sotonDH Small Grants: Medieval Palaeography and the Digital World – Post 2

sotonDH Small Grants: Medieval Palaeography and the Digital World – Post 2 by Jacopo Mazzeo

In my first post I introduced my research interests, my field of study and their relation with the Digital world. I then decided to attend a workshop in Cambridge last February to deepen this subject.

The attendance of the workshop held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities in Cambridge has been a great chance to meet people from the several fields of Humanities interested in the broad area of the Digital world.

Some of the attendees already had already some or many experiences in projects involving digital tools and the projects brought as examples by the speaker Jim Barret really impressed me. He is a PhD candidate at the Department of Language Studies at Umeå University in Sweden and the base for his work is HUMlab; a digital humanities laboratory and studio. The subject of the seminar was how Augmented Reality and virtual worlds can help managing events. In particular twitting a conference live, producing a seminar in simultaneous physical and virtual spaces both focused on the new social media Second Life. The speaker explained how a museum or an atelier can have a ‘Second life’ just as humans do. Language classes are held in Second Life: English, French and Spanish are taught as well as endangered languages so these can be brought back to life giving the scarce amount of people interested in them the chance to practise together.

The most interesting part of the seminar thou, was focused on History-related projects. A quite popular one is Rome Reborn, run by the University of Virginia through Google Earth, whose goal is the creation of 3D digital models illustrating the urban development of ancient Rome from the first settlement in the late Bronze Age (ca. 1000 B.C.) to the depopulation of the city in the early Middle Ages (ca. A.D. 550). They started with A.D. 320 and intend to move both backwards and forwards in time until the entire span of time has been covered. This is a massive project that is going to change forever the way we approach an archaeological site and the way we think about the past. This work helped me enormously developing a project that is likely going to be the continuation of my current PhD thesis and that I am going to delineate briefly in the next post. Rome Reborn is not the only historical project that Google Earth has developed, but definitely it is the most popular.

Google has also been unaware creator of a historical reconstruction a few years ago. In 2009 a terrible earthquake occurred around the city of L’Aquila (Abruzzo region, Italy) destroying most of it and the surrounding area. Google’s crew just took some pictures a few days earlier for their Google Maps Street View. For a little time internet surfers could have the chance to experience the city how it was before the seism, while the real area was just a collection of ruins, literally ghost towns. Google’s Street View then, helped in some way the reconstruction of the city.

Other social media provide further interesting Historical reconstructions. On Facebook historical characters’ profiles are quite numerous, sometimes on their wall posts we find real quotations, sometimes just jokes or satire. On Twitter, historical events are more common than specific characters: World War II Tweets from 1941 live-tweets the 2nd world War “as it happened on this date & time in 1941, & for 5 years to come”. It is nowadays in its second year as it started in 2012 (1940 for the twitter profile) and it is going to expire in 5 years, unless the creator decides to provide a ‘second edition’.