December 12, 2013 § 2 Comments
This past week our new(isn) provost challenged the University of North Dakota community to consider the role of MOOCs in higher education in the state. As he undoubtedly knows, the University of North Dakota has long considered remote and “correspondence learning” a part of its mission. The sparsely settled character of the state and the concentration of resources in the eastern Red River valley has pushed the two large universities in the state to innovate in how they reach diverse stakeholders across the state. Despite that tradition, when the idea of MOOCs were floated on campus several years ago (the ambitious, but still born UND for Free initiative), the reception was chilly and skeptical.
How times have changed!
As the provost noted, 2012 was called, by some, the Year of the MOOC (and “recent” coverage… ahem… trumpeted MOOC’s transformative potential). MOOCs offer the potential to expose anyone with an internet connection to the faculty and at least some of the resources available at UND. They have obvious potential to continue the tradition of serving the state by providing the underserved communities of the Northern Plains with quality content. It is hardly surprising that our neighbors to the north at the University of Manitoba were the pioneers in the development of this form of learning. The platform and approach offers a unique opportunity to communicate what’s good about the University of North Dakota to a larger regional and national audience.
If UND became involved in MOOCs, however, it would cost money, time, and expertise. Whether we rely on existing MOOC platforms or develop our own, deploying technical knowledge, production savvy, and faculty expertise will necessarily detract from other priorities at the university. At a time when the university is scaling back its commitments to programs as the UND Writers Conference and core infrastructure like the library, shifting resources to MOOCs will likely leave faculty with a mixed message and suggest a confused set of priorities.
The concern will be, of course, how this kind of outreach program will produce a return-on-investment that will benefit the entire campus community and replenish the resources from which it draws (i.e. faculty time, access to research materials, and technical support). We all know that during tough economic times, we have to do more with less, but it seems hard to imagine entering the competitive MOOC market will result in a net gain for the core mission of the university. Even if we insist on calling ourselves Exceptional (and I’ve come to recognize that we mean exceptional in a good way!) and maybe on a good day believe it, we will have to deliver a product that can compete with truly remarkable institutions in the U.S.
Perhaps there is something that I don’t see or understand. So I think that the next step will be for the administration to bring a sustainable business plan to various stakeholders and provide clear evidence for how this initiative will benefit the campus community. (This is a bit of an inside joke. The administration has been asking faculty initiatives to produce sustainable business plans for the last 6 months, so I thought it would be clever to ask them to do the same thing.)
The flip side of the MOOC equation is whether instruction at UND could benefit by collaborating with MOOC providers. This has famously caused controversy at other institutions, but there are benefits to leveraging resources from other schools and institutions to engooden student experience at our own. On a simple level, bringing world renown faculty into UND classrooms and dorm rooms via the internet is remarkably appealing. In fact, the Working Group in Digital and New Media has a lecture series where we use Skype (or similar technology) to bring in world renown speakers on issues of digital humanities, history, and new media studies. At the same time, this use of technology serves to complement existing conversations and commitments on campus rather than replacing them.
Using MOOCs on campus has generated a good bit of consternation and several major players in the movement have backed away from continuing to develop them. A well-grounded fear is that without substantial on-campus support MOOCs risks viewing education as a passive process and see education as a commodity to be consumed rather than a process requiring engagement. A perspective that encourages a passive consumption of content or even content providers runs the risk of setting higher education back 100 years.
On the other hand, MOOCs may serve as a kind of dynamic textbook that supplements classroom instruction and existing course material. Many faculty members already prepare substantial new and multimedia components to their classes or leverage existing multimedia content on the web or provided by traditional textbook publishers. The issues with this approach to using MOOCs are largely practical and logistical. For example, MOOCs may or may not follow the traditional semester schedule used at UND. They may or may not make course material available prior to the start of the course to allow MOOC instruction to be integrated into local course design.
This is all stuff that most people who have spent more than a moment thinking about MOOCs knows.
What I think is most exciting about MOOCs is this.
MOOCs, like so much in higher education, are unstable creatures. They’ve yet to endure the full scale scrutiny of a rapacious and soul-killing assessocracy that has come to push university education into the bleak reality of modernity. The variety, practicality, curiosity, and frivolity of MOOCs are part of their charm. They embrace the concept that education can be life changing, important, and a goal unto itself and that student outcomes can vary widely and be totally unrecognized. It is interesting to see the divergence between, on the one hand, education leaders who see MOOCs as ripe for the plucking and search for ways to monetize, commodify, assess, and validate these rather untamed creations. And, on the other hand, the emergence of a diverse community around MOOCs that harkens back to radically democratized (and largely romanticized) ideals of education where people come as they are to learn what they want. Perhaps some of the appeal of the MOOC is the realization that the industrial models of higher education no longer suit the post-industrial models of contemporary capitalism.
(As an aside, I remember a former dean who wanted desperately to convert our offices in O’Kelly Hall into perfectly uniform corporate cubicles at the very moment when the most dynamic and innovative companies in the U.S. had offices that looked like a combination of artist studios and frat houses.)
If the formal American university is designed to create productive little capitalists who do work on schedule and on specification. The MOOC began as the ad hoc answer to the failing of this system. Students came to MOOCs to get what they wanted; instructors taught MOOCs in the confidence that what they said and did had value. The relationship between these two ideals did not require assessment or validation. Students, like their Medieval predecessors, voted with their feet (and clicks); Professors did what they have done from time immemorial, professed. Engagement was voluntary, outcomes varied, learning styles, patterns, and practices swirled. Even something as simple a plagiarism (which must be seen as the product of the professionalization of the disciplines) could be tolerated because the stakes and accountability were purely personal.
So, the most exciting about MOOCs is that beneath the hype, there are the seeds of a radical departure from the relentless move toward modernity (typified by the assessocracy where we “assess everything and call it peace”). MOOCs are the wild west and require a tremendous amount of trust and faith on the part of the administration to cultivate this foreign body in their well-oiled industrial education factory. Completion rates, learning outcomes, student engagement, efficiency studies, and other conceptual tools run counter to the radically democratized spirit of the MOOC.
December 11, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Over Thanksgiving I had a chance to do some more fun reading and tucked into Veronica Della Dora’s Imagining Mount Athos (University of Virginia Press 2011). The book examines how outsiders have imagined the Holy Mountain from antiquity until modern times. The Mt. Athos peninsula, as many readers of this blog will know, has been a self governing monastic preserve since the 9th century A.D., and today continues this tradition as the home to 20 monastic houses and assorted hermitages. Women are banned from the peninsula as are most modern technologies and visitors who might distract the monks for their life of work, worship and pious contemplation.
Della Dora, as a woman writing on Athos, embraces perhaps the essential characteristics of how the Mt. Athos peninsula has appeared through the ages by emphasizing the tendency to see it as a place of exclusion and seclusion. She is careful to note that this is not the only Athos, but the one that she has chosen to write about. She is able, then, to analyze a powerfully imagined Athos that stood outside of an Athos familiar to its monastic residents.
The book begins with a treatment of ancient Athos and explores how ancient views of the mountainous peninsula shaped its appearance throughout the Renaissance. She explores the influence of Dinocrates legendary proposal to turn Mt. Athos into a massive statue of Alexander the Great providing for newly founded communities at its base. This Dinocratic Athos formed an important backdrop to numerous Renaissance sculpture who saw in it both the power of man to shape nature and, like Xerxes famed canal, a testimony to human arrogance.
This Mythic Athos may have extended to an Athonite influence in Thomas More’s 18th century Utopia as well as earlier views of the peninsula as an edenic paradise. The prominence and wealth of the monastic communities that come to dot this peninsula become points of reference and meaning with the mountain itself retreating to become a dramatic backdrop. Of particular note is the significance of Athos in Russian pious imagination and iconography.
The second half of the book ventures onto the peninsula itself with discussions of how the outside world discovered and coveted the architecture, libraries, and even landscapes of this secluded monastic preserve. The brief appearance of Athos at the margins of the Grand Tour and the arrival of travelers and scholars like David Talbot Rice and Robert Byron opened the treasures of Athos to the world at a moment when Byzantium was seeping back into academic and popular consciousness. The place of Athos as a cultural preserve influenced views of it as a scientific preserve and attracted scientists as well as Byzantinists to study the indigenous plant life and geology.
The scholarly and popular veneration of Athos ensured that it stood as an island in the stream of global geopolitics from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Balkan Wars, and the German invasion in World War II. The arrival of the Nazi’s in Greece in 1941 and the well-known Dölger expedition to Athos demonstrates the intersection of geopolitics and scholarship. The willingness of Athonite monks to both recognize the German authority in Greece and to work to shepherd allied soldiers to Turkey and Egypt reveals the delicate balance and vulnerable position that Athos occupied in the modern world. This is a theme engaged again in the epilogue where Della Dora discusses the world of Athos as part of the European Union. The role of Athonite monasteries in the economic crisis in Greece is well-known.
Books like this are remarkable in our age of academic specialization. Della Dora has followed the imagine Mt. Athos from the ancient texts to Renaissance sculpture, Early Modern science, Russian icon painting, and beyond. As someone who struggles to master my little section of the academic universe, books like this are really humbling.
At the same time, I’d be remiss not to note that the absence of the monks of Athos left me a bit disappointed. In Della Dora’s work, Athos is largely imagined by the West with very little influence from its closest neighbors in Thessaloniki or among the monks themselves. While, on the one hand, even such sweeping studies as these need some boundaries, on the other hand, the book feel strangely Orientalizing in its perspective. Its as if Athos as a space of exclusion and seclusion prevented the monks themselves from shaping how others perceived it. This is surely not the case as Athonite monks exerted a profound influence on the ecclesiastical and monastic world across both the Eastern Mediterranean and the world. It would be valuable to understand how their imagining of Athos compares.
December 10, 2013 § 1 Comment
Last week, I offered a post on “Why I blog?” in the run-up to the 2014 Society for American Archaeology panel on blogging at their annual meeting. The responses were collated and commented on over at Doug’s Archaeology blog where he has also offered us another round of prompts.
Here are Doug’s prompts:
The theme is the good, the bad, and the ugly of blogging. Blog about one or all of these themes. Instructions on how to participate can be found here.
The Good- what has been good about blogging? I know some people in their ‘why blogging’ posts mentioned creating networks and getting asked to talk on a subject. But take this to the next level, anything and everything positive about blogging, share your stories. You could even share what you hope blogging will do for you in the future.
The Bad- lots of people mention it feels like talking to brick wall sometimes when you blog. No one comments on posts or very few people do. What are your disappointments with blogging? What are your frustrations? What do you hate about blogging? What would you like to see changed about blogging?
The Ugly- I know Chris at RAS will mention the time he got fired for blogging about archaeology. It is your worst experiences with blogging- trolls, getting fired, etc.
I’m pleased enough to observe that most of my blogging experiences have been good with few in the other two categories, but I’ll offer a few comments none the less…
1. Writing. As I mentioned in my “why I blog” post last week, the best about blogging for me is that it has helped me learn to write more quickly and efficiently. With all the disruptions present in a traditional academic career (students, meetings, colleagues, books, et c.), there is nothing more rewarding than having an hour or so to write each morning with a cup of coffee. I have found that this writing time sets the tone for my entire day. More mornings last a little longer and I am far more willing to set aside some pressing task and spend some time on a long term project.
2. Contact. Like many bloggers, I’ll complain that my blog has not necessary attracted the boisterous community of readers who fill my comments with untold riches. That being said, there are few things more gratifying than getting an email from a reader letting me know that my blog has brought something to their attention. This is perhaps the most heartwarming of those stories.
3. A Platform. Recently, I have been more willing to turn my blog over to other people, and I’ve come to realize that my blog is both an outlet for my writing, but can be used as a platform to bring the writing of other people to a wider audience. Since part of what gives a blog exposure on the web is a regular (and constant) stream of good content (good being adjusted to the standards of the interwebs), a regularly updated blog tends to attract more attention than one that is only updated occasionally. My blog is updated five days a week, and it is immensely gratifying to be able to use my blogging habit to provide a platform for other people’s writing.
4. Citation and Credit. I’ve never asked for any direct credit for my blog at my institution. I think I could probably get some kind of credit for it, but since the blog is part of my workflow, it seems unnecessary to me. Occasionally, someone cites my blog in a traditional academic publication, and this is incredibly gratifying because it means that someone sees my work here as a meaningful contribution to the scholarly conversation.
1. Comments. As with all bloggers, I wish there were more comments on my blog. I also wish that panels at conferences were more vibrant and interactive. I wish that academic journals published responses to articles more frequently and that scholars took the time (and had the opportunity) to respond to reviews of their books. But, honestly, these things rarely happen. The optimist in me sees something in academics that pushes them to read, process, and look ahead leaving little time to engage in conversations. The pessimist in me recognizes that we tend to see reading – even on the web – as a largely passive exercise.
2. Am I a Blogger? There are still people who think that blogging is silly and a waste of time. This is a perspective that I generally respect except when blogging is wrenched from its place within an evolving workflow of academic production. In other words, if blogging is a waste of time, then surely conference papers are every bit as much of a waste of time. To this I could add other forms of informal writing (some festschrifts, non-peer reviewed proceedings, correspondences, working papers, and popular publications) that have long held a place in the accepted typology of academic productions. Moreover, the idea that a blogger is somehow less serious as a scholar because they produce a regular stream writing in a digital format, relies on a view of writing and production that is not only outdated, but also privileges elitist forms of scholarly communication.
I began blogging when the long shadow of scholarly skepticism was still retreating. People still conceived of bloggers, like forthright Bitch Ph.D., as transgressive rebels who were willing to put their academic career and intellectual credentials on the line to speak truth to power. Earnest commentators urged scholars to consider carefully their decision to blog because it might jeopardize their academic or professional careers. I am sure that there are still those who feel that expressing themselves at all on a blog is intrinsically risky.
I’ll admit that every now and then, I do get a tingle that tells me not to blog something. Sometimes, like when I eagerly announced the discovery of an Early Christian basilica on the hill of Vigla at our site on Cyprus (it was a Hellenistic fortified settlement), I probably should have followed those instincts. In other cases, like when I referred to the Regular Program at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens as “approach[ing] a kind of hazing”, I will stand by my critique, but admit that it wasn’t the nicest thing to say while they were funding my term as a professor there. On the other hand, there are things that I haven’t blogged about when I really wanted to.
Maybe this kind of tingly blogger-sense has kept me sheltered from the ugly side of blogging. Maybe it is the memory of the early blogging days when we feared the new medium and the free flow of information that it promised. Maybe there are only two kinds of bloggers: those who have quit blogging and those who haven’t quit yet. Whatever the reason, I’ve yet to encounter the ugly side of blogging.
December 9, 2013 § Leave a Comment
One of the most engaging aspects of my research in North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch is observing the flexible relationship between “domestic space” and work space.
Over the past few weeks, I have been working on an article length summary of our research on the archaeology of workforce housing in the Bakken. As part of that project, I have considered the way in which workforce housing both reinforces an ideas of domestic space that emerged over the course of the late 19th and 20th century process of industrialization and defies these norms.
As I have blogged about before, many Type 1 camps attempt to reinforce a strict division between domestic and work by creating spaces for workers to shed their heavy and dirty work clothing before entering the facility, by preventing work activities from taking place in the camp itself or in its parking lot, and by providing food, recreation, and sleeping space away from the work site.
The less formally constructed Type 2 camps, on the other hand, show more flexibility. In some cases the workers live on the work site itself and their mobile homes and RVs are interspersed with truck parking and other industrial spaces. To make this point more clear, I created digital plans of a couple camps.
The first camp is a Type 2 camp documented in August 2012 and numbered MC9. Here is my illustration:
It is based on an NAIP (National Agricultural Imagery Program) aerial photo from the summer of 2012 and a site visit. Kostis Kourelis also illustrated this camp (see the occidented plan below). What is interesting is the from high in the air, the RV units of the workers are indistinguishable from the trucks arrayed around the worksite. You can see that I have identified units 1 and 2 on Kostis’s map as “Trucks”, but they’re actually RVs. By the time the aerial photo that I used was taken unit 7 had moved and unit 8 was hidden by a shelter belt.
The differences between our sketch plans provide a nice – if somewhat accidental – commentary on the blurry relationship between domestic space and work space in the Bakken, and despite the differences, both plans show RVs arrayed around a truck maintenance shop. The shop itself is carved out of a farm and the farmer lives just to the south of the work area. The employees of the shop live in RVs and have access to showers, bathrooms, and even a laundry in the shop.
This is not an isolated example. Another truck maintenance site that we documented in the winter of 2013 shows a similar arrangement of RVs around workspace.
Here the RV park clearly expanded beyond merely serving the needs to the truck maintenance shop. In fact, this sketch, based on the 2012 NAIP aerial photographs only captures the southern section of the camp which has subsequently expanded to the northeast to include another group of RVs. Unlike the neatly arranged rows of units in some of the larger RV parks, this man camp showed a good bit of variation in the orientation of the units. Note the orientation of units in the southeastern corner of the camp. This may reflect the organic development of the camp or the rather limited space available for owners to back their units up to the plumbing and electrical hook ups.
Whatever the reason for the rather helter-skelter arrangement, this camp is similar to MC9 in that the units are arrayed around a work site blurring the distinction between traditional domestic space and work space. In a historical context, man camps have always been strange features. On the one hand, camps for workers engaged in resource extraction typically were set apart from the actual site of mining. The separation between the space of the mine and the bunks of workers echoed the division between the factory and the bedroom communities sometimes funded by factory owners. The more developed mining camps maintained a division between management and workers that mimicked the division between worker housing and management housing in urban communities and further emphasizing the role of status and class in the formation of domestic enclaves.
Pre-industrial models of domestic life, however, often blurred the distinction between domestic space and the space of work. The organization of labor by household and the shared space of shops and living quarters spoke to the artisan’s ownership and control of all aspect of production. While it would be difficult to make this argument for the average Type 2 camp, it seems likely that the close relationship of the worker housing to the place of work represented a closer relationship between the worker’s skills and tools and employment.
December 6, 2013 § 1 Comment
It’s cold this morning. On the other hand, the snow has stopped and we had a northern lights show last night. So the world is trying to make it up to us.
There is only one more week of classes, so the end is near. This weekend, I have some grading, some grant writing, and some cricket watching. If your weekend is similar, maybe you can make some time for some quick hits and varia?
- Two new saints in the Orthodox Church. St. Meletios of Lardos was a dream archaeologist.
- An island settlement in Late Antiquity.
- Roman ingots being destroyed in the search for “dark matter”.
- Roman gold mines in Romania put the brakes (for now) on development.
- The Society for American Archaeology continues to try to get National Geographic Society’s attention about their show Diggers (pdf).
- Anna Comnena’s birthday.
- What screens wants.
- Some Delaware history. On December 8, 1963, Pan Am flight 214 crashed on the Delaware-Maryland border near Elkton killing all 81 on board. Here’s what the site looks like now. Here’s what the emergency call sounded like.
- A distance education video timeline.
- On his 44th birthday, Jay-Z ranks his solo albums.
- It’s like they have visited my house: Grado Labs + Bushmills headphones.
- Do you think a Kickstarter to buy me this would work?
- How can anyone not support this?
- I usually don’t have much of a sense of humor, but I have to spot these two things: First, check out how Twitter stuff can escalate. And, then, this funny little collection of texts written in the style of undergraduate papers.
- Some tech trends in higher ed.
- What I’m reading: A ton of student papers (and a few random articles).
- What I’m listening to: Lucky Dube, Prisoner; Lucky Dube, Slave.
December 5, 2013 § 1 Comment
This is the twelfth in a series of posts exploring 3D modeling in Mediterranean and European archaeology. For more in this series click here. We hope these papers will start a discussion either in the comments of the blog or on Twitter using the #3DMedArch hashtag.
Maurizio Forte, Duke University
Digital documentation and visualization in archaeology include digital applications of computer graphic rendering and simulation involving data, models and spatial information produced by different integrated technologies of data capturing, virtual reconstruction and visual communication (Forte 2010; Forte and Kurillo 2010; Forte and Siliotti 1997; Forte 2012). In the last decade the use of digital technologies on archaeological sites has exponentially grown at different scales and for different purposes: GIS, mapping, 3D modeling, remote sensing applications and digital photogrammetry. A really revolutionary approach in the archaeological documentation (on and off site) has been the introduction of image modeling techniques (with software like, for example, Photomodeler and Photoscan) for 3D data recording by DSLR cameras. In short, the archaeological models are generated by the overlapping of a sequence of high-resolution digital photos taken by uncalibrated cameras (Forte 2012). The relevant increasing of digital resolution in SLR cameras (over 15-20 mp) has also allowed the achievement of very interesting results in terms of 3D accuracy, performance and speed of data processing. In fact, the application of entry-level, intra-site 3D-technologies has fostered the community of archaeologists to consider 3D not just an “expensive” option, but a very affordable facility, also for the production of additional documentation, such as maps, sections, profiles, volumetric analyses and so on with a high level of accuracy. For example, our tests at Çatalhöyük have demonstrated that in a 3D model of a Neolithic house (around 25 square meters) (generated by the software Photoscan) the accuracy is about 4-5 mm (Forte 2012).
Çatalhöyük is a Neolithic site located in Central Anatolia and it is considered one of the “first cities of the world” (fig.1). Excavated by James Mellart from the ‘60s and then from Ian Hodder from the 80s, Çatalhöyük has been for a long time as a special place for the experimental introduction of new methodologies and theoretical approaches in archaeology such as multivocality, post-processualism and, more recently, cyber-archaeology and new media (Hodder 1989; Hodder 1990; Hodder 2006; Hodder, et al. 2007). The site, dating from 7400-6000 B.C is made up of two mounds: Çatalhöyük East and Çatalhöyük West. Çatalhöyük East consists of 21m of Neolithic deposits. Çatalhöyük West is almost exclusively Chalcolithic (6000-5500 B.C.), located in a different position and showing evident social-cultural changes in the settlement and territory organization. The two mounds span 2000 years and show an impressive urban continuity though time whereas the house is the social-cultural-urban pattern of the system: ritual, domestic and symbolic space in the same time.
Çatalhöyük was discovered in the 1950s by the British archaeologist James Mellaart (Mellaart 1967) and it was the largest known Neolithic site in the Near East at that time. Important events such as the domestication of plants, invention of pottery in connection with the large size and dense occupation of the settlement, as well as the spectacular wall paintings and other art forms that were uncovered inside the houses made it very famous internationally. The houses had no doors to the outside (main entrance from the roof), and the inhabitants buried their dead under the floors of their platforms. Despite several decades of study and excavation, the diachronic urban development of the site is still very controversial and it needs more studies and analyses in relation with the landscape and the symbolic, ritual and social use of the buildings. The site was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2012.
The 3D-Digging Project
The 3D-Digging Project started at Çatalhöyük in 2009 with the intent to digitally record in 3D all the archaeological stratigraphy in some areas of excavation using an integrated approach (different devices and technologies) for virtually reconstructing all the process in desktop and virtual reality systems. The 3D documentation is not yet a standard in archaeology but it can change the hermeneutic outcome of an excavation since it is able to create new interpretations and research questions because of 3D connections, simulations and interactive modeling. A first experiment of 3D recording of ritual figurines by optical scanner (Nextengine; figs.2-3) started in 2009: the models were originally recorded in semi-automatic way by the scanner, then optimized in Meshlab and finally printed in three dimension (fig.3).
In this preliminary phase the project was aimed at the comparison and study of different kinds of laser scanners (based on different technologies and settings) in order to understand their performance in relation to the project goals (see table below).
The first questions/issues arising from this analysis were mainly focused on the level of accuracy and scale of representation for the models. Optical and time of flight scanners, in fact, have different performance and technical features. Optical scanners work in a range of microns (about 300,000 pts per second, the Minolta), time of flight scanners in a range of mm/cm.
In the 3D-Digging Project the strategy was to make comparative testing involving optical, time of flight, and shift-phase scanners (see table 1) in order to understand the performance of the scanners and accuracy in relation to archaeological information. For example, details of stratigraphic surface or micro-morphologies are not visible by naked eye or with other means. For archaeological stratigraphy we have tested the Minolta 910 (optical), Trimble GX (time of flight), Trimble FX (shift-phase) and Faro Focus 3D (shift-phase).
In 2010 the first experiment was undertaken with the Minolta 910 for recording all the excavation layers in a “midden” area (fig.4). “Midden” areas at Çatalhöyük correspond to accumulation of rubbish outside the living areas and can indicate social/collective activities made for different scopes (construction works, dedicated place for rubbish, etc.). The initial idea was to use an optical-triangulation scanner (Minolta 910) for stratigraphy in order to visualize and better study micro-layers (Shillito L.-M 2011), since they are not easily identifiable with an autopsic experience (figs.5-7).
In 2011, we have adopted two systems working simultaneously for data recording: a new time of shift-phase scanner (Trimble FX) and a combination of camera based software of computer vision and image modeling (Photoscan, stereoscan, Meshlab). The Trimble FX is a time of shift-phase scanner able to generate 216000 pt/sec and with a 360 x 270* field of view; it is a very fast and effective scanner with the capacity to generate meshes during data recording, so that to save time in the phase of post processing (fig. 8). The strategy in the documentation process was to record simultaneously all the layers/units in the sequence of excavation using laser scanning and computer vision. At the end of the season we have generated 8 different models of the phases of excavation by computer vision (3D camera image modeling, figs. 9-10) and as well by laser scanning (figs.11-13). All the 3D models were available on daily basis for interactive visualization and spatial analysis. The scheme below shows the principal features and differences between the two systems; laser scanning requires a longer post-processing but it produces higher quality of data. Computer vision allows to have immediate results and to follow the excavation process in 3D day by day but not with the same geometrical evidence of the laser scanner.
The digital workflow for the computer vision processing is based on 1) photos alignment; 2) construction of the geometry (meshes) 3) texturing and ortophoto generation. The accuracy by computer vision measured in 2011 models was around 5 mm. The use of georeferenced targets on site was implemented for the automatic georeferencing of 3D models with the excavation grid. In that way all the 3D information recorded during the excavation is perfectly oriented and integrated with all the 2D maps, GIS layers and archeological data. The speed of this process has allowed daily discussions on the interpretation of the archaeological stratigraphy and on 3D spatial relations between layers, structures and phases of excavation. In addition, the excavation of an entire building (B.89) has allowed testing the system in one single context so that to produce a 3D multilayered model of stratigraphy related to an entire building. The excavation of a Neolithic house is an ideal case study for testing 3D data recording and puzzling of a multi-stratigraphic context since it is possible to visualize and investigate post-depositional and depositional phases related to the life and the abandonment of a building (construction works, foundations, rituals, domestic activities and so on). Moreover, the B89 is a quite big house, well-preserved and with a very interesting stratigraphy (fig.9).
The current workflow allows every team managing independently almost all the phases of digital data recording on site and to interpret the data directly in lab at the end of the day: by computer vision, 3D sketching, 3D visualization. The software used for 3D modeling is Meshlab, Photoscan, 3D Studio Max; for 2D mapping is ArcGIS, QGIS, OpenJump, Autocad, Meshmixer. All the 3D models are georeferenced and exportable in different spatial software and platforms. After 3 years of fieldwork, the digital workflow is robust and consistent: computer vision (shape from modeling) is undoubtedly the most effective, user friendly and robust technique in intra-site contexts. The fact that involves the use of standard digital cameras (from 8 to 24 Mpixels) and very low cost and open source software (Photoscan and Meshlab, QGIS), makes all the pipeline very portable and usable sharing the same technologies. At Çatalhöyük computer vision is typically used at intra-site level for data recoding of buildings, layers, units, features and burials (fig.14), while laser scanning also at inter-site scale.
More specifically, the 2012 fieldwork season have involved different scales of data recording: artifacts by optical scanner (microns accuracy); stratigraphic units by computer vision (accuracy: 0.5-1 cm); buildings and features by time of phase laser scanning (accuracy: 3-5 mm); large scale models (South and North shelters) by time of phase laser scanners (0.5 cm).
The systematic use of computer vision and 2D photogrammetry for data recording of burials was extremely successful for the osteologists’ team coordinated by Scott Haddow (fig.14). Indeed, in 2012 it was possible to record and reconstruct in 3D twenty-one burials with related 2D drawing of skeletons and other features (fig.14). In this case the digital workflow involves computer vision for the generation of 3D models, 2D and 3D georectification, 2D drawing of the burials in CAD (Librecad) and finally their implementation in ArcGIS as digital maps (raster-vector) and 3D models (3ds).
For the building 89, 3D data recording has followed the procedure of single context excavation: every 3D model was generated in relation to the identification and classification of stratigraphic units. Finally, all the 3D models of B89 were aligned and georeferenced (total 25 phases in 2011-2012) in Meshlab and ArcGIS.
The DiVE – Duke Immersive Visualization Environment
The digital workflow established during the excavation was able to generate a relevant amount of data in the format of point clouds, 3D models, textures and metadata, all georeferenced in the same space. Interaction and use of 3D models are crucial for data interpretation on site but also during a simulation process during a lab session. A quite complicated issue concerns how it is possible to make all this digital process completely reversible. In other words: how can we browse layers, stratigraphy and artifacts in a virtual reality system? How can an immersive embodiment be used for a virtual digging? During the excavation all the data have been processed and visualized in Meshlab: this software includes in fact many tools for data processing, meshing, merging and visualization by layers. However a higher level of 3D processing was needed in order to better study the 3D connections of models and layers.
With this premise in mind, all the models made by laser scanners and computer vision have been optimized and implemented for the DiVE, the Duke Immersive Visualization Environment at Duke University (fig.15). The DiVE is a research and education facility dedicated to exploring techniques of immersion and interaction: it is the fourth 6-sided CAVE-like system in the United States (figs.15). The DiVE is a 3m x 3m x 3m stereoscopic rear projected room with head and hand tracking and real time computer graphics. All six surfaces – the four walls, the ceiling and the floor – are used as screens onto which computer graphics are displayed. The DiVE offers a fully immersive experience to the user, who literally walks into the virtual world. The user is surrounded by the display and can interact with virtual objects: stereo glasses provide depth perception, and a handheld “wand” controls navigation and virtual object manipulation. This digital immersive embodiment increases the sense of presence of the user in the virtual domain, fostering the identification of affordances and 3D connections, otherwise non visible in the real world.
The entire B.89 was virtually reconstructed in the immersive system including all the stratigraphic layers excavated in 2011-12. The handheld “wand” controls navigation allows interacting and browsing layers, models and artifacts in 3D, using a 3D menu. The tracking system connected with stereo glasses drives the visualization according to the head position of the user. In this way, the virtual exploration augments the sense of presence in the virtual environment. The first tests inside the DiVE concerning the visualization and interaction of the Neolithic house, B89, have been quite successful: the 6 sided CAVE rescale the virtual building in a very realistic way, giving the users a very immersive sense of space and the feeling to be in the mid of the excavation “pod”. The interaction with different layers and stratigraphy “from inside” creates a specific “archaeological” embodiment, where the users can discuss and see data/models in transparency (fig.15). In addition, the B89 was also virtually reconstructed as it is assumed it was originally with plaster, floor, decorations, roof and interior architecture. The virtual reconstruction overlays the structures of the building as they appear today by laser scanning recording. In this way it is possible to compare the potential original physiognomy of the building with the structures explored during the excavation.
Since the DiVE can host even 6-7 people simultaneously, it is possible to organize presentation for small classes or research working groups. Indeed, at Duke we started to schedule small groups and classes discussions about principles of archaeological stratigraphy, architectural features of Neolithic houses, depositional and post-depositional events, also in preparation to the summer fieldwork.
Trimble Navigation, Scott Haddow, Stefano Campana, Gianfranco Morelli and all our students for their dedication and efforts in the excavation and in the participation to the 3D-Digging Project. Special thanks to Elisa Biancifiori, Francesca Paino and Matteo Pilati for their contributions to the success of the project.
First experiment of optical scanners (Minolta 910) on 3D stratigraphy : Fabrizio Galeazzi, UC Merced
Time of flight laser scanning data recording coordinated by Nicola Lercari, Duke University
Virtual preliminary reconstruction of B89 made by Rebecca Lai, Duke University
Computer vision and shape from modeling coordinated by Nicolo’ Dell’Unto, Lund University.
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December 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This past month I was invited (well, that’s too strong a word) to contribute to the conversation that was initiated at the Doug’s Archaeology blog on blogging in archaeology in the run-up to the 2014 Society of American Archaeology conference in Austin, Texas. I’m also talking to our new graduate students today in our graduate methods class on the broad topic of digital history. So, I’ve been thinking through some of these issues lately.
For my post today, I’ll follow Doug’s simple, two question prompt.
Why did you start your blog?
Why are you still blogging?
I feel like I’ve answered these questions quite a few times on this blog. In fact, Colleen Morgan ran a similar blog carnival in 2011 (here’s a nice wrap-up). At the same time, I’ll also admit that my ideas on the second question are always changing, so it probably doesn’t hurt to think about them again.
I started this blog to publicize my research at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus, and it gradually expanded to provide a broad overview of my research and teaching interests. My hope was both to keep various stakeholders appraised of my work, but also to introduce my work to folks who might not be familiar with the activities of a junior scholar on an obscure island.
After only a few months, I found that blogging had become a vital part of my daily workflow. Even to this day, the first thing I do every morning is sit at the keyboard and write this blog. On most days, I’ve hit send – typos and all – before the sun has come up over the North Dakota prairie. My blog has incubated most of the ideas I’ve had for articles, hosted working drafts of these papers, and announced their final publications. My workflow has become routine, public, and more transparent through the medium of blogging. The almost instant gratification that came from watching the number of site visits and page views increase and the spread of a global readership was a powerful incentive to write.
At the same time, I realized that my blog not only let people know about my work, but also provided a venue for new media projects (like podcasts and videos), a node in our social media outlets (as I slowly embraced Facebook and Twitter and blogging platforms like WordPress have become more socially engaged), and a platform to share the remarkable work of my colleagues and to debate issues. I think that recognizing the dynamism of the blogging platform and the opportunity for it to be more than just a place for me to express my own ideas led me to begin to understand blogging as gateway to a larger exploration of digital publication.
In the winter of 2013, we managed to bring a long running conversation on the topic of Punk Archaeology to a different audience as the topic of a conferences which is now in production as an “analogue” publication. A series of blog posts on 3D imaging in Mediterranean archaeology is poised to become another short, analogue/digital publication in the winter of 2014. As the blogging platform has matured and become more an acceptable part of both academic production and consumption, the line between formal academic publication and “merely” blogging has become increasingly blurred. Blogging is no longer just a stage in the production of an academic text, perhaps falling just sort of a conference paper, it has become a venue for any form of scholarly production from the intensely provisional to the finalized.
Most importantly, it can carry along with this transformation a spirit of transparency and immediacy. The number of readers, the location of readers, and the pace at which readers engage and distribute content all become more trackable than ever before. While this runs the risk of contributing to the growing “assessocracy” who have come to exert such a strong influence over American universities, it also has the opportunity to bring academic writers more directly involved in understanding their broader audience and community.
Archaeology has mass appeal and presents an avenue for academics to engage a diverse, global audience on the larger humanities (and social science) project. As economic pressures, changing social expectations of education, and new cultural paradigms have come to challenge the role of the humanities in Western society, scholars cannot turn their backs of opportunities to speak to larger audiences about the complex contributions of the humanities in the global conversation.