web-based)
  • Platial: “the world’s largest social map service…hundreds of thousands of people around the world share and discover all kinds of Places. Anyone can map just about anything including their towns, lives, travels, feeds, files, photos, video and stories in one simple interface…Maps are free and can be embedded on any Web page” (Free, web-based)
  • TimeMap: A Java-based client-server/standalone temporal mapping applet for distributed datasets, developed by the Archaeological Computing Laboratory at the University of Sydney (Open Source or support license)
  • UUorld: a program that “provides an immersive mapping environment, high-quality data, and critical analysis tools” through the production of four-dimensional, interactive maps (Free, with Pro version available; Windows/Mac/Linux)
  • Yahoo! Map Mixer: allows you to create your own basic map, view maps and directions, and search existing maps (Free, web-based)


Examples of Usage:

  • PoliMap: Will Riley’s students gathered location data about politicians using a Google spreadsheet and mapped it on a Google Map



Google WonderWheel and Me

Did you know about the ‘WonderWheel’? It’s a search option on Google – do your search, and then click on ‘more options’. The wheel is a hub-and-spoke visualization of related searches to the one you performed. Below is what you get when you search ‘shawn graham archaeology’:


More of a discussion here; is it a gimmick, or a useful way to visualize the links between ideas? It certainly intrigued me to see that ABM, the BSR, and Wilfrid Laurier University are, according to Google, related to me… drilling down the ABM branch I came across some interesting sites, so perhaps it is useful…

SketchLife – Sketchup plugin for exporting to SL

Nearly a year ago, I posted on a possible way to get Sketchup models into Second Life. Today I received a note alerting me to ‘SketchLife’, a plugin you can start using right away for this very thing (thanks for the heads-up, Anthony!).

From the SketchLife website:

What is Sketchlife?

Sketchlife is a system which allows you to model for Second Life using SketchUp.

Most 3D modelling tools use meshes (vertices connected by edges which define faces), whereas Second Life has adopted solids, referred to as primitives, to be their indivisible building blocks. This guarantees that there won’t be any stray polygons flying around, but it also prevents mesh models from being imported automatically.

The in-world modelling tools in Second Life are quite good, but they are stone age compared to the 3D modelling power tool that is SketchUp. SketchUp is free. (Thank you Google.)

Therefore, if we can’t bring SketchUp to Second Life, we’ll bring Second Life to SketchUp.

Colleen, this might be v. useful for all of your projects…!

There’s a video on the site, and a screen shot of a build, made with Sketchlife:

Archaeologically, I can see how this tool will make life a whole lot easier for recreating sites, excavations, reconstructions… if I only had a better net connection, I’d be in there right now…

Alpheios – Firefox tools for Ancient Languages

… and indeed, a host of languages. From the Alpheios website:

The Alpheios Project’s current initiatives include:

– the development of computer tools for reading classical texts
and learning classical languages

– the creation of a million word treebank of classical Greek

– examples of how literary texts can be collaboratively enhanced,
made more accessible to a wider variety of readers, and
rendered more amenable to comparative analysis.

– examples of how computer analysis of texts and corpora can
contribute to literary research and language pedagogy.

We are initially focusing on the six classical languages with the most
extensive literary traditions:

Greek and Latin, Chinese and Sanskrit, and Arabic and Persian.

Several others are under active consideration, including

Akkadian, Hebrew, Pali, Avestan, Old Japanese,
Old English, Old Norse, Old French, Old High German,
Old Castilian and Provencal/Occitan.

These may be developed as the resources for their lexical and
morphological analysis become available, but we wish to point out that
our programs are designed modularly to facilitate the addition of new
languages with minimal effort, and all our code will be open-source
to encourage others to create similar tools for their own languages.

SLOODLE v 0.4 available: educational tools in SL

Get your Moodle and Second Life mashup tools, make your LMS immersive!

From Serious Games Source

Founders of the SLOODLE project have announced the release of SLOODLE version 0.4, a toolset that will assist educational presentations in Linden Lab’s virtual world application Second Life. The project integrates Second Life’s classroom areas with Moodle, an open-source e-learning environment.

Thinking Worlds: Rapid World Authoring

A constant complaint regarding virtual worlds – especially by educators, who are busy enough already! – is the steep learning curve required to get anything worthwhile up and running. Various companies are addressing this (vastpark, justleapin, et al), so it will be interesting to see what emerges. A strong candidate for frontrunner, at least as far as education goes, is ‘Thinking Worlds‘, from Caspian Learning.
Their authoring system [download it here] uses libraries of templates so that 3d worlds can quickly be put together. Then, especially attractive to educators, they have another whole suite of tools to rapidly embed learning objects, formative assessments, scripts (in the sense of things people say, for easy NPC creation), and so on:

Rapidly create challenges and tests using simple templates for MCQ, Options, Checklists, Image drag and many others.

Build non linear scenarios and branching dialogue using wizards and templates.

Develop entirely new learning interactions by selecting controls and customising the GUI.

Build a library of learning interactions to reuse and share.

Setup 3D Scenes

Add different worlds, characters and objects from libraries – templates, wizards and icons using simple drag and drop.

Place new cameras, triggers and paths with the click of a button.

Use animations, particles and sounds for context.

Story Board

Scene Flow canvas uses visual action nodes and wires to intuitively build interactivity.

Vast array of simple action nodes giving designers the power to create complex scenarios and performance measurement.

Easily test, change, amend and extend your design.

Very flexible yet simple to use – drop down lists, check boxes and simple English.

These worlds can be embedded into websites, or they can be stand-alone applications on your computer. Both of these options are attractive – also is the fact that it is a ‘walled-garden’ approach, keeping out the stranger, more dangerous inhabitants of online worlds (a concern for primary and secondary teachers). Indeed, worlds published with Thinking Worlds are also SCORM compliant, and can be embedded in LMS’s. This is, strategically, a master stroke- you’ve got your LMS set up, why not use Thinking Worlds for your immersive component?

One of the demo worlds is called ‘Rome In Danger‘, and seems to be a jump-back-in-time to save the Romans kind of world.


A tag line on the Thinking Worlds website says ‘build a game in a week’. We shall see…