There was one big problem with WAC 6 in UCD – too much stuff. We tried to get to as many presentations as we could. Of particular interest was the Archaeology in the Digital Age 2.0 theme. The overall focus of the theme was how archaeology is responding to the challenges of the digital age, and how the digital revolution is impacting on our discipline. Over time we’ll review some of the presentations we went to see (including the fulacht session) and some of the issues arising, starting with Shawn Grahams presentation on Second Life.
Shawns presentation – Electric archaeology: archaeology in and archaeology of ‘Second Life’ – was to have been presented live from SL, but there was no interweb connectivity in the room (no-one’s fault – but really, a digital archaeology theme where getting the interweb was not possible – tut, tut, UCD – and I can’t believe I just wrote the words ‘tut, tut’ – must be because I was in Dublin and their strange city ways have infected me, next thing you know I’ll be going to ‘rindstone’ via Galways ‘rindabites’). A video of Shawns presentation is available at his blog here. He discusses in detail the idea of using SL to ‘do’ archaeology and presents the application of the virtual world for teaching and experiencing archaeology.
Dec’s avatar in SL, lost over the ocean somewhere
SL is an internet-based virtual world video game where ‘residents’ can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade items and services with one another. At this stage in its development, SL has more than 4m residents and businesses and brands are already staking their claims and building their presences in this virtual market (although some commentators say that there’s only a 10% resident retention – ie.. daily loggers-on – and that corporate/business outlets can expect a mere 3 users a day).
So, what’s the point of SL? I can understand how some imaginative and creative type-people could have fun creating and building things, how and why Shawn has created his educational archaeology tool, and even the card gaming and slots, but the social aspect where virtual people float around and ‘party’ or whatever, just seems weird. In a way the place is a sort of 3D MyFace, another area of new media/new social networkingisation that I’m not getting. As of yet, the quality of the graphics still leave a little to be desired, and the whole thing is a bit clumsy and lacks a general focus.
Smoke rising from Çatalhöyük in Second Life
Okay – I just don’t understand second life. I’ve left two avatars behind there now, can’t find them, and couldn’t really be bothered. One is quietly floating above an ocean somewhere and the other is left standing at Çatalhöyük, staring into the middle distance forlornly, alone and unloved. I wandered about aimlessly for a while in there, ran away from strangers who bumped into my avatar and said ‘hello’, and quickly transported to the quietest place I could find for some bloody peace.
As to its uses in Archaeology, Shawns place (do a search in SL for Shawn Graham) demonstrates the possibilities for teaching and outreach, for presenting results and archaeological data. Although still somewhat clumsy (not in any way meaning to take away from the great work thats been done here), the Çatalhöyük place demonstrates the potential that exists for presenting the results of archaeological work (particularily in the context of spectacular sites like Çatalhöyük) – you can find Çatalhöyük in SL by teleporting to ‘OKAPI. And according to Discovery News (their writer Archaeorama also has a SL presence) Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities has decided to exploit the potential of virtual/SL Archaeology by building the first 3D model of Egypt’s oldest stepped pyramid (the Pyramid of Djoser).
Çatalhöyük from the air
However the problem still remains that these virtual sites (and the virtual world in general) often look the same, and feel clumsy, lifeless, and above all else, too clean. Oftentimes, they are just plain boring… but maybe that’s just me, I still refuse to ‘twitter’, get ‘LinkedIn’, meet friends on Bebo and you certainly won’t see me on MyFace.