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.

Rough Outline on Architected Place

I am finishing a chapter (Chapter 3: ‘Architected’ Places) for my own book on Virtual Places, but the structural arc has escaped me until now. It will be polemical and controversial so I need to rewrite it to show that I realize this, there will be gaps and generalizations.

The basic premises are:

  1. Architectural theory is essentialist.
  2. Architectural tools are instrumentalist, architects don’t work on or near the site, as they need specialist tools connected to databases not to experiences.
  3. Architectural media is loath to include people and architectural spaces don’t work as places without people (Marseilles, by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, architectural masterpieces tend to be pavilions).
  4. Architects are not trained in user experience design and evaluation.
  5. Nor are architects trained in interactive media, their tools (see argument 2) are instrumentalist and passive.
  6. Traditional architectural craft is embodied, sited, takes time and records care. This is less and less the case.
  7. So applying theories of architecture, or practices of architectural design to interactive digital media in order to create virtual places, may well leave some gaps. How to resolve these in the design of virtual places? Corruption? Fancy theory? Post modernism? No, through embodiment, multimodality, role-play (and thematic affordances), allowing user-infill, environmental change to affect the design environment, and digital personalized patinas, materials that show the effect of time, wear and care.

 

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

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/

The Rickman Effect in VR

I have been in an interesting twitter conversation on the Swayze effect in Virtual Reality (see https://www.oculus.com/story-studio/blog/the-swayze-effect/)

Very thought-provoking article and it is a real problem, engagement in VR, but Swayze as ghost actually cares, the VR audience doesn’t..

So I suggest to redefine the Swayze Effect: where one wants to interact in VR but cannot, and to use the term Rickman Effect where one cannot or can only slightly interact but one has no great desire to. Alan Rickman’s character in the movie Truly Madly Deeply is a ghost who returns for his partner, but permanently feels cold and spends most of his time on the sofa aimlessly watching TV. See this youtube clip of Alan Rickman in the movie for more of a visual explanation.