Sunday, 1 October 2017

3D modelling, reconstructions, and a 14th century tower in Japan

I’m looking forward to the upcoming session on October 16 that includes a paper on 3D digital models. I’ve been musing about the use of 3D digital modelling not so much as an analytical technique for archaeologists, but as an engagement technique with non-academic audiences.

I am going into the October 16 session with the notion that 3D digital modelling likely has value academically, particularly manipulating spatial relationships with granularity and perspectives not possible in the field. With respect to engagement, I suspect 3D digital modelling has at least some value, but is hampered by the powerful dimensions of “legitimacy” an original artifact or feature holds. I suggest insight into the potential for 3D digital models to engage the public (something we’ve come to realize archaeologists may be doing more and more) might be understood through consideration of 3D digital modelling as reconstructionism.

Reconstructions occur for many reasons, but I will say, as someone who has been on the ‘outside’ of archaeology for the last decade, much of the enchantments of the discipline come from the opportunity we have to see, hold, and experience the "authentic" past directly. Reconstructions don’t do it.

Consider the Chauvet Cave and two differently positioned articles by BBC and The Guardian:

The BBC piece is an inoffensive overview of the process artists went through to recreate the cave paintings for public consumption. By contrast, the Guardian article/opinion piece, as you’ll glean from the URL, is not so kind. The following quote is poignant for my proposition, particularly in its terminology:

“What a tantalising farce, to promise cave art and deliver only a simulation.”

What do you think? Is digital 3D modelling “reconstructionism”, at least with respect to public engagement and public expectations?

And finally:
I read some of Douglas Adams’ works a number of years ago and they keep popping up as I encounter ideas in this course. The excerpt in the following link is interesting enough in itself, but may also be a useful counterpoint to ideas of authenticity and legitimacy in engaging the archaeological record:

Ship of Theseus, anyone?


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