The train journey on our way home took us from Tomar to Lisbon, a 2 hour journey. Our carriage turned into an extension of the conference, on which Vincent Paladino and his partner Leigh from New York, Dragos Gheorghiu and his partner from Bucharest, Paul Oomen from Amsterdam and Etienne Safa – France, joined Aileen and I. Vincent and I immersed in philosophical debate and shared our collective passion for music production and recording studio design and acoustics. Swapping anecdotes about New York and British punk rock of the late 70’s and 80’s of which we were both involved in our youths... oh and archaeoacoustics!
Upon arrival in Lisbon we disembarked and made our way to the nearest bar to discuss as a group amongst other things the role of digital media technologies in bringing archaeology and archaeoacoustics to life, at least in a virtual sense. This is also a medium a whole new generation understand and will no doubt develop and manipulate to help understand our wider role in the world. The addition of work digitally archived and rendered for future generations by current researchers in the field could have a significant impact on our future selves in helping to understand our origins, our development of culture and societies. This is rendered even more significant by the rate at which our current society and culture seems intent to consume the very earth from beneath our own feet, not to be too dramatic about it!
Dragos’ research is fascinating in this regard. Taking artefacts, locations containing reconstructed architecture and using actors in authentically created costumes; rendering these into 3D virtual walkthrough environments. I took great delight in looking through the book he has created as an accompaniment to the website. I put it to the group that a lot of the presentations and developments within the blooming field of archaeoacoustic research were down to recent advances in digital technology.
In 5 short years digital technologies have advanced at an exponential rate and we are now able to do things virtually in a way only previously dreamt of. The ability to record, document, archive and create is enhanced to a super human extent thanks to digital rendering. Dragos put forward his idea that ‘digital technology is the new shamanism’ – ‘it has the ability to transport us’. There is evidence that psychedelic drug use in shamanist ritual still practiced in some parts of the world today, release similar chemicals in the brain as experiencing an immersive gaming experience on an X Box! It may be argued that current technologies are passive for the participant, however I believe they will become creator/consumer friendly, and beyond my own feeble imaginings.
Vincent discussed the idea that ‘digital’ is derived from the word digit and likened this to hands and fingers manipulating the environment and materials. This of course is the perfect correlation and true meaning in context. It becomes and extension of our ability to create and also reminded me of the field trip visit to Macao museum of archaeology. The exhibits here were all displayed in the usual way under lit glass cabinets, the cabinets were in places of key exhibits overlaid with the outlines of hands working the artefact. Vincent’s thoughts made me instantly think of this series of artefact displays and the digits of the hands manipulating the materials into artefacts.
Etienne also acknowledged the importance of the new technology that enabled him to perfectly create in a repeatable fashion his renderings of prehistoric bone flutes; this only possible thanks to 3D printers. Etienne was not the only archaeoacoustics presenter to use or mention the potential of 3D printing in archaeology. Shea Trahan a New Orleans architect used computer generated algorithms to design a transcendental acoustic space which he modelled into 3D rendered models thanks to these now accessible and efficient printers.
Paul Ommen was one of the few voices during the conference seminar who opined regarding making archaeoacoustic research widely accessible and how we as a community make our findings and research of interest to the general public. This is a duty of the researcher after all and it will be through our manipulation of digital media that this can be achieved. Whether through VR technologies and immersive environmental simulations to enhanced performance pieces and interactive museum exhibits, many of us are already working in these fields directly or contributing to them in some way. Indeed the creation and existence of this website is an attempt to bridge the gap between academic research and a wider audience.
As a conference closer this impromptu gathering couldn't have been a more fitting end to Archaeoacoustics III.