Beyond EText: Remediated Places: Final Draft

Senses of Places: Remediations from text to digital performance. Final Draft, September 17, 2007
Ruth Tringham
Michael Ashley
Steve Mills

(Prepared for submission to the on-line format of Visual Anthropology Review)

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Pdf version: Beyond EText: Remediated Places (Tringham, Ashley, Mills) Final Draft

The idea of the remediation of archaeological and heritage places was inspired by the book Remediation by Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin (Bolter and Grusin 1999,168). Remediated Places has nothing to do with the traditional root for the word (remediare – to heal) but is created from “mediate”, with “re” expressing the idea of mediating what has already been mediated by media. It is based in the aesthetic of hypermediacy -the semi-transparency of looking at reality through a window or mirror as seen most recently in the WWW interface style, Mac (and later Windows) interface, and computer games. Hypermediacy has much in common with hyper-reality, discussed by Baudrillard (Baudrillard 1983), not surprisingly since the latter (see below) also appeals to our visual senses. In their book, however, Bolter and Grusin point to some of the social and sensorial causes of the attraction of hypermediated products. Hypermediacy provides an increase in:

  • speed/immediacy of delivery (immediate satisfaction of desire)
  • interactivity (point and click navigation and exploration, traveling through the network)
  • potential transparency vis-a-vis source
  • control of sensual (sight and sound) experience; touch is also involved
  • ability to experience multiple sights and sounds simultaneously
  • ability to multi-task

Thus the aesthetic of hypermediacy seems to have great appeal to voyeurism, emotions, passions (maybe because many senses are involved); a fascination leading to addiction. However, before we pass judgment on the Internet and computer games as the nemesis of the intellectual enterprise, we want in this presentation to argue through “digital performance” that digital technologies and media can be harnessed to engage multiple senses in the experience and exploration of places in ways which engender more creative re-contextualization than text (even if an e-text) alone or even text with images ever could – in ways which are less explicit, more complex and much more subtle.

In Remediation, Bolter and Grusin identified two strategies for remediation:

  • Respectful Remediation: in which other media are represented in digital form without apparent irony, critique, manipulation, or challenge in the mediation. The remediated form enhances the authority and authenticity of the original.
  • Radical and revolutionary remediation. This is the strategy claimed by the “real” WWWebbers and New Media artists and performers who seek to critique and improve on other media in the process of mediation.

For the most part, archaeological participation on the WWWeb has been respectful and the remediation of the archaeological process and the construction of the past through archaeological data in popular and professional discourse have rarely strayed from the highly respectful. We believe, however, – and the Remediated Places Project strives to put this into practice – that “Radical Remediation” is much more likely to lead to the realization of Ian Hodder’s turn-of-the-century dream for multivocality at Çatalhöyük (Hodder 1999). Radical remediation returns to some of the more original theoretical principles of hypertext (Joyce, et al. 2000; Joyce and Tringham in press; Landow 1992) that encourages “writerly” texts in which what the author writes changes when read by a reader who then re-uses this in her own writing. In this kind of writing (hypertext/hypermedia production) the author’s writing is respected, but can be challenged by another author or reader, as part of the de-centering – nothing is sacred; the construction of knowledge is essentially collaborative and cumulative. Even the sacred ground of databases is subject to radical remediation, which is another principal of our project.

The Remediated Places Project
The project aims to share the multisensorial experience, construction and memory of places, specifically cultural heritage sites. Media through which this challenge is approached include videowalks, video podcasts, audio recordings, interviews of remembered sensations. The first site in which the project has been developed is the 9000-year old mound of Çatalhöyük, Turkey.
The project was created in the Fall of 2004 with video interviews of Çatalhöyük archaeological team members on their memories of sensorial experience at this place in the middle of Turkey created each summer by a team of over a 100 people. The idea was to create a database of these memories and add to them multi-sensorial memories of imagined residents at the site 9000 years ago – its original context. In July 2005, we added the dimension of layered videowalks that were filmed during the excavation season. At this point, the project was called CatalVideoPlace project.

In May 2006, we all (who are “we”) got together in San Francisco for a month. The project expanded to include the San Francisco Presidio, which was in continuous use as a military post from 1776 to 1994, spanning the Spanish, Mexican, and United States periods. It is now a National Historic Landmark District. At this point we renamed the project the Remediated Places Project.
In addition to media, (photographic and drawn images, video, GIS maps, texts, numerical data) that have been created during the course of archaeological excavation and other research by the various teams working at Çatalhöyük, we have created specific media for the Remediated Places project, including a complex of videowalk legs (otherwise known as peripatetic video, Witmore 2004) recorded with binaural microphone, video conversations with members of the archaeological team at Çatalhöyük on their remembered sense perception, ambient sound clips, voice-over commentaries. These Remediated Places media from Çatalhöyük have been brought together and incorporated with the media from the Çatalhöyük archaeological project into a database that is part of a larger project: “Remixing Çatalhöyük” [1]. The media in this database are “tagged” to express their relevance to themes that we consider significant for our understanding of the past, not only at Çatalhöyük. In this respect, the Remediated Places Project is expandable both chronologically and spatially. In the original iteration of the project we had identified three themes or “layers”: information, memory, and sensorial experience. As part of the larger “Remixing Çatalhöyük” project, these three themes have been transformed into four: Life Histories of People, Places, and Things (incorporating memory), the Senses of Place (incorporating the sensorial experience), Viewing the Past at Multiple Scales (incorporating information), and Communicating and Collaborating with the Public (which lies at the heart of the Remediated Places Project).

The Remediated Places Project is multi-dimensional in that it incorporates multiple voices, multiple viewpoints, multiple scales of meaning and view, multiple databases, multiple media formats, and so on. We also assume that there are many different ways of learning and finding creative satisfaction. To that end, not only do we present this “paper” in a number of different ways, but we believe that the project can be experienced in a number of different formats in which this database of media might be remixed and explored to create narratives that share an understanding of place at these archaeological and heritage sites by different kinds of audiences:

  • · On-site installation, for example, at an Interpretive Center; you are a visitor to this famous site of Çatalhöyük. You’ve read about it, seen pictures, even movies, bought a guidebook, seen the intro movie in the Museum. Now you take a small video camera (or – more likely -a video iPod or even an iPhone) in your hands and don a pair of headphones and take the path. Before you set off you can choose from several “theme” options:
    • You may have chosen the theme which gives you a “sensuous tour” of the site. This will give you an experience enriched as you walk across the mound by references (in your ear) to the scents of the early morning; the sound and feel of the snow underneath your feet in another season; the sounds of birds, wind, and as a contrast to your probable current physical experience in the scorching sun – cool moonlight or even a winter’s day and the sound of rain (to remind you that it is not always like this); you will hear other sounds of people walking next to you as the team escorts you to the excavation with their own experiences being expressed; you will see intimate close-ups of the excavation where you cannot go; you can walk (virtually) amongst the actual remains of the houses and experience the rhythm of excavation in the hands and tools of the archaeologists, and hear the multi-lingual quiet chatter of voices.
    • Or you may have chosen the “life-history” option in which you get to experience through voices, diaries, images and videos fragments of the memory of past excavations and archaeologists in these places and the lives of past villagers and houses, so that you experience a continuum of time and place. Before your eyes and ears the houses will go through a life-cycle, and so will the excavations.
    • Or maybe you will be more conventional in your desires and choose the “multiple view scales” option, a tape in which the mound and the excavated areas are given meaning in terms of the regional landscape, in terms of multiple scales of social organization, social and economic evolution and the beginning of a sedentary way of life. You will learn a lot of useful information. But be careful – even in this tape we cannot avoid some amusing subversive remediation, slipping into multiple interpretations and arguments with other archaeologists, or a reflexive musing on the meaning of all of this archaeology in terms of its local and global position as a place of cultural heritage.
    • Finally, you may want to take your videowalk with archaeologists telling you about their lives and why they think this work is important; to see the efforts of Çatalhöyük to become a World Heritage site; to hear the voices of people living in the villages and towns around the site and what they think about the place of Çatalhöyük and the work of the archaeologists. This theme of the articulation of archaeology with the public and the political implications of cultural heritage has been an important focus for the research at the site and there is no lack of rich media with which to address it (Bartu-Candan 2005; Hodder 1999; Shankland 2005).
  • · On-line Internet version. You are a visitor to the Remediated Places Project website which you have reached via the Çatalhöyük website or from other links or Google. You want to take a virtual tour on your computer or your TV monitor. As we show in the movies linked to this presentation, the interface for the on-line format mirrors that for the on-site format that is seen on the video iPods.

o You could watch a “straight” video tour without any montage or collage or interactivity beyond written or spoken information. Such tours already exist, for example, on the Çatalhöyük website and the “Mysteries of Çatalhöyük” website created by the Science Museum of Minnesota. A sidepoint here is that both the above-mentioned website tours make use of Quicktime Virtual Reality in which a user progresses in an illusion of forward motion by use of a “zoom” feature. This is very different from being behind the eye of a camera that is actually moving forward.
o We would suggest that you choose a theme and a walk, and add “screens” in which images, sounds and other videos enhance your virtual experience. Although the options mirror the on-site version of the project, in the web-based version the visual additions are more easily viewed and you have the choice of jumping to the excavation nodes -as in the more conventional tours – without the physical necessity of walking the several hundred yards between. In the excavation nodes or places, such as the area of the BACH (Berkeley Archaeologists at Çatalhöyük) area – now filled in and invisible -there is a focus on intimacy and close proximity, and a slow pace of movement, a focus on hands and trowels and feet to express the sense of touch, the sounds and slow pace of excavation; we are interested in the process of excavation when all is ambiguous and confusing, before the end-product of clarity and cleaned features.
o We encourage you to spend some time walking along the paths between the excavation places, in which there is an opportunity to be less distracted by the intense activity in front of you, to muse listening to commentaries, voiceovers, ambient sounds, and diaries, and watching other videos that guide you to think laterally about the video-walk that you are “following”.

  • Live performance. At the Annual Meeting of the AAA in San Jose you might have attended the performance of “Sensuous Çatalhöyük” – as outlined at the end of this paper – something between a play, an opera, and circus. The performance combined the on-line Internet format with the movement experienced by participants of the on-site walk. We like to think that what we gave you was a taste of what Sarah Pink calls a “cultural performance…..’more like improvisational theatre than a play’ because ‘the reduction of culture to text systematically excludes the embodied and the sensory knowledge that is at the core of culture’” (Pink 2006, p.49 quoting; Ruby 2000).

The context of the content that is used in this on-line presentation of the Remediated Places Project
Sharing the multisensorial experience of a place, especially one constructed in the past from archaeological investigation, is a challenge which is taken up in this presentation through the example of the current archaeological project at the 9000-year old settlement of Çatalhöyük, Turkey in which we have been involved since 1997. Ours was a project from the University of California at Berkeley (BACH) to excavate a single building, Building 3, under the umbrella of the main project directed by Ian Hodder of Stanford University. The main project represented a renewal of work from 1993 at the site made famous for its painted elaborations of the plastered walls of its mud-brick houses in the 1960s by James Mellaart (Mellaart 1967).

Video recording of the archaeological process at Çatalhöyük was considered an important aspect of the “reflexive methodology” of archaeology (Hodder 1999), as a record of the process of discourse that goes into the construction of knowledge at the site. Video recording of the archaeological process was started in 1996 by a team from the Staatliche Hochschüle für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe and the University of Karlsrühe, Germany (Brill 2000; Cee, et al. 1996). These were filmmakers who were interested in using the videocamera as an intimate gazer. Their project finished in 1998. Their video record was combined with Virtual Reality visualizations of the prehistoric buildings into a hypermedia CD-ROM (“Catal Höyük – als die Menschen begannen, in Städten zu leben”, CD-ROM, published 1998. Currently out of print and unavailable). The Science Museum of Minnesota also recorded the archaeological process from 1999-2001 as part of the development of a website and an exhibit about Çatalhöyük. The videographers were in general museum professionals not archaeologists.

The BACH team filmed the complete archaeological process in their area from 1998 to 2004. The videographers in this case were students trained in archaeology (including Michael Ashley and Jason Quinlan) or – on occasion – myself (RET) or the BACH field director Mirjana Stevanovic. The BACH video record is very detailed, and includes a daily diary, special notes for the archaeologists, as well as the discussions with specialists (Ashley-Lopez 2002; Stevanovic 2000, Tringham in press). There are also existing re-mixes of videos and images, for example the RAVE series, created by Michael Ashley, Jason Quinlan and Ruth Tringham. This video record has continued to be created after the end of the BACH project in 2003 in the new cycle of excavation.

Other groups have made videos of the work at Çatalhöyük as part of creating films for popular consumption. A movie was made in summer 2004 for the Discovery Channel taking advantage of the physical full-scale replica of a Neolithic house constructed by the Çatalhöyük team and volunteer “actors” and props to re-enact “life” 9000 years ago. It is likely that the replica and the scenes will have a powerful effect in fixing in popular imagination the place of Çatalhöyük.

An alternative to video images are the digital Virtual Reality imagery of the excavation process, which was first done by me (RET) in 1996, to give others a sense of place in Building 1. Much more elegant examples followed created by the Science Museum of Minnesota team and by Michael Ashley of the BACH team. As on many other websites, these QTVRs are used on websites as the medium for a tour of the different excavation areas of the site.

Ideally these media would be incorporated into an integrated searchable database of all the audio-visual media, geospatial media, texts and numerical data from this very large project. This enterprise is in the process of development on a number of fronts. Currently, at least three platforms are used to manage the Çatalhöyük data; the videos are cataloged using CatDV; the images are cataloged using Extensis Portfolio, and the other data are in an MS Access relational database. The interfaces developed for the Remediated Places Project articulate with the entry into the Çatalhöyük databases developed as part of the Remixing Çatalhöyük project mentioned above.

The purpose of the Remediated Places project is to enable the user – at whatever level of experience and skill – to draw out these innumerable fragments of multisensorial places, memories, life-histories, and interpretations of the archaeological data at multiple scales, that reside in this knowledgebase and recombine or remix them into tours with narratives that are not random but make sense since they are situated within categories and organized according to predetermined associations to share past and present places. A key point of the project is to demonstrate transparently the intentionality of authoring and the shared experience of author and audience that is created through interactivity.

Inspirations for the Remediated Places Project
Many strands of thinking by authors in addition to Bolter and Grusin, mentioned above, from a variety of disciplines have provided the inspiration for different aspects of the Remediated Places Project.

Database Narratives and Digital Histories
The interfaces that we are designing with endless options and configurations of media with which to build narratives of place and history are based very closely in the idea of database narratives (Manovich 2001, 2005), and especially in the use of database narratives of history, as suggested by Stephen Anderson (Anderson in press). In his article “Past Indiscretions: Digital Archives and Recombinant History”, Anderson recognizes two directions in which historiography has taken advantage of digital technology. These same two directions are applicable to film theory and also to archaeology and, we would suggest, ethnography. On the one hand is the idea of amassing the “total” historical record of events, facts, and media through accessible networked interoperable databases. Out of these databases can be created “fixed pieces of knowledge and of history as positive retrieval” (quoted in Anderson Past Indiscretions) that give the illusion of objective facts that speak for themselves. On the other hand “digital technologies have enabled strategies of randomization and recombination in historical construction resulting in a profusion of increasingly volatile counter-narratives….and histories with multiple or uncertain endings” (Anderson in press, p.1).

Database narratives (or “digital histories” as Anderson calls them) take advantage of both of these aspects of digital technology:

“…histories that are comprised not of narratives that describe an experience of the past, but collections of infinitely retrievable fragments, situated within categories and organized according to predetermined associations” (Anderson in press, p.2).

It is this idea of the fragmentary nature of memory and history drawn from a database with structured relations that we apply to the sharing of past and present places in the Remediated Places Project. This same idea of re-contextualizing and re-combining (“re-mix” as it is popularly called) resonates well with Bolter and Grusin’s expectations of “radical remediation” described above. It is also, not surprisingly, at the heart of Ted Nelson’s original (1965) concept of Hypertext and Hypermedia described by George Landow (Landow 1992)

The interfaces to the deep digital archaeological and media databases that we are developing in the Remediated Places project, the Remixing Çatalhöyük project, and their umbrella project – the Scholars Box – do not simplify the data, but rather encourage and articulate vectors that can be combined and recombined into meaningful journeys. In this respect the journeys are database narratives (or “digital histories”) that are multivocal, open-ended, and are based on the efforts and ideas of all who have contributed and interacted before. Thus our Remediated Places project resonates with the thinking of Michael Shanks and experiments in using social software at the Stanford Metamedia Lab (Shanks 2004, 2007). Likewise we place an emphasis on media as modes of engagement and that archaeology and the information produced through its practice and processes are performative (Pearson and Shanks 2001; Witmore 2004) and collaborative; media, information and archaeology are fundamentally about doing.

Theories of Place
It is probably because of our focus on the fluidity, reflexivity, ephemerality, and practice of the archaeological process (Hodder 1997) and of digital representation, that our Remediated Places project, which is all about walking and movement, resonates more with the idea of place as expressed by cultural geographers, such as Allan Pred (Pred 1990), Paul Rodaway (Rodaway 1994), Nigel Thrift (Thrift 1996), Tim Cresswell (Cresswell 2004), and Doreen Massey (Massey 1994), as well as the Practice of Everyday Life by Michel de Certeau (de Certeau 1984). In their practice-based concepts of place, “….places are never established. They only operate through constant and iterative practice” (Cresswell 2004,38).

“Place provides ….an unstable stage for performance. Thinking of place as performed and practiced can help us think of place in radically open and non-essentialized ways where place is constantly struggled over and reimagined in practical ways. ….Place provides the conditions of possibility for creative social practice. Place in this sense becomes an event rather than a secure ontological thing rooted in notions of the authentic.” (Cresswell 2004p.38)

In this paragraph, Cresswell summarises a view of place that is very different from the traditional “visualizing” of past places by archaeologists. It is much closer to what we are trying to express in the Remediated Places project in terms of remembered or imagined fragments of practice and events that are triggered through movement, sound and visual media.

Sensing Place
The connection of place and senses has been made by a number of writers (Gibson 1968; Ingold 2000; Merleau-Ponty 2003 ; Porteous 1990; Rodaway 1994; Tuan 1993), some of whom follow the post-modern view of place described above as practice-based and ephemeral, others who view place as an “ontological thing” that can be experienced and/or sensually perceived. Geographer Paul Rodaway in his book Sensuous Geographies (Rodaway 1994) gave us the most valuable basis for pointing the way to a multisensory approach to the social practice of past and present places. Rodaway suggests that

“A sensuous geography… may lay some claim to reasserting a return of geographical study to the fullness of a living world or everyday life as a multisensual and multidimensional situatedness in space and in relationship to places” (Rodaway 1994 p.4).

Sarah Pink, in her book, the Future of Visual Anthropology, (Pink 2006) has made the important connection between ethnographic film genre, hypermedia and the sensory approach to everyday places in anthropology. From her examples we have found legitimacy for this kind of New Media research in anthropology.

Martin Emele, who was a member of the team that created the Çatalhoyuk CD-ROM and himself is a skilled practitioner of New Media was well aware of the downside of his Virtual Reality reconstructions of Çatalhöyük: “we multimedia makers, virtual reconstructionists and animators grasp reality in a historically determined, blinkered manner, not in a “full-sensory” way. (Emele 1998 p.223).

So we are thinking that perhaps there is room for a “sensuous archaeology” in which the non-visual senses – especially their complex and subtle interweaving – are understood as playing important roles even in our vision-dominated experience and remediation through digital media. The potential of a sensuous archaeology is gaining momentum pursued through exploring ideas of embodiment, landscape perspectives and by embracing phenomenology (for example, Bender 1993; Tilley 1994) and by more explicitly sensory studies – particularly of sound (for example, Cummings 2002; Mills 2005; Scarre and Lawson 2006). In our practice as archaeologists we are highly sensitive to touch; our discipline is inherently as tactile as it is visual. Multisensory perception for us as archaeologists is taken for granted; we are not practiced in thinking about the role of non-visual senses and do not take pleasure in recording them[2]. The interweaving of sensory perception and meaning for the Neolithic inhabitants of Çatalhöyük is likely to have been very different from ours (even supposing that ours is homogenous). For example, we assume that the impact of painting the interior walls of the houses was as dramatic visually for them as it is for us; but it is as likely that the kinesthetic performative effect of creating the paintings was much more dramatic than the visual effect of the finished product.

Sharing a multisensory expression of place with others has been achieved in a number of textual representations (Ackerman 1990; Classen 1993; Porteous 1990; Tuan 1974). It has also been achieved by more poetic combinations of text and photography (Berger and Mohr 1982), and in traditional cinematic narratives, including ethnographic documentary genre and TV documentaries (Pink 2006). It has also been attempted in theme parks, such as Disneyworld and Jorvik (Bolter and Grusin 1999; Poster 1988,5; Rodaway 1994).

Digital technologies are well able to express the interweaving of visual perception and the visible environment of objects and light with the aural perception and the manipulation and broadcasting of sound waves. It is easy to see that the digital technology used in digital movies, Internet websites, computer games, and so on, creates a hyper-real experience of place whose effect is so fascinating and powerful that it will often dominate even direct encounters with the physical experience (Baudrillard 1983).

In the hyper-real experience

  • vision is central. The other senses are transformed into and subordinated by vision. Because of this, following the lead of vision. the hyper-real experience tends to be a detached, passive gaze (Rodaway 1994 p.175).
  • the interrelationship of the senses that affects both sensation and meaning is simplified (Rodaway 1994 p.177), so that the complexity of many sensuous elements including texture and smell are lost (Emele 1998; Swogger 2000p.147).
  • the senses are domesticated and sensing is orchestrated. Photos, videos, movies are cleaned and selected that makes their effect very powerful; not only are they illusions of reality, they are more real than reality (Emele 1998; Porteous and Douglas 1990; Rodaway 1994 p.161).

But digital technologies have other advantages, for example, in expressing the complexity of interweaving multiple lines of evidence, multiple scales of interpretation, and the ambiguity of meaning for multiple voices. This is the basis of Sarah Pink’s suggestion that open-ended hypermedia products of non-linear narratives created by linked media and texts are an important alternative to the more traditional linear narratives more familiar through paper publication medium (Pink 2006). As in social anthropology, I (RET) have argued that they are a medium through which digital movies and still images can be incorporated into serious archaeological discourse beyond the hyper-reality of popular “visualizations” (Joyce and Tringham in press; Wolle and Tringham 2000).

Martin Emele, who created such digital “visualizations” (we can argue to what extent they manifest symptoms of hyper-reality) of Çatalhöyük struggles with what “the atmosphere of a place” should look like:

“…. We did not want to predetermine the viewers’ imagination. Where the world seen on the monitor becomes too concrete, the view of the possible is distorted. It is well known that a correspondence exists between the images which remain unseen and those which the brain (imagination) then produces. Digital visualization forces an on-screen situation where an off-screen element might be far more effective. This has always been an important aspect of the traditional interpretation of paintings: the aspect an image does not show explicitly: its atmosphere.” (Emele 1998 p.224-225).

Karlsrühe group reconstruction of Shrine VI 10 at Catalhöyük

The role and value of, and issues concerning the authenticity of, digital visualisations in archaeology is receiving increasing critical attention (Earl 2005; Gillings 2005) Here it is stressed that future directions, particularly with respect to Virtual Reality reconstructions, should lie, not with a continuing strive to improve visual correspondence or “photorealism”, but with incorporating and engaging with elements of uncertainty and process. Only in this way can digital visualisations move beyond a sole concern with imitation and embrace issues of creativity and ambiguity that more fully engage and challenge audiences. This critical thinking is echoed in reference to the incorporation of imagery (both still and moving) in the presentation of (pre)history in television documentaries by stressing the potential of visual strategies for furthering debate rather than being considered merely as decor (Schama 2004)
In creating the images for the hypermedia “opera” the Chimera Web, I (RET) hoped to transcend the concrete hyper-reality that Emele refers to at the same time as retaining the ambiguity of archaeological interpretation that we seek as feminist archaeologists.

“…..when we try to construct visual past realities – whether by drawings, paintings, replications, photographs of replications, or computerized imagery – instead of trying to envision the past as lived, we try to envision the past as remembered by these various actors …. If we do this, then we have a very different aim in our imaging of the past. Instead of presenting the past as a real (or Virtually Real) lived-in linear past that is experienced generically and normatively by all actors, we can present a past that is a dream or memory, remembered piecemeal, selectively, and uniquely by the different actors. In this way the prehistory that we construct and the multiple histories that we express, through computer-generated imagery and other media, can be regarded as more surreal than virtually real.” (Joyce and Tringham in press; Wolle and Tringham 2000).

Obviously this imagery has to be accompanied by a rich text, preferably spoken. The question, as always, remains how to include the element that completes the multisensory experience – the dynamic moving people, animals and vegetation. I (RET) have discussed this in other papers, the pros and cons of avatars, actors, manipulated modern imagery. I still do not have the answer, except that ambiguity, mystery, subtlety and semi-concealment seem an essential part (Joyce and Tringham in press; Wolle and Tringham 2000).

This focus on movement, performance, event, and memory is an essential element in the construction of the “life-history” and “sensuous” layers of media options in the Remediated Places Project. To this end also our database includes video conversations with the many different Çatalhöyük project participants about their memories and stories of sensory experience at the site. These storytellers contribute to the construction of recent places and at the same time their own sensual experience of modern Çatalhöyük and the archaeological process there can act as a filter in their construction of the imagined past place (Jeans 1974; Rodaway 1994).

The Performance of a Multisensory Place at Çatalhöyük
There remains the challenge: how to incorporate into a digital dimension and share those sensations that are experienced more intimately and without which the multisensory approach cannot be considered, that is, the haptic or tactile sense and the senses of smell and taste (Classen 1993; Drobnick 2006; Paterson 2005)? From an archaeological perspective, Cummings (Cummings 2002) has explored the haptic sense through a consideration of the transformative texture of stones from rough to smooth at selected British Neolithic monuments during their construction and subsequent use. She argues that transformations in texture of different materials including stone and clay were likely to have been fundamental physical and metaphoric qualities of the Neolithic world. Thus Cummings demonstrates eloquently that aspects of the haptic sense, as potentially experienced in the past, can be eluded to through text; the challenge remains how to dynamically share those potential haptic sensations with wider (non-academic) audiences and in combination with other modes of sensory engagement.

The tactile-kinesthetic sense is the most fundamental and immediate of all the senses and is important in structuring space and thus in the interpretation of a person’s relationship to other people and to the physical and built environment (Classen 2005; Porteous 1990,6). Touch is far more than just fingers; it includes whole skin surface (Montagu 1971). Porteous, following Gold, refers to the tactile-kinesthetic sense as including the more obvious haptic sensations, such as surface, form, pressure, pain, temperature, texture, and – most importantly for the purposes of our project – balance and the sense of movement in any part of the body (Porteous 1990,5).

A key to sharing a multisensory approach of place through on-screen media lies in the relationship filtered through social practice and cultural diversity between the immediate sensory experience and its metaphorical extrapolation (Porteous 1990; Rodaway 1994,6). Thus we would use the audiovisual cues of the Remediated Places videos to trigger a metaphorical response in the user; for example sweat dripping off an excavator’s forehead triggers a feeling or memory of heat in the user; a close-up of hands excavating will trigger through their rhythm the memory of a song or a dance. This is not true synaesthesia, but is more a path to a multisensory approach.

Of key importance is the ability of the body and its extremities to move, to manipulate, inspect, and explore with all senses cooperating in sensuous experience (Rodaway 1994,28). So the sensing of body in space within a dynamically changing environment (with other people -also sensory beings) brings in possibilities for triggering tactile experience. The Remediated Places Project seeks to confound – and thus enhance – the body’s haptic experience by requiring the user to swing from virtual touch and movement to physical movement and touch. Such changing contexts of haptic sensation are beginning to be discussed in screen studies (Dudrah and Rai 2005). Thus even the on-line format requires the hand-movement of the keyboard and mouse, and we are currently seeking ways to increase the bodily haptic experience. For example instructions to move one’s hands in certain ways, or remove onese;f from the screen and move the feet. Currently we are also exploring the platform of Second Life to create a virtual replica of the Çatalhöyük mound – Okapi Island – on which the videowalks can be mirrored, so that a virtualwalker can – through the medium of their own personal avatar – walk along a virtual path, holding a virtual iPod, on which they view a video that ultimately mediates a real event [3]. Perhaps this is an extreme of hyperreality and radical remediation.

One of the premises of the Remediated Places Project is that video can be used deliberately to embed those different sensory experiences. The use of video recording can also be designed to play a much larger role in mediating the multisensory approach than it has. In traditional use of video recording of archaeological sites, the scene is set, selected, and orchestrated. At Çatalhöyük, and especially in the footage filmed in connection with the Remediated Places Project, we have been exploring ways in which to express a more intimate scale of photography and videography. This does not mean only or even close proximity to the subject, but refers also to the lack of orchestration, direction, and explicitness, to reflexivity, and an intimate pace of scene playout.

There are two aspects of the tactile-kinesthetic sense that give us a chance to address the challenge of triggering and embedding the non-audiovisual senses in an on-screen environment: intimacy and movement.

The ability of digital media to focus on the intimate scale of sensing, close proximity, and immense detail has always been present, it is their creators who have lacked patience or motivation to take advantage of this potential; or perhaps such a scale of representation does not sell well!

Most people will never get close to an archaeological excavation, especially its tactile experience. In Turkey, as we showed in our “performance” at the AAA meeting in San Jose in December 2006, even if you visit Çatalhöyük physically, you may not have a direct encounter with the hallowed archaeological ground, except through your feet, unless you are on the short, permitted list of archaeologists and other specialists. And of course there is the whole world of people who may never visit Çatalhöyük beyond its place on the Internet. At most archaeological sites, the average visitor will never get to do more than gaze at the archaeologists working and many will only visit once the work is complete and there is no active excavation at the site. In the Remediated Places Project we use a series of close-up video-walks within the “forbidden” excavation area to create a more immersive and immediate gaze to give visitors a multisensory experience of what it is like to reveal 9000-year old house floors through excavation. More importantly, there are ultra close-ups of the hands and trowels at work (“hand-ballets”) to help users participate in the ultra-slow rhythm of the task.

The design of “heritage places”, “interpretive centers”, and museums has worked around this challenge with varying degrees of success to present a multisensorial experience of the “place as lived” for the visitor (Bolter and Grusin 1999,168; Hewison 1989; Rodaway 1994,168-169). In most of these examples, the visitor gazes passively, her/his visual sense dominating (except in Jorvik where they have engaged the sense of smell).

At Çatalhöyük, a replica of a Neolithic building, complete with storage chambers and ladder for roof access, allows the visitor to experience the sense of crowding, bending down to enter the storage rooms through the crawl space, the play of light and shadow inside such houses. Ambient sound of food-preparation noises, chatting, and singing has occasionally been added. In the Remediated Places video-walk inside the Replica House we add instructions to carry out certain tasks involving hand movements (grinding grain) to trigger imagined tactile experience.

The Remediated Places project makes heavy use of video, whose movement provides an immersiveness and immediacy of kinesthetic experience that is lost in still photography. The videos take advantage of movement through space and proximity to various textures and objects, tactile sensation of the feet, even the heavy (more or less) breathing of the videographer. Its digital capture allows us to edit and re-contextualise the movement in ways which would not be possible in a film narrative context (Pink 2006). Other forms of digital media with varying success for a multisensory experience, the soul-sickening fly-throughs of Virtual Reality empty spaces are at the unsuccessful end of this spectrum in our opinion (Miller and Richards 1994). Quicktime VR tours of nodes of photographed or reconstructed places have been created for the Çatalhöyük project, as mentioned above. In these, the gazer stands in a fixed spot from which an illusion of movement can be achieved through zooming in and out and around. First person game engines potentially provide an exciting array of tools to enable a viewer to move through a place – an excavation or a constructed imagined prehistoric village at a human wandering exploratory pace (Anderson 2004). Experiments with the use of game engines is just beginning. Joshua Seaver of the Science Museum of Minnesota, for example, has already built such an exploratory tableau for prehistoric Çatalhöyük using the open source game engine Blender. We are currently exploring the possibilities of Second Life to combine such movement with group communication. But that is for the future. Currently, and for the purposes of this presentation, we see the video-walk footage as providing the best foundation medium for giving the physical tourist or the touring couch-potato a more multisensory exploration of Çatalhöyük.

The idea of video-walks was inspired by the work of media artist Janet Cardiff whose video walk through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art we experienced in 1997-98. This same artist has also inspired the video-walks of archaeological sites in the Aegean by Chris Witmore, who calls them “peripatetic video” (Witmore 2004). Both Cardiff and Witmore emphasize the importance of the layering of audio media alongside the more obvious visual media and the physicality of the moving body. Encouraging participants to move slowly (physically or virtually) around the mound and facilities of Çatalhöyük resonates well with a performative style of archaeology and the sharing of the archaeological experience and interpretation as suggested in Borderline Archaeology (Campbell and Ulin 2004 p.13). It also resonates well with “a visual anthropology that engages with sensory embodied experience” (Pink 2006).

An outline of the performance of “Sensuous Çatalhöyük”,
The 15-minute presentation at the AAA meeting in San Jose was based on the Live Performance format of the Remediated Places Project. It used only the data and walks from the North end of the mound, at Çatalhöyük.

Extract of the performance on 17 November, 2006

Scene 00: Welcome to Çatalhöyük
A group of 4 people stand in front of the screen. They have traveled far. They hold guidebooks, cameras, camcorders. Maybe they know each other. A fifth “visitor” is off to the side: an Internet “visitor”
Scene 1: the bad experience
Scene 1a: The visitors are plunged into a tour of the site with only an unspeaking escort.
Scene 1b: The visitors get a guide, but they don’t understand what is being said (in Turkish)
Scene 2: guidance with information
Scene 2: Up the mound to the North area from the guardhouse with information commentary in English provided on an iPod with headphones. Everyone starts walking uphill in the heat and dust while the commentary continues. The walkers are distracted in spite of the information. They are hot, thirsty, dusty and are thinking about lunch.
Scene 2b:At the top of the mound in the North area, they are guided past the current excavations. The walkers are fast losing concentration. They feel cut off from the archaeological process, they don’t really understand what’s going on, they make silly comments, and are still thinking about lunch, and are now worried about sunburn.
Scene 3: Transformation – the curtain
Miraculous rewind of the experience so far. The walkers are asked to voice their opinion on what would make the visit more engaging: participate, be pro-active, make a contribution, passion, engagement, voices of stakeholders but is anyone listening? The desire to create, to share…

Scene 4: Do you want to take a walk?

Introduction to the Remediated Places interface and the idea of re-mixing media components

The walkers repeat the walk up the mound, this time guided by a researcher-created tour on a viewed on a video iPod on which selected videos and audio that focus on a multisensory approach have been re-mixed.

Researcher’s remix of the walk up the mound. Design by Michael Ashley

Interlude: Behind the Scenes: the backend of the Remediated Places project
Demonstration of the database that spawns the Remediated Places narratives at Çatalhöyük.

Scene 5: User Testing .
The “walkers” or “users” create their own tour or narrative from the project database by their choice of media sets (videowalks, images, videoclips, audio, commentary, and previous “re-mixes”), re-contextualizing these data choosing parameters (e.g. one of the themes or layers). Their interest in music, life-history, and memory leads them to create a tour of the now invisible BACH (Berkeley Archaeologists @ Çatalhöyük) area with an audio clip, a commentary, and 4 videos that trigger memories of the excavation area that was active for seven years until 2004.

Interface for the User to create her own videowalk tour for the BACH area at Çatalhöyük.
Design by Michael Ashley

The choice of one of the walkers sparks a discussion on how much scaffolding and structuring of the database is needed to make the walks meaningful. We have created filters in the database through tagging various parameters, for example the four themes, that suggest alternatives to making sense of the remixed media; beyond the themes, however, filters scaffold the user’s experience. For example there is no commentary by Ian Hodder for the BACH building 3, and you cannot use his commentary on Building 5, so he is blocked out for this walk. Similarly, James Mellaart’s commentary on the “map” fresco at Catal makes most sense in the South Area of the site where the fresco was found [4]. These tags and prohibitions can sometimes be overridden; users can create tours that are uninformed, unguided, random and whimsical. We think, however, that, as the users/visitors create their own tour or narrative from the project database it is important that they think about their choice of media sets and the rationale for their remix. How would they make their tour meaningful to others? The walkers’ discussion in this scene of whether James Mellaart’s introduction of himself could be relevant to the BACH walk is a case where a clip that seems to be inappropriate in a remix for a walk can actually become the start of an interesting exploration of a recombinant history.

[1] Remixing Çatalhöyük is itself embedded within an umbrella project at University of California, Berkeley -“The Scholars Box” (Tringham, 2004), funded by a FIPSE grant, whose purpose is to develop a national model to enable campus scholars, academic departments, and libraries and museums to create and share open and reusable digital collections to improve campus scholarship and K-12 (we prefer the term K-Grey) education.
[2] There is a way of determining soil texture at Çatalhöyük by making a small sausage of wet earth and feeling it and measuring its textural attributes; most excavators refuse to record this!
[3] You can visit Okapi Island by pasting this URL into your browser. To visit you will have to register and create and avatar of yourself
[4] Walker 2: Let’s get James Mellaart – the original excavator in the 1960s – to be our guide
Walker 1 and 3 deride this idea: That doesn’t make sense. James Mellaart didn’t excavate in the North. Dr. Hodder
just said they were the first to excavate in this area in 1993. So Mellaart never would have walked in this area.
Walker 2: How do you know he didn’t walk up this path.
Walker 3 (sarcastically): Maybe you can upload your idea of Mellaart wandering around the BACH area to thewebsite when you get home. Someone might respond.
RET: Actually James Mellaart did visit the BACH area once, and suggested that Building 3 was a “shrine”.

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~ by chimeraspider on September 19, 2007.

5 Responses to “Beyond EText: Remediated Places: Final Draft”

  1. […] digital performance” by Ruth Tringham, Michael Ashley and Steve Mills has been posted on the Remediated Places blog. This article has been prepared for the upcoming (December 2007) electronic version of Visual […]

  2. […] chimeraspider wrote a fantastic post today on “Remediated Places: Final Draft”Here’s ONLY a quick extractOr maybe you will be more conventional in your desires and choose the “multiple view scales” option, a tape in which the mound and the excavated areas are given meaning in terms of the regional landscape, in terms of multiple scales of … […]

  3. […] version of Visual Anthropological Review. In this enterprise we were joined by Steve Mills. The final draft  has been reviewed and, as of September 2007, is awaiting […]

  4. […] value or quality identified with different ways of remediating in the original concept. However, Tringham, Mills and Ashley (2007) further developed the remediation concept in their Remediated Places Project and came up with two […]

  5. […] first discovered Professor Tringham back in 2008 when I read an article she had written together with colleagues Ashley and Mills on remediating places, and I had the […]

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