Critical Archaeological Gaming Workshop UCLA

The Critical Archaeological Gaming Workshop was held 25-26 January at UCLA Los Angeles and I was lucky enough to be invited (at short notice). Luckily LA is only two flights for me, one via the ancestral homeland and it was a great opportunity to hear about archaeology games, digital heritage projects, and some criticism of digital (urban) history..

Speakers:

  1. Willeke Wendrich Welcome and purpose of the workshop
  2. Tara Copplestone Rethinking Archaeology Through Game Design
  3. Erik Champion The Sin of Completeness versus the Lure of Fantasy in Contested Possibility-Spaces
  4. Eddo Stern Subjectivity, creativity and polemics in historical game design

  5. Willeke Wendrich Walking through Empty Buildings, Everybody Wears the Same Shoes
  6. Rosa Tamborrino The sense of Time in Videogames: Fragments and Lack of Dynamics in Historical Environment Reconstructions
  7. Hannah Scates Kettler Jumping into the Animus: Revisiting old video games to create new ones

  8. David Fredrick Secrets in the Garden: Modeling Vulnerability and Information Exchange in the House of Octavius Quartio

To answer some people, I don’t think there will be a publication but here are links to some of the projects discussed:

In the demo session I also saw some of the things Chris Johanson (UCLA) is working on with the UCLA Romelab plus also Lynn Dodson’s VR tour of Catalina Island.. If you are near Washington DC 11-15 April 2018, Lynn is organizing a panel on Virtual Heritage Ethics at the annual meeting of SAA..(Society for American Archaeology)

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Experiencing the Experience of the Past

Experiencing the Experience of the Past and

Experiencing Exhibition Portals of the Future from the Past.

[Notes on a potential future article of speculative/manifesto-oriented content, but where it fits with journals or conferences, I do not know].

Keywords: Experience, heritage, 3D models, experience of experience, Heidegger

In creating virtual heritage models and sites there is a typically recurring problem seldom discussed. In the midst of so many technical, conceptual and social problems I wish to highlight one of the most difficult, the experiencing of experiences.

Charters into digital heritage usually relate back to UNESCO’s concepts of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. And UNESCO’s concepts are predicated on the notion of communicating (local, past) cultural significance of the site: what was valuable and significant about it and how do we communicates its values?

Conversely, exhibition architecture celebrates the new, the inspiring, they act as gateway to a visionary future. How do we preserve communicate or re-establish their function and impact, as portals between past and future? They are generally forgotten and dismantled. But the experience of encountering them is never fully recorded, transmitted or preserved.

For Heidegger, the work of art (say, a Greek temple), does not just sit there, it provides a perceptual threshold through which the perceiver can suddenly encounter the shadow-furrowed outline of their past silhouetted against the blinding light of their future.

The power of the sudden vista is such that the very material of the temple (be it marble or some other shiny material) “causes it to come forth for the very first time” [PLT 46]. That is, on the edge of the bringing-forth of the work of art, one is carried away by the impression that the moment is unique: that the work is appearing before one in a way that will never quite be “caught” again.

Such an opening is not an object that is unrelated to the perceiver’s self-guided interests (as one might view the situation in terms of a Kantian disinterestedness), it is the revealing of those very same to all past theories of art and aesthetics. And in the very act of creating this realm, Heidegger claims that it might be significantly more tempting and worthwhile to the perceiver than even the phenomenal world that actually (tangibly) lies before them:

“Towering up within itself, the work opens up a world and keeps it abidingly in force…The world worlds, and is more fully in being than the tangible and perceptual realm in which we believe ourselves to be at home.” [PLT 44-45]

Can we recapture this? The problem, in other words, is how to communicate the experience, historically situated, in how people then experienced what was then fresh, new, revolutionary.

There are paintings, news clippings, sometimes audio interviews. But nothing together in an experiential gestalt that helps communicate what was new to them. Presence research does not help, it aims for a universal not situated measure of presence and immersivity. My concept of cultural presence also does not go very far, it may only apply to certain sites, and…

Do 3D models help? No, they are limited in terms of backstory, paradata (context), not experientially rich, lacking in interactivity and agency (not the same thing), no multimodality or gestalt framework (for reasons I will elaborate), and seldom have feedback. Here I will explain why the most basic elements of games, theme (fantasy, imagination), challenge (engaging difficulty), optional strategies that help develop intrinsic game-related growth and change…

But museums? Museums don’t have the time to enable the above! Well, they don’t have the freedom to allow users to develop the above (references to follow). Growth, deep understanding, all take time and reflection. The monumental, forgotten impact of old museums is disappearing…

There are examples in architecture (embodiment: Kathadaw Pagoda, caryatids; expression: Colosseum; innovation: Duomo of Florence, Hagia Sophia, Pantheon; sensory overload and uniqueness: Crystal Palace).

SO how can we relay and transmit the above?

  1. Biofeedback
  2. Paradata trails
  3. Backstory (incorporate witness and expert interviews)
  4. Historical mementos from different eras recapturing the apparent newness of the event
  5. Shareable experience indicators

References

Charitos, D. (1996). “Definining Existential Space in Virtual Environments”, Proc. Virtual Reality World 96, (Stuttgart: IDG Publications).

Heidegger, Martin, (translated by Albert Hofstadter), Poetry, Language, Thought, Harper and Row, New York 1975 [PLT]

ICOMOS, (1999).‘The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS charter for the conservation of places of cultural significance’, http://www.icomos.org/australia/burracharter.html.

Nitsche, Michael. 2008, Video Game Spaces Image, Play, and Structure in 3D Game Worlds, MIT Press, USA.

Cybermaps in 3D heritage

A journal asked that I respond to a paper that briefly mentions the above. Notes to self include these general questions that I seldom find answers to in virtual heritage papers and not mentioned in my response (the journal has a strict word limit):

  1. Interpretation: It is very hard to extrapolate from VH papers how various interpretations are fostered.
  2. Beginnings: Where do you place a visitor in a virtual site?
  3. Dynamic alterity: How should or could they navigate time, space and interpretation?
  4. Art Versus Scientific Imagination: How should they separate artistic from current reality from interpreted virtuality? What if the artistry is impressive but speculative?
  5. Projects: Where can the projects (that apparently relate to the questions posed in the text), be experienced or otherwise accessed? How will they be preserved?
  6. Interactive Navigation: How do we navigate time, space, interpretation, and task/goal?
  7.  Authenticity, accuracy and artistry: How does one balance all three?

Updated UK/France/QATAR itinerary

Still being planned (Newcastle is still a tbc):

The 3 talks:

UCL Qatar: (tbc), 20 or 21 November 2017:

Talk, workshop and debate on Historical narratives and digital spaces (place tbc)

Salford, 29 November 2017:

Rethinking Virtual Places

This talk will cover my recent thoughts on what is a virtual place and a virtual world, and why we seem to have shifting, even varying notions of virtual reality. For example, what are virtual environments and virtual museums? Do they open our minds up to the possibility of digital space and virtual culture? In my opinion, they typically fail to do so, virtual museums lack contestation and imagined defensive capacity, they are not cultural worlds.  Many philosophers and cultural studies thinkers have given us some hints as to cultural places, but not to virtual cultural places. And architects are also not as well placed as one might think, to design, critique and review virtual places.  Nor is it clear to many how we learn through virtual placeAugmented reality will begin to dominate virtual reality, and consumer-friendly component-based VR technology has great promise, but new and emerging devices displays and peripherals may have long-term detrimental cognitive, physical and social effects.

Research Digital Cultural Heritage conference, University of Manchester, 30 November-1 December 2017:

Inside Out: Avatars, Agents, Cultural Agents

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 behavior). 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 behaviors given specific events or situations.
  2. Recognize in/correct cultural behaviors given specific events, locations, or situations.
  3. Transmit cultural knowledge.
  4. Modify, create, or command artifacts 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 behavior 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.

 

new project 2: 3D and GIS

The following was a successful grant, funded by the Curtin Institute of Computation.

Title: Leveraging Low-Cost and Free Linked Open Data and Hybrid GIS/3D For Cultural Heritage Visualisation (6 months)

The program/research plan:

The two ECRs with the help of the two Curtin Professors will investigate the use of an application, possibly the Pelagios Framework (http://commons.pelagios.org/), an online portal that can combine maps, charts, documents, pictures and dynamic data, to create interactive visualisations and predictive cartographic analysis tools.

pelagios.pngFigure 1: Pelagios

This pilot study will explore whether the application can accept, display and dynamically link to 3D models and their subcomponents, using GIS Data so that maps and 3D models can be displayed and interacted with online. This specific application theoretically accepts simple 3D stl models but three.js and web3D models have not been investigated. Existing related examples: see http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/arc/mayagis.html

The two ECRS will derive a 3D model with GIS related data and design an online Pelagios Commons framework (or similar) for viewing a 3D model of a heritage site, preferably in Australia, that controls place elements in a side-located text document or an online map or chart and vice versa.

http://pleiades.stoa.org/ shows some of the possibilities of Linked Open Data, but not how 3D can interact with a LOD GIS platform.

Proposed engagement of external and community groups

  1. Firstly, we will collaborate with the following non-CIC staff at Curtin to develop the Curtin University workshop.
  2. Secondly we will invite members to test the prototype and provide feedback and potentially collaboration and grant opportunities.
  3. We will test the prototype with archaeologists, heritage specialists or architects in another Australian city. The longer-term aim is to engage them in applying for a linkage to design a more permanent and larger collection and online portal for a more highly featured, user-friendly and robust design.

For an interesting potentially related interface please see http://www.impa.br/opencms/en/

new project 1: HMD Augmented Reality Heritage Trail study

The following was a successful grant, funded by the Curtin Institute of Computation.

The program/research plan:

In 2016 the Chief Investigator (CI) organized a one day talk and workshop on cultural heritage visualization, (“GLAM-VR”, Curtin HIVE, http://slides.com/erikchampion/glamvr16-26-08-2016 ) and helped facilitate a related makerspace event (“Cultural Makathon at Curtin Library Makerspace”, URL: http://slides.com/erikchampion/deck-4#/fullscreen#/ ). All groups of students finished their projects apart from one single individual group encountering trouble designing inside a 3D game engine. For the Augmented Reality 2016 makerspace tutorials, there was similar difficulty in finding suitable tutorial material. Unfortunately, there are few tutorials and examples for augmented reality and 3D game engines for hackathon or makathon events. There is even less material for cultural heritage augmented reality tours. And there is no academic feature list survey and comparison of recent augmented reality headsets for cultural heritage tours, where one walks along a heritage trail using the augmented reality headset (HMD) for augmented information.

This 2017 pilot study will aim to resolve this issue by providing an exemplar, online resources, a white paper and

  1. The two ECRS will develop a simple digital 3D environment prototype which reveals cultural heritage assets, artefacts and landmarks when viewed inside a portable head-mounted display (HMD) or augmented reality HMD.
  2. We will compare the relative strengths and weaknesses of the above HMDs, run an evaluation on test subjects of preferred display, time required to navigate and to wayfind, and record participants’ task performance and memory recall.
  3. We will create a white paper for this, including suggested workflows and appropriate tools.
  4. From the above findings we will provide an online available training course for developing Augmented Reality cultural heritage tours for head Mounted Displays.
  5. There will be a pilot workshop at CURTIN LIBRARY MAKERSPACE