First Review for Built on Bones!

So, I spent this week doing a lot of things. One of my favorites was freaking about my photoshopped proximity to lifetime hero author Neil ...

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

So, after an INTENSELY LONG HIATUS due to work constraints, I thought I'd put a quick piece up on the Pokemon Go phenomenon, mostly because any widescale human trend is super interesting, but also because I have a residual interest in Augmented Reality that is probably Neal Stephenson's fault. This is largely brought on by a terrific article in Forbes featuring Andrew Reinhard of #archaeogaming fame posted in the Women's Digital Archaeology Network by Lorna Richardson.

(here is a video of people in New York freaking out over a rare Pokemon)

The article mostly lays out past attempts at engaging people with heritage, a lot of which was pretty groundbreaking considering Pokemon Go is just about the first popular AR game and it's taken 10+ years to even get that far. Particular shout outs to Stu Eve and his projects over at Dead Men's Eyes are necessary -- if you can smell the Pokemon in the next release, you'll have innovators like Stu to thank. Or not. I'm not really sure how a Pokemon smells. Hamster-y? ANYWAY.  Andrew drew my attention to the whole thing (baffling instagram shots eventually explained by mass hysteria in the press), which he's now written up here, as well as the Forbes article, following on encountering this well thought out post on why Pokemon is the anti-heritage (and not even really AR) by Stu and a bit of ri-post-e (sorry) by Colleen Morgan playing Pokemon's advocate.



So, generally, I've been thinking about this a lot, particularly in the context of why previous efforts didn't take off -- and of course there's no guarantee that this is the dawning of a brave new age, as Stu points out. I suspect a combination of the increasing social acceptability of staring into your phone all the time (remember the etiquette of 2006? no, no one else does either) and the wide-world approach explains quite a bit of the mass appeal, with a little side dish of nostalgia. It occurs to me that site-limited stuff never seemed to do much.
I find all of this really interesting in terms of implications for AR engagement with bioarchaeology and palaeoanthropology; my stuff was always balancing neanderthal heads or spotting skeletons; maybe Pokemon GO shows us this just isn't the way most people want to interact with their heritage? Maybe the value-added of Pokemon GO is in the searching out the unexpected, and seeing an Eevee at Stonehenge prompts the same delight as seeing Dali's Lobster Telephone.
Proof that humans (read:me) find surrealism HILARIOUS

Meanwhile maybe the AR designed for a specific site lacks that sense of discovery, or interaction patterns are rather too close to an audioguide tour to hold our attention? Kate Ellenberger has designed a bespoke archaeology Pokemon GO event in Binghamton NY that seems to indicate that the combination works well, and that kind of tour guide experience might overcome Andrew's initial concerns about lack of content, so I'm not sure if that's really true, given the technical skills and general wit of the Hertiage AR crowd -- but maybe it's something to think about. Maybe when the Facebook of AR becomes a reality, and we are all capable of adding social or gaming layers to community space, the reasonable criticism Stu presents about the lack of information and lack of interaction provided by a game like Pokemon Go can be overcome. And the privileged subset of the world that always has its phone out finds static cartoon chicken-foxes more interesting than archaeological heritage can be gamed into submission.

Apologies if I left a lot of amazing AR projects out of this post, I am super not supposed to be using my daily word count on this. No one tell my editor. ;)

NB EDITED 28 Jul 2016 to update w reference to Kate's project and fix some typos.

Trivia (personal)

archaeologist. dental anthropologist. yes, that's a real thing. Author of Built on Bones, available in February 2017 (UK), May 2017 (USA) from Bloomsbury.

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