A Response to Huggett’s Manifesto.

Upon reading Jeremy Huggett’s article, A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology, one is struck by the way in which Huggett’s analysis of modern methods of digital archaeology are in a way, very far advanced. He understands digital archaeology and it’s processes as tools which are necessary to archaeological study, not an optional aside to it. Heavily focussing on the idea of the ‘New Aesthetic’ and digital culture studies, Huggett defines some of the benefits of digital archaeological methods, while also taking the few faults of it into account, without dismissing the methods.

Much like Huggett, we can see how the idea of the ‘New Aesthetic’ is arbitrary. It mainly focusses on the surface appearance and takes very little account of any meaningful dialogue, meaning that the importance of the artefact is lost in the aesthetic purpose of ‘seeing like a digital device’. Such issues regarding the New Aesthetic often implicate the digital archaeologists, who, as was mentioned in our class discussion, are often regarded as the ‘technical analyst’, thus demeaning the importance of the work of the digital archaeologist. Digital archaeologists are like the man in the middle; computer scientists don’t want them because they are only skilled in a certain area of computer science, and archaeologists don’t want them because they are not traditional archaeologists. However, Huggett makes a very valid argument which supports the idea of a digital archaeologist as a legitimate member of the body of archaeological research; as archaeologists are often extremely self-aware and involved in a highly interdisciplinary field, the concept of digital archaeology should not seem so alien to the traditionalists. However, as is common knowledge, people tend to dismiss that which they do not understand. Unlike traditionalists who wish to study the artefact, it’s history and it’s context, the digital archaeologist studies the digital tool which assess the artefact, and as these tools are still treated with superstition among traditionalists, it’s difficult for the digital archaeologist not to be implicated in the field.

In our class discussion, the topic regarding the position of the digital archaeology, and of digital humanities as a whole, came into play. Because of the aforementioned problems regarding perception of digital research tools, I think that the field of digital humanities will fade into wider humanities fields in the coming years. Even now, in the highly advanced technological sphere, traditional humanities fields still treat digital humanities as an alien concept. However, in twenty years, the field of digital humanities will no longer exist, as traditional humanities disciplines will begin to adopt the digital tools used in the digital humanities filed, and the digital humanities, which is currently a field in it’s own right, will become a set of tools which accompany traditional researchers, and have the digital humanities theory which will allow the field to be enveloped in the humanities, rather than being an aside feature of them. Therefore, I think that while Huggett’s arguments regarding digital archaeology may seem somewhat radical now, it is only a matter of time before they become commonplace within not just digital humanities, but within the wider spectrum of humanities research.

Works Cited
#dariahTeach, ‘My Digital Humanities: Part 1, #dariahTeach (YouTube channel), 2016.
Jeremy Huggett, A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology in ‘Open Archaeology’ 1 (2015) p 86–95.

Should Museums be Recreating the Past? Some Thoughts on the Idea of ‘The Aura of the Original’.

In the ‘Golden Age of heritage visualisations’ (Jeffrey 144), the idea of the aura is central to the discussion of both the merits and the disadvantages of digital representation and its implications on our reception of digitally created copies of cultural artefacts. In Sinclair’s ‘Should museums be re-creating the past?’ the author discusses the merits of digital representation for the purposes of research and academic advancement, but also argues that the idea of rebuilding the past for consumption by the public serves to ‘mask the genuine, if unpalatable, past; erasing the gaps, the voids, the ruination that bears witness to traumatic events’ (Sinclair). Jeffrey discusses some of the same merits in relation to the study and reproducibility of heritage, but highlights the fact that the idea of ‘the aura of the original’ is lost in digital representations, but a new aura is formed through the relationships of those involved in the process of reproducibility.

Personally, I am inclined to argue that the aura is lost in the process of reproducibility, but the consumer of the replicated artefact creates their own concept of the aura through their consumption and distribution of their experience of that replicated object. While discussing digital reproducibility in our AFF601 class on the theories and methods of digital humanities with Natalie Harrower, the director of the Digital Repository of Ireland, she discussed a recent trip to an art gallery. She recounted how she, like many other consumers of culture, wanted to experience the familiar works and then photograph them so that she could have her own digital representation of the original. The difference between Ms Harrower’s experience and the experience of the consumer viewing the replicated model is represented in Ms Harrower’s own involvement in the creation of her replicated copy. We see this every day in the Louvre museum in Paris, for example. Almost every modern consumer knows what Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ looks like, and yet when they have the opportunity to marvel at the real painting, they decide to take a picture and create their own digital copy of the painting.

Through this idea of the consumers’ desire to create their own ‘identity’ with the original aura and to become a part of the process of distribution and recording of the original, it is my judgement that the aura of the original is an important aspect of the consumption of digital heritage, but that sometimes it is necessary to disregard the desire for the original to allow for its protection, given that so many consumers wish to create their own experience of the original anyway, through their own reconceptualization of the artefact. The protection of the original goes hand in hand with the recreation of the replicated model because, as Jeffrey states, the digital copy has no way of degrading and it is infinitely reproducible. To answer Sinclair’s question, I do believe that museums should be recreating the past for the purpose of preserving it because even though we are a society that is constantly in want of authenticity, without the digital preservation, there is a very good chance that the authentic would not be there for us to appreciate at all.

Works Cited
Stuart Jeffrey, ‘Challenging Heritage Visualisation: Beauty, Aura and Democratisation’ in Open Archaeology (2015), vol.1, pp. 144-152.
Mark Sinclair, ‘Should Museums Be Re-creating the Past?, on Creative Review (2016).

Michael Weinberg’s ‘3D Scanning: A World Without Copyright’ – a reflection.

Michael Weinberg’s paper, 3D Scanning: A World Without Copyright, makes a very articulated argument about copyright law in relation to 3D scanning, but it is still difficult to pinpoint any definitive laws which protect the ownership of 3-dimensional scans. Using the history of copyright in relation to photography (most notably a photograph of Oscar Wilde), Weinberg’s theory about copyright holds a solid argument about artistic licensing in both photography and 3D scanning, but this theory has ambiguous terms, so it is difficult to understand when put into practice.

Weinberg’s theory argues that copyright laws change for 3D scans depending on whether the scan is representative or expressive. While both scans are derived from an original source material such as a piece of pottery or a sculpture, it is the post-production stage which determines if the copyright protection of the item is still adhered to (Weinberg 7). According to Weinberg’s theory, there is much less copyright protection for the owner of a representative 3D scan than for the owner of an expressive 3D scan, due to the changes that have taken place under artistic licence between the scanning of the item and the printing of the finished 3D model. A representative scan for example, is created to represent the original item as much as possible. Therefore, the scan would, by definition, not hold any copyright laws. In comparison, an expressive scan is altered in post-production, and if the new item is noticeably different from the original, it can be argued that the changes which occurred may afford the new item some copyright protection (Weinberg 10).

This is also seen in Charles Cronin’s article Possession Is 99% of the Law: 3D Printing, Public Domain Cultural Artifacts and Copyright (2016), which highlights the ambiguity of copyright law, taking examples of materials from the estate of the late Henry Moore. A 2-dimensional copy of a painting or photograph, or a 3-dimensional copy of a sculpture from Moore’s collection, for example, are afforded copyright protection by his estate’s right of ownership. By comparison, a 2-dimensional copy of a sculpture is more difficult to argue about under copyright, because it is a thoroughly different medium and dimension to the original sculpture (Cronin 6). However, Cronin’s argument, as the title suggests, also delves into the deeper problem of possession that exists with the ownership of artefacts. While the owners of ancient artefacts have no legal claim over the production of them, their ownership is a sufficient means of maintaining copyright and protecting the artefacts from reproduction for as long as they own them, even if the artefacts are held and displayed within the public domain, such as privately-owned museums or state houses.

After reflecting on the arguments of both Michael Weinberg and Charles Cronin, one can come to the conclusion that there is much speculation and ambiguity surrounding the copyright protection of 3-dimensional copies of materials. I am inclined to agree with Weinberg’s theory about expressive scans being afforded their own copyright as long as they are noticeably different from the original material. On the other hand, it is difficult to agree with the rule that possession is 99% of the law, as perpetrated by Cronin, especially in relation to artefacts in the public domain.

Works Cited
Cronin, Charles, ‘Possession is 99% of the Law: 3D Printing, Public Domain Cultural Artefacts and Copyright’ in Legal Studies Research Papers Series, vol. 16, no. 13, 2016, pp.1-22
Weinberg, Micheal, ‘3D Scanning: A World Without Copyright’ in Shapeways, 2016, pp.1-16.