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Voices of XR: Giles Spence Morrow

Voices of XR: Giles Spence Morrow In-Person / Online

Digital Archaeology and the Metaverse: Collaborative Interpretation in Immersive Virtual Reality

With the advent of very high-resolution three-dimensional models via photogrammetric techniques as a primary method of archaeological documentation, the construction of immersive, high-fidelity simulacra is imminently within reach. This talk considers how the scale at which the human body interacts with immersive digital models are especially important for understanding the affordances and ergonomics of past things and places.

The implications of this isometry between archaeological objects of analysis and emerging capabilities to interact with them through digital surrogates in the present are manifold. By enabling interaction with objects and contexts in immersive virtual space, such observational experiences create in silico engagements that are repeatable, distributable, and collaborative. In particular, it is the collaborative capacity of this technology that we explore in this paper through the use of online immersive virtual reality (iVR). We use collaborative online iVR as a key instrument for enhancing understanding and reinterpreting the digital records of two archaeological sites under excavation in Peru. Our case studies present distinct cultural, geographic, and temporal contexts in the Andean region to illustrate the broad potential of iVR for archaeological hermeneutics. Through iVR frameworks, we engage with embodied reconsiderations of Catholic ritual spaces within the planned colonial town of Mawchu Llacta in the southern Peruvian highlands and the pre-Columbian site of Huaca Colorada on the north coast. Synchronous scalar experiences that privilege the affordances of architectural space within digital models create opportunities for embodied experience and collaborative dialogue. We argue that the capacity to digitally inhabit these places and manipulate materials holds subtle but profound epistemological and hermeneutic implications for archaeological knowledge construction.  

Dr. Spence Morrow is an anthropological archaeologist focused on the dynamics of state formation, social complexity, and human-environment coupled systems over long timespans in the Andean region of South America. His Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded graduate work at McGill University, Montréal and the University of Toronto employed quantitative computational approaches to the study of architecture and urban planning at the ancient sites of Tiwanaku, Bolivia and Huaca Colorada in the Jequetepeque Valley of Peru. Dr. Spence Morrow’s current work integrates emerging spatial technologies into archaeological fieldwork through the use of three-dimensional recording techniques at various scales of investigation ranging from regional topographic mapping using drones, site-level photogrammetric recording, to high-resolution three-dimensional modelling of recovered artifacts using structured light scanning. His research as a DSI Postdoctoral Fellow will innovate in several areas in computational archaeology and span multiple scales of analysis, from the interregional scale of settlement networks in ancient empires to the affordances of the built environment at the scales of individual subjects and communities. At each of these scales, these projects will work toward producing public facing and standards-based data sets, systems, and analytics exploiting fully immersive room-scale virtual and augmented reality environments. Projects utilizing these emerging interfaces will allow researchers to engage with spatial data in powerful new ways, from regional aerial surveys, to interactive photorealistic site and artifact models.

The Voices of XR speaker series is made possible by Kathy McMorran Murray and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship (NRT) program as part of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Training in the Science, Technology, and Applications of Augmented and Virtual Reality at the University of Rochester (#1922591).

Wednesday, April 10, 2024
2:00pm - 3:15pm
Time Zone:
Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
Studio X - Carlson 1st Floor
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