Longhouse 3.5.9

It has been a bit since my last post.  In that time I have been writing my dissertation and conducting interviews on how archaeologists react to immersive and non-immersive representations of virtual archaeological data. It’s been a year since we started Lh3.x and in that time technology as always has eclipsed the originally intended platform. Lh3.x was built using Autodesk Maya built assets imported into Unity 4.5-5 and then with some additional modelling and texture mapping changes within Unity. A year ago the only immersive virtual platform we felt could handle the complexity and detail of the (re)imagined data was the Oculus Rift DK2.

dk2However as the assets came together in Unity towards February, I noticed that there was considerable issues with frame rate latency within the DK2. A substantial portion of people are unable to use VR headgear due to the frame rate issues, including myself.  If I spent more than 2min’s with the DK2 on, I felt immediately sick. So I was stuck with developing an environment in which I was unable to participate and quite possibly could cause others issues as well. At the time however, Google Cardboard would have been unsuitable for the level of detail we were attempting and the HTCVive still hadn’t arrived, so it was decided to continue along a DK2 path. We did try to acquire the commercial release of the Oculus Rift early, but were unsuccessful.

htcviveSustainable Archaeology (SA) had early access to the new HTCVive and although the original Lh3.x wasn’t built for the HTCVive platform, Colin Creamer from the SA started hacking an HTCVive version of Lh3.x.  Even with the hack, it was clear that the new technology was far superior to what the DK2 was providing. Having a discussion with Craig Barr, who was the key technical partner on this project, it was decided that we would attempt to convert the OR Unity version of Lh3.x into an HTCVive version.  Craig had his own HTCVive system so he was able to rapidly test what worked and what didn’t. The conversion was not easy, but Craig was able to port a large portion of what we had in the OR Unity version over to the HTCVive environment. The Vive consists of a headset, two hand controllers and two motion sensors. The DK2 requires a single motion sensor (to detect head movement) and an XBox game controller to allow for movement within the virtual space.
alienware-auroraR5

The HTCVive required a more powerful graphics card and processor to run.  For my interviews, we have been using a Alienware Aurora5 with an Nvidia 970 graphics card. From a cost perspective, the combination of the HTCVive and the AW Aurora 5 is roughly $5K CDN, so very cost prohibitive and very difficult to deploy to larger crowds. Unlike the AW Laptop and DK2 setup we used previously, the HTCVive also required more time and equipment to setup.

vagear

As you can see, just to setup the environment, I needed to bring along the AW Aurora, monitor, light stands for the motion sensors and the HTCVive itself.  In the classic “back of the trunk” shot of archaeological equipment going out on a dig, the image below is representative of my trip over to ASI to conduct the first setup and interviews.

virtualarchaeology_equip

Just getting the equipment into the demonstration space, whether across town or in the lab, was still time consuming. Ideally, one should have at least two people to move equipment around, however the HTCVive digital calibration is easily done with one individual. Physically setting up and digitally calibrating the equipment took about 45min’s. The HTCVive requires to two sensors elevated above head height. Unlike the OR DK2, the HTCVive uses the physical space in order to allow users to physically walk while in the digital environment. Kudos to HTC for making the Vive digital calibration and tracking setup so easy! Whether you choose limited space or “map out” your usable space, both setup procedures are easy and quick.

htcsetup

If you would like more information on how to setup the HTCVive, please consult the Steam website. Once the physical space has been mapped digitally, the user then puts the headset on and can use the hand controllers to navigate within the virtual desktop space and then if controls are provided within an application, be able to affect objects or the environment within the simulation.  In our case, Craig provided a “teleporting” tool to allow users to move from section of the digital environment to another when their physical space ran out.  By “teleporting” this then allows users to explore throughout the environment and not just the space determined by the room-scale setup.

The difference between the HTCVive and the Oculus Rift is that with the HTCVive you are actually engaged physically within the digital environment.  When you walk physically, you are walking within the virtual environment.  If you want to pick something up with the controllers (your digital hands), that action must be programmed into the game engine. The OR is similar but you are either stationary standing or sitting and using a game controller to walk within digital space and/or pick up items, which functionality also needs to be programmed. I’m hesitant to use the term “immersive” however, between the two platforms the HTCVive is a highly physically interactive toolset which can convey immersive like qualities.

LaurenW

Once the head mounted display is on and the virtual environment is activated, users can interact with the environment in the same manner as they would within the physical environment.  Again however, to pick items up or to affect change within the digital space, these actions have to be programmed.  The monitor is primarily used for the non HTCVive participants to interact with the user and see what the user is experiencing. This interaction proved very useful when discussing features that where representative in the virtual space with the user and myself.

In Longhouse 4.0, I will be going into depth on the interviews conducted with archaeologists and heritage professionals as they use the immersive and non-immersive longhouse experiences. Some of the key take-aways from the interview process have been; a) users want to interact with the environment and are somewhat constrained to being a passive participant (the Oculus Story Studio has called this the Swayze Effect, where you can be within the environment but cannon effect change) b) that users would prefer immersive experiences over highly detailed and photorealistic desktop interactions c) that there is a technological fetish for innovative tools and users have to go through this stage first before gaining insight into knowledge construction within virtual space.

Stay tuned for the next blog but if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to post them here!

Cheers,

Michael

 

 

My third draft PhD Proposal

**Update this is the approved version!**

Happy New Year everyone!  After reading a tonne over the holidays and in the hopes that I’m “third time lucky” here is my third draft of my PhD research proposal.  In comparison, my first draft can be viewed here and my second draft here. It’s my additional hope that for future graduate students, some measure of writing progression can be demonstrated by comparing all three.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a group of dedicated Mentors and Supervisors to help navigate the process, provide support and suggest new insights.

As always, do not hesitate to comment, suggest or even challenge what you have read!

Cheers,

Michael

__________________________________________________________________________________

WORKING TITLE: VIRTUAL ARCHAEOLOGY, VIRTUAL LONGHOUSES AND “ENVISIONING THE UNSEEN” WITHIN THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD.

MICHAEL CARTER – PHD DISSERTATION PROPOSAL

Keywords: Virtual Archaeology, Virtual Reality, Archaeological Visualization, Archaeology, Northern Iroquoian Longhouses, Agency, Authenticity, Authority, Transparency, Making, Materiality, Wayfaring.

Introduction

My PhD research will include the construction of a virtual, archaeologically-based Late Woodland ancestral northern Iroquoian longhouse. The build and subsequent participant interaction with that space will facilitate an interrogation of archaeological meaning making informed by material and historical data as made “real” in virtual space. The virtual build of archaeological spaces will allow me to test cultural historical assumptions about the architecture and internal layout of these residential structures manifested virtually, and to experiment with the physics and logics of these assumptions. And once constructed, this virtual space will allow me, through semi-structured interviews and participant observations, to examine whether Virtual Archaeology (VA) is an effective means to enhance and expose the conceptual frameworks and mental templates archaeologists operationalize to help bridge the gaps between physical, contextual data and archaeological meaning making.

By specifically focusing on the virtual visualization of a typical northern Iroquoian longhouse, I have chosen a unique cultural manifestation that apart from the remnants of post-hole stains, below ground cultural features and fire hearths, is an archaeological enigma lacking significant above ground visual representation archaeologically or historically. Conversely, there exists a more generally understood “pre-existing mental image” (Ingold 2011:22) of these structures derived from limited historical and oral descriptions, albeit generalized from a narrow period of time and from a range of regional and cultural variations in material expression. Thus I will explore, through the use of virtual 3D model creation, how archaeologists internalize archaeological data and landscapes, material artifacts and oral and written histories in order to “envision the unseen” within virtual reality.

Through the process of making and manipulating the material, and the material – in turn – manipulating the maker, there are also a series of wayfaring points. Wayfaring is a process for taking stalk of the moment in time in which the act of making and the materiality of the raw material requires the artisan wayfarer [1] to stop, evaluate and make course corrections in order to achieve a representative version of their vision (Ingold 2011, 2013; see also Crawford 2015), a process that past and present longhouse builders work through during their construction of such buildings. Likewise, in the act of making within 3D space, there is a similar wayfaring experiential process, one that both mirrors the physical experiential process of longhouse construction while confronting archaeological knowledge and assumptions embedded in that research on ancient longhouse architecture and living.

([1] Defined as a craftsperson that uses their accumulated knowledge through the reflexive application of the physical, material and materiality of the making process.)

In this process of making, and as makers who make course corrections at wayfaring points, the decisions made embody elements of power, agency and authority (Crawford 2015; Ingold 2011, 2013) that draws into question the authenticity of the representative virtual form created. As such, as a virtual artisan wayfarer, I embody and assert a technical, creative and archaeological “expertise.” This creates a unique perspective to archaeological meaning-making that requires me to be reflexive of the power, agency and implicit authority I embed in the process of making within virtual space. Thus as a wayfaring artist, I will need to transparently negotiate the process between virtual builder, viewer and archaeologist, in order to reveal the “continuous correcting” that occurs as decisions are made virtually through the build and through the (re)imagining of a longhouse within the 3D environment (Ingold 2011, 2013).

While it has been a dimension of archaeological practice for over 30 years now, VA continually has failed to build and emerge from a solid foundation of robust archaeological inquiry (Reilly 2015). Rather, this practice has tended to focus more on the application of the tool as novelty and as a visual aid within archaeology, with little consideration on how these tools can expose and even shape our understandings of the archaeological record (Dallas 2007; Gillings 2005; Huggett 2012). It is my claim that virtual archaeology has the potential to provide transformative ways of thinking not only about the practical construction and material realities of longhouse building and dwelling, but also about the mental embodiment of longhouse culture and use that archaeologists have employed in their constructions of ancestral northern Iroquoian lifeways. Thus, the proximate aims of this research are to examine archaeological understandings of agency, authority, authenticity and transparency manifest within a virtual archaeological environment. Ultimately, the aim is to enhance understandings of archaeological meaning-making as applied to and revealed by virtual visualization and interaction in archaeology.

Background

The sublime organic nature of ancestral northern Iroquoian longhouses I am exploring in this research is that they are ideal examples of Ingold’s (2011:19-32) notion of “materials versus materiality.” The organic materials used in the construction of these structures and dwelling spaces dictates the style, use and longevity of the physical materiality of the longhouse itself, which eventually melds back into the environment in which it came, with no above ground traces of those materials or that living materiality left behind (Ingold 2011:26). For archaeologists, this material absence serves as the foundation for imposing archaeological understandings of the ancient materiality of longhouse embodiment. Thus to visualize and describe the material, mental and social properties of longhouses over their life history as ancient-built conceptions of structures, residences and living spaces is to “tell the stories of what happens to them as they flow, mix and mutate” (Ingold 2011:30).  Hence the virtual construction of a longhouse represents the physical and mental interpretation of what that longhouse was, and is this much more than visualizing data. It is also a contemporary narrative in which multiple voices, conceptions and opinions are expressed along the pathway of knowledge creation.

Compounding the challenges of archaeologists to visualize remaining, below-ground vestiges of a three dimensional material space and conception virtually is that, in popular forms of virtual reality, the pervasive use of photo-realism in the entertainment industry has created an expectation –and fallacy – that if it “looks” real, it must be authentic (Denard 2012). This is a theme that plays out time and again in the use of archaeological visualization, whether it is for knowledge makers or for the general public (Colley 2015; Earl 2005; Frankland and Earl 2011). Although the tradition of archaeological illustration has altered little since antiquity scholars began their renaissance studies (e.g. Moser 2012) virtual reality puts a unique spin on this tradition of presenting archaeological visual data in an authoritative and authentic manner (Perry 2015). In doing so, by taking a creative approach to the interpretation of archaeological data within virtual representations, the agency of that data becomes layered upon and seen through the creators lens: what that “artist’s impression” intends the virtual space to convey (see Earl 2013; Frankland and Earl 2011; Frischer et al. 2000; Smiles and Moser 2005; Perry 2015). The digital production of objects, landscapes and narratives makes overt issues of authenticity and authority in archaeological meaning making, creating an interpretive agency in both real and virtual worlds, and as such need to be acknowledged overtly and transparently (Bentkowska-Kafel et al. 2012; Cochrane and Russell 2007; Colley 2015; Earl 2013; Forte 2014a; Huggett 2012, 2015; Pauketat and Alt 2005; Perry 2009; Richardson 2013; Robb 2010).

Rationale and Objectives

Virtual Archaeology has become a powerful tool in the presentation and interpretation of archaeological landscapes and artifacts as a means of knowledge building, meaning making and heritage accessibility (e.g., Dallas 2009; Earl 2013; Forte 2014a, 2014b; Huggett 2013; Perry 2015). It has become a “mediating tool” allowing researchers to experiment with the data and to tease out the tensions that arise from limited and multiple conceptions of the past – a multi-sourced and even multi-vocal environment created to “stimulate interpretation,” explore alternate tellings of the past, and advance new research directions in archaeology (Dallas 2009; Earl 2013; Huggett 2013). Nonetheless, while the practice/study/craft of archaeological visualization has managed to present itself and its output as representative of archaeological meaning making and authoritative presentations of the past, this has occurred without the practice really establishing the basis for that authority (see Earl 2013; Perry 2015). Thus the challenges VA represents within the broader field of archaeological theory and method is going beyond the perceived notion of the technology being a novel means to illustrate archaeological data, and to demonstrate that VA can be a transformative vehicle to engage with material pasts in a way that allows for multiple visions of that heritage to be represented, tested and valued.

Case study

 The proposed research in VA I have and will continue to advance for this PhD is to create an interactive, phenomenological virtual representation of an Iroquoian longhouse. This longhouse will be modelled on an example documented archaeologically from the pre-contact 16th Century of southern Ontario, and specifically from the ancestral northern Iroquoian community identified as the Lawson Village site, located on the grounds of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology (MOA). The process of designing, developing and implementing virtual archaeological data is a relatively new approach to Iroquoian archaeological research and broader knowledge dissemination within Ontario, although physical world public interpretive reconstructions and as case studies of experimental archaeology have been undertaken over the last several decades (e.g. Fecteau 1979; Williamson 2004) As such, my current research will reflect on my own and participants’ experiences of interpreting the data from a visual knowledge building perspective, while addressing and developing protocols to address agency, authority, authenticity, transparency and traditional Iroquoian archaeological research within virtual reality.

By virtualizing an Iroquoian longhouse and by disseminating this project by means of social media and direct participant engagement to the archaeological community, I hope to gain additional insight into how archaeologists conceptualize and “understand” these unique residential structures, since they are the perceived experts of this archaeology. What I am interested in exploring is how these archaeological understandings, as built environments and material spaces foreign to archaeologists’ own lived experiences but culturally and materially understood within the daily lives of ancient peoples (Ferris 2013) arise in interpretive models of this record.

 Methodology

The first stage of my research will consist of researching and then building a virtual ancestral northern Iroquoian longhouse that generally conforms to 16th century archaeological longhouse data, while interrogating the multitude of detailed physical characteristics of the above ground building and space created around and within those longhouses, which can only be assumed archaeologically. Using traditional 3D animation and visual effects, as well as film, television and gaming production techniques derived from twenty years of personal production experience, and following previous test projects conducted at Sustainable Archaeology and Ryerson University, a production schedule, budget and technical pipeline methodology for this research was developed. This also included reviewing relevant cultural material literature, experimental archaeology observations and experiences, along with archaeological community participation, in order to help inform the creation of representative 3D assets (digital artistic components used in the longhouse build) that served as templates and a technical framework for the development of the virtual Longhouse environment.

Following the successful model of employing 3D knowledge experts previously used at Sustainable Archaeology, I brought together professional technical artist expertise to compliment the creation, production and deployment of the virtual Longhouse environment. Using a conventional film and television client-service provider production model, I worked with the computer artist with my direction, informed by written, visual and verbal archaeological research, that would serve as the basis for my “artist’s impression” of the assets to be built within the 3D environment. As this archaeological data became a 3D visual reality, I reflexively made course corrections based on; i) new research I became aware of; ii) comments from the archaeological community; or iii) limitations in the artist’s rendering, technical abilities or software capabilities. Likewise, inherent hardware and software limitations to achieve the representation desired at the resolution preferred also became wayfaring points of decision. At all stages as the virtual environment was being researched and built, these decisions, observations and experiential workarounds were documented, allowing me to reflexively consider the nature of the archaeological, historical, oral and experimental information I was utilizing, as well as my own direction, interpretation and expectations of the content being developed.

This was an experiential process and as such, when new theoretical, methodological, technical, artistic or archaeological data was discovered, it was measured for fit within the project and incorporated accordingly. As such, during the production phase, new technological advances such as the now publically available Ocular Rift immersive virtual reality headset determined the delivery platform on which the final project would be ported and applied within the second stage of this research.

To date, a fully immersive 3D representation of a prototypical 16th century northern Iroquoian longhouse has been constructed. Being initially built in Autodesk Maya, its assets have been ported to a Unity3D game engine that controls not only the visual rendering of the Longhouse itself, but also phenomenological elements such as environ metrics (fire, wind, smoke), sound (flowing water, forest/nature, wind, fire) and the haptic interaction of users in this immersive environment (movement, direction). Further, the delivery platform incorporates the use of both the Ocular Rift immersive 3D glasses, or traditional screen based experiences, which allows for multiple types of participant engagement. This phase of research encompasses 4 years of preliminary pre-production research and testing, and 7 months of 3D production in 2015. As of January 2016 this phase of the research is complete and the longhouse environment It is now fully deployable for the second stage of my research.

The second stage of my research will be to have individuals interact with the virtual longhouse environment, in order to test the utility of this model, and the potential of VA to engage with and advance archaeological cultural historical studies, and reveal the operational logics archaeologists use to inform their interpretive understandings of ancient material spaces. This stage will consist of pre-participation questionnaires, semi-structured interviews during and after engagement, and observing participant behaviour within the longhouse virtual environment. All study participants will be given the option of choosing between a fully immersed virtual reality experience using Oculus Rift immersive goggles, or a less immersive experience with a hand-held controller and TV display.

I intend to work with three sets of up to five (5) Heritage stakeholders, each group representing specific expertise in ancestral northern Iroquoians. These participants would encompass: i) academic and professional archaeologists who have had limited exposure to Virtual Archaeology, but moderate to substantial experience working with ancestral northern Iroquoian archaeology; ii) academic and professional archaeologists who have moderate to substantial exposure to Virtual Archaeology, but more limited experience working with northern Iroquoian archaeology; and iii) heritage and descendent professionals who have or have not had experiences with VA, but do have experience in knowledge dissemination of Iroquoian history/material culture to the broader public. To develop a representative base, I will seek a broad set of adult individuals in age, gender, professional experience and backgrounds. My goals are to: i) document overt participant preconceptions for both their anticipated VA experience and longhouse environments; ii) observe how participants engage with and choose to interact with the virtual longhouse; iii) observe how and discussion participants perceive the virtual environment in terms of authenticity, authority and agency; iv) document their interpretation of the representation and placement of digital assets, landscapes and built structures, as well as v) record any alternative meaning-making they themselves express or advance after interacting with this virtual environment.

As the Oculus Rift goggles, hand held controllers and computer platform that controls the data is highly portable, interviews will be ideally conducted in private at the participant’s place of choosing or at a private, controlled room at Sustainable Archaeology or Ryerson University. Once the subject is in position and engaged with the virtual environment, I will observe the participant’s choices and movement through the environment, and non-prompted verbal responses. I will answer questions only when asked. Lastly after the participant has engaged with the virtual environment, they will be interviewed in a semi-structured manner for no more than one hour with the allowance to provide additional feedback via email if desired. All observations and interviews will be video and audio recorded along with detailed field notes.

Prior to the virtual experience, I will ask participants to describe, based on their academic and professional expertise, what their vision of a 16th century northern Iroquoian longhouse should look and “feel” like. Through the post experience interview, I will seek to understand their perceptions of the virtual environment, the degree to which they felt the representation of that archaeological space mirrored their pre-expectations, and the “accuracy” or authenticity of architectural details, objects and interior and exterior space as rendered. Lastly participants’ will be asked to discuss the role of this virtual environment in archaeological interpretation, and whether they feel VA serves as a visual aid to conventional archaeological interpretation, or how it might facilitate new forms of interpretation. Pre-entry and exit comments provided by participants will assist in gaging if they feel virtual archaeology has no, little or substantial effect on their mental templates and conceptual understanding of longhouses, on the use of virtual archaeology for interpreting longhouse archaeology and the social environment of this lived space.

Contribution

Although this research seeks to advance the use and intent of virtual archaeology as a means of reflexively evaluating archaeological meaning-making, it also will contribute to examining the contested materiality and embodiment of ancestral northern Iroquoian longhouse lifeways by challenging cultural historical norms that bridge archaeological data and assumptions of longhouse construction and use. By deploying the latest 3D asset building and visualization tools, this research can contribute to developing a methodological template for further VA applications and knowledge transfers. Lastly, this research will test the concepts of authority, authenticity and transparency in approaches to archaeological visualization.

Timeline

In progress: I have already constructed a 3D representation of a prototypical ancestral northern Iroquoian longhouse using available archaeological, historical and oral data, along with associated household objects and materials. These assets were created in Autodesk Maya and then ported into the Unity3D game engine. Testing is currently being conducted on the use of Ocular Rift as an immersive engagement platform and Beta deployment of the Longhouse representation has been tested with a limited number of archaeologists for antidotal impressions of the theme and technology used.

Following The London Charter, all steps in the design, development, current implementation and knowledge dissemination of this virtual archaeological research have been recorded and made available specifically to the archaeological community and the public at large through the use of social media.

November 2015 – January 2016: Completion of the 3D construction of the longhouse and associated assets within Maya with a final porting of those assets into the Unity game engine (development began in March of 2015). Technical testing of the delivery platform(s) using Oculus Rift, Desktop and Internet based systems.

January – May 2016: Relevant ethics protocols will be acquired for my case study of user experiences by archaeology and heritage professionals. Once approved, I will undertake participant questionnaires and VA engagements, to be completed by end of May 2016.

June – December 2016: Analysis of interviews and begin writing of dissertation.

January – June 2017: Completion of dissertation and revision as needed.

Research Deliverables: 1) Longhouse 3.x – a completed and interactive digital version of the VA environment used by participants. 2) An article-based dissertation (3 articles i – on the longhouse build; ii – on participant experiences; iii – on theoretical and methodological implications of VA on archaeological meaning making).

References

Bentkowska-Kafel, Anna, Hugh Denard, and Drew Baker
2012 Paradata and transparency in virtual heritage. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Cochrane, Andrew, and Ian Russell
2007  Visualizing Archaeologies: a Manifesto. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 17(01): 3.

Colley, Sarah
2015  Ethics and digital heritage. In The Ethics of Cultural Heritage, edited by Tracy Ireland and John Schofield, pp. 13–32. Springer, New York, NY.

Crawford, M
2015  The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction. Penguin Canada Books Inc., Toronto.

Dallas, C
2007  Archaeological knowledge, virtual exhibitions and the social construction of meaning. Archeologia e Calcolatori(1): 31–63.

2009  From artefact typologies to cultural heritage ontologies: or, an account of the lasting impact of archaeological computing. Archeologia e Calcolatori 20: 205–221.

Denard, Hugh
2012  A new introduction to the London Charter. Paradata and Transparency in Virtual Heritage Digital Research in the Arts and Humanities Series(Ashgate, 2012): 57–71.

Earl, Graeme
2005  Video killed engaging VR? Computer visualizations on the TV screen. In Envisioning the Past: Archaeology and the Image, edited by Sam Smiles and Stephanie Moser, pp. 204–222. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, UK.

2013  Modeling in archaeology: computer graphic and other digital pasts. Perspectives on Science 21(2): 226–244.

Fecteau, R D
1979  The Longhouse Experiment. KEWA: Newsletter London Chapter, Ontario Archaeological Society 79(2): 1–3.

Ferris, Neal
2013  Place, Space, and Dwelling in the Late Woodland. In Before Ontario: The Archaeology of a Province, edited by Marit K Munson and Susan M Jamieson, pp. 99–111. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP, Montreal and Kingston.

Forte, Maurizio
2014a 3D Archaeology : New Perspectives and Challenges — The Example of Çatalhöyük. Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies 2(1): 1–29.

2014b Virtual Reality and Cyberarchaeology. In 3D Recording and Modelling in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Theory and best practices., edited by Fabio Remondino and Stefano Campana, pp. 3–6. ArcheoPress. British Archaeological Reports (S2598), Oxford.

Frankland, Tom, and Graeme Earl
2011  Authority and authenticity in future archaeological visualisation. Original Citation: 62.

Frischer, Bernard, Franco Niccolucci, Nick Ryan, and Juan Barceló
2000  From CVR to CVRO: The Past, Present, and Future of Cultural Virtual Reality. VAST Conference on Virtual reality, Archeology, and Cultural Heritage, Arezzo, Italy.(November): 1–12.

Gillings, Mark
2005  The real, the virtually real, and the hyperreal: The role of VR in archaeology. Envisioning the Past: Archaeology and the Image: 223–239.

Huggett, J.
2012  What lies beneath: lifting the lid on archaeological computing. In Thinking Beyond the Tool: Archaeological Computing and the Interpretative Process, edited by A. Chrysanthi, P. Murrietta, Flores, and C. Papadopoulos, pp. 204–214. Archeopress.

2013 Disciplinary issues: challenging the research and practice of computer applications in archaeology. In Archaeology in the Digital Era, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, pp. 13–24.

2015  A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology. Open Archaeology 1(1): 86–95.

Ingold, Tim
2011  Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. Taylor & Francis.

2013  Making: Anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. Routledge.

Moser, Stephanie
2012  Early Artifact Illustration and the Birth of the Archaeological Image. In Archaeological Theory Today, edited by Ian Hodder, pp. 292–322. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Pauketat, Timothy R., and Susan M. Alt
2005  Agency in a postmold? Physicality and the archaeology of culture-making. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 12(3): 213–237.

Perry, Sara
2009  Fractured Media: Challenging the Dimensions of Archaeology’s Typical Visual Modes of Engagement. Archaeologies 5(3): 389–415.

2015  Crafting knowledge with (digital) visual media in archaeology. In Material Evidence. Learning from archaeological practice., edited by R. Chapman and A. Wylie, pp. 189–210. Routledge, New York and London.

Reilly, P
2015  Putting the materials back into Virtual Archaeology. St. Petersburg.

Richardson, Lorna
2013  A Digital Public Archaeology? Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 23(1): 1–12.

Robb, John
2010 Beyond agency. World archaeology 42(4): 493–520.

Williamson, Ronald F
2004  Replication or Interpretation of the Iroquoian Longhouse. In The Reconstructed Past: Reconstrucions in the Public Interpretation of Archaeology and History, edited by John H. Jameson, Jr., pp. 147–166. Altamira Press, New York.

 

My second draft PhD Proposal

**Update the final approved PhD Proposal can be viewed here**

This is my second draft of my PhD Proposal.  My first is located here to compare.  In this round, I tried to better describe the actual research and how it might impact archaeological study.  I would really appreciate any thoughts or comments, negative or positive so I am able to better improve on this proposal.

Cheers,

Michael

________________________________________________________________________________________

 

MICHAEL CARTER – PHD DISSERTATION PROPOSAL

WORKING TITLE: VIRTUAL ARCHAEOLOGY, VIRTUAL LONGHOUSES AND “ENVISIONING THE UNSEEN” WITHIN THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD.

Keywords: Virtual Archaeology, Virtual Reality, Archaeological Visualization, Archaeology, Northern Iroquoian Longhouses, Agency, Authenticity, Authority, Transparency.

Introduction

My PhD research will be comprised of two parts; a) the use of quantitative archaeological data, qualitative oral and historical accounts of 15th Century Northern Iroquoian longhouse construction and use, combined with virtual archaeology methods and theories, to envision and document a prototypical Iroquoian Longhouse, constructed within virtual space and b) to explore virtual archaeology meaning-making as it pertains to archaeologists perception of virtual reality and the visualization of archaeological data. By using the archaeological record as it pertains to the physicality of longhouse construction and use, we are able to envision the unseen. Many cultural, economic, societal and environmental factors help to inform this inquiry, however my desire and goal is to develop both a theoretical and virtual model of the fundamental features of a longhouse that is the manifestation of the dynamic archeological landscape, oral and written histories as well as the creative imagination of the artists and technicians who will ultimately be tasked with digitally reimagining these elusive, iconic and culturally significant architectural symbols of the Northern Iroquoian existence (Watts 2009; Woodworth 1998). Technology is at the point where we can provide an almost hyper-real experience to the participant viewer, may they be scholar, Descendant or the public (Frankland and Earl 2011; Forte 2014a; Gabellone et al. 2013; Giddings 2015; Morgan 2009; Moser and Smiles 2008). Further, that same technology potentially allows the participant to interpret and modify the objects and material being displayed/provided, giving them the ability to reorder, reinterpret or remix at will (Fisher and Twiss-Garrity 2007; Frankland and Earl 2011). These are the machinations that now loom over virtual archaeology and ones we must examine critically and systematically.

Background

Using the (re)imagination of a virtual Northern Iroquoian Longhouse in virtual reality as context to inform our exploration of virtual archaeology, this research will be guided by and include theoretical elements from Dawson, Levy and Lyons (phenomenology and presence), Reilly, Barceló, Frischer, Forte, Dallas, Huggett, Gillings (virtual archaeology) and Watts, Ferris, Robb, Frankland, Earl, Perry, Gosden, Denard (agency, authenticity, authority and transparency) among others from a virtual perspective and Dodd, Wright, Kapches, Snow, Williamson and others from a Northern Iroquoian longhouse construction and use perspective.

With rapid advancements in technology, there now exists a cornucopia of progressively successful attempts to engage the archaeological record within virtual reality or virtual archaeology. As with most applications of theory in reality, there too is a split between the qualitative and the quantitative nature of the technology and how it is implemented. Reilly, Barceló, Frischer and others see the digital tools, the process and the outcomes as part and parcel of the quantitative, scientific nature of archaeological research; data that should be represented by and through scientific means. Dawson, Levy, Lyons and Forte, see virtual archaeology as a phenomenological emotional experience in which the participant isn’t a passive viewer, but an equal partner in the exploration of the multi-vocal archaeological landscape where the data, material culture and the visual (re)imagination of the archaeological environment are engaged through the users eyes.

The transformative nature of technology and in particular our ability to manipulate digital data freely, whether visual or not, has given form to a multi-vocal approach to the interpretation of the archaeological record (Forte 2011, 2014a, 2014b). Following Hodder, Forte sees multi-vocal engagement within virtual archaeology as the ability to allow for multiple voices to engage and contribute to the overall interpretation of the virtual archaeological environment (2008; 2011, 2014a, 2014b). This authentic multi-vocal experience can lead to new research questions and hypotheses, disrupting the notion of the archaeologist as the interpreter of the “truth” (Earl 2013; Forte 2014b). As (digital) archaeologists, we are no longer the singular authoritative voice, but providers of material and assets in which stakeholders and the public themselves can construct and reimagine their own cultural presence within virtual space (see Earl 2013 & Perry 2014; Dasgupta 2006; Forte 2011 & 2014b).

Dawson, Levy and Lyons called this phenomenological experience presence; “the emotional connectedness of being transported to another time and place” (see Dawson et al. 2011). Although their study group were descendent participants, can this same experience be true for non-descendants as well? Can archaeologists use this technology and methodology in a phenomenological way to envision what isn’t seen in the archaeological record to better inform current and future research (see Watts 2009)?

Longhouses occupy a special narrative amongst descendent Iroquoian societies and modern archeologists. An active and engaged oral tradition has given the longhouse a spiritual existence in which the North American modern day longhouse continues to be a powerful symbol of community for those descendent populations, representing an architectural lineage that exemplifies agency and a unique way of life (see Heidenreich 1972; Kapches 1994; Mohawk 1978; O’Gorman 2010; Watts 2009; Woodworth 1998).   At the base level, the longhouse represents community in both physical and metaphysical traditions, embodying the physical to convey societal, cultural and political worldviews (Hayden 1968; Heidenreich 1972; Mohawk 1978; O’Gorman 2010; Ramsden 2009; Varley & Cannon 1994). For Iroquoian culture, the longhouse was a symbol of how the community functioned and was politically structured within their larger world, forming the boundaries of their influence, and symbolic of the longhouse itself (see Allen & Williams-Shuker 1998; Heidenreich 1972; O’Gorman 2010; Mohawk 1978). Though limited physical remnants remain of these structures, they are subjectively alive in the contested colonial writings and descriptions of historical explorers, the oral traditions of cultural descendants and the visual imagination of modern writers and filmmakers (Boyden 2013; Heidenreich 1972; Thwates 1896-1901).

Although the archaeological record reveals several centuries of longhouse and village-like settlement patterns for the Late Woodland, the modern perception of what a longhouse hypothetically looked and felt like is really derived from the latter part of the Late Woodland (sometimes referred to as the Terminal Woodland; see Ferris and Spence 1995), where archaeological and historical data come together to provide a general “convention” for what a longhouse “should be” (Snow 1997; Williamson 2004; Wright 1995). Further, it is these idealized non-native interpretations that continue to reinforce not only the academic but also the public’s notion of what a longhouse was and is (Williamson 2004). It is from these qualitative and quantitative data points that we will explore what a longhouse is physically within the archaeological and historical record.

My understanding of the visualization of longhouses from the archaeological record arises principally from the work of four archaeologists; J.V. Wright, Mima Kapches, Christine Dodd and Dean Snow. Due to the lack of any real physical evidence, models of longhouse use, style, agency, and construction have been hotly contested for decades (see Kapches 1994; Snow 1997; Williamson 2004; Wright 1995). The work of these archaeologists, in combination with continued observations and challenges from other exemplary researchers, form a base of understanding that helps to frame how longhouses were constructed. Using Dodd’s extensive quantitative research gleaned from an exhaustive review of longhouse data derived from field excavations (1984) and based on the qualitative and quantitative observations of Wright (1971), Kapches (1994) and Snow (1997) among others, a basic template for the construction of longhouses emerges. It is this template we seek to replicate virtually.

Rationale and Objectives

The study of Northern Iroquoian longhouses is a mercurial archaeological endeavour. Fragments of these once grand physical manifestations of social, cultural and political agency within the Late Iroquoian phases of the Ontario complex (Birch & Williamson 2013) are little more than “ghosts” below the soil line within the archaeological landscape. Soil stains are all that remain of the supporting posts and exterior walls of these unique cultural buildings representing only a small glimpse into how these dwellings once functioned or even looked.

These soil stains and the cultural material associated in and around the boundaries of these transitory structures, as well as historical Eurocentric writings and drawings and the oral traditions of descendent cultural groups, are what now form our archaeological understandings of the lifecycle of a longhouse, and more importantly, the cultural significance these structures played within Iroquoian life (Woodworth 1998). However, the enigma is that our understanding arising from these data points is imaginatively speculative at best and thus the challenge is to not only visualize these lost cultural manifestations, but also to embody all of the senses that the archaeological landscape cannot preserve; the haptic, olfactory and auditory – in other words the phenomenological (see Watts 2009). The ability to experience the application of sight, sound, smell, and touch in context, helps to embody the overall phenomenological archaeological experience (Dawson et al. 2011) and in turn may provide further understanding to the archaeological record. These are some of the challenges that frame the current debate on what a longhouse is and how it shapes our understanding of the lifeway of the people who thrived within these architectural representations of Iroquoian culture.

Virtual reality by definition is an interpretation of self within a different space, time or plane (see Sutherland 1965). It is narrative generating and thus both the technology and the process of creating virtual reality have borrowed heavily from the entertainment industry (see Frankland and Earl 2011 and Denard 2012). In doing so, by taking a creative approach to the interpretation of the archaeological data, the agency of that data is now layered upon and seen through the creators lens; what “artist’s impression” intend the virtual space to convey (see Earl 2013; Frankland and Earl 2011; Frischer et al. 2000; Moser and Smiles 2008; Perry 2015). The digital reproduction of objects, landscapes and narratives have agency both in the real and virtual worlds and as such must be treated with equal consideration and respect (Earl 2013; Forte 2014a; Huggett 2012a, 2015; Pauketat and Alt 2005; Richardson 2013; Robb 2010).

Thus my research will focus on the interpretive nature of virtual archaeology not only to visualize but also to inform archaeological research. It will embody the framework of agency, authority, authenticity and transparency by addressing them systematically through the research, visualization and dissemination of archaeological theory and knowledge as it pertains to the visualization of a typical Iroquoian longhouse. In doing so, my research will allow for a new perspective in longhouse construction and use, while further enabling a robust scientific approach to the use of virtual reality within archaeological research.

Case study

 This proposed research will provide representative visual material to be used as one interpretation based on the archaeological data, oral and written histories of an interactive phenomenological virtual representation of Iroquoian longhouse use within the pre-contact 15th Century, for the Museum of Ontario Archaeology (MOA) and Sustainable Archaeology (SA). The design, development and implementation of virtual archaeological data are a relatively new approach to Iroquoian archaeological research and knowledge dissemination within Ontario. As such, this research will reflect on the experience of interpreting the data from a visual experience while still addressing and developing protocols to address agency, authority, authenticity, transparency and traditional Iroquoian archaeological research within virtual reality.

By virtualizing an Iroquoian longhouse and by disseminating this project by means of social media to the archaeological community, I hope to gain additional insight into the construction methodologies and use as perceived by experts within the community. This form of multivocal meaning-making will allow not only my research, but those of others to potentially voice how longhouse construction and use might have been employed by the 15th Century Northern Iroquoian peoples through a mashing of ideas and concepts. In doing so, I am engaging a broader knowledge base, while continuing to establish a visualization template developed through established quantitative archaeological data.

As the end product, a fully immersed virtual reality archaeological representation of a typical Iroquoian longhouse, will be presented to MOA guests, stakeholders and governmental representatives, the process and the product must adhere to accepted archaeological method and theory. It is in this process that my research will be tested not only by the data presented, but the phenomenological experience provided.

Methodology

Virtual Archaeology has become a powerful tool in the interpretation of archaeological landscapes and artifacts as a means of knowledge building and meaning making (see Dallas 2009, Earl 2013, Forte 2014a & 2014b, Huggett 2013 & Perry 2014). It has become a “mediating tool” allowing researchers to experiment with the data and to tease out the tensions that arise from a multi-vocal environment (see Dallas 2009 & Earl 2013). These alternate visions help to “stimulate interpretation” creating multi-channeled narratives which spur on additional and unforeseen research questions (Earl 2013). As such, what is apparent is that the practice/study/craft has transcended beyond the internal realm of archaeological study to be fully accepted externally as representative of archaeological studies without it really establishing itself as an accepted cannon of archaeological research (see Earl 2013 & Perry 2014). Thus the challenges virtual archaeology represents within the broader field of archaeological theory and method, is going beyond the perceived notion of the technology as a tool to archaeologically illustrate data, but as a transformative vehicle to engage with the material culture in a way that allows for all visions to be represented, tested and valued.

I intend to test the perceived notion of virtual archaeology and it’s ability or inability, to inform and contribute to the broader archaeological study between three sets of Heritage Professionals with specific expertise in Northern Iroquoian research: i) Academic and Professional Archaeologists who have had limited exposure to Virtual Archaeology, ii) Academic and Professional Archaeologists who have moderate to substantial exposure to Virtual Archaeology and iii) Heritage Professionals who deal with the knowledge dissemination of archaeological material to the broader public. To develop a representative base, I will seek a broad set of individuals in age, gender, professional experience and backgrounds. My goal is to: i) observe how Heritage professionals perceive the virtual environment in terms of authenticity, authority and agency, ii) document their interpretation of the representation and placement of digital assets, landscapes and structure as informed by my interpretation of the archaeological, oral and historical data, and iii) record any alternative meaning-making they themselves would develop after experiencing my interpretation of the archaeological record in virtual reality.

All study candidates will be given an option of choosing between a fully immersed virtual reality experience using Ocular Rift immersive goggles or a less immersive experience with a hand-held controller and TV display. The study methodology will comprise of: i) observations of the three types of study participants and ii) semi-structured interviews and commentary from the participants pre, in the course of and post virtual reality experience. A pre-experience questionnaire will be developed to determine the participant’s general perception of virtual archaeology. As the Ocular Rift goggles, hand held controllers and the computer platform that controls the data is highly portable, interviews will be ideally conducted in private at the participant’s place of choosing or a private, controlled room within the University. To ensure safety for the participants who choose the fully immersive experience, there will be an option to sit or stand with myself within arms length to guide the participant should their balance be affected. A medical release will be developed in conjunction with the pre-experience questionnaire. Once the subject is in position and engaged with the virtual environment, I will observe the participant’s body movements and non-prompted verbal responses. Lastly after the participant has engaged with the virtual environment, they will be interviewed in a semi-structured manner for no more than one hour with the allowance to provide additional feedback via email if desired. All observations and interviews will be video and audio recorded along with detailed field notes.

Participants will be asked to state their impressions from a professional perspective. They will be asked to comment on the detail or lack there of, of the 3D virtual objects, structure and environment. Prior to the virtual experience, I will ask participants to describe in as much detail as possible, based on their academic and professional expertise, what their vision of a 15th Century Northern Iroquoian longhouse looks and “feels” like. Through the interview, I will seek to understand their perceptions of the virtual environment in terms of agency of the objects and/or representation of the archaeological space, the authority in which the objects are represented and if that authority is enhanced or detracted by the style and manner in which the objects have been rendered. The authenticity of the material presented within the virtual environment based on their professional experience and the transparency in which the project was conducted in providing the appropriate level of detail and description during the (re)imagination process. Lastly feedback will be sought regarding their overall impression on whether virtual reality enhances the scientific methodology of archaeological research and thus, enables a new form of envisioning the archaeological record. I will compare the pre-entry and exit comments to determine if virtual archaeology has no, little or substantial effect on their professional opinion on the use of virtual archaeology as an established scientific methodology, personal meaning-making and desire to expand this process in their own archaeological research and dissemination.

Contribution

I am proposing to design, develop and implement a method for the visualization of archaeological data and speculative academic insight within virtual archaeological environments. That this research method is grounded in the theories that have formed around the study of virtual archaeology, specifically: agency, authenticity, authority and transparency. In doing so, I hope to build upon the continued work of Dodd, Wright, Kapches, Snow and others with regards to Northern Iroquoian longhouse construction and use.

The impact of this study could be substantial. Apart from the pioneering phenomenological work done by Dawson, Levy and Lyons, current research has indicated that no other project is attempting to phenomenologically recreate a 3D virtual pre-contact native dwelling to the level and sophistication usually reserved for high-end gaming or film production. Further, following the recent development of The London Charter, this project will endeavor to develop a body of transparent knowledge, which is archaeological community based and encourages debate and opinion throughout the visualization process. Lastly this project will impact and contribute to the ongoing research and debate on virtual archaeology, it’s application, use and substantial contribution to the study and discipline of archaeology. Using the current language of digital media dissemination, I am attempting to develop a virtual archaeological 3D Wiki; a real-time tool that will eventually allow archaeologists and stakeholders to input as an active member or lurk as a passive participant in the personal archaeological knowledge building process.

Timeline

In progress: I have already constructed using the available archaeological data, a 3D representation of a prototypical Northern Iroquoian Longhouse, along with associated household objects within Maya and have ported those assets into the Unity Game Engine. Testing is currently being conducted on the use of Ocular Rift as a phenomenological engagement platform and Beta deployment of the Longhouse representation has been tested amongst Heritage Professionals for antidotal impressions of the theme and technology used.

Further, following The London Charter, all steps in the design, development, current implementation and knowledge dissemination of this virtual archaeological research have been recorded and made available specifically to the archaeological community and the public at large through the use of social media.

November 2015 – January 2016: Completion of the 3D construction of the longhouse and associated assets within Maya with a final porting of those assets into the Unity Game Engine. Technical testing of the delivery platform(s) using Ocular Rift, Desktop and Internet based systems.

Relevant ethics protocols will be acquired as needed for my case study of user experiences by heritage professionals.

January – March 2016: I will conduct interviews of Heritage professionals. Transcribe any audio and videos collected and collate written comments provided by the focus group participants.

March – December 2016: Preparation of my dissertation. Any interview participants, named and/or quoted, will be given the opportunity to approve whether and in what context their quoted statements appear in the final products.

A detailed breakdown of the approximated thesis section deadlines:

I am choosing to use the Integrated-Article format for my dissertation writing option.

Jan-Mar 2016:                        Article 1 – Case Study (Last 2 weeks of Mar: Revisions)

Mar-June 2016:         Article 2 – Literature Review (Last 2 weeks of Mar: Revisions)

July-Aug 2016:           Article 3 – Methodology (Last 2 weeks of Aug: Revisions)

Sept-Oct 2016:           Introduction (Last 2 weeks of Sept: Revisions)

Nov-Jan 2017:                        Conclusions (First 2 weeks of Jan: Revisions)

Jan-Feb 2017:                        Final Revisions and edits

Early Mar 2017:         Send out complete draft to advisors

End of Mar 2017:       Submit

April 2017:                 Defend and publish finished PhD dissertation.

 

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