Can you help evaluate our multi-person VR experience?

Volunteers needed to assist with Virtual Reality case study for EMOTIVE Project…

EMOTIVE VR Experience
Partners on the EMOTIVE Project testing an early single-user version of the Çatalhöyük virtual reality experience. Photo by NOHO / Karolina Badzmierowska.

The EMOTIVE team, led by University of York MSc researcher Kristen O’Connor in collaboration with teams at INRIA in France, ATHENA in Greece, and CNR in Italy, has been developing a virtual reality (VR) experience of the archaeological site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey. We need your help!

While VR for heritage is a relatively young field, there are a number of common VR practices which we think detract from the overall user experience. For instance, heritage VR tends to place people alone in a visually-stunning but largely stale environment. These experiences do little to make archaeology and heritage more accessible to wider audiences, who perhaps want to do more than simply look. This is why we have designed a new take on heritage VR, focusing on a shared user experience in an environment of doing.

Our Çatalhöyük VR project is multi-player, allowing people who haven’t met before to explore and interact together at the virtual site. We have also used multiple stages of user feedback to inform the experience design. Currently in the last stage of development, we would like your help to provide input for the project’s final iteration. 

We are holding a Workshop at King’s Manor (Room K/G 60) on August 9, from 1pm, and we need a handful of volunteers. This workshop will involve a test between you and another volunteer, who will be joining the experience remotely from one of our partner sites abroad.

Volunteers should:

  • Be aged 14 and up.
  • Have used VR of any type before, at least once, and be comfortable using an HTC Vive (VR system).
  • Be comfortable testing a prototype VR experience which is still under development.
  • Be willing to meet new people, share something about yourself, and explore new concepts about archaeology together. Ideally, you are not employed in the heritage, archaeology, or museums sector.
  • Be willing to allow parts of your participation to be recorded, photographed, and observed. This information will be analysed to inform research on heritage VR, as well as to contribute to changes to the final release of the Çatalhöyük VR experience.

If you are interested to participate, or know of someone who might be, please can you contact the lead researcher on this project, Kristen O’Connor, by email (kristen.oconnor@york.ac.uk) before Tuesday, August 6.

Thank you!

New adventures! Moving on to Museum of London Archaeology – MOLA

From November 2019, I’ll be joining the MOLA team in London…

Screenshot of the top banner from the MOLA website, depicting archaeological specialists excavating an unidentified site.
Screenshot from MOLA Website. Read more about MOLA’s scope and activities.

I want to end the week by sharing with you an exciting piece of news that’s gone public today… **drum roll**

From November, I will be moving to London to join the incredible team at MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) in the role of Director of Research and Engagement. I am genuinely elated about this opportunity!!

The position will allow me to work with many of the best professionals in the sector – archaeologists, engagement experts, specialists in conservation, environment, community, design, visualisation, publication, digital media, and more – to grow the scope and reach of MOLA’s research and engagement activities.

There’s much to say about the position, about all the exciting things planned at MOLA, and about all the exciting things that MOLA can (and does) make possible for archaeology and heritage more broadly. For now, though, I’ll sign off to celebrate! I’m indebted to my colleagues, friends, mentors and students at the Department of Archaeology in York for giving me the chance to grow, teach, learn, research, laugh, play, test, evaluate, revise, and always strive for meaningful forms of success tailored to specific audiences and needs. This exciting opportunity for me is born of York’s community and its support of my teams’ work with many other communities around the world. Thank you.

Here’s to new adventures!

It’s Published! The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record

Inspiring action through archaeology’s emotive powers

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 17.50.23After presenting an overview last year, I’m really excited to say that my article on “The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record” has been published in European Journal of Archaeology (EJA)The EJA has an interesting feature that allows you to access the final published version online in read-only format (not available for download). I’ve also put the accepted version of the manuscript on the usual forums, including ResearchGate, and if you want a Word version to use with document readers, please email me.

Why Enchantment?

The gist of my argument is that I believe archaeology can change the world for the better through its inherent and highly distinctive capacity to generate wonder and enchantment among human beings.

As I summarise, there is a vast amount of evidence that robustly demonstrates these transformative potentials and their specific individual, local and broader impacts. There is also ample evidence on how exactly we might create situations that prime people for enchanting experiences.

Yet for the most part we aren’t applying this knowledge – or aren’t applying it well and critically. Where it is done, it’s almost always in relation to non-specialist public engagement. This misses the point that engagement activities grow out of primary data collection and interpretation, so if these primary practices are disenchanted, disenchanting, or otherwise devoid of affect, secondary efforts to engage people are far less likely to succeed to their full potential (if at all).

How do we ‘do’ enchantment?

I believe we can deliberately weave affective practices into all aspects of our archaeological methodologies and project designs, therein offering us a more contextual and dynamic model for doing, recording, interpreting, publicising and archiving archaeology.

This is not necessarily an easy or straightforward task, but I think we’ve proven it can work in terms of:

We are now investigating how we can revise typical recording tools (e.g., context sheets, photo logs), and archiving practices/infrastructure (e.g., metadata and descriptions, thesauri, ontologies) to fuel and support these enchantment efforts. Various initiatives are planned in the upcoming year or so – please stay tuned, and if you are willing to be involved, please do let me know.

Acknowledgements

I would like to send a massive THANK YOU to the editors of this particular issue of the EJA: Marta Díaz-Guardamino, Colleen Morgan, and Cate Frieman. I have never had a more positive, constructively thought-provoking review experience. The approach that these editors took in terms of whoever they recruited for my anonymous peer reviews, led me to feel some renewed hope for a process that I otherwise find mostly broken and disenchanting. My anonymous reviewers enabled me to think differently (rather than discouraging me from thinking), and this has helped to provide further inspiration. For instance, we’re involved in a lot of exciting things right now for EMOTIVE, including a VR experience, a dialogical experience with 3d replica artefacts, a group-based audio experience, and a study of culturally-specific responses to affect. More soon – and follow some of these adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

Risk

As a closing note, there are some wonderful papers in this issue of EJA, and I feel that Katherine Cook’s piece, “EmboDIYing Disruption: Queer, Feminist and Inclusive Digital Archaeologies”, gets at the crux of one of the issues that has severely affected our efforts at enchantment; namely, risk. Setting in place the measures to care for people – to ensure that any burden of risk is distributed – and to ensure institutions themselves invest in genuine structural change to support affective and inclusive practices (rather than obliging individuals or small-scale, time-limited projects to assume total responsibility for experimenting with these practices) is crucial. Cook offers some ideas on what is at stake and how we might negotiate risk, which really resonated with me.

Anyway, I appreciate your constructive criticism on my article if you’d be willing to share it.

The full reference is: Perry, Sara (2019) The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record. European Journal of Archaeology 22(3), 354-371.

Thank you!