Who is this 3D heritage all for?

Lorna Richardson on twitter linked to the sketchfab blog with this provocative header.

For the life of me I don’t recall this discussion at Digital Heritage, VSMM, VAST or any of the other virtual heritage conferences I have attended and it reminds me of other problems that someone needs to summarise and dispel:

  • Preservation friendly tools and archives of 3D models: where are they, what are they, and how are they effectively used?
  • Clear and preferably verifiable reasons why 3D visualisations help the spread, democratization and understanding of the heritage objects, the intangible value and the research contribution that led to the 3D digitization
  • Non-jargon explanation of the use of 3D models to 2D humanities types (yes there is an issue).

Not likely to become a book, but perhaps a book chapter somewhere?


2 thoughts on “Who is this 3D heritage all for?

  1. A very timely question as I seem to be deep into it right now! At SAA2016 in a lovely bar one night, Lorna and I had a conversation about Virtual Archaeology. The question was is 3D/Virtual Archaeology in the service of “Public Archaeology”. My craft is Virtual Archaeology and when I began, like the previous 20 years of animation production for film & television, I thought it was in the service of the public, to inform, enhance, entertain and immerse the public in heritage. After 5 years of PhD research, I can tell you for me it’s not about the public any more.

    Virtual Archaeology really should be for archaeologists. It should be to inform our research, make new meaning and convey visually how the archaeological data is being interpreted (see Paul Reilly 1987, 2015, 2016). Yes our output, like many outputs of data within Archaeology can inform the public, but I’m “making” knowledge for myself first, then other archaeologists second. That runs counter to the other conversation currently in archaeology about why we do archaeology, but I think it needs to be said that in general we as archaeologists are generating data, meaning-making and visual interpretations to inform and expand research. That 3D Heritage like Virtual Archaeology needs to be informed by the data, whether physical, oral, cultural historical or theoretical but it also needs to conform to a process (London/Seville Charters) so that future archaeologists and researchers can interpret the “wayfaring” points Virtual Archaeologists made along the lines of knowledge creation. VA is useful only when there is knowledge translation and mobilization and are those public activities?

    Is 3D Heritage then the use of VA in the service of the “public”? That might be truer interpretation however we have to ask ourselves “why”? Why do we have the need currently to make everything 3D, physical or virtual? Should we? And if 3D Heritage is public facing, are they also following the lines of scientific study to ensure that it’s representation is based on the data? Notice I didn’t say “accurate” because as Champion and others have pointed out over the years, if it’s lifelike/hyperreal it is perceived as authentic and thus an “accurate” representation of heritage reality. That is the danger we face with the prolific use of 3D Heritage today; ensuring what is visualized isn’t considered to be “accurate” by the public. Should there be a London/Seville Charter for 3D Heritage or does it already cover what is needed for public and heritage consumption?

    Although I didn’t support Lorna’s notion that VA was public archaeology, 3D Heritage might be the field that does? However I’m grateful for her and Erik’s continued efforts to start the much needed conversation.

    As for the interpretation of 3D for non practitioners, I wrote a blog recently that used Ingold’s “Being Alive” to explain 3D animation in terms of Ingold’s archaeological theory of “wayfaring, taskscape, agency and ANT”. Call it a primer if you like to demystifying 3D….at least for archaeologists: http://theskonkworks.com/2015/11/wayfaring-in-the-digital-archaeological-landscape/



  2. >Notice I didn’t say “accurate” because as Champion and others have pointed out over the years,
    By Champion are you referring to me?

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