Discussion Questions

Points for consideration:

Various initiatives launched over the last few years (including the recently-completed, English Heritage-sponsored Visualisation in Archaeology (VIA) project*) have testified to a series of tensions and challenges confronting those who engage with archaeological visualisation. We would like to consider to what extent you find yourself negotiating with these issues, how you’ve worked to manage them, and where you see visualisation practice (in the sense of producing, circulating, receiving, and remixing visual media) taking both archaeologists themselves and archaeological audiences in the future.

  • What do you consider the biggest challenges facing the archaeological visualisation community in the upcoming years?
  • Does the archaeological community embrace or encourage creativity and innovation in (visual) practice? If so, how so? If not, how might these be cultivated?
  • To what extent do existing publication formats constrain or enable visual practice?
  • How can the widespread desire for impressive, impactful visual outputs be balanced with intellectual integrity? Are stunning imagery and rigorous research objectives mutually exclusive?
  • What do we know about archaeology’s viewing audiences? Who is interested in our work? How are they interpreting our outputs? What are they looking for? What inspires them?
  • What is the relationship between ‘new’ and ‘old’ media in archaeology? What are the most powerful visual tools today (new or old) for facilitating archaeological research?
  • How are we training the next generations of archaeological specialists? Should we be concerned about a loss of visual skillsets? How can we equip students to productively make and use visual media?

Our ‘Seeing, Thinking, Doing’ TAG USA session on Friday, 10 May will attend to some of these questions, but we would like to extend the debate beyond the conference itself. With that in mind, we invite anyone to comment below or tweet us on @visualarchaeo with your views on the past, present and future of archaeological visualisation.

Where do we go next? How can we continue to nurture a vibrant community of visual researchers and practitioners in archaeology? Who can we look to for inspiration?

We look forward to hearing your views!

*Link here to 20082009 and 2010 VIA workshop reports.


7 thoughts on “Discussion Questions

  1. Very best wishes on your Seeing, Thinking, Doing conference. I work from the premise that the eye does not simply receive light, nor does the ear simply receive sound; the eye and ear (and other sensory receptors) are integrated in comprehending reality. From this, the network behind the building of understanding and knowledge interpretively attend to pattern recognition and emotive content. Technologies for archaeology that encompass the entire network of comprehension are welcome.
    David J. Knight, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

  2. Can visualizations be used to promote a more critical assessment of how we know about the past and avoid appearing to represent ‘what really happened in the past’?

  3. In reply to Katina Lllios’ question:… I am an archaeological reconstruction artist who when commissioned (and it is often) to show the past ‘as it really was’, am the first to laugh it off. As any artist knows, and I certainly have many times advocated at Visualisation in Archaeology discussion, pictures are made of paint, art is about the artist, and a truthful representation of reality, no, neither should ever claim to be.

    On the other hand, pictures are a good way of addressing issues the written report might gloss over: they may more effectively go into details that are essentially sensory, they are very useful in showing scale, and pictures also force thinking on all intermediate stages (such as construction, function, even decorative values) of a reconstruction.

    You can’t paint a picture of ‘I don’t know’.

    • I think you *can* ‘paint a picture of “I don’t know”‘. I think archaeologists do it all the time. Because we don’t have a direct connection to the past ‘reconstructions’ are compelled to be propositional – they are accumulations of fragments of knowledge brought together to make a whole which has never been. Other disciplines do it more consciously – architects for example make drawings and and models which are all about ‘I don’t know’ – they ‘find out’ through these ‘sketch’ drawings. More later today!

  4. Reading through the session outline and these comments has made we wonder and worry: Where does the term ‘visualisation’ come from? What does it mean? What are the consequences of using it?

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