Digital Worlds Episode 01 – The Iron Age Project.

Digital Worlds Episode 01 – The Iron Age Project.

This is the transcript to the above video, and includes links to the webpages and quotes mentioned in the narration.

Hi, and welcome to Digital Worlds – this is first in a series of videos exploring the more interesting aspects of gaming technology and how it can be applied to historical and archaeological reconstructions.

In this episode we take a look at an update to Daniel Westergren’s Iron Age Project and talk about how the archaeological community reacted to the early footage. The interview with Daniel over at Digital Digging has attracted well in excess of 12,000 visitors since it was posted a few days ago, and I’m pleased to say that on the whole the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. There were a couple of questions raised by the video though, and I thought I’d cover them here, because I think that not only are they pertinent, but that they also cancel each other out to a certain degree.

The first question was about the value of fly-through presentations, and the second question raised concerns that the complex nature of these reconstructions required high-performacne machines for people to interact with them, which rendered them somewhat exclusive. The matter of exclusion is something that occupies my thoughts a lot – the internet is the most powerful potential social leveller we’ve ever had, and it’s important to me that this aspect of it should be worked for at every opportunity.

But it’s equally important that we let the pioneers get on with the job, perhaps in the understanding that whatever territory they’re exploring now may not be suitable for the creaking suspension of the low-end machines of today, but may be smooth running for the phones of tomorrow. In this instance I got the impression that the exclusivity argument was related to academia’s current obsession with public engagement, an arena which is chock full of academics fiercely arguing the toss about hypothetical barriers, while failing to engage with anyone at all. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to think less in terms of public engagement, and concentrate more on academic engagement. Because like it or not, they’re the public too.

The atmosphere of the debate reminds me of that fabulous quote attributed to Sir Barnett Cocks;

‘A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.’

A similar observation was made by Stefaan Verhulst and neatly paraphrased in a Tweet from the publisher Tim O’Reilly;

‘Breakthroughs are driven by individuals/amateurs. But barriers are put up by “theory endorsing” institutions.’ – Stefaan Verhulst. Paraphrased in a Tweet from Tim O’Reilly.

A fly-though will already run on a phone, or the wheeziest laptop that still manages to draw breath, and will therefore include people who may shy away from resource hungry software. And as for interactivity, while films and videos may be classified as passive media, they, like an artfully arranged museum exhibit, will interact with the viewer on an emotional and intellectual level. To suggest that they are of a lesser value because you can’t click, poke, and prod them isn’t a particularly helpful observation, and, I think, fails to give them the credit they deserve.

On his website, Daniel makes it very clear that the Iron Age project has been developed with the idea of it becoming a game. The question of whether it will run satisfactorily on a low-end machine remains to be answered, but the presumption that it won’t is somewhat premature. The World of Warcraft, though graphically pleasing, certainly runs on low end systems, as does the ludicrously huge, beautiful and surprisingly accurate War Thunder.

If Daniel Westergren’s lovingly created micro-environments are nestled comfortably at one end of the scale, the immense macro-environments of War Thunder are at the other. Gaijin, the Russian software company responsible for the game, have created something quite remarkable, and this will be the subject of the next episode of Digital Worlds.

Hope you’ve enjoyed it, I know I’m certainly feeling ambivalent about the whole enterprise. On the off chance that you haven’t had enough, you can subscribe to the Digital Digging YouTube channel below. Links to websites mentioned in the video can be found in the comments section, along with links to our Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter accounts. We’ll also be posting a transcript for the hard of hearing, which will include links to all resources and quotes.

Should you be watching this as an embedded video, and don’t have access to the comments section on YouTube, I will hopefully have worked out how to embed links to appear here, about now.

Cheerio chaps – hope to see you next time.

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4 Responses

  1. Excellent points made in relation to academia’s obsession to with public engagement – furiously scribbled down in my own notebook for future saloon bar brawls!

  1. 25/03/2014

    […] Last time we took a stroll around Daniel Westergarden’s Digital version of the Swedish Iron Age. […]

  2. 15/12/2014

    go here for the greatest properly around

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