Tuesday, 6 September 2011

What a Virtual Ship is useful for?

August is gone, bye bye summer.
Last post I presented my personal and virtual reconstruction of the “Roar Ege”, one of the Skuldelev Viking Ships in exposition to the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum (DK).

              The RL Roskilde Vikinshipmuseum in winter time.

I mentioned also the presence in Second Life of a “virtual branch” of the same Roskilde museum, hosted by “Metrotopia”, a Danish Research Island  where a copy of the “Sea Stallion”, another Viking ship,  lies.

           The SL Roskilde Vikinshipmuseum and the Sea Stallion.

This sim is part of a larger project named “VW Sense-making and Innovation” of Roskilde University, Copenhagen Business School.
After my last post some readers came to visit Metrotopia, but they reported that the Viking Ships Museum virtual replica is still empty, and the wonderful Sea Stallion is still sleeping on the grass.
As I know, the Virtual Worlds RU project is one of the most interesting European experiences about contents communication using VR tools. This is why I contacted Tommy Nilsson, one of the RUE Team Members, well known in SL like “doctor Asp” , asking him about the Viking Ships Museum Project.
Linteus Dench  – Ahoy Doc. Well, how the project is going?
Doctor Asp -  The Viking Ships Museum project was the idea of the University Team Leader,  who wanted to get the real Vikingshipmuseum interested in Second Life.  Unluckily,  this didn´t happen and the research team moved to other activities. Finally,  no more work is done on the SL Vikingshipmuseum.
The vikingshipmuseum building in SL has only been created on the outside - inside it´s empty. There was no point in doing all the interior if the real museum wasn´t interested.
Linteus Dench – Sounds quite sad. Do you think there is a sort of “technical issue”, maybe coming by technical limits of Second Life?
Doctor Asp - Both the team leader, Professor Sisse Siggaard Jensen and I, believed that it was possible to do a 3D version of the Sea Stallion and sail it in SL - and it was. The Sea Stallion I did can sail according to the wind speed and direction, and the rudder can be controlled in order to steer the ship. The real vikingshipmuseum wasn´t too impressed. One of their comments was, that the ship wasn´t detailed enough.
I have although created all 5 Skuldelev wrecks in SL ready to be placed in the museum if they change their minds.
Linteus Dench – Actually there are just few History Museums in Second Life, and I must say that in general they are normally quite empty.
Doctor Asp - Speaking of museums in SL, I have in the last 3 years been in contact with more than 10 danish museums trying to promote SL as a great way to showcase their RL museums, but no luck so far. For the time being, I´m back in 2D creating "standard" websites.

The story of the Roskilde Vikinships Museum in SL sounds really interesting to my ears, taking in consideration just main topics. The real VS Roskilde Museum is probably one of the most active, innovative creative and “mindopening” museums I visited in Europe. And I can assure you, I spend a lot of time visiting.

On the other hand, The Roskilde University Team is carrying out one of the most interesting research plans on new communication tools, like online Virtual Worlds are.

Then the question jumps out of the screen: what the hell this virtual ship is useful for?
Or in other words, Virtual Reality and Cultural Heritage Institutions are actually  not compatible to each other?

 Petra at Museum Island in Second Life.

Looking to the technical side of the topic, it is possible that Second Life is not the most correct tool. We can consider SL like a “Generalistic Media”, people comes and goes, meeting, exploring, taking often just a superficial sight. Moreover, SL is a “Persistent Online Reality”. Even if SL introduced recently the mesh import option, being under bandwidth streaming limit, object in SL will be always less detailed then “stand alone” application ones. The detail resolution difference is the same between a movie you download on your PC, and a streaming one.

But ther’s a but.

Second Life, like other Online Virtual Worlds, is a communication tool. Not just nice images.
Big question. It is possible Virtual Worlds and Cultural Institutions meeting on the Communication ground?
Personally, I think so.

I'd like to have your point of view about. 
Hints and suggestions are, like always, welcome.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Ars Navalis goes North!

A couple of months ago I visited the Viking Ship Museum of Roskilde, few kilometers far from Copenhagen. Roskilde is the old capital town of the Danish Kingdom where, during the 11th century, fearing an attack from Norway, some ships were sunk near Skuldelev, in order to make a barrage across a narrow channel.
Danish archaeologists recovered 5 wrecks (actually 6), now in exhibit to the Roskilde Archaeological Museum. Feeling tired hearing the word “museum”? Do you feel your eyelids falling down? Probably you never visited a scandinavian museum.
I’d like, once in my life, meet a lamp genius and pose 3 questions: where finishes the sky? What my turtles are dreaming while sleeping? And finally, why italian museums are so boring?
No matters. One day we will discuss about museums, Virtual Reality and useful knowledge.
Today let me talk about the Roskilde Museum and the tiny beauty living there. I’m not talking about the danish girl working on the Roskilde bakery, but about the elegant, sinuous, small trade ship Skuldelev number 3, aka “The Roar Ege”.
I met her on the meadow near the Museum. I dont know if she was shivering under her winter wooden coverage, I was for sure. Maybe emotion, probably thin cotton socks. Thinking to viking ships my mind runs directly to Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, an old movie picture with pale colors. By the way, my father took me to visit the 1958 movie-set right in... Croatia. An adriatic fjord few kilometers away from my old home.

This is Hollywood, baby.
Look to the tapering keel of the Skuldelv 3.
This is History, baby.

Not a large “drakkar” ship, full of blonde, grinding teeth men. The Roar Ege is just a small cargo ship, probably built locally in order to trade, or fish near the fjord.
Touch it, if you can. Look at the detailed framing system, the mast beam.
It is enough to make a mediterranean man feeling a drop of viking blood screaming in the veins.
Moreover, the Viking Ship Museum is not simply a place where old ships are recovered.
The near Archaological Workshop is the place where master carpenters are building replicas of ancient ships, and where you can sail as the crew of an ancient viking ship.
Definitely the Roskilde Museum  http://vikingeskibsmuseet.dk is one of the best places I visited in Europe where history makes a sense. My opinion is that a good museum is a place offering you to be going back at home with more curiosity then before.
Probably this is why I started working to my personal Roar Ege, sailing now in SL.

A wonderful copy of the Skuldelev 2 “Sea Stallion”, built by Doctor Asp, is moored near the SL Roskilde Museum of SL.

This is a wonderful project promoted by the Roskilde University, Department for Communication, Business and Information http://worlds.ruc.dk. Another time something very interesting coming from Denmark.
Virtual Reality like a place where to experience history: taking the same feeling of the real Roskilde Museum. Raise curiosity is the first step to the knowledge? Virtual Reality can help us to move across the “ overloaded information noise”, using curiosity as a compass?
Well, the discussion is open.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Nice to meet you!

First Ars Navalis post: a good chance to make acquaintance.
What Ars Navalis is? Good question. Basically we are a creative collaboration group, people coming from different countries and continents. We met in Second Life and, nobody knows why, we started working togheter about reconstructing and “sailing” with replicas of ancient mediterranean ship.
Well, sounds a bit boring in this way, isn’t? Let’s try with other words.
I grew up near the sea, and now I miss it.
The word “Mediterranean” to me is a glimpse of white stone on the deep liquid blue, wild sage scent, neverending days under the hypnotic cicadas song. And I miss it.
Someone told that the Mediterranean Sea is a sea of legends, probably all the seas of the world are, so full of stories, faces and voices coming from far away, a natural invitation to cast your glance over the horizon.
Did you never see one of those old wooden ships, creackling waiting for the right wind on the moving water surface? It is almost impossible to be not falling in love looking at them, touching wood planks faded by salt and sun.
I think this is what moved a group of persons to spend hours and hours modelling virtual planks, painting wood nervations with photoshop or compiling C++ scripts in order to make those ships moving in the right way.
So, Ars Navalis is a virtual shipyard, building ancient ships in order to sail, heading to the source of an emotion.
Well, sounds a bit too much poetic, isn’t? Let’s try with other words.
I am a professional archaeologist and  Ars Navalis is a project about the ancient navigation, developed inside an online virtual environment (or Virtual World).
More or less we are all used to see 3D reconstructions of archaeological sites and monuments, but there is a huge difference between a virtual reconstrucion, a technologically perfect paint,  and and a virtual shared space.
The first diffrence is that inside a virtual space you can DO things, where in a virtual reconstructions you can just SEE things. But, my opinion, this is not the most relevant difference, while you can, however, do things also using a wii playstation or a videogame.
The most rlevat difference is that an online shared space is full of other real persons, and it focuses the topic. It moves the discussion by the field of the visual representation of objects to the field of the communication between persons. This is the point.
Ars Navalis then is a project about using a Cyberspace Environment in order to set up a collaborative and collective learning experience, focused on historical and archaeological topics.
We will talk a lot about it. We have time to do it.
Ready to pull up the anchor?
Good wind to you.