Historical Maps, GIS, and Second Life

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

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

Part I

Part II

Part III

Interacting with Immersive Worlds Conference II – registration open

The second edition of Brock’s Interacting with Immersive Worlds Conference is taking place this summer. Registration is now open. I was able to attend last year, and it was the highlight of my conference season. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend this year, so I’m going to miss out on some brilliant sessions.

Interacting with Immersive Worlds
An International Conference presented at
Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario
JUNE 15-16, 2009

Register to attend at: http://www.brocku.ca/iasc/immersiveworlds

Focusing on the growing cultural significance of interactive media, IWIW will feature academic papers organized along four streams:
-Challenges at the Boundaries of Immersive Worlds features creative exploration and innovation in immersive media including ubiquitous computing, telepresence, interactive art and fiction, and alternate reality.
-Critical Approaches to Immersion looks at analyses of the cultural and/or psychological impact of immersive worlds, as well as theories of interactivity.
-Immersive Worlds in Education examines educational applications of immersive technologies.
-Immersive Worlds in Entertainment examines entertainment applications of immersive technologies, such as computer games.

The IWIW conference also features 4 keynote speakers:
-Janet Murray, Director of Graduate Studies, School of Literature, Communication and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology
-Espen Aarseth, Associate Professor, Department of Media and Communication, IT University of Denmark
-Geoffrey Rockwell, Professor, Department of Philosophy and Humanities Computing, University of Alberta
-Deborah Todd, Game Designer, Writer and Producer, and Author of Game Design: From Blue Sky to Green Light

Visit the conference Web site at http://www.brocku.ca/iasc/immersiveworlds

Organizing Committee:
Jean Bridge, Centre for Digital Humanities, Brock University, jbridge@brocku.ca
Martin Danahay, Department of English Language and Literature, Brock University,
mdanahay@brocku.ca
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

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.
romeindanger
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.

Video:

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

Report on the Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age Conference, Trondeheim, Norway

From Andrew Reinhard, a report on the recent short conference detailing the nascent Classicists-discover-computer-games movement:

A revolution is happening now and the flashpoint is Scandinavia. Both Sweden and Norway have fought and won to keep Classics as a vital and viable subject of study at the secondary school and university level. Activist bloggers like Moa Ekbom in Sweden (see her Latinblogg), and activist students like Magnus Eriksson in Norway have been responsible for rescuing canceled Classics programs while at the same time finding ways to resuscitate Classics, promoting and publicizing both Latin and Greek as important for contemporary audiences, not just relating to scholarship, but also to popular culture, stripping the stigma of elitism from Classics and proving that Classical Studies is indeed essential for anyone.

The Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age conference was organized by Classics professors Thea Selliaas Thorsen and Staffan Wahlgren, both of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology just outside of Trondheim, Norway. The first of its kind, this conference sought to survey Classics in computer games and virtual worlds as presented by fifteen speakers from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Full report here. I note one of the games mentioned is Caesar IV, which I’ve written about a number of times on this blog. Another series of blog posts from the conference floor live here. I look forward to future iterations of this conference, and hope they come to this side of the pond so I stand a chance of attending.

Virtual Excavation in Second Life Has Found a New Home

My thanks to Colleen Morgan, who has found a lovely corner of Anteater Island, an island in SL associated with the AAA/American Anthropologist and UC Irvine, for me to re-establish my virtual excavation.

I hope to have it up and running within the next month, at which point I’ll give the exact  slurl and invite feedback and criticism.

Thank you very much Colleen!

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!

Stone Age Online Game: Greenland

From Terra Nova:

A main goal of the synthetic worlds initiative at Indiana University is to develop large games as research environments. To test some ideas, we have prepared a browser-based game of kingdoms, trade, diplomacy, and warfare in the stone age. The world is called Greenland and it enters open beta today. We invite those interested in such things to help us by testing the environment and contributing reactions and criticism to the forums.

To enter Greenland, go to http://greenlandgame.com/ and choose the Mercator server (the other two servers are closed for internal testing).You will need a code to register for the server; it is GLOPENACCESS.

If you have questions or problems, please contact our community manager Matt Falk at mfalk@umail.iu.edu.

They say ‘stone age’, but I doubt they mean an archaeologically-informed rendering of the Neolithic in code. But I could be wrong:

Greenland is a game of late neolithic society. Tribes of hunter-gatherers have begun to settle into farming communities. Players are leaders of these tribes, claiming spaces on a browser-based hexagonal map that contains rivers, woods, mountains, and grassland. They can assign the populations of these spaces as a labor force to extract resources from the various types of terrain. With good management, players can grow their populations and lay claim to more hexes. In so doing, players will come into conflict with other players over space and resources.

Contact: Edward Castronova (castro@indiana.edu)

From their website, it appears a bit more Civilization-ish:

The goal of Greenland is to gain the highest rank possible and expand your kingdom, accumulating territory, resources, and the respect (or fear!) of the other budding nations you’ll come into contact with. Greenland is a turn-based game, and you can input one turn per day. You can place commands and update or change your commands until 3am (US Eastern) server time, but the turn locks and all players’ orders are finalized at 3am (US Eastern).

How to survive your first turns:

1) You cannot expand your clan unless you are an active leader. Thus, MAKE SURE YOU SUBMIT ACTIONS EVERY DAY. Moreover, make sure you do this BEFORE 3am (US Eastern).

2) In particular, Folk DIE if they are not fed. And when the population of a given hex dwindles below 100 Folk, the hex is lost. Every turn, there will be two actions automatically added to all of your hexes. These actions will automatically allocate some of your current resources towards the creation of Bread in order to sustain your current population level. If you decide that you want to grow your Folk rather than merely sustain your current population level, you can submit additional Bread and Folk Build commands. In this manner your Folk will not die if you forget to feed them, and you can grow your population if you desire! As your population grows or dwindles, adjust the number of Folk allocated to Bread production accordingly to keep your population stable.

3) To produce Bread, click or hover over the CLAN menu (at the top of the page, just above the game area). Select BAKE, from the drop-down menu. On the right hand side of the screen, adjust the amount of folk you wish to allocate to baking bread. When you’re sure of your decision, click on the SUBMIT button to perform the action. It will then be added to your Actions Log at the bottom of the screen.

4) In addition to Folk, Tools and Water can also each be applied towards Bread production in order to increase the amount produced. You start off with 500 Tools, so why not allocate them to Bread production for now? To do this, follow the instructions above mentioned for producing Bread, and then also allocate Tools before clicking the SUBMIT button. And remember, unlike most other resources, Tools are not lost when used, so you can re-allocate them again on the next turn.

IMPORTANT!!! Once you have created Bread, you must actually feed it to your Folk! Remember that the automatic actions will feed enough of it to your population to sustain it, but you want to grow more folk, you must do it manually. To do this, once again open the CLAN menu. From the menu, select FEED and then allocate the desired amount of Bread to keep your population alive. After you input the desired amount of Bread, look below the submit button. There you will see a report of your population change based on the number of Bread you have entered.

5) Once you get a feel for the share of Folk you must allocate for maintaining your population, start experimenting with the Folk that are left over. Extract resources, Build more Folk or Tools. Your population will be easier to maintain and expand if they have Houses to rest in at night. Once you get a big enough population, you may even try to take the first step in empire-building: Settling into an adjacent hex. All of these actions are available through the drop-down menus at the top of the game screen.

There, now you’ll be ruling like a pro! May your folk be prosperous and your empire strong! And remember, if you have any concerns not addressed here, feel free to visit the Greenland Forums (http://forum.swiprojects.com) to post your questions.

Your First turns: You will start with 500 Folk, 500 Houses, and 500 Tools. Click on any hex that you currently occupy or any hex adjacent to an occupied hex and select available actions from the drop-down menu. TIP: Folk with Houses require less Bread, as Houses are built your population will grow and you will be able to allocate your Folk to harvesting resources surrounding your hex or to building Houses.

Settling: When settling you should send at least 300 Folk in order to colonize a new hex. Be careful, if your hex falls below 100 Folk, it will be abandoned. There is also a 1000 Folk limit, as well as a limit of 1000 of each resource per hex; overflow will be discarded.TIP: It is important to bring bread and, if possible, materials with you when you settle a new hex. Settling a new hex is dangerous and difficult, so you do not want to waste time and Folk harvesting what you already have in surplus.

Resources: Different terrain hexes yield different resources. To extract a resource, click on the resource hex and select “Harvest Resources” from the Production drop-down menu. While not always necessary, Resources increase productivity when creating Refined Resources or extracting other Resources. Water is used in making Bread. Wood is used for nearly everything (including Houses, Tools, Paths, and combat forces). Stone is used for making Paths, Ditches and Tools. Ore is used for making weapons and can also make Tools.

TIP: The only required resource when extracting and creating in your first few turns are Folk. The other optional resources increase the amount yielded from the extraction or allow you to create more efficiently. For a complete list of required and optional ingredients please consult the “Resources” section of the game manual.

Player-to-Player Interaction: It is up to you how you choose to interact with the other prospective nations being forged in Greenland. Resources are finite: forests die, mines dry up. Resources replenish if managed properly, but you will need to cooperate or compete against nearby players in order to share resources, if you want to avoid a skirmish that is… When violent conflicts arise, it is important to have an army built up to guard your kingdom or to invade those of other players.

Not all players will prefer the bloody route of war, however. The market will allow you to buy and sell resources to other players, an important way to acquire goods and resources that you may not have access to in your territory. Without proper pathways connecting your kingdom and the seller’s kingdom the carting cost will increase. Such a cost increases the price to buy the desired goods, while also decreasing the amount that will safely get to your hex. A healthy balance between trade and martial strength will ensure the brightest future for your burgeoning kingdom!

My lord, please consult the Game Manual for further information about all the advanced aspects of Greenland!

So, archaeologists: run, don’t walk, to Greenland and sign up now!

Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age

If you’re going to be anywhere near Trondheim in the next while, you might want to take in ‘Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age‘. If you go, steal all the handouts & powerpoints you can, and send them to me…

I’ve had the pleasure of correspondence with some of the presenters, so I know it’ll be a stimulating programme; I note that Caesar IV is under discussion too – I play way too much of that game… I have mused elsewhere on its possibilities as a counterfactual approach to Roman economics. Ah to be in Trondheim in February…

Programme:

FRIDAY 20th – SATURDAY 21st of February at Campus Dragvoll, Trondheim, Norway

Friday:

Auditorium DL33 (’Låven’)

10-10.20 Welcome address and introduction by Dean Kathrine Skretting and Staffan Wahlgren

Session 1: Chair: Marek Kretschmer

10.20-11.00 Martin Dinter, (King’s College London, Classics): ‘Ludological Approaches to Virtual Gaming’

11.00-11.40 Frank Furtwängler, (Universität Konstanz, Media): ‘”God of War” and the Mythology of New Media’

11.40-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-12.40 Stephen Kidd, (New York University, Classics): ‘Herodotus and the New Historiography of Virtual Gaming’

12.40-13.20 Dunstan Lowe, (Reading University, Classics): ‘Always Already Ancient. Ruins in the Virtual World’

13.40-14.20 Lunch

Session 2: Chair: Jan Frode Hatlen

14.20-15.30 Richard Beacham, (King’s College London, School of Theatre Studies) and Hugh Denard, (King’s College London, Computing in the Humanities): ‘Observations on Staging the Ludi Virtuales’

15.30-16.10 Thea Selliaas Thorsen, (NTNU, Classics): ‘Virtually There? Women in Ovid, Tatian and the 3D Theatre of Pompey’

16.10-16.30 Coffee break

16.30-17.10 Gian Paolo Castelli, (Rome, Classics): ‘The Emperor’s Seal. On Producing a Roman Computer Game’

17.10-17.50 Adam Lindhagen, (University of Lund, Archaeology): ‘Constructing and Governing a Province – between Fact and Fiction in Caesar IV’

20.00 Dinner

Saturday:

Auditorium D3

Session 3: Chair: Thea Selliaas Thorsen

10.00-10.40 Andrew Gardner, (University College London, Archaeology): ‘Entertainment and Empire. A Critical Engagement with Roman Themed Strategy Games’

10.40-11.20 Leif Inge Petersen, (NTNU, History): ‘Siege Warfare in Computer Games. Problems and Possibilities’

11.20-11.40 Coffee break

11.40-12.20 Kristine Ask, (NTNU, Technological Studies): ‘Technology in Games and Games of Technology’

12.20-13.00 Jan Frode Hatlen, (NTNU, History): ‘Students of Rome: Total War. A Socio-Educational Approach’

13.00-14.00 Lunch

Session 4: Chair: Staffan Wahlgren

14.00-15.00 Daniel Jung, (University of Bergen, Computing in the Humanities) and Barbara McManus, (The College of New Rochelle, NY, Classics): ‘Latina Ludens. Educational Gaming in VRoma’

15.00-15.40 Andrew Reinhard, (Bolchazy-Carducci, eLearning, USA): ‘eLearning Latin’

15.40 ConcLVSIOns (Thea Sellias Thorsen)

17.00 Guided Tour of the City Centre

Native Language and Culture through 3d Gaming

On a similar vein to an earlier post (Path of the Elders) concerning game-based learning for native and first-nations culture, the Escapist this week has a piece on a game used for teaching Cherokee to native youth:

At first glance, Don Thornton’s virtual world looks like many others. It’s when you listen that you notice the big difference: All of the characters speak Cherokee, and if you want to succeed in this world, you have to learn to speak the language, too.

To create this unique program, Thornton combined his background in native language education with a technology developed to teach Arabic to American soldiers in Iraq. Called RezWorld, the game blends a Second Life-style presentation with advanced artificial intelligence, speech recognition and self-adapting instruction. By immersing Native Americans in their traditional languages and customs, Thornton hopes to teach them how to preserve parts of their culture in danger of dying out.

Video from RezWorld site:

I would love to get my hands on the innards of this, ramp it up for Greek & Latin…

Note also the comments in the video regarding the agency of the non-player characters, and then read Colleen’s post here.

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

CALL FOR PAPERS

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

http://www.brocku.ca/iasc/immersiveworlds/

Organizing Committee:

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

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

mdanahay@brocku.ca

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

Archaeology in, and archaeology of, Second Life

Right now, it’s 6.17 am, EST, which makes it about 11.17 am Dublin time, and 3.17 am Second Life time. No doubt, there’s a wild party going on somewhere in Second Life, but here at the RWU virtual excavation prototype, all is quiet.

I’m waiting to give my presentation to the folks at WAC6 in Dublin, but last I heard, there were some technical issues on their end – so a good thing I made a video of the presentation!

Youtube, in the end, could not handle my video because they have an upper limit of 10 minutes – my talk clocks in at 13. Google video doesn’t have a length restriction, so I went with them (but seeing as how they own Youtube anyway, I wonder why the distinction). It took forever for the thing to upload – I had to leave the computer running over night. I uploaded as an AVI file – Camtasia makes excellent SWF files, but for reasons unknown to me, it truncated my video – after nearly two hours of rendering – to 4 minutes and 32 seconds! Anyway, the quality is a little blurry, but I never said I was Fellini…

The argument of the talk, in brief: SL for archaeology: a place to ‘do’ archaeology’, a place for archaeological VR, and a place for archaeological teaching and outreach.

  • SL as a place to ‘do’ archaeology: Virtual worlds have always existed – from the caves of Cro-Magnon, to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, to Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, to Disneyland, SL just the latest in a long line of virtual worlds. Indeed, since SL is a world of imagination and flights of fancy, it has more in common with the virtual worlds of the past created by historians or archaeologists in their reconstructions. How do we understand SL then? Think of games: what do games teach best? Not what they are ostensbily about, but rather, how to play them. The rules of the game might correspond with various historical epistemologies (think Civilization franchise): the rules of the game make a kind of argument for how the world works: a procedural rhetoric (in Ian Bogost’s felicitous phrase).
  • What are the rules in SL, in this world where ‘anything’ is possible? The rules are best expressed through how SL allows objects and scripts to be built: so to understand the rules and their implications means casting the same kind of archaeological eye over this virtual material culture and landscapes as we would in the ‘real’ world.
  • therefore, if millions of people choose to spend their time and money in SL or other similar worlds, archaeology has a role in uncovering and studying the procedural rhetorics of this new frontier.

That’s strand one. Strand two:

  • traditional archaeological VR: clean, antiseptic, disembodied: you can only experience it by looking at the pretty pictures. In SL, since you are embodied in an avatar, you can explore the experience of the space; space-syntax in the real world explores how interconnected spaces give rise to certain kinds of experiences, so it should be possible to use SL to explore interconnected, re-created ancient spaces with space-syntax tools…. also, SL tends to clean up after itself (if you drop something, it gets returned to you) so in the presentation we take a  side trip to SL dumpster to explore how one artists’ collective uses SL to collect others’ trash to study the lives of residents.

Third strand: SL for teaching

  • if the argument about procedural rhetorics is correct, and that the only thing games teach you is how to play them, then I make that a virtue by translating archaeological metaphors into the basic building blocks of SL. Demonstration of the RWU virtual excavation prototype, integration with Nabonidus on-line recording system.

And so, without further ado, the video which should make much the same argument as above:

“Speculum Fantasia” and thoughts on other Invented Worlds

Mark Hall has published an article, Speculum Fantasia – Middle Earth and Discworld as Mirrors of Medieval Europe on the European Journal of Archaeology blogsite. It’s an interesting exposition of how fictitious examples of what might perhaps be called ‘alternative’ histories intersect with what might be called’true’ history.  I was especially taken with his example of a report stating that:

“Ashdown Forest was both the best surviving heathland forest in Britain and the setting for A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. As a result several million pounds of grant-aid had been allocated for conservation work to maintain the heathland and clear some of the trees – trees, it was noted, that Winnie the Pooh and friends would not have recognised and so they had to go.”

The point being that our narratives and stories  reflect back and alter the ‘real’ world.  For archaeologists, the lesson seems to be that archaeologically we’re going to find instances of these invented worlds, so we’d better know what to do with them:

“The question of what archaeology can learn from the popularity of these and other invented civilisations is a difficult one for me because of the paradox at its root. In the words of Terry Eagleton (2004, 4) ‘human existence is at least as much about fantasy and desire as it is about truth and reason’. Imagined realities have been an ever present part of the human drive to explain and adapt through narrative constructions. The same wellspring produced the creative drives for mythopoesis, invention, and material culture. Archaeological and historical explanations have grown and sought their own path, influenced mostly by an honestly meant desire to be objective. The paradox has grown as a consequence of the fantasy / truth split. On the one hand invention and mythopoesis are part of the human condition and so infuse the material culture / archaeological record. The cult of saints and the associated cult of heroes is a prime example: thus in the 12th century the abbey of Landevennec, Finistere, Brittany under the patronage of local secular potentates had a new chapel built dedicated to Landavennec King Gradlon, a fictitious first ancestor and king of Avalon. He was given a reality in stone, mortar and worship.9 On the other hand in a contemporary context we require an objective separation between archaeological, scientific, fact-centred analysis of reality and narrative desires. It can be hard to separate fact from fiction when fiction is a fact of existence.”

I found this article useful for thinking about other invented worlds, especially the online variety. I’ve argued elsewhere that virtual worlds can be amenable to archaeological study, and perhaps what Mark Hall’s article is suggesting is one way of approaching that virtual material culture.  The key I think is that line, ‘invention and mythopoesis are part of the human condition and so infuse the material culture / archaeological record’. In Second Life, everyone is a god. Everyone can say ‘fiat lux’, and there will be light.  The things we see in Second Life are the remnants of each user’s own personal myth-making.  Studying an individual parcel of land then in Second Life requires knowing the myth. An archaeology of a virtual world on this reading is an exercise in cosmology then…