Wibbly, Wobbly, Timey, Wimey… Stuff

Posted on December 13, 2019


A nice wee session we filmed at tag. Enjoy the videos of the presentations:

Session Info

Computer games, computer science, TV and films, and virtual reality have an interesting and complex relationship with archaeology and conservation. Questions on ethics, capitalism, consumption, interactions with artefacts and heritage, and presentation of the past all arise from this intersection. In what ways can games, TV, and film be used not only as a form of education, but studied in relation to their materiality and merchandise in archaeological contexts? What are the ethical and epistemological ramifications of using computer science for conservation, heritage, and archaeological practice? Is virtual reality fundamentally affecting archaeology? This session is purposefully broad to invite a range of discussion on several issues and opportunities challenging archaeology’s relationship with consumerism and the digital economy today and for the future. Papers are welcome to explore the intersections from both theoretical and practical perspectives, with innovative methodologies being particularly appreciated.

Organisers: Caitlin Kitchener (University of York) and Alistair Galt


Worlds.net – The Digital Ruins of an Online Chatroom


The digital world is often one that is assumed to be fixed and unchanging. Once created, virtual representations of spaces will normally only change through deliberate intervention or simply vanish out of existence. There is little process of natural decay in the digital world. What ruins do exist are fixed examples, designed to be so, much like follies of 18th century landscape gardening. However, there can be exceptions to this rule, and the 3D online virtual chat room Worlds.net can be seen to be an example of this.
Worlds.net was launched in 1994 and its servers still run till this day. Its unique method of construction and its surprising longevity has created a process of decay and disintegration that could be argued to be akin to the real-world process of ruination. This process has in turn changed the meanings ascribed to this space and created a host of folklore and urban legends attributed to it. Though mostly abandoned, it has experienced an increase in popularity amongst amateur digital and video game archaeologists who have attempted to explore, archive and even recreate aspects of this remarkable virtual space.

Fred Craig (University of Manchester)

The Gold-plated Dinosaur: What can we do to improve the public’s idea of archaeology?


The questions we often get asked in archaeology are very simple: ‘Have you found any gold yet?’ and ‘Is that dinosaurs you’re looking for then?’ There is a general idea of archaeology in the mind of the general public but it is very often subsumed into the giant block of ‘history’. New ideas are never rapidly brought to the attention of the population, particularly in regard to identity, which is particularly tied into archaeology and the mind of the public. Is the media to blame for this, or are we ourselves as archaeologists not doing enough? There are new vehicles of communication out there for us to use to bring new information quickly to the wider public, but should we be going through individual channels or attempting to collate our communications?

Owen Lazzari

Anticipating the future of building information modelling & archaeological practice


This paper discusses the opportunities and pitfalls of adopting Building Information Modelling (BIM) for archaeological data. BIM 2.0 relies on high resolution data capture – Scan to BIM (i.e laser scanning, photogrammetry) to copy the world, and conversely to design the built environment with exact reference to virtual models, hence the slogan Build it Twice. Current archaeological practice makes use of these data capture techniques in various ways: classically to model historic buildings, but increasingly to record archaeological strata in order to model taphonomic sequences. Like earlier tools which archaeology has adopted from other disciplines (CAD, GIS programs) Building Information Modelling has the potential to shape future avenues of archaeological research. As archaeologists, we should question how BIM information is structured. BIM models are ‘culturally embedded forms of knowledge’; they are static, mechanistic and rooted in epistemologies of modern construction, engineering and project management. Are we accepting a utopia conceived by engineers and facilities managers? This paper will explore how we as archaeologists should challenge the epistemological framework which conceived BIM, and engage with this new technology in the fields of academic research and archaeological contracting with the aim of collaborating to create new Archaeological Information Models.

Jake Streatfield-James (Cotswold Archaeology)

A Hitchhiker’s (brief) Guide to the Ontology of the Digitisation of Archaeology


What is the difference between an interaction, or a transaction, with an archaeological object in real life and one based entirely in the digital domain? This paper seeks to answer this question by taking a philosophical standpoint. Rather like finding how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big space is, the ontology of digitising archaeology is rather daunting, so this paper will try to summarise the key points. Virtual archaeology has concentrated on the geometry and visual aspects of archaeological residues (Reilly 2014). Cyberspace presents a post-geographical and post-historical space where archaeology becomes merged with the present and the future. I will argue that the consumption of content through a digital medium (as opposed to an ‘analogue’ one) profoundly affects cultural heritage in ways which have not been thoroughly considered in archaeology, through multimediality, interactivity, and virtuality (De Mul 2010). Topics include the existential crisis of using personal assistants, simulations that could be confused with real objects, and the unstable nature of digital images, which all impact upon the consumption of cultural heritage in their own way, and challenge the assumption that ‘information that goes into databases is far too perfect and too often a perfect view of the world’ (Cripps 2012).

Alistair Galt

“Of course we’re safe, there’s a little shop” Collecting & Curating Pop Culture Merchandise


Caitlin Kitchener (University of York)
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