'Theoretical Approaches to Virtual Representations of Past Environments'.
In: AHRC ICT Methods Network seminar report. GOLDSMITHS COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON, United Kingdom.
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Abstract or Description
Computer graphics has become a popular way of interpreting past environments, for educational and entertainment value, and also as an aid to research. The use of three-dimensional computer modelling to create an image of a site or artefact has become an accepted means of communicating cultural heritage information.
Although computer graphics have been used in archaeology for about 20 or so years, and despite an early
awareness that this is an area strongly in need of critique and a theoretical basis, to date cohesive discussion has been limited. It seems to be only recently that we have seen representations of past environments being treated as a distinct research subject. A community is being forged with these historical and archaeological representations as the focus. We have moved away from creating virtual heritage merely because we can, from the idea that such representations are a way of depicting something for illustrative purposes, or for showing off new graphics techniques, or generating publicity for a site, for
example. Nowadays we are working on the representations because they give us new information; they are research tools in their own right.
Computer generated images are not subject to the same scrutiny that text invites, and given the selectivity of a dataset, the motivation behind the work and the inclusion of inference, the possibility of misinterpretation is likely to be high. However, a neutral virtual representation is unlikely, if not impossible.
Without any indication of the underlying motivation, we are left with images that are merely one subjective picture of the past.
Something that proves particularly difficult is how to provide context of an intangible nature, such as a social, temporal or even emotional interaction with - or reaction to - the representation. For example, many reconstructions are sterile, empty spaces, devoid of the people who would have built and used them. We need to look at ways that allow us to convey information outside of the physical depiction of a scene.
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