A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action Please?

In Huggett’s article A Manifesto for an Introspective Digital Archaeology, he quotes Floridi who uses the analogy of a tree when talking about the advancement of the use of technology in the humanities. He states ‘the technology tree which has grown so rapidly that it’s conceptual, ethical and cultural roots have become shallow and weak, threatening the health of the whole.’ (Huggett 88) The analogy I feel perfectly visualizes the many debates which surround both digital archaeology and by association digital humanities. Digital Humanities is interdisciplinary and as a result needs both the methodological approach and the technological aspect to thrive. Traditionally as a subject archaeology has (since the 60s and 70s) always used technology, so the “digital” aspect to the subject is nothing new. Now as there has been such technological advancements so too have we taken it in our stride and adapted to these. It is now used in every aspect of an archaeologists life however what Huggett argues in his article is there isn’t enough conversation around this topic, the impacts that these new tools are having on every stage in the process of ‘knowledge creation’ (Huggett 89) There is the argument here that we need to think beyond the tool and critically look inwards at the subject of Digital Archaeology and they types of tools that are used and the impacts they have on the outcomes of our research. This continuous focus on the tools being used, their construction and operation can sometimes leave less focus on the objects being examined.   There has been perhaps a lack of conversation surrounding the self-criticism of digital archaeology which has left criticism and accusations about digital/ technological fetishism. He argues ‘the objective is to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of these technologies within their disciplinary context, and in the process advance the exercise of Digital Archaeology. (Huggett)

elvis presley

In contrast to this argument Costopolous argues in Digital Archaeology Is Here (and Has Been for a While) that there is essentially too much talk and not enough action when it comes to digital archaeology. He argues that archaeologists going “digital” is certainly not a new concept and it is now ingrained in the very fabric of the subject. Costopolous even goes so far as to say that he is embarrassed by the amount of “sterile” meetings which he has attended about the digital turn in archaeology and as a result digital humanities with very little result to show for it. He suggests an alternative to all this debate and discussion, action. Many advancements have been made in the field, as we know, but these are advancements are happening outside of this constant debate. Of course with these advancements, as with all academia, there are going to be challenges and difficulties like standardisation, copyright, ethics etc… These are certainly not new challenges and they come part and parcel with both traditional archaeology and the humanities. Costopolous argues that instead of critiquing these constantly we as digital archaeologists need to move forward with our work and not let these discussions impede on the work itself.

Although I agree with both sides of the argument I would like to go back to the analogy that Huggett mentioned of the technology tree. The ‘shallow and weak cultural, conceptional and ethical roots.’(Huggett 88). It is the very nature of the humanities and by association archaeologists to have these self reflecting, critically analysing theoretical conversations, it is probably the grounding characteristics of the subject. To skip over this or to not have these detailed conversations, in essence, takes out one of the core elements of what it means to be a student of the humanities. Perhaps, like Costopolous argues, some of these conversations seem meaningless compared to the practical work that is being done and potential to what could be done? This is also a valid point, however I truly believe that in this field one cannot be done without the other. We need this self reflecting theoretical approach to the digital before we progress.  These conversations, I believe, need to happen as it lays the very groundwork from where digital humanities and archaeology have originated.


Costopoulos, Andre, ‘Digital Archeology Is Here (and Has Been for a While)’ Frontiers in Digital Archaeology 3 (2016). https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fdigh.2016.00004/full December 2017.

Huggett, Jeremy, ‘A manifesto for an introspective digital archaeology’. Open Archaeology, 1/1 (2015): 86-95. https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/opar.2014.1.issue-1/opar-2015-0002/opar-2015-0002.xml December 2017

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The migration of the aura and how we determine what is a good or bad copy.

This article by Latour and Lowe is an argument against Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Reproduction and instead explores the idea of the original piece and how the aura from the original flows through its copies. The ‘original’ and all the copies and reproductions that come along with it Latour describe as being the trajectory, and in this article Latour looks to investigate not whether an object is “the original or merely a copy?” (Latour 4) but instead “is it well or badly reproduced?”.(Latour)  This, he argues is all based on the quality, conservation, continuation, sustenance and appropriation of the original. He argues that ‘facsimilies, especially those relying on complex digital techniques, are the most fruitful way to explore the original and even help re-define what originality actually is’(Latour). Contrary to popular belief there is nothing inferior to a copy and to be the original means to be the ‘origin’ of in a long lineage. That something which does not have a number of reproductions or copies is seen to be ‘sterile or barren’(Latour). Or as von Duuglas-Ittu  states ‘the aura of the original is actually produced by the very weight of its copies, as these copies become the evidence of its originary profusion’ (von Duuglas-Ittu). As a result of this Latour argues that by only looking at the original piece of work is not sufficient and that to truly understand the greatness or aura of the object you need to also include all the successive versions of the object. They even go so far as to say that if we stop reproducing copies then the original is at stake and may even disappear.

With this being said however Latour also argues in this article that for a copy of a piece to be part of the originals trajectory it must meet certain criteria. This he believes is what separates a good reproduction from a bad one and thus one which may take on some of the aura from the original. These include availability, being close to the original location as possible, and finally that it must have surface features. This last point here about surface features is quite an important one to Latour for example, with a piece of artwork a copy must show the layers of paint that went into its production as opposed to what he calls a ‘sterile photograph’.

However a point to look at with this argument and something which was brought up by von Duuglas-Ittu and his discussion of Latour, is that a large portion of this article is Latour arguing that the original, is the original because of the huge pressure applied to it by its copies. Is a photograph then in this sense not a copy? A copy which by all regard could be included in the trajectory of the original. Using the example in Latour’s piece about the Ambassadors copy, how the visitor going to view this piece was disconcerted that the copy had a flat surface and that the colours were too bright. This however is just one person’s opinion on it and in this circumstance they believed it to be a bad copy and thus completely void of any trace of the originals “aura”. This with most things in life is subjective and what we feel to be a good or bad reproduction and how it holds meaning for us is all a personal opinion. Although I do agree with Latour that an original is the origin in a long line of successive copies and that these copies need to be taken into consideration, I cannot get behind the idea that there can be a good or bad copy and that one should be included in the trajectory and one should not. These opinions are left to the viewer and the meaning or somebody’s emotional response to a copy again is a personal one. Using the same example from Latour’s piece on the photograph of the Ambassadors any other visitor could view this “sterile and barren” photograph and take meaning from it and like the visitors did in San Giorgio they may be ‘overcome with emotion’. If you want to call it aura or not this is definitely somebody’s own personal response to the piece and they themselves will decide how much value they place in it.


Latour, Bruno. Lowe, Adam. The migration of the aura or how to explore through its facsimilies. Switching Codes. 2010 Pp. 1-14

von Duuglas-Ittu, Kevin. The Flatness of Latour’s Concept of Origin and Holbein’s The Ambassadors. WordPress March 2009, retrieved October 2017 https://kvond.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/the-flatness-of-latours-concept-of-origin-and-holbeins-the-ambassadors/#respond

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Comparing Data Modelling Techniques

In the age of ‘Big Data’, one where we are drowning in information from corporations, media, the world wide web etc… there has to be a way to structure this data in the information age. Companies are beginning to recognize that semantics is very important for the systems to communicate with each other and also with people who run them. A data model is then a drawing which represents data or things and the relationships between them.

Relational databases:

A database is a collection of knowledge, which has been organised in some way so that it can be easily managed, accessed updated queried, retrieved etc…  A relational database then is an organised structure of data which is used to leverage relationships and connections between objects. When modelling this form of databases one tends to use a relational schema, and the query this using SQL. For example the figure below shows an example of this database

This technique of modelling data is favorable when a user wants to specify data and certain queries, a user can input exactly what they want and leave it up to the software to bring back results which describe the data and the relationships between them.

Example of an relational database model:


The RDF or the Resource Description:

The RDF or the Resource Description Framework on the other hand is another type of data model. This RDF model is used as a method for conceptual modelling of information that is implemented in web resources. This type of data model uses a vary of syntax notations and data serialization formats and is based upon the idea of making statements about resources in the form of subject-predicate-object expressions. By using this type of data model it opens up data on a global scale and essentially enables anybody to refer to anything. The difference between the RDF model and an object-orientated model would be its use of object, subject, predicate as opposed to an entity, attribute, value approach. This, though, enables software to more easily exchange information throughout the web which then in turn results in the user gathering and receiving data from these databases more easily with greater efficiency and certainty. This as mentioned can then be done on a global scale which opens up the possibility for more users to access this material.

Example of an RDF model

.RDF model


Miller, Eric.  Resource Description Framework (RDF) Model and Syntax. Accessed May 2017 https://www.w3.org/TR/WD-rdf-syntax-971002/ 

Pinczel, Balazs, Nagy, David, Kiss, Attila. ‘The Pros and Cons of RDF Structure Indexes’ Annales Univ. Sci. Budapest  Vol 42. 2014. Pp 283-296

Schreibman Susan, Siemens Ray, Unsworth, John. A Companion to Digital Humanities Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

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The Upper Floor.

All along the modelling process I decided I was going to leave out the Upper Floor, until the final stages of the model, I felt that without the upper floor the model did not look right. Although it was debated whether or not an upper floor was built the arguments that prove there was one outweigh its nonexistence. Ultimately this decision would then lead to my downfall. When modelling the upper floor for the first time I extruded the polygons on the top of the walls of the ground floor and also beveled the pillars to make them look like buttresses to become the beginnings of a support for a roof.

Like so.

Pillar supports.

I then began creating the windows in the upper floors by using the boolean command to remove boxes I had created.

Like so

upper story

With these removed I was finally going to move onto adding the textures and materials to my structure. That’s when 3DS max decided to crash. Throughout the whole project I had never had any issues with the system crashing and thought at that point my experience with that was just far too good to be true. Unfortunately I had not got any of my work saved up to this point and it wasn’t salvageable.

So I began the process again, however this time I don’t know what I did when extruding the sides of the walls I somehow messed up the geometry and when it came to using the boolean command to subtract a box the walls it would only work for one side.  At this point I became frustrated and tried pretty much anything to remove some of the objects to create the windows on each side.  I began connecting edges together, removing the polygons etc…. nothing I did however seemed to work and I was gone past the point of no return.  For this reason the upper story only has one window and one slightly distorted wall where I was adjusting the edges to try and create another window. My biggest regret with the project was that I extended the walls instead of building another structure separately and so may not of had as many issues regarding the the geometry when trying to use modifiers or the boolean command.

As I had taken up so much time recreating this upper floor I lost time in trying to complete the materials of the structure. Only the arches over the doorways and the fountain truly have the proper materials I wanted.

It was a disappointing end for me personally to the project as I felt I had the potential to model so much more, the materials, a proper Upper Floor with windows, the capitals and the decorative stones. I have learned my lesson though, it is ultimately easier to build objects and join them together than what I started off doing by trying to model the objects I already had, this could be said for the arches I first started off with and the Upper Floor example from above. I also learned that just because for the first 95% of the project I had no issues with 3DS max it doesn’t mean that this can turn around and change drastically at the end. But most importantly I have learned to always always save your work and not give the software the opportunity to delete your hard work.

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The Fountain and the Tiles.

As there is no evidence of the original fountain left from the Lavabo, modelling the basins for the was somewhat based on fragments found from the site and other Cistercian abbeys that were formed in and around the time that Mellifont Abbey was built. From looking at Stalleys ‘Decorating the Lavabo: Late Romanesque Sculpture from Mellifont Abbey’ it is known that there would have been two basins at least forming the structure. I decided to use this basis and then look at the fountain from Santa Maria de Poblet, Cantalonian Cisterian Monastery Spain, which can be seen below.

fountain abbey

My final structure looked like this.


The bottom basin was just a cylinder shape, which I then extruded and beveled the top polygon to create the edges of the structure. I then created a small hemisphere and aligned it on top to sit in the middle of the cyliner for me to place another larger hemisphere on top to act as the second basin. With this shape I again converted to editable poly and used the bevel and extrude commands to model the edges. I then copied the previous smaller hemisphere and again aligned it to the centre of the larger hemisphere for the final “basin” to sit on top. From the fragments that were found at the site, the archaeologists interpretation was that there would have been 8 decorative stones where the lead pipes would have pushed the water out of. As mentioned in previous posts due to time constraints I decided to leave out decorative features on stones and capitals and instead focus on the actual structure itself. For this reason the the spouts at the top of the fountain are just represented here as eight stones, modeled together in an octagonal shape to keep in align with the structure itself.

The Tiles then where just a cylinder with 8 sides and a diameter of 25ft just like to Lavabo structure. I just used a bitmap image to import an image of the tiles on top of the geometry and then used tiling and bumps to create the tiling affect on the floor.


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The Ground Floor.

In the last post I talked about building one side of the octagonal structure. My next step then was to copy this, 7 times to complete the ground floor.  I used the dimensions of a floor plan to create a cylinder with 8 sides to align with the walls. However although they were all lined up, there was till “gaps” between the sides which needed to be filled in to complete the structure. I did this by using the splines to create small triangles, converting this to an editable poly, extruding the shape and then using the cap hole modifier to create a shape. Using boolean in the compound objects I used the union option to join this shapes with the wall sides, altogether creating the ground floor.

Like so.

fin arch

From here I created another spline for the wall edges, on the outside of the structure were on the Lavabo there would have been a slight pillar.

I next looked at the pillars or columns on the inside of the structure.

inner pillar

This part of geometry was quite simple to do as it involved creating a cylinder, converting it to an editable poly and applying the slice modifier to cut it in half. The by applying the cap hole modifier to the vertices I could then extrude and bevel the pillar to the way I wanted. In Lavabo structure the beveled part of the cylinder at the top of the pillar is actually a decorative capital, however I decided to leave these out, more for time constraints rather than for lack of ability.

Below is an example of the pillar joined with the wall using the boolean command.

arche and pillar

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Building the Structure (3d Modelling AFF625[A])

Wrights Louthiana 1748

Today I began trying to build the basic structure of the Lavabo. Above is the earliest known image or representation of the Lavabo from Wrights Louthiana in 1743 featured in Stalleys, Decorating the Lavabo: Late Romanesque Sculpture from Mellifont Abbey.  This image along with my own images from the previous post, is what I was basing my reconstruction on.

I approached the structure as 8 sides when connected together form an octagonal structure. I began with focusing on the ground floor first as the second floor didn’t originally look like the image above and so is contested what it originally would have looked like.

I began doing this by creating a plane and then editing this to have an arch.

Like so, I then used an array to create 8 of these and move them into a circular fashion, hoping to edit the individual sides to be wider, longer etc…

Arches 1

However…. I did not take into consideration that as I began with a plane as my standard primitive object to build from, when trying to make the sides wider you are going to have an issue. As it only has one side extruding it means that the object will be pushed out and no matter how I tried to get around it I was left with a 2D shape.

Like so.

Arches 2


This then led me down the line of just creating an octagonal object and creating the structure from there. However again this did not work out as it is more difficult to model the sides of the structure and build in arches into the structure when it is already an octagonal object already. Like so.

arches3 arches 4

So unfortunately after day 2 its back to the drawing board for me.



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Between data and knowledge (Data Visualisation)

Data originates from the latin word datum which roughly translates into “a thing which is given”.  Data is raw and has no meaning it only just exists, it can be captured, modeled, inspected and then interpreted where it becomes information and knowing this information or having great experience with it then becomes knowledge. Before the computer age data would have been collected and captured only by individuals and then they would find conclusions or patterns in this data, leading this interpretation of the data and it becoming information and then knowledge. Now we are overwhelmed with different software and programmes that do the job of organising and analysing the data for us, and plotting this data on a graph of some sort. This opens up the opportunity of visually analysing and studying data which leads on to data visualisation.

Data visualisation is a powerful tool, not only does it make sense of the data by analysing it and transforming it into knowledge but also it is a ways of communication to make sense of said data and expressing that for the viewer.  It creates patterns and trends in data where previously it was hard to make out. For example the raw data I decided to download from the CSO was mean temperatures recorded from different points in Ireland, I decided to focus on Malin Head (North), Roches Point(South), Dublin Airport (East) and Bellmullet (West). When reviewing the excel spreadsheet we can clearly see what the mean temperature was in a specific area within a specific month, we can also compare this figure to another month/location. However what this table fails to do is tell a story with these figures. This is where the data visualisation element comes into consideration.  With the use of shape, colour position etc.. we can study the data a lot easier, while on the other hand it is communicated to us more clearly.

excel(Image 1)

Above is the example of the spreadsheet. At a glance, the figures are all in a fairly close range to one another. However if we take a look at the data plotted out on a graph below the picture tells a different story, taking for example that in May the mean temperatures across the country were practically the same and that in December the temperature in Dublin was two degrees cooler than in the South. Above in the excel sheet the figures when presented in a table format couldn’t really truly express or communicate the story quite like the visual nature of the graph. I understand that the subject matter of the data I downloaded is quite trivial and there aren’t ground breaking results but I truly believe that without the visual component, one reviewing this data would not come to the same conclusions as one reviewing and analysing the table.Mean temperatures(Image 2)

Roches Point(Red)


Dublin Airport(Grey)

Malin Head (Yellow)

On the subject of the data visualisation programmes, as mentioned there are so many out there from very professional software, to your bog standard Microsoft Word. I began using Tableau which when starting off with one or two columns and rows worked perfectly however when I began adding on extra data, the programme began converting this to “null” (image 3) and as I’m sure happens to most when dealing with data, I lost patience and gave up. Instead I took the easy way out and googled the ‘top data visualisation tools’, where I came across what was quoted as being a tool which required “no technical abilities” called Data Hero. A tool which took only minutes to set up and was most importantly free was a user friendly one to use. I uploaded my CSV file, checked to make sure that the columns and rows, were all aligned and in correct order and pressed a button which then created a graph for me. I played around with it, the colours, different styles of charts etc.. and the end result was the graph pictured above (Image 2).

tablaeu data(Image 3)

As I mentioned I haven’t made any groundbreaking results from this data exercise. But I hope I have conveyed the importance of data visualisation and the part it plays when coming to finding and conclusions and eventually information and knowledge for studies.



BonJour, Laurence, 1985. The Structure of empirical Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Few, Stephen. ‘Data Visualisation for Human Perception.’ The Interactive Design Foundation. Retrieved on 17th February 2016 https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/data-visualization-for-human-perception

Central Statistics Office, retrieved on 17th February 2016 http://www.cso.ie/en/index.html

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