Second Day: ViA 2009

(Written earlier, obviously!)

I just got back from a nice, long walk down to Bargate, the old Norman point of entry to Southampton. I walked through the giant fortified arch, and on down the street to the Holy Rood Church, an early 14th century church that was bombed out during WWII. Nothing was open, but it was a lovely fall evening, and I enjoyed my wander around the city. It was my reward for presenting first thing earlier that day!

I gave my paper, which ended up being a bit more case-studyish than about DIY and Edupunk. I was up pretty late the night before putting a few last touches on it, so I was a bit bleary-eyed, but I think I did okay. A lot of people told me they enjoyed the thing. I need to knock it into some kind of shape for the Dhiban directors to check out.

Roger Brown presented his photography of the remarkable Hulton Abbey Skeletal Digitisation Project, which prompted some great discussions of ethics and visuality, especially in regard to human remains. I’m deeply jealous of his ability to light the skeletal remains so the camera picks up some really interesting details. I need a proper light rig with a diffuser and a nice macro lens. Brown also contributed some photos for the Archaeologists | Photographers project, so I’m looking forward to an ongoing collaboration.

Mike Middleton’s paper on the effects of digital technology on visualisation covered a brief history of the process of visualisation and it was illustrated with some lovely drawings, but these pesky illustrators seem to have very little hosted online for me to link to. Anyway, he described his job as “making dots into shapes,” that is, converting recorded archaeological data to a polygon that defines the site shape. He had a pretty brilliant series of slides that showed how slippery that process can be.

The final paper of the morning session was given by Justine Wintjes on her research on remediated Rock Art images from Africa. She gave an incredible presentation that integrated illustrations and digital photographs to provide a palimpsest that enhanced both media, and situated the rock art within a greater environmental context. Her treatment of the original source material and the various versions created by researchers over the years was deeply inspirational–in a perfect world, she’d be coming to UC Berkeley for a postdoc.

After the break, Kate Giles welcomed us back with her model of the Guild Chapel at Stratford-upon-Avon. It was good to see that someone else found 3D models so good to think with, and I must admit that the depictions of the stained glass on the floor was pretty stunning. It also reminded me that I’d really like a class on structural engineering and vernacular architecture. I wonder if there is such a thing?

Vasko Démou brought together art and archaeology through an explicitly political lens in his demonstration of his Renegade Pieces project, an ethnographic study that he will carry out next summer at the Acropolis. He’s juxtaposing accepted knowledge regarding the Acropolis with the standard construction of place by visitors to the site. I think it would be an interesting project to carry it out not only at the Acropolis, but also at different places around Athens–smokey bars, markets, etc. Regardless, I really admire his creativity in his approach to archaeology.

Plans like this make me happy.

One of the more engaging and entertaining presentations was given by Matthew Johnson, who spoke regarding hachured plans. He was building on Trevor Pearson’s paper from 2008 and the reactions that some folks from the States had to all those squiggles indicating slope. I appreciated his discussion connecting visuality to the haptic experience of walking over the English landscape. On the plane home I saw a BBC presentation about a technology that was linked to your shoes–if you set it to “snow” then it felt and sounded like you were walking over snow. It would be fabulous to be able to reenact a hachure plan with a pair of shoes that gave you that kind of feedback as you moved in certain directions over the landscape.

Finally, Andrew Cochrane presented a sampling of his work with Ian Russell, culminating in his curation of an exhibition comparing figurines from the Balkans and Japan. I’ve been a fan of these lads for a while now, and it was great to have a presentation and a chat with Andrew. I was pretty jealous of their experiment at York with handmade clay figurines–I want one! I like that he and Ian can be so challenging and theoretical while remaining engaging and accessible.

Altogether, the workshop was a success. I left feeling inspired and excited about visual/digital research again and I was happy to engage with my colleagues in this ongoing conversation. I think I talked a bit too much, and probably shouldn’t have had the “Gandalf” or the “Legolas” drinks at The Hobbit in Southampton on the last night, but in all, it was a success.

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

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