Tag Archives: virtual reality

Telepresence/Teleabsence

brbxoxo

From brbxoxo, empty webcam rooms.

Virtual reality, while often presented as a fully-immersive goggles-and-gloves experience, actually falls along a spectrum. Obviously there are the Neuromancer-esque full simulations that are not currently achievable on one end of the spectrum, and Rudy Rucker’s “where you are when you’re talking on the phone” which Pat Gunkel calls “telepresence.” When you are on the phone you are not entirely in the room you are standing in–some part of you is with the person you are talking to. You are in-between.

I find the telepresence end of the spectrum much more relatable–I even find it a handy metaphor for archaeological practice. Where are you when you are “doing” archaeology? I’d argue (contra Michael Shanks and folks who think that it’s all modern performance) that you are telepresent–not entirely in the present day, but not wholly in the past. In-between, an interstitial space.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few years now, a parallel between virtual reality and experiencing the past (or, actually, any kind of deep research) as entering an interstitial space. More recently I’ve been thinking about teleabsence. When you are virtually there, but not really there. Let me explain.

Brbxoxo is a website that shows webcam feeds of empty rooms. Rooms that usually have a performer (these are often sex cams) but, for one reason or another, are not currently occupied. Live, but absent.

Another example is live chat with Facebook and Skype. If you have either installed as an app on your iPhone, you appear to always be online. I have gotten untold grief for “ignoring” people because I appear to be present, when I am actually absent.

Or, if you are particularly social-media-savvy, you can be present-absent; if you use Hootsweet or another post scheduler, it can appear that you are posting live to WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, when it is really automated. But do you schedule a post to go live during your official working hours, when it might be misinterpreted as inattention to your official duties?

I wonder, as the absent/present divide becomes increasingly ambiguous online, if it will change the value of present-presence: being in-person, offline, and entirely with the person that you are with. Or will cellphones just become completely integrated as an extension of self?

Çatalhöyük in Second Life, Fall 2009

Spring_in_Catalhoyuk_001

Once again Spring has come to Çatalhöyük! We’ve removed all the snow and icicles and the tell is green and grassy. Work has started up again, and we’re lucky enough to have a class dedicated to “Serious Games” working on the site, as well as undergraduate research apprentices through Berkeley’s URAP program.

We have a number of great projects planned, including exploring some of the new ideas about architecture that came up during the 2009 field season with wooden floors and second (and third!) stories on the houses.

We have never had such a large group working on the island before, so we started to formalize some of our procedures. While we may elaborate on the document at a later time, here is our Archaeological Building Protocol for Second Life.

Building archaeological sites and objects in Second Life can be a powerful visualization tool for archaeological research. On OKAPI island we strive to further archaeological visualization while integrating a substantial public outreach component to our research.  In Second Life, as with all archaeological reconstructions, it is especially important to maintain interpretive transparency and authorship. Additionally, we work in a large and changing research team and need to maintain the ability to edit all objects on the island to preserve existing work as the team changes.

To this end, we have established building protocols for building on OKAPI island in Second Life. We believe that these protocols not only apply to our particular reconstruction, but should be applied more broadly for archaeological site construction using the Second Life toolkit. By applying these protocols a maximum of contextual information, authorship, and interpretive surety is maintained. Additionally, we believe that all objects should be copyable generally, and specifically repackaged for consumption and use off the island. In this way, our work and interpretations live beyond the relatively limited life of this particular reconstruction.

Picture 1

OBJECTS

Objects should have the following permissions set:

X = checked, 0 = not checked

X Share with group
0 Allow anyone to move
X Allow anyone to copy
X Show in Search
0 For Sale

Next Owner Can:

X Modify
X Copy
X Resell/Give Away

Objects should have the following fields filled out:

Name: Catalhoyuk _____________

Description: Short interpretive paragraph, followed by specific image or text citation.

TEXTURES

Textures should be uploaded with their Name and Description intact with the same citation information. After uploading, immediately enter your inventory, where the texture should be highlighted. Open the Inventory Item Properties and set:

X Share With Group
X Allow Anyone to Copy

Next owner can:

X Modify
X Copy
X Resell/Give Away

In other exciting news, the Archaeologies article is live! It is on Springer’s Online First section and it should be Open Access. Please let me know if you have any problems downloading the pdf.
(Re)Building Çatalhöyük: Changing Virtual Reality in Archaeology

(Re)Building Çatalhöyük: Changing Virtual Reality in Archaeology

I submitted the final version of my Archaeologies journal article today, through their digital editorial manager.  It is a reworked version of a paper I wrote for the World Archaeological Congress last year in Dublin and it will be my first official publication.  Many thanks to Krysta Ryzewski, the editor of the volume, for organizing the session and accepting my paper!  Also thanks to Ms. Lei-Leen Choo who lended her exacting eye to proofreading it and asking all the right questions about the content.

Already I can see the many ways in which the article is lacking and it feels dated even after only a year.  Heck, even the images that I included…the reconstruction houses on Okapi island don’t even look like that anymore!  It is probably good to be able to fix scholarship in time, but that doesn’t make it much more comfortable.  I hope Michael Shanks is kind in his introductory comments–fingers crossed. I am a bit uncomfortable with some of the traditional forms of publishing, but I was delighted to see Springer’s copyright policy:

Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress The copyright to this article is transferred to Springer (respective to owner if other than Springer and for U.S. government employees: to the extent transferable) effective if and when the article is accepted for publication. The copyright transfer covers the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the article, including reprints, translations, photographic reproductions, microform, electronic form (offline, online) or any other reproductions of similar nature. An author may self-archive an author-created version of his/her article on his/her own website and his/her institution’s repository, including his/her final version; however he/ she may not use the publisher’s PDF version which is posted on http://www.springerlink.com. Furthermore, the author may only post his/her version provided acknowledgement is given to the original source of publication and a link is inserted to the published article on Springer’s website. The link must be accompanied by the following text: “The original publication is available at http://www.springerlink.com”. Please use the appropriate DOI for the article (go to the Linking Options in the article, then to OpenURL and use the link with the DOI). Articles disseminated via http://www.springerlink.com are indexed, abstracted, and referenced by many abstracting and information services, bibliographic networks, subscription agencies, library networks, and consortia. The author warrants that this contribution is original and that he/she has full power to make this grant. The author signs for and accepts responsibility for releasing this material on behalf of any and all co-authors. After submission of this agreement signed by the corresponding author, changes of authorship or in the order of the authors listed will not be accepted by Springer.

The original publication (will be) available at www.springerlink.com.  Barring something horrible, it will be published in the December 2009 edition of Archaeologies.  Here’s a link to the self-archived author version, sans images:

(Re)Building Catalhoyuk: Changing Virtual Reality in Archaeology

I would love to get any and all feedback y’all had to offer on it.

I am cooking up a much more in-depth article, so watch this space!

Verisimilitude

fire_chicken_shed_001

Y’know, as close as we can get sometimes, it’s just not the same as actually being there.

Rome in Google Earth

I spent the weekend in a particularly brown, cold, and desolate corner of Colorado–pretty far away from the sunny Mediterranean.  Regardless, I spent a bit of time checking out Rome Reborn after Google’s big announcement last week.  Google Earth’s Rome page is a little disppointing, but it contains a brief youtube video and a few screenshots from the simulation.  After a little tinkering with my Google Earth settings (I had it set up to show me places to sleep in Ireland), I was able to check the buildings and placemarkers out.

rome_1

Honestly, it was a bit of a mess.  Regardless, I’m used to dealing with Second Life, which brings messiness to a whole new level, so I really can’t complain much.  I tried to recreate swooping through the buildings like in the promotional youtube video, but dealing with the Google Earth camera is a little unwieldy and you can accidentally pop through this layer onto the modern Rome layer–the archaeology is actually transposed onto the modern landscape, which is an interesting contrast to our idea of archaeology being beneath the ground.

rome_2

There were also several 3D buildings already on the landscape, made by community members, geolocated photos, and descriptions of places written independently of the Rome Reborn project.  Seeing them side by side with the more “official” interpretations is a nice feature in Google Earth, and I’m glad Google didn’t (as far as I know) remove any of the existing annotations.

Rome Reborn could be critiqued on any number of levels–the lack of non-elite buildings, the lack of authorship and “certainty” metrics (how sure we are that the building actually looked like the reproduction) but I’m happy that the team decided to come and play out in the world, instead of keeping Rome Reborn in a sandbox.  It’s certainly grander than our little Presidio reproduction:

Furnishing the Neolithic, pt 2

Interior_003

I was able to nearly complete the Neolithic house by Cal Day, which was nearly a miracle.  I would still like to add more pottery, obsidian, bucrania, and the like.  I would also like to add embedded links to images of excavated materials like baskets and murals to show what the reconstructions are based on.

I found this exercise to be highly interesting and useful, once I understood more or less how the building tools worked.  As an excavator, I usually destroy rather than create, so building layers instead of removing them was nice for once.  I also got to see the house in different light–sunrise, sunset, midday, night–the colors changed astoundingly.  While the reconstruction isn’t perfect in that respect because there is ambient light that wouldn’t really be there, it was still educational.

Exterior_004

Ruth mentioned that she felt a little lost trying to identify the exact house where the reconstruction was.  How would you remember which house was yours?  How would an outsider figure out where to go?  Does this imply some kind of markings on the outside of the houses as identifiers?  I added a big column of smoke to help visitors find the house.

Anyway, I probably will not have enough time between now and my orals to do much to the house, but I hate to put it aside.  I need to make middens!  And houses in disrepair!  The list just goes on….

GET REAL: A Manifesto for Virtual Reality in Archaeology

Submitted to the “Experience, modes of engagement, archaeology” session organized by Krysta Ryzewski, Matt Ratto and Michelle Charest.


Virtual reality has been a “killer app” within the realm of archaeological computing, as evident from the number of books, journals, and conferences dedicated to the subject. Though often presented as a single entity, virtual reality is more of a spectrum, from the fully immersive environments famously posited in William Gibson’s Neuromancer to telepresence, or the space “where you are when you’re talking on the phone” (Rucker, et al. 1992). In this paper I will explore the range of these offerings and discuss their relative merit as interpretive and heuristic devices by asking a few uncomfortable questions. Should the people of the past serve as your digital tour guides? Is sitting behind a computer screen truly interactive? What do people learn about archaeology by walking through a virtual model? Does virtual reality contribute to a social archaeology? Finally, I will argue for an augmented reality model for interpretation in archaeology.

This is the first of my two abstracts for WAC. I’m not deeply happy with them, as they were both dashed off during this completely exhausting week.

I’ll post the other one tomorrow–but for now, beer.