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JISC 3D Visualisation in the Arts Network

3DVisA Bulletin, Issue 4, March 2008

ISSN 1751-8962 (Print)
ISSN 1751-8970 (Online)

Editorial by Anna Bentkowska-Kafel

'We are merely using technology as a means of throwing around ideas.' This statement demonstrates the remarkable confidence (comparable to the ease of sketching on the back of an envelope) with which young researchers are applying specialist visualisation as a robust research tool in the Arts and Humanities. This kind of self-assurance in their own technical proficiency is redefining the notion of interdisciplinary research. Academic and technological expertise, once two distinct areas of specialty, are now found integrated seamlessly in modern scholarship by students with a profound understanding of both. The quote is from Matt Jones, a M.Sc. student in Archaeological Computing: Virtual Pasts, at the University of Southampton. Matt is the recipient of the 3DVisA Student Award 2007 for his essay, included in this issue, describing the development of a computer model of Southampton as it may have looked in 1454. Matt made a considerable effort to document the reliability of his visualisation. A panel of experts in 3D visualisation was unanimous in commending his transparent interpretation of historical sources, archaeological data and the extant fabric of the town, and pointing out the gaps in this evidence. It was primarily his account of the decision making process and Matt’s method of portraying levels of certainty in the information conveyed by the model that secured him the first prize. He provided this record alongside the model. The next step for the developers of heritage visualisations is to ensure that this information is made an integral part of the model and is accessible at any time, as postulated by the London Charter.

Continuing the debate on the veracity of representation and experience of virtual reality, this Bulletin brings two new instalments. Although all contributors to date agree that the process of digital recreation of the past is solely a matter of interpretation, there is considerable controversy in understanding the issues involved. Hilary Canavan presents a stark defence of the Cerveteri Reborn project (3DVisA Bulletin, March 2007) and generally, any of today's visualisation created 'in a scholarly or sensitive' manner. Her piece responds to what she considers to be a completely misguided commentary by the philosopher, Hanna Buczynska-Garewicz (3DVisA Bulletin, September 2007), in which the latter deplores the impoverishment of human experience of time and space in virtual reconstructions of cultural heritage. An equally heated argument can be found in Michael Greenhalgh's reluctance to accept a computer model of extant architecture as a substitute for photography that would justify the expense and labour of 3D recording and modelling. The article by Annemarie La Pensée provides expert insights into the complexities of one such technology, namely 3D laser scanning, used in the documentation and virtual reconstruction of artefacts. She describes three projects carried out by Conservation Technologies, National Museums Liverpool, in collaboration with other cultural institutions, and explains how this technology works. Having demonstrated the high level of accuracy in the non-contact capture of 3D data and the veracity of visualisation, Annemarie’s concluding remark cautions against the subjectivity of this method of recording.

As a Virtual Reality artist, Daria Tsoupikova is free from many constraints of heritage visualisation. Her practice-based research, exemplified by the Rutopia installations, is mainly concerned with the study of the aesthetics and narratives of the traditional Russian folk art that inspires her art. The digital medium enhances her painterly technique, adding to the exuberance of colour and form. The immersive space of the CAVE®, at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has opened up Rutopia 2 to interactive exploration of its imaginary worlds, while the use of fast networks has enabled Daria to develop this artwork into a global participatory installation.

I hope you will enjoy reading the articles which appear here in abridged form. Full text versions and more illustrations are available online. This issue marks the end of the two-year funding for 3DVisA research activities from the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). I wish to thank all the authors for their engaging and stimulating contributions to this forum. The 3DVisA Network development activities continue until April 2009 in partnership with the UK-wide scientific Visualization Support Network, a highlight of which will be the second joint VizNET and 3DVisA conference, to be held at the University of Loughborough on 7-9 May 2008.

© 3DVisA and Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, 2008.

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