Archaeology and Machinima

Machinima are movies made entirely within virtual worlds such as Halo, World of Warcraft, and, of course, Second Life.  The video featured above is a classic example made by the staff at Linden Labs, and more appropriate as an archaeological example than some other machinima that are music videos or steampunk extravaganzas.

As our semester starts up again, we were looking for new projects for our Second Life deCal to pursue, and making a machinima based on Çatalhöyük seems like a project that would be flexible enough for different skill levels in Second Life to pursue.  I think it would also be a useful exercise in understanding the past through performance and really stretching our imaginations and interpretations.

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I’ve started sketching out storyboards for the movie.  Usually I do this by hand, with pen and paper, but I’ve been trying to use a new tablet and adobe illustrator to make it easier to share with other people. Unfortunately I just don’t know enough about illustrator to be able to use it for this project.  Instead, I downloaded Seashore, a simple drawing program, and have been impressed with how quick and easy it is for someone like me who grew up using MS Paint.  The sketches aren’t beautiful, but they are vital for stitching together a movie that makes sense.

I’m also hoping to have part of this project ready to show at the SXSW interactive panel that I’ll be speaking at, The Real Technology of Indiana Jones, moderated by Adam Rabinowitz.  I’m hoping that I’ll come up with a few things of interest to technologists!

Consider it Burned.

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I’m happy to report that the Burning Çatalhöyük was considered a success! We soldiered on despite considerable language and technology barriers, including a point where Karl Harrison was trying to speak about the buildings and was completely frozen.  We had a lot of visitors throughout the day, and about 30 for the main event, with numbers dropping off as it got later in the day in the rest of the world.  The exhibit will remain up at least through January, and you can still visit by downloading the Second Life software and loading this URL:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Okapi/128/128/0

The day of the event I managed to upload a video of Michael House and Karl Harrison discussing the burning of Building 77,  which you can view on the large screen in-world, but  can also view on vimeo, linked above.

I’m so happy that people took a bit of time out of their day to come check out the burn.  Kris Hirst from Archaeology@about.com had an insightful review:

http://archaeology.about.com/b/2008/12/12/second-life-and-public-archaeology-burning-catalhoyuk.htm

Declan over at the Moore Groups Blog also visited, in larger-than-life-size form!

http://mooregroup.wordpress.com/2008/12/11/catalhoyuk-in-second-life/

I would like to ask that if you participated in Burning Çatalhöyük, or if you have since viewed the reconstruction on Okapi island, that you take this poll:

http://polldaddy.com/survey.aspx?id=c5393d48b2124280

Finally, I would like to thank the following for their help with Burning Çatalhöyük.  I couldn’t have done it without you! In no particular order:

Noah Wittman
Karl Harrison
Michael House
Lizzy Ha
Ruth Tringham
Jason Quinlan
Michael Ashley
Niema Razavian
The DeCal Students!
Dan E.
Burcu Tung
Daniel Bracewell

Red and Hands

Red and Hands

I finally made something that just might be Archaeography worthy, so I abused my limited moveabletype knowledge and posted an entry over there about the wall paintings and Second Life.  Let’s hope I didn’t break anything in the process.

(I reposted it below as Archaeography is no longer)

This past summer I excavated a series of paintings on a platform at Çatalhöyük, the last being a spectacular series of five hands, negative white with a red background, all pointing west. While collaborating on the archive report with my fellow excavators, I decided to reconstruct the “red phase” of Building 49 in Second Life so we could see how the building might have looked while in this phase. The painting of the hands was part of the phase, and I began “fixing” it in photoshop, removing animal holes and replacing patchy areas of the paint, so I could import it into the virtual reconstruction.

The process made me uneasy, and very aware that I was not presenting a “real” or a “fake” representation of the past, but something in the hazy middle, a third space that does not exist for the archaeologists or the people of the neolithic, but a space that exists digitally. I decided to push this boundary, and made an even more figurative version, an unambiguous white and red representation that would better suit the cartoonish world of Second Life. It would look more real, make more visual sense in the context on Second Life than an if I had used an actual photo, baked on to the texture of the platform.

The fourth image is what brought the photographs together–I happened to glance up at one of the concrete buildings in downtown Berkeley, where someone had stenciled a hand, in negative, with a red background. I felt a nexus in the past/present/real/digital tangle come into sharp relief for one brief second, then become hopelessly, wonderfully intertwined once again.

I’ve been banging away at the buildings in Second Life–they’ll be ready by Wednesday, but only just!  The event is being pretty widely publicized, so let’s hope the servers in Linden world aren’t acting up that day.  I love that I’ve been able to get so much research for my dissertation finished, but I think I need a computer/media black-out week someday soon!

 

Furnishing the Neolithic

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The Porno Baskets of Çatalhöyük

For Cal Day I’m furnishing the inside of one of the reconstructed Neolithic houses so we can change up our tour a little bit from our open house.  In a lot of ways it has been a great mental exercise–having to figure out if I thought the ceiling was plastered, move the ladder to the correct angle coming out the top, decide if I wanted to put a goat/sheep or three on top of the house, things like that.  I’m still not very good at the build tools in Second Life yet and we’re running out of time, so I’ve been getting things as close as possible on my own and then faking the rest with different purchases.  Of course, these purchases are a little…off from what we know about the artifacts, but I’m doing my best.

I went hunting for baskets the other day, with the lovely preserved basket impressions that we get in the middens in mind, and found a few serviceable examples.  The island where I got them was medieval themed and I thought nothing much of it until I found that most of the materials had some kind of action programmed into them.  The plates turned you into a serving wench, the bucket made you scrub the floor, things like that.  An interesting take on Latour, if I do say so myself.

Except…when I saw some of the other items.  And I’m not just talking about the bed!  I figured out that the whole island was themed after a series of science fiction books set in a world called “Gor” where the women are enslaved to the men as part of a “naturalized” social order.  Well then!

So, these baskets.  While they don’t have anything preprogrammed into them–at least I’m somewhat certain of that–they are basically BDSM set dressing.

I’m reclaiming them for the Neolithic.

WAC 2008: Call for Participation

 Title: Art, Archaeology and Technology: Current Experiments in Interpretation
Archaeologists have been rapidly integrating new media technologies into their interpretive schemes through a variety of methods.  Virtual worlds, social networking websites, blogs, wikis, and digital photo mash-ups are becoming legitimate alternate ways to present archaeological information.  Lower entry points for remixing photography, film, and databases into multimodal presentations increase the potential for archaeologists to use these media to tell their own stories. This, combined with a growing ubiquity of online media platforms, allows us to reach out to new publics by integrating archaeology into a greater social sphere.  Situated in a conference that is fully engaged with questions regarding the future of archaeology, this session explores current and future interpretive projects inspired by new media art and technology.  In this exploration we will discuss alternate narratives, collective actions and what it means to be an archaeologist in the digital age.  Alternate forms of papers and presentations such as films or websites are welcomed.

Presentations should be 15 minutes long and will be followed by remixes of the content by the discussants.

Contact: Colleen Morgan (clmorgan@berkeley.edu), Dr. Christine Finn (C.A.Finn@bradford.ac.uk), or Dr. Ruth Tringham (tringham@berkeley.edu) regarding interest and participation in the session.

Submit your abstract to http://ucd.ie/wac-6/

Closing date: February 22, 2008.

Open House at Catalhoyuk in Second Life

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Just a quick reminder that I’ll be around on Second Life for most of today (especially after 12) at Okapi Island (125, 93, 47) for Remixing Catalhoyuk Day.

We’re getting some neat coverage; a writer for Archaeology magazine was out a couple of days ago, and I talked to the editor of the Second Life architecture blog today for a bit.

http://slurl.com/secondlife/Okapi/128/128/0

My name is “Clementine Glass” on there, for what it’s worth.