Monday, 29 September 2014

MicroPasts and crowdsourcing

illustration by Katarina Caspersen
The MicroPasts projects are getting me excited. These are an example of crowdsourcing whereby volunteers will "marquee" images of artifacts (British Museum collections have been used) so that three-dimensional online models can be generated which can be turned to any angle by anyone viewing the image. Everyone loves such things and the idea of having many people contribute to the project is helpful, not just for the museum or for personal glory or satisfaction as is mostly promoted, but when you come into such an intimate relationship with an object then sometimes you start to see things that others who just look at something might not notice. It has been said that the best way to study anything is to write a book about it. A similar effect is created when you draw something, and I think that when you marquee a series of related images, it would would create the same effect.

Having people volunteer computer time is old hat ― there is the "needle in a haystack" project of all time: SETI (the search for extraterrestrial-life), for example, but don't expect any immediate results! Contributing your own work on a computer is different though ― with SETI, you just get to watch. Of course, you can also contribute to archaeological research by volunteering at a dig, although I imagine you will end up with all the break-breaking tasks!

Three dimensional scanning is becoming very popular these days but the equipment for doing such in high resolution dos not come cheap and takes quite a bit of expertise to use properly. There are other solutions, though, such as the CIRRI software, which is easy and has amazingly small file sizes for this sort of work, but I'm not sure if the beta version is quite ready to go yet.

I'm thinking about joining a future Iron Age project, but perhaps I'll start my own on MicroPasts. You should think about what you might like to see and help to make it happen. In the meantime, you can play with this CIRRI model by Gary Robertson:

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