I have been teaching a first year seminar for two years. In the first iteration of the course, which was then subtitled ‘digital history’, I sought to explore a variety of digital media with my students to explore how these media structure our understandings of history. As part of that course, I partnered with the Council of Heritage Organizations of Ottawa to use their Ottawagraphy website to tell stories about Ottawa’s history. One of these students later became a co-author with me on the case study on crowd-sourcing local history. Another student is now a co-editor with me on a project to crowdsource the illicit trade in antiquities, heritage.crowdmap.com.

In the second iteration of this course, subtitled ‘Digital Ancients, Digital Moderns’, we focused more on ancient history and archaeology, and how both digital media and ‘traditional’ media create ways of understanding and patterns of power. One of the semester long assignments in this class was to write the Wikipedia. We looked at how Wikipedia articles are subject to a channelization effect, where the earliest structure of an article sets the stage for all subsequent alterations. My students selected an article related to ancient history consisting of only a single paragraph, and then set out to improve it. One such page is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycenaean_pottery . Wikipedia pages now come with ratings, and as of March 2012, the consensus view of this page is that it is ‘well-written’ (in Wikipedia’s page rating schema). That first year students can be responsible for setting what is the de-facto Western memory bank for everything is a shocking experience for these students!

In the second part of this year’s course, I partnered with the Museum of Civilization on a project to make ‘the Hidden Museum’ accessible to the public via augmented reality. As a result of some postings on my research blog, curators at the Museum contacted me to see if there was a possibility to partner. They opened up their storerooms to my students, and we began a project to create three-dimensional models of artefacts, using free software. The students ended up selecting a series of models related to Mesoamerica. The students then used Lulu, a print on demand service, to create a book which they augmented with smart-phone based augmented reality software (Junaio.com). In this way, they provided a ‘magic-eye’ like experience or pop-up book experience and liberated these museum pieces from the storerooms, providing a new way for the public to interact with them. The students also considered the ethical implications of displaying museum artefacts this way. This experience was recounted at the 2012 Canadian Archaeological Association conference in Montreal as a case study. The museum curators and I wrote a SSHRC application for a much larger study built on some of the themes related to this student work. In the spring 2012 competition, our application was ‘4a’d. We are revamping in the light of the reviewers comments for the 2013 competition. Should we be successful in winning the grant, I intend to provide opportunities for these students to continue participating in the project.

Our work in this class was written up in the Charlatan Newspaper, Carleton’s Student newspaper, in January 2012.


2012, “First Year Seminar Students Create Interactive Digital Antiquity Book”, CarletonU Videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB4NPjXyoN4

We were also invited to present our work at the largest Augmented Reality industry conference in Canada, the OARN2012 event (Ontario Augmented Reality Network) in Toronto on October 5th (oarn.net).

To try it out for yourself, please download the students’ book here; or, download Junaio onto your smartphone or tablet, scan the QR code below, then train your device’s camera over the following images.

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