Conference paper: Inside Out: Avatars, Agents, Cultural Agents

Paper accepted for Researching Digital Cultural Heritage – International Conference, Manchester UK, Dates: 30/11-1/12/2017 twitter #digheritage17

Keywords:Digitally enabled collaborative, participatory and reflexive approaches in cultural heritage design, research and practice.

If conveying cultural significance is a central aim of virtual heritage projects, can they convey cultural significance effectively without an understanding of the contextual role of cultural knowledge? In this talk I will argue this is very difficult, but even populating virtual environments with others (human-guided or computer-scripted), there are still vital, missing ingredients.

In virtual heritage projects with enough computational power and sophistication to feature intelligent agents, they are primarily used as guides (Bogdanovych et al. 2009). They lead players to important landmarks, or perhaps act as historical guides (revealing past events, conveying situationally appropriate behaviour). Intelligent agents are usually designed for limited forms of conversation and typically help convey social presence rather than cultural presence. For an enhanced “sense of inhabited place”, engaging narrative- related elements, or embodiment, a cultural agent recognizes, adds to, or transmits physically embedded and embodied aspects of culture. They could provide a sense of cultural presence, becoming Aware-Of-Not-Quite-Being-‘There’.

Cultural agents would not be mere conversational agents if they were able to:

  1. Automatically select correct cultural behaviours given specific events or situations.
  2. Recognize in/correct cultural behaviours given specific events, locations, or situations.
  3. Transmit cultural knowledge.
  4. Modify, create, or command artefacts that become cultural knowledge.

To fulfil the above criteria, cultural agents would be culturally constrained. Not just socially constrained; their actions and beliefs would be dependent on role, space, and time. They could understand and point out right from wrong in terms of culturally specific behaviour and understand the history and possibly also the future trajectory of specific cultural movements. In this talk I will discuss three scenarios for cultural agents, their relationship to roles and rituals, and two more missing ingredients. The result? A more situated, reflexive appreciation of cultural significance via virtual heritage.

3D Digital Heritage, Berlin program

I am speaking at 3D Heritage Exploring Virtual Research Space for Art, 19 -20 June 2017, Berlin. Program here

Address:Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Humboldt Graduate School,Luisenstr 56, 10117, Berlin

A Scholarly Ecosystem for 3D Digital Heritage Simulations
Erik Champion

Major impediments to the development of high quality and effective virtual heritage projects has been technological constraints or insufficient audience evaluation methods. That said, this talk proposes that a more fundamental issue has been with the design, circulation and use of the digital models themselves as components of scholarly arguments or as vehicles to communicate hypotheses to the wider public.

In Australia, we have proposed to UNESCO that we run a project to survey, collate and develop tools for heritage sites and related built environments, focusing initially on Australia. The aim is to consolidate and disseminate 3D models and virtual environments of world heritage sites, host virtual heritage examples, tutorials, tools and technologies so heritage groups and classrooms could learn to develop and maintain 3D models and virtual environments, and act as advisor on policy formulation for the use, evaluation and application of these 3D digital environments and digital models for use in the classroom and for general visualisation projects.

The resulting UNESCO Chair project will implement and advise on 3D models of World Heritage Sites, how 3D models can be employed in teaching and research, investigate ways to host both the digital models and related paradata and publications, and transfer formats (for desktop use, mobile computing etc.), ideally with UNESCO, and we will leverage research facilities at Curtin and at partner institutes and research facilities like the HIVE (Figure 1).

The primary goal is to help educate the public in the area of world heritage sites via interactive collaborative digital media, with an emphasis on free and open source software, and a secondary goal is to examine virtual heritage and related digital simulations as components of scholarly arguments. The UNESCO Chair’s project team will also critique, integrate and extend existing and new infrastructure to support this learning material and the overall integration of scholarly publications, publicly available media and online directories and repositories of digital 3D simulations of world heritage sites and related artefacts as a scholarly ecosystem.

 

Book series in Digital Humanities and Digital Heritage

Digital Heritage/Archaeology

Digital Humanities

See also https://adho.org/publications which lists

Books and Book Series

NB Is UWM also a Digital (book series) publisher? http://dc.uwm.edu/arthist_mobilizingthepast/1/

Research Infrastructures

I found myself in a meeting yesterday on the above. It reminded me of the DH2014 workshop that I wrote the call for and then couldn’t get to go to.

The points below, I feel I have to return to:

1. What are the objectives of each digital infrastructure project, and what are its intended users?
2. What are the functionalities and outcomes it aims to provide, and how do they serve the overarching goal of supporting and transforming humanities research?
3. To what extent were the needs of humanities researchers considered, and how is the digital humanities research community involved in the project?
4. Are there potential synergies, and actual collaboration, with other infrastructure projects? Conversely, are there any overlaps?
5. What are the main lessons learned from the life of the project so far? What are the pitfalls and potential failures, and what improvements could be achieved?

LUDIC PASTS workshop at DiGRA2017 Melbourne

LUDIC PASTS: “Game Simulations of Past Cultures and Places” Workshop

ORGANIZERS:

Erik Champion, Curtin University Australia, email erik.champion@curtin.edu.au
Michael Nitsche, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, email michael.nitsche@gatech.edu

The fusion of archaeology and gaming has become known as archaeogaming, although this term covers several approaches. For example, Reinhard (Reinhard 2015) wrote: “I had originally thought of Archaeogaming as a framework around studying how archaeology and archaeologists are portrayed by game developers, and how they are received by gamers. I was also curious to see how (or even if) I could apply real-world archaeological methods to virtual spaces, studying the material culture of the immaterial.” However, this is not simply a workshop about archaeogaming, there are other related fields interested in the ludic simulation of past places and past cultures (art history, museum studies, media studies, anthropology, sociology, urban design, geography, to name a few). There may be specific issues that distinguish, say heritage-based games (Champion 2015) from history-based games (Chapman 2016) but there are also common themes, authenticity, accuracy, imagination and how interaction helps learning.

Despite increasing interest in archaeogaming theory, there is little discussion of the field in terms of actual game design. And despite the increasing range and quality of courses (Schreiber 2009), books (Fullerton 2014) and presentations (Lewis-Evans 2012) on game design and game prototyping, there is still a paucity of available game design tools and techniques specifically for capturing and communicating the past (Manker 2012) (Neil 2016, 2015). In addition, we face a lack of venues for archaeogaming developers and related experts to present, pitch, playtest and perform their game prototypes (Ardito, Desolda, and Lanzilotti 2013, Unver and Taylor 2012, Ardito et al. 2009). Hence content experts in history and heritage-related fields often lack the experience or knowledge to test game ideas, and, conversely, game studies scholars may not be aware of discipline-related problems in history, heritage, museum studies and archaeology.

This half-day (4 hour) workshop brings together researchers and designers interested in evaluating and tackling issues in the simulation of past places, events and cultures through computer game interaction. The format will combine the presentations with a discussion centered on the question of how games can support cultural heritage. Each participant will present on a particular theme, challenge or case study.

We invite contributions from any domain, including game analysis, interaction design, digital humanities, play studies, among others. In the second part, we will identify key issues arising from the presentations and in small groups will suggest a game design scenario that could address the issue in an interesting way. We are also interested in theoretical papers that examine and suggest answers for issues in converting history, heritage and general archaeology projects into potential games.

SUBMISSION:

  1. Please email a one page proposal to champion@curtin.edu.au, with the title “DIGRA workshop-LUDIC PASTS-<your surname>”.
  2. Provide a short but descriptive title.
  3. A description of the issue that you wish to present, whether it is a theoretical theme, design challenge or case study
  4. Mention any examples that exist.
  5. Outline any potential solutions or ideas that you wish to discuss.
  6. Is there anything you would like to bring, show or demonstrate?
  7. In one short final paragraph please explain your related background, why this issue is significant to you and which audience would be interested in a potential solution, is it specific to a field or of wider interest and impact in game studies?
  8. Lastly include contact details, your name, job title and any affiliated institute or organization.

 DEADLINES:

  • 6 March 2017                      deadline for papers
  • 10 March 2017                    announce selected authors
  • 3 July 2017                            LUDIC PASTS workshop, DIGRA2017, MELBOURNE (http://digra2017.com/)

WORKSHOP GOALS:

  • Critical discussion from multiple related domains of archaeogaming.
  • Design sketches indicating possible approaches to address them.
  • We will discuss a potential shared book publication about the topic.

THE FORMAT AND ACTIVITIES PLANNED FOR THE WORKSHOP:

  • Individual presentations of key challenges.
  • Identify shared themes and concerns to form small groups developing game sketches for archeogaming and related fields.
  • Presentation of the concepts and conclusion.

WORKSHOP SCHEDULE (4 hour workshop, 240 minutes total):

  1. 160 minutes: 8 presentations, each a maximum of 20 minutes long (including questions).
  2. 60 minutes: work on game scenarios (scene) in one of 4 groups.
  3. 20 minutes: summarize and report findings to all attending.

POTENTIAL TOOLS:

Whiteboard, pen and paper. If there is a video projector or large screen, then digital game scenarios/sketches could be shown as well.

 AUDIENCE

  • Of interest to content experts in history and heritage-related fields, game studies scholars, game designers and developers.
  • Ideal size of audience: up to 32 not including the 8 speakers

PUBLICATION

We will discuss approaching a creative publisher (Liquid Books, University of Michigan Press or other) to provide an online or printable output of the demonstrations and the audience feedback.

 If you are interested in submitting a chapter, but cannot attend the workshop, please email the organizers a proposal similar to the 1 page workshop proposal outlined above.

CITATIONS AND REFERENCES

  1. Ardito, Carmelo, Paolo Buono, Maria Francesca Costabile, Rosa Lanzilotti, and Antonio Piccinno. 2009. “Enabling Interactive Exploration of Cultural Heritage: An Experience of Designing Systems for Mobile Devices.” Knowledge, Technology & Policy 22 (1):79-86. DOI: 10.1007/s12130-009-9079-7.
  2. Ardito, Carmelo, Giuseppe Desolda, and Rosa Lanzilotti. 2013. “Playing on large displays to foster children’s interest in archaeology.” DMS.
  3. Champion, E. 2015. Critical Gaming: Interactive History and Virtual Heritage.
  4. Chapman, A. 2016. Digital Games as History: How Videogames Represent the Past and Offer Access to Historical Practice.
  5. Fullerton, Tracy. 2014. Game design workshop: a playcentric approach to creating innovative games: CRC press.
  6. Lewis-Evans, Ben. 2012. “Introduction to Game Prototyping & research.” Slideshare, Last Modified 16 December 2012, accessed 24 January. http://www.slideshare.net/Gortag/game-prototyping-and-research.
  7. Manker, Jon. 2012. “Designscape–A suggested game design prototyping process tool.” Eludamos. Journal for computer game culture 6 (1):85-98.
  8. Neil, Katharine. 2015. “Game Design Tools: Can They Improve Game Design Practice?” PhD, Signal and Image processing. Conservatoire national des arts et metiers, CNAM.
  9. Neil, Katharine. 2016. How we design games now and why. Gamasutra. Accessed 24 January 2017.
  10. Reinhard, A., 2015. Excavating Atari: Where the Media was the Archaeology. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 2(1), pp.86-93.
  11. Schreiber, Ian. 2009. ““I just found this blog, what do I do?”.” Game Design Concepts – An experiment in game design and teaching, 9 September 2009. https://gamedesignconcepts.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/level-2-game-design-iteration-and-rapid-prototyping/.
  12. Unver, Ertu, and Andrew Taylor. 2012. “Virtual Stonehenge Reconstruction.” In Progress in Cultural Heritage Preservation: 4th International Conference, EuroMed 2012, Limassol, Cyprus, October 29 – November 3, 2012. Proceedings, edited by Marinos Ioannides, Dieter Fritsch, Johanna Leissner, Rob Davies, Fabio Remondino and Rossella Caffo, 449-460. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

TO CONTACT THE ORGANIZERS

Erik Champion, Curtin University Australia, email erik.champion@curtin.edu.au
Michael Nitsche, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, email michael.nitsche@gatech.edu