Date of Graduation

5-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

David Fredrick

Committee Member

Fred Limp

Second Committee Member

Daniel Levine

Abstract

The important role of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) as a medium of interaction with technology is well established in the world of media design, but has not received significant attention in the field of virtual archaeology. GUIs provide interactive capabilities and contextual information for 3D content such as structure-from-motion (SFM) models, and can represent the difference between "raw data" and thoughtful, skilled scholarly publications. This project explores the implications of a GUI created with the game engine Unity 3D (Unity) for a series of SFM models recorded at a structure known as the Area B House at the ancient central Italian city of Gabii. Unity's capabilities as a game engine allow for an embodied, reflexive, and design-centered approach to archaeological content. This presents some challenges to a strict interpretation of the New Materialism, and its call for "unmediated" interaction with archaeological things. On the contrary, design oriented thinking encourages us to balance human factors (i.e., the user experience) with the representations of things that constitute our content. The Area B House interface thus embraces a "symmetrical" view of materiality, wherein humans and things are equally important agents in entangled, recursive relationships. This is particularly true as entanglement, a key concept in symmetrical archaeology, manifests in the "emergent systems" of gameplay that arise out of embodied experiences with archaeological sites. This thesis will situate the theoretical implications of our interface within some longstanding debates about archaeological objectivity, representation, and communication.

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