Okapi Island in Second Life: thoughts for Fall 2007

Posted by Ruth Tringham
We have three aspects of Çatalhöyük that can be built in Second Life. In principle, I would say that we will get more kudos from involving our modellling etc in the real world of the Catal project than if the reality is manipulated or Disneyfied:

1) Çatalhöyük Today
This plays on the idea that people are as interested in the process of what we do as they are in the results of our research and what we conclude. In Second Life we can do a great deal to express the process through:
• Videowalks, accurately across the site, guided or not
• Videos of archaeologists at work
• Interviews with archaeologists
• Conversations and meeting archaeologists and others working at the site
• Remediations of the sensuous experience and memories of the place
• Hand and tool ballet videos

2) Çatalhöyük Past
This enables a visualization of the past place at Çatalhöyük, but again transparency is the key, as well as accuracy rather than simplification, and should be based on the areas that have been excavated:
• Reconstructed buildings BUT the Mellaart reconstructions should be in the accurate “SOUTH” area – we have already talked this through. And the reconstructions should be problematised rather than presented as “correct” (this idea of using Second Life as a platform for making visualizations open to critique I think holds true for all of this section).
• Reconstructed sounds, and views, including the view of the mound from off the mound.
• Reconstructed walks through the prehistoric settlement, based on the excavated areas.
• It would be great to be able to model the mound to show its changing height and shape. But I’m not sure how this could be achieved since the archaeological data does not yet exist.

3) Çatalhöyük Mystery (this came up in Ruth Galileo’s two-hour meeting on Okapi Island with Zed Marseille)
This gives residents of the island an encouragement to explore those part of the mound that have not yet been explored (the . This could actually play into the more formal use of the island as an educational or learning platform:
• What might lie underneath, an opportunity for people to build their own imagined Çatalhöyük houses and things. An experimental miniSand Pit that we administer
• How do we investigate what lies beneath. An opportunity to create a learning platform for discussing/demonstrating method of field enquiry: reconnaissance, survey, excavation, labwork, funding (Anthro 2 style games cf BBC and OccanneechiTown)

4) Okapi Island Database
It occurred to me during the spring and especially the summer that the Okapi Island project in Second Life is yet another outerface or narrative for our Catal Research Media Archive that forms the basis for the narratives of Remixing Catalhoyuk and Remediated Places. If this is the case, then perhaps we should think of having a mirror database on Okapi Island from which to draw the many “narratives” that we and others will create on Okapi Island.

There are a couple of major challenges with this amazing idea. Both of these challenges seem as such because of my ignorance of the technology and protocols involved, so they may or may not be obstacles/challenges at all:
1. Can we run a database of media in Second Life without incurring enormous uploading expenses.
2. If in Second Life we wanted/needed to draw on an existing research archive (the Catal one, as with Remixing Catal), would that mean that our Second Life residents/visitors would be taken out of Second Life into the First Life of the WWW?

5) Museum/Exhibition/Meeting/Performance Space
At the moment some of us are referring to the Okapi Island structure at the bottom of the mound as a “museum”, others as an “Interpretive Center”; others as the meeting room. I see this place as very important and definitely multi-functional. I will show you the plans for the new Catal museum outside Kucukkoy which is also devised as a complex multi-functional space, not to use as a model, but to make sure we are thinking outside the box with our “museum”.

I think of this place more in terms of the functions I have put in the title to this section, perhaps more like the San Francisco Exploratorium or the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, but perhaps Noah will think these places even too conventional.

Should this place be our portal, where you arrive when you fly in – perhaps into an open air Atrium, where a number of guides await you….. Don’t lets forget a Turkish translation in some parts of this area. It should definitely have a conference area that will be a regular venue – perhaps another part of that lovely walled garden open to the sky…

6) Graffiti Wall
I like the idea, taken from one of the Flickr groups I am a member of called Graffiti, of having a wall somewhere on Okapi Island – maybe in that “Mystery Area” where the visitor remixes or ideas can be posted/uploaded. The uploads would be inspired by or recontextualizing the Catalhoyuk media, but might comprise art pieces, images, video, a poem, etc.

7) Times to meet
I think we need to different kinds of time to meet;
1. A regular meeting of the Okapi Island production and management team (officers and owner): RET would prefer Tuesday pm. I would be prepared to start at 4pm PST.
2. Meeting with our local and international collaborators, visitors, conferences etc. The best time for this is 11.0 am PST. This works for everyone to the Istanbul line. It won’t work so well for Australia, but at the moment our collaborators are not in that direction.

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