7D What came first, the interface or the user? About reasoning and the illusiveness of interfaces in the practice of digital and virtual archaeology

Thomas Bremer, Arian Goren, Arie Kai-Browne

Mitigating archaeological knowledge to researchers as well as to the general public has dramatically shifted from paper to digital records. The quantum leap in computational power and advanced gadget technologies was rapidly picked up by archaeological practitioners exercising what is known as digital, virtual, and immersive archaeology using technologies based heavily on 3D processing simulation and visualisation software. The interest in the capabilities offered by these tools resonates also in various individual and collaborative works engaged in capturing and simulating artefacts and sites in 3D and Virtual Reality (VR). Furthermore, in the recent decade or two several attempts were made to articulate “best practice” guidelines, formulated in different initiatives (i.e. the London Charter, the Firenze Agenda, the Lund Agenda, Minerva’s Linked Heritage guidelines – just to name some). Despite genuine efforts and impressive advances in the field of 3D and VR simulations implementing archaeological records, still no fundamental methodological grounds are in agreement within the engaged community and exchange of opinions and experience continues to take place. Contributing to this discussion, this session wishes to focus on the role and usage of interfaces in the archaeological practice in the 3rd millennium, an aspect underrepresented in methodological discussions.

From keyboard through motion detectors to head-mounted displays – these aids and others are currently used or tested in contexts of 3D simulations of archaeological content. By and large their application depends on obvious factors such as funding, target audience, type of project, or purpose. However, an array of additional factors influence the choice of preferring an interface over another, and maybe even more important – the choice of interface has tremendous effect on the experience perceived by end-users. Various contemplations arise on the limits exhibited by interfaces, referring to mental, physical, cultural, ethnic, gender and other diversities of different types of persons. Other interests may concern platform-interface compatibility, or aspects related to consistency of applications and standardisation of protocols. These examples reflect on issues which are key to this discussion both conceptually in relating to the process of decision making as well as methodologically when concerning appropriate work-flows.

Keywords: Virtual archaeology, interfaces, digital work-flow, best practice

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