Whilst the codification presents an interesting assessment of the liberties I took in the visualisation it lacks the experiential and immersive quality of the original visualisation by substituting the realism of archaeological fact for a more realistic expression of a possible past. I suspect that the decision about the success of any of these outcomes would be determined by the purpose of the visualisation. If the purpose of the visualisation is to understand the variation of certainty in the reconstruction then Image 8 would be a roaring success, however if the purpose was to create an embodied experience of a possible past reality then Image 1 is probably more appropriate. Whilst there may not be the ability for these to co-exist in one image, there is the possibility for a series of visualisations to provide a more comprehensive intersection if the demands of the project afford it.
Realism: A Story About How I Both Succeeded and Failed In Justifying It
The decision to produce a piece in a realistic fashion was informed in no small part by the desire to try provide a phenomenological experience of the site which is impossible to gain in the physical world now due to modern interventions - and whilst it is certainly possible to feel presence without realism (ie: a piece of surrealist artwork or a low-poly video single-colour video game has the same power to provide an experience of place, time or event) it was decided that a realistic image was required to provide the immersed in time effect. The first question that I was posed was: how would this realism impact on public perception and the potential propagation of misinformation as fact?
To try to circumvent the issue of public consumption of misinformation in 'Clifford's Tower 1263' I implemented a start-screen which informed the viewer they were about to partake in a world which, whilst informed by archaeological data had several layers of conjecture, and as such, whilst it aimed to be believable and based on facts, it was probably not a very realistic depiction of the area. I thought this was a pretty elegant way to hold the hand of the viewer and make sure they walked away with a better understanding of Clifford's Tower and its context, but also knowing that what they had experienced was an artistic interpretation.
This solution seemed to appease the great archaeological overlords who helped me develop the theoretical backdrop for the work, but the reaction of family and friends (who are not archaeologists) was quite to the contrary. Their reactions spanned from "so you mean this isn't real? Why did you bother making it? And why am I bothering to play it?" to "of course it isn't real... " through to "I don't care, I just want to see what it looked like". Whilst comical in retrospect these kind of responses highlight how a seemingly innocuous decision to inform patrons had ongoing repercussions in some instances, and was a complete non-issue in others.
In short, issues of realism, or making evident the facade is a deep seated issue in public presentation which is linked to ideas about the role of archaeologists, the legitimacy of their interpretations and the reliance on realism as a mechanism for making images relevant. For some, no matter how realistic an image looks they will always frame it as an interpretation. But for others saying the reconstruction's reality was a facade that called into question my legitimacy as an archaeologist, as well as the relevance of the reconstruction to understanding the past.
There is no neat conclusion to this section, only more questions. Realism in archaeological visualisation is a tricky subject that has a wider context and influence than the isolated framework of academia - navigating these issues, as with the rest of the questions posited in this blog post, most likely will never have a static end point, but rather need to be considered on a case by case basis with reference to the current state and the desired directions of a given visualisation.
This blog post overviewed just some of the issues inherent in the concept of realism and reality for archaeological visualisation. Although no solid conclusions can be offered to resolve the complexities and conflicts it has been shown that by making explicit the purpose and paradigm of a visualisation a tenuous middle ground for academia and public engagement can be explored. In the case of 'Clifford's Tower 1263' the form of the outcome was dictated by the function - and as such the criticisms regarding realism and reality, whilst valid, can be explained and justified. The topic of public engagement and the way in which reality and realism are framed by the consumer are incredibly complex strands of the debate which require greater attention that I can afford them here. Looking towards the future it would seem that whilst we may not be able to reach an end point and agree on the best way to handle realism and reality in visualisations, we can at least mitigate a number of the prevailing criticisms by making explicit the function, and addressing how the form fits with this.
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