#TAG2013: Visualisation as Knowledge Creation – Session Summary

I’ve compiled together my notes and tweets from the Seeing, Doing, Thinking: Visualisation as Knowledge Creation session at the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference (#TAG2013) held in Bournemouth this week. I was planning to live blog, but the session was so engrossing that I am afraid I managed just a few tweets and scribbled thoughts in the end!

I was presenting a project that I have been working on with Jude Jones. She is the brains behind the whole thing, I have merely been helping with computational photography! The paper about the project has yet to be written, but we are busy plotting, so watch this space!

We were talking about the potential of RTI as a form of visualisation for reading the tomb of Dame Mary May which is situated in a small and very lovely church in Lavant, near Chichester, West Sussex.

More about that in a soon to be written blog post, but first I’ve copied in my tweets and accompanying notes from the session. These are scruffy at best, but at least they give an idea of the fantastic papers that we enjoyed.

The session organisers (Gareth Beale, Sara Perry and Catriona Cooper) maintain a blog which pulls together all of the various activities surrounding the Seeing, Thinking, Doing idea, the TAG2013 session being just one of these events, so do check out their blog for more information: http://seeingthinkingdoing.wordpress.com/

Tweets from Session

Paper abstracts here: http://seeingthinkingdoing.wordpress.com/tag-2013-bournemouth/

Session Introductions

We’re just starting in the #visualarchaeo session at #TAG2013. Visualisation and Archaeology. V exciting!

Rachel Opitz

RachelOpitz on #crowdsourcing Pictish stones: Online to real world. http://www.pictishpuzzle.co.uk  but you’ll need WebGL! #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

RachelOpitz talking about choice in viz. Discussing different types of #saliency for highlighting interpretation. #visualarchaeo

Mahiri Maxwell

MahiriMaxwell of #Glenmorangie at #NtlMuseumsScot. Starting with 3D visualisation as craft. Brilliant! #visualarchaeo  #TAG2013

James Taylor

JamesTaylor, @uniofyork. On digital recording as reflexive process. #catalhoyuk‘s stratigraphic sequence as testbed. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Jamie Hampson

JamieHampson touching on #IPinCH issues. Finding representations of #rockart in #SL#visualarchaeo #TAG2013 “Don’t just gaze and guess”.

JamieHampson: Manifestation rather than representation in #rockart. Considering rock surface & the paint being used. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

JamieHampson on rock art as a process. What is the ‘art’ in ‘rockart’? Considering orality as well as visuality. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

JamieHampson of @UWAnews on #occularcentrism in #rockart interp. ‘Reading’ #rockart as text. Is there a semantics? #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Matthew Harrison

@MattJ_Harrison on filtering data through visualisations and on translating visualisations. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

@MattJ_Harrison on viz of Fustat. Using topography (not neces cartographic) & topology (relationships & entities) #visualarchaeo #TAG2013


Q from discussion: Is visualisation a simplification or is it an augmentation to other data representation? #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

A shout out to @lparchaeology‘s multivocality of the record as part of discussion part 1 at #visualarchaeo #TAG2013 Yay guys!

So many faces on one screen. Enjoying the GoogleHangout at #visualarchaeo #TAG2013 pic.twitter.com/ojLpy8U5lI

My fav. bit of #visualarchaeo so far… @MattJ_Harrison on visualisation as a filter for data. #TAG2013

@GCBeale asking how we are publishing visualisations. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Sorin Hermon

Tablet as user interface btwn digital world & real world. Lots of tablet-love in #visualarchaeo this aft. #TAG2013 pic.twitter.com/UKDLHC2zDs

SorinHermon reminds us about the importance of including #paradata about the human processes, the interpretation. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

SorinHermon reiterates importance of the #LondonCharter for viz and of the portability & flexibility of #CIDOCCRM#visualarchaeo #TAG2013

SorinHermon on fuzzy logic and classification with ontologies #CIDOCCRM for quantifying reliability of a 3D model. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Neha Gupta

Additional info for post-session Googling:Neha is NehaGupta: http://cal.mcgill.ca/htdocs/index.php/who/neha-gupta … #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Neha on use of spatial approach partic. geovis of patterns to challenge monolithic govt control of cultural heritage #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Jude Jones and Nicole Beale

RTI is described by #culturalheritageimaging http://culturalheritageimaging.org  Watch @ArchCRG blog for MaryMay outputs. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Robin Skeates

RobinSkeates on SuzannePsalia’s use of archaeoengineering & 3Dviz 2 reflect multiple interpretations of Maltese site #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

RobinSkeates of @durham_uni on critiquing aesthetics & archaeo. Visualist bias of terminologies like ‘focus’ ‘view’ #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Alex Zambelli

Great images by @a_zambelli overlaying historical and contemporary architectures of the choreography of London Stone #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

@a_zambelli up now. The Moves of London Stone. VERY EXCITED about this talk. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Ian Dawson and Louisa Minkin

Enjoying the poetry of LouisaMinkin and @demondawson‘s presentation. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013 pic.twitter.com/1chnyPOInd

@demondawson & LouisaMinkin on the wonderful understatement of the magic of #photosculpture & on accidentaloutputs #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

The work that we did with @demondawson and LouisaMinkin is described in our #EVALondon paper: http://ewic.bcs.org/content/ConWebDoc/51037 … #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

@demondawson and LouisaMinkin now up. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013 pic.twitter.com/JR8slWzhd2


Importance of paradata for 3D viz. highlighted. #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

@demondawson on importance of having transparent decision making process 4 artwork making 4 backtracking & recreate #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

Erin on how incorporating multiple senses: sound is action & visual can b static. You need movement 4 noise creation #visualarchaeo #TAG2013

On subj of stone balls, AndyJones will talk tmw abt art practice as an alternate process of archaeological fieldwork #visualarchaeo #TAG2013


Art students, an archaeology store, and some cool technologies

This post originally appeared in the Basing House: Community, Archaeology & Technology (CAT) Project blog: http://basinghousecat.wordpress.com/

Photos Acknowledgements: All of the photos in this post were taken by Alick Cotterill, so a big thank-you to him for letting us include them in this post. 

Touring (*a small part of*) the Archaeology Collection stores

Last week I travelled up to the Hampshire County Council Museums Service Headquarters in Winchester to meet with a fab bunch of people. The Winchester School of Art staff and students had come to visit the Basing House archaeology collection, housed partly at the Winchester site and partly at Basing House, in order to learn about some new technologies.

We were planning to try to out pieces of kit for recording the artefacts from Basing House.

The day was a continuation from a project that we have been working on with Winchester School of Art to identify collaborations and opportunities for Archaeology and Art students by working together. We’ve been sharing skills, swapping data, and generally getting to know one another for a few months, and you can see what we’ve been up to over on the Archaeological Computing Research Group blog.

Archaeology PhD students spend the day at the Winchester School of Art print workshop: http://digitalhumanities.soton.ac.uk/blog/1314

Art students spend the day at the Archaeology Department’s Archaeological Computing Laboratory (now the Digital Humanities Distributed Laboratory) finding out about 3D technologies: http://digitalhumanities.soton.ac.uk/blog/

Highlight RTI

The first is a set of equipment that I have been using for a year or so as part of a project to record graveyard and cemetery headstones and church memorials with local history groups. The technology is called Highlight Reflectance Transformation Imaging, or Highlight RTI for short, and is a form of computational photography which allows you to take a series of photographs of an object and then compile them together into an interactive file where the light source can be manipulated in order to get better views of the object you’ve recorded. The project I’ve been working on has a blog here, where you can read all about what RTI is and how it works.

OuRTI project blog: http://ourti.org/

Here is an RTI that we made during the visit. This stone is not from Basing House, but was found at Manor Farm, Chalton and was found ‘under the lawn near the well’. Manor Farm has links back as far as the 13th century, although the provenance of this stone grafitti has not been confirmed.

An RTI from the day
An RTI from the day


The other technology is something that I haven’t had a chance to try out yet. Although we have similar equipment in the Archaeology Department, Winchester School of Art have recently procured a ZScanner. This is a fantastic piece of kit is a small handheld laser scanner that allows you to easily record a 3D record of an object in realtime. Here’s a picture of the ZScanner in action:

I haven’t seen the final results of the scans that the teams did on the day, but the real-time data that I saw on the laptop screen while they were trying the scanner out looked awesome. You really can just watch the object appear out of nowhere, with no yukky data processing before you get to see any results. The ZScanner really does promise to make recording objects in 3D a quick and easy task.

Here are some of Alick’s great ‘work in progress’ photos of the ZScanner in action:

Using the ZScanner to record one of the Basing House corbels.
The ZScanner in action


The students also sketched some objects from the collection, and I am really looking forward to seeing the results from their work. I think that they are going to be on display at the WSA World Book Day event, so if you can go along to that then I highly recommend it.

Sketching in the Archaeology Store

World Book Day Event

The event is on the 7th March, from 12-4pm, in the Rotunda on the campus of Winchester School of Art, and will include Skill Sharing, Stalls, Installation Events, and Cakes, as well as Multiples, Zines, Prints, Casts and Books on show and/or for exchange or sale.

Next Steps

There is obviously a lot of potential for the use of the above three methods for the recording of objects relating to Basing House, but also I think for the sharing of those objects. I’d like to investigate how the records of these objects can now be shared, so if you’d like to get involved in this, please do get in contact.

Urban Variation Conference

Last week Gareth and I travelled to Gothenburg in Sweden to present at the Urban Variation conference.  The conference website is here: http://conference.earlymoderntown.com/urban-variation/.  The conference was organised by the Early Modern Town Project team (find the University of Gothenburg project website, here; http://www.earlymoderntown.com/) and was attended by a multidisciplinary crowd of academics and professionals.

We met people interested in a huge variety of approaches to the Early Modern town. Topics presented included: the architectural traditions of city development, the spreading of language across countries through urban environments, the use of surveying to better understand the make-up of the city, and the relationship between the structure of a city and economical and socio-cultural factors.  There was much food for thought over the three days, particularly as we are planning an excavation at an Early Modern site ourselves this summer!

Our Presentation

We were at the conference to talk about the Re-imagining the British Memorial Project, an initiative to develop training methodologies for local history groups wishing to use new technologies to record church memorials. You can read more about the project here: http://ourti.org

The Technology Session

The conference organisers had placed our presentation in a day-long session that explored how technology could contribute to the study of the early modern town, and there were some fascinating talks covering other technologies.  I won’t describe them all here, as there is going to be a publication available soon, but you can read through the abstracts here: http://conference.earlymoderntown.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Abstracts.pdf

Presentations in the session included a project using a motion-sensing Microsoft Kinect alongside open source to create a reconstruction of a church interior, a description of the challenges faced by geophysical prospection in urban environments in Sweden, the use of RTI to record graffiti on Swedish churches with a view to creating a comprehensive database of transcriptions, and the use of Unity for exploring the historiography of the interpretation and records of an archaeological site through a 3D reconstruction.

Gareth stands behind a table in a lecture room. In front of him is a camera on a tripod. The camera is set up to take a R.T.I. and so there is also a flash gun, a pool ball and a remote control on the table.
Gareth explaining the mechanics of the RTI set-up.

Highlight RTI Workshop

In the afternoon, Gareth and I ran a workshop on using Highlight RTI to record details of structures in the urban environment.  We showed examples of related RTIs and had a troubleshooting Q&A for those planning to use the technique for their own research.

Thank-you to the Early Modern Town Project

The trip was fantastic and we’d like to extend a huge thank-you to the Early Modern Town Project who made the visit possible.

Follow the Project

The Early Modern Town Project is planning to develop a communication network based on the initial conference, so do visit their website to keep up to date with further work: http://www.earlymoderntown.com/


This blog post is available also on the ACRG website: http://blog.soton.ac.uk/acrg/blog/2872/

HighWireDTC helps with iRTI at #de2012

The HighWire team from Lancaster University, who are here at #de2012 have a stall, which amongst other great goodies is giving away red bouncy balls as a promotional idea.  We’ve just discovered (thanks to @graemeearl for the idea) that these balls are shiny enough to make a hack iRTI, using a camera phone and a flash from an additional phone.

Here’s the (acted only) proof:

The HighWireDTC team patiently helping us to demonstrate RTI using an iPhone and a bouncy ball. Thanks guys!

BIG THANKS to the @HighWireDTC team for this photo!

You can find out more about the doctoral training centre here: http://www.highwire.lancs.ac.uk/

The student-run site is here: http://highwire-dtc.co.uk/

You can find out how to do your own iPhone (other smartphones are available) RTI here: http://ourti.org/2012/05/14/iphone-rti/