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Valeria Vitale (King's College London)
'An Ontology for 3D Visualization in Cultural Heritage'.
Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies seminar 2013, Friday June 14th.
To date, 3D computer graphics and modelling techniques have been used in the study of the ancient world mainly as a means to display traditional research. The value of these digital techniques has been often assessed merely on the degree of graphic aesthetic quality.
The pursuit of "photorealism" has proven ineffective in engaging the audience but also scientifically misleading, as it suggests that is possible to reproduce an artefact or scene "exactly as it was" in the past.
Behind every scholarly 3D visualisation is a thorough study of excavation records, iconographic documentation, ancient literary sources, artistic canons and precedents. However, this valuable research (that may lead to new discoveries in the field) is not always detectable in the final visual outcome.
The London Charter for the Computer-based Visualisation of Cultural Heritage made a huge step forward in the regulation of scholarly 3D visualisation—prescribing that researchers' choices and motivation must all be documented. No 3D model could be considered a scholarly resource if its research method was not "transparent".
The London Charter presents methodological guidelines for recording this data, but does not go as far as to offer a formal framework in which to place this information; each modeller is left to simply follow their own style. Moreover, the clients who commissioned the 3D model (such as museums or other cultural institutions) are frequently more interested in the final product than in the rationale which is often completely overlooked and not circulated (or, in the worst case, dropped from the budget line altogether).
Since there are programming languages that enable 3D environments to successfully interact with html, I propose that it would be useful to create one or more ontologies to standardise the verbal component of the documentation, embedding it in the 3D model itself.