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MIT Press CFP: Living Virtual Heritage: Agents and Enhanced Environments

Living Virtual Heritage: Agents and Enhanced Environments

MIT PRESS Call for Participation
Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments Special Issue


Call and Scope

Virtual heritage – the use of digital and virtual technologies for cataloguing and conveying our cultural heritage – offers exciting new ways to experience the cultural treasures of the world, both ancient and modern. Virtual heritage research in past decades has focused mainly on the visual aspect of heritage information processing. Optical scanning technology, remote sensing, sophisticated 3D modelling tools and developments in efficient computer graphics rendering pipelines have fuelled worldwide virtual reconstructions of tangible heritage. Such needs prompted funding councils and agencies to reserve and distribute resources in order to support the development of technologies and methodologies that made digital restoration, preservation and conservation possible. The visualisation and real-time interactive aspects of such developments have since provided access and availability of existing—and lost— tangible heritage to be studied and experienced via their virtual representations. As we review the present state of virtual heritage research, however, we realize that there remains a gap in the discipline. Most applications lacked life, behaviour, and intelligent agents in the virtual environments, and there has not been any progression in such developments since a decade ago. Reconstructions of heritage as elaborate virtual manifestations of materiality are without life, if they are without representations of life and behavior as intangible heritage representations in the virtual environment.

Technological progression, particularly in the information and computational sciences, is creating new research opportunities for virtual heritage and computational archaeology communities. Researchers in these disciplines are discovering new tools and ways of interpreting virtual representations of objects, monuments and environments, using agent-based models, evolvable and responsive virtual environments dwelt by avatars and agents. These new ways of discovering and seeing intangible information looks to become the next stage of virtual heritage research, with two main communities of potential users. For the public, the integration of living and adaptive virtual agents and responsive environments could give virtual heritage applications a richer, more evolvable content, and a higher level of interactivity and experience. For researchers, particularly in recent trends in computational archaeology, the potentials for the use of the approach for filling gaps in the information space looks to be very prospective indeed.

The objective of this Special Issue on Living Virtual Heritage is to examine the state of development in the vibrant virtual heritage community. The scope of the issue includes but is not limited to the topics listed here:

  • New Approaches in Virtual Heritage Applications and Interpretations
  • Responsive, Adaptive and Evolvable Behaviors in Virtual Heritage Environments
  • Complex Systems Approaches: Artificial Life, Agent-Based Modelling and Multiagent Systems
  • Enhanced Virtual Environments and Multiuser Virtual Heritage
  • Mixed Reality and the Experience of Real and Virtual Heritage Environments
  • Virtual Presence and Phenomenology in Virtual Heritage Applications
  • Distributed Virtual Heritage Environments
  • Tools, Techniques, Frameworks and Methodology for Living Virtual Heritage

Keywords: Agent-based modelling, multiagent systems, artificial life, virtual heritage, computational archaeology, visualization, mixed reality, virtual environments, phenomenology

Submission deadline: October 15, 2014
Planned publication: Mid to late 2015

Manuscripts should conform to the journal’s submission guidelines:


Visual Heritage in the Digital Age Springer

Visual Heritage in the Digital Age

My edited book titled “Visual Heritage in the Digital Age” recently got published in the Springer Series on Cultural Computing. The articles presented in the volume relates to research within the domains of digital heritage and computational archaeology. [Link to Publisher Page]

Keywords » Computational Archaeology - Cultural Technologies - Digital Heritage - Heritage Computing - Modelling Landscape Change - Visualisation of Space and Movement

Heritage is everywhere, and an understanding of our past is increasingly critical to the understanding of our contemporary cultural context and place in global society. Visual Heritage in the Digital Age presents the state-of-the-art in the application of digital technologies to heritage studies, with the chapters collectively demonstrating the ways in which current developments are liberating the study, conservation and management of the past. Digital approaches to heritage have developed significantly over recent decades in terms of both the quantity and range of applications. However, rather than merely improving and enriching the ways in which we understand and engage with the past, this technology is enabling us to do this in entirely new ways.

The chapters contained within this volume present a broad range of technologies for capturing data (such as high-definition laser scanning survey and geophysical survey), modelling (including GIS, data fusion, agent-based modelling), and engaging with heritage through novel digital interfaces (mobile technologies and the use of multi-touch interfaces in public spaces). The case studies presented include sites, landscapes and buildings from across Europe, North and Central America, and collections relating to the ancient civilisations of the Middle East and North Africa. The chronological span is immense, extending from the end of the last ice age through to the twentieth century. These case studies reveal new ways of approaching heritage using digital tools, whether from the perspective of interrogating historical textual data, or through the applications of complexity theory and the modelling of agents and behaviours. Beyond the data itself, Visual Heritage in the Digital Age also presents fresh ways of thinking about digital heritage. It explores more theoretical perspectives concerning the role of digital data and the challenges that are presented in terms of its management and preservation.

Visit to the Institute of Complex Systems, Paris (ICS-PIF)

Doorway into the deep recesses of the amazing scholarly Institute. The Institute will be moving to a new building next year.

I visited my friend David Chavalarias, the director of the Institute of Complex Systems (Institut des Systèmes Complexes, Paris Île-de-France – ICS-PIF) and gave a talk on my recent research findings on social networks – “Landscapes and Complexity: Isolating Communities in Social Networks “, and how extensible and scalable frameworks could be used to mine Big Data from social communications. The people at the institute was a wonderful crowd. We shared a scholarly Q&A session and exchanged important ideas during the 2 hour session in the morning.

The future of research opportunities with David and associated members of the Institute looks great, we aim to contribute to society in many ways by using Big Data and Complexity. We will be working together with Prof. Harold Thwaites and Maziyar Panahi (Centre for Creative Content and Digital Innovation). The coming weeks will define our progression from concepts and ideas to initial development.

As a result of the European Conference on Complex Systems, and my visit to ICS-PIF, I have  joined the Complex Systems Society and aims to contribute to its cause in the coming years.

David Chavalarias and Eugene Ch’ng


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Orkney International Science Festival: Europe’s Lost World

We gave a talk up at the Orkney International Science Festival on the topic of Europe’s Lost World, and how we can combine both geological surveys, landscape mapping, archaeo-environmental sampling, and complex systems science for reconstructing and understanding inundated landscapes. Videos below!

The Programme:

Beneath the sediments of the North Sea bed lie the remains of a land where trees grew and animals flourished 15,000 years ago, when sea levels were much lower due to the mass of water locked up in the weight of ice across a frozen Europe. Dr Richard Bates of the University of St Andrews and Dr Martin Bates of the University of Wales describe the work of reconstructing the past environment, and Prof. Vince Gaffney of Birmingham University reports on the latest studies of the lost world of Doggerland.


The Stone Age hunters and fishers who populated Mesolithic Europe 10,000 years ago have left little trace. Those who roamed Doggerland are particularly elusive. Dr Eugene Ch’ng of Birmingham University shows how an understanding of complex systems can help to build a model of past populations, and Caroline Wickham-Jones of Aberdeen University and Dr Sue Dawson of Dundee University describe the ongoing search around Orkney for clues to the people of the drowned lands.

Dr Richard Bate’s Presentation

Dr. Sue Dawson’s Presentation

My presentation on Complex Systems Science (beginning 21:00)


Our Exhibition:

Our Trip to Skara Brae:

My first “experience” of Skara Brae was when I first played the game Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar as a boy in 1984, there is a mystical town called Skara Brae where the Codex of Editable Wisdom can be found :). I had to visit the real Skara Brae at least once in my life!

A collaborative environment for assisted 3d reconstruction of cuneiform tablets

We’re presenting conducting very exciting experiments at the Digital Humanities Hub. A grant supported by The Leverhulme Trust aims to understand how cooperation works in reconstructing 5,000 years old text (Cuneiform fragments) from the Babylonian and Sumerian era. This project aims to improve the worldwide collaborative workflow that allows cuneiform experts and enthusiasts to work on the reconstruction of 3D Cuneiform tablets via an interactive 3D interface. By understanding how people work cooperatively at 3D puzzles using the concept of Stigmergy – “Cooperation without Direction Communication” (part of Complex Systems Science Theory), we will be able to build better interfaces for facilitating cooperative behaviour.

Read more at:
A collaborative environment for assisted 3d reconstruction of cuneiform tablets

Visualisation: Political Tweets and Twitter Trending

Epstein’s Model of Civil Violence Explained

The Warren Field Pit Alignment On The Mid Winter Solstice (World’s Oldest Calendar)

V. Gaffney, S. Fitch, E. Ramsey, R. Yorston, E. Ch’ng, E. Baldwin, R. Bates, C. Gaffney, C. Ruggles, T. Sparrow, A. McMillan, D. Cowley, S. Fraser, C. Murray, H. Murray, E. Hopla and A. Howard (2013) ‘Time and a Place: A luni-solar ‘time-reckoner’ from 8th millennium BC Scotland’, Internet Archaeology 34

[Link to Journal]

The capacity to conceptualise and measure time is amongst the most important achievements of human societies, and the issue of when time was “created” by humankind is critical in understanding how society has developed. A pit alignment, recently excavated in Aberdeenshire (Scotland), provides a new contribution to this debate. This structure, dated to the 8th millennium BC, has been re-analysed by a team led from the IBM VISTA Centre and the results suggest that the pit group may have acquired basic calendrical functions through observation of the repeated cycles of the Moon. The pit group appears to mimic the phases of the Moon and the 12 pits are structured to track lunar months. The monument also aligns on the southeast horizon and a prominent topographic point associated with sunrise on the midwinter solstice. In doing so the monument anticipates problems associated with simple lunar calendars by providing an annual astronomic correction in order to maintain the link between the passage of time indicated by the Moon, the asynchronous solar year, and the associated seasons.  The site may therefore provide the earliest evidence currently available for “time reckoning” and suggests that hunter-gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and ability to track time across the year, and also perhaps within the month, and that this occurred at a period nearly five thousand years before the first formal calendars were created in Mesopotamia.

Birmingham researchers working with colleagues from Bradford, St Andrews, the Scottish National Trust, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Murray Archaeological Associates have resurveyed and re-analysed the site and the results of this work have been published in the paper “Time and a Place: a lunisolar ‘time reckoner’ from 8th millennium Scotland” Internet Archaeology, July 2013.  Aside from the results contained within the paper staff at IBM VISTA have provided a virtual recreation of the site and the rising sun and this is reproduced below.

More info at:

Visiting the Riken K-Computer and the Advanced Visualisation Research Lab

I visited Riken and the Advanced Visualisation Research Team’s lab and gave a talk on BigData landscape research. I also attended a talk by Hamed Khandan on the next 5 years of research and was very happy to be the audience of Ono sensei’s presentation on fluid dynamics visualisation. We discussed collaboration opportunities and where to proceed in the next step.

Special thanks to the AVR’s members: Ono sensei, Hamed-san, Bichong-san, Nonaka-san and Hayakawa-san.

Riken K-Computer

The K computer – named for the Japanese word “kei” (京), meaning 10 quadrillion (1016). 88,128 SPARC64 VIIIfx processors, Tofu interconnect, Linux-based enhanced operating system!!! 10.51 petaflops.

As of 2013, the K computer comprises over 80,000 2.0 GHz 8-core SPARC64 VIIIfx processors contained in 864 cabinets, for a total of over 640,000 cores, manufactured by Fujitsu with 45 nm CMOS technology. Each cabinet contains 96 computing nodes, in addition to 6 I/O nodes. Each computing node contains a single processor and 16 GB of memory. The computer’s water cooling system is designed to minimize failure rate and power consumption.


Illustration: Destructor Bot

I tried my hands on digital painting with the Wacom Intuos4 and Photoshop CS5 yesterday. I started off with doodling random shapes with the black brush, the outcome was a destructor bot. The concept art illustrates a bot that breaks down used machinery into basic components, much like how certain bacteria breaks down organic matter.